Sermon for Proper 15
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
For Jack life is good. He has a wonderful wife, beautiful children, he’d say so himself, and good paying steady job, a more than fair boss, a nice house, and 2 cars. Yep, life is good. And this week is going to be just another example of how great life is. The entire family, his parents, siblings, spouses and their children, are on their way to a week skiing at a premier resort. Jack is very aware, he could not do this on his own, which makes it all the more special, the relationships within his extended family, well, they are something to cherish, which he does, even as he secretly nurtures the belief he deserves it all.
During the layover, he wanders over to his dad, standing by a large picture window, overlooking the busy tarmac, and starts up idle conversation. Before long the conversation is about family, how blessed they are, how amazing the extended family is, especially his wife. There is some chatter about sharing responsibilities and so on. Suddenly his dad gets quiet, his eyes change to an uncomfortable pensive look, with unexpected tenor he tells Jack: I know what you mean. Your mother was like that, … and I damned near used her up! After a moment of silence, he put his hand on Jack’s shoulder, and then makes his way across the gate area. It doesn’t take Jack long to move along. His dad’s reflection strikes deep, not only does it reveal a truth he sort of knew but carefully hid, it also reveals the truth about his relationship with his wife, he absolutely did not want to acknowledge. It is an unexpected, uncomfortable
image shattering moment of truth. The truth has been spoken; judgment made.
Jack’s airport window conversation, is reminiscent of Isaiah. Today’s verses are a love poem, turn lament, that names an uncomfortable image shattering truth. God expects plump juicy grapes, justice and righteousness, he finds sour smelling, bitter tasting wild grapes; he finds that justice is for the few, and righteousness is a shelter for the elite. Judah does not defend the causes of the widow and orphan rather they covet and store up wealth for themselves they oppress the poor, they acquit the guilty, and deprive the innocent of their rights. (1) Isaiah’s is a poem of puns God is looking for mishpat (mish-pawt’) but finds mishpah looking for justice but finds bloodshed. God is looking for zedeka but finds azekah; (2) looking for righteousness but finds cries. It’s a poem of jarring turns, Judah is expecting a continuing love poem, but hears lament and judgment. And somehow we know, we are still causing divine lament are still subject to divine judgment. God seeks justice while we seek to slash food stamps, refuse to reformulate the voting rights rules, are absorbed by a fetus’ right to life, all the while ignoring the child’s rights after birth. God seeks righteousness all the while we dance a nuanced ballet, downplaying brutality to ensure our existing privileges: over-flight to the middle east, and rapid passage through the Suez Cannel. So much for sing you a love song.
And at least this morning, Luke does nothing to help ease our discomfort. Jesus is on about fire, likely lightning, a symbol of justice, and his baptism, a reference to his crucifixion. Much like Jack, we enjoy living in our inkblot world, where we decide what is right. But Jesus just says No! he insist on Kingdom values, all too often the reverse of ours (3). We’ll allow Jesus to influence home decisions, so long as he stays out of our business life; we are okay with giving Jesus an hour on Sunday morning, so long as he stays out of Saturday night. (4) Again Jesus says No! This is no “happy-clappy” Jesus. This Jesus is unsettling, he struggles with his ministry, he leaves us with more questions than answers. He is not Zechariah’s messiah who … guides our feet into the way of peace. (5) But he is the real Jesus, whose presence creates division.
Paul is even less helpful. After a long, dense, convoluted, impenetrable list of unnamed biblical heroes, he writes, they do not get what was promised… What? If bible heroes cannot get what was promised, what possibility is there for us regular ole, not even in the bible, folks? Woe is us!
This is one of those Sunday’s when we need the long arch of scripture; what we have heard today, and what we know is there, God’s mercy in administering justice, and salvation through Jesus, God’s Christ. We need that long arch, not to allow us to relax, because God has, is, and will take care of everything, but to enable us to open the closed door, to our inner selves, under take a real self-evaluation engage in uncomfortable image shattering moment of truth, name our struggles, speak the questions, for which we know no answer. The latter half of Hebrew brings us to that long arch. Paul encourages them; us to run the race with perseverance. It is not an easy race, he all but says so; the word he uses for ‘race’ is the root for ‘agony.’ So yes, it is long and hard slog, and like the Jesus we just heard from we will struggle, we will have questions. However, we also have this huge cloud of witnesses, all those bible heroes, and more than a few ordinary faithful, who are cheering us on. It’s kind of like running the final leg of a marathon into a stadium full of cheering fans. But these are no ordinary fans, they have run this race; they know the agony, they know the cost, they also know the way, they can, and will be your conduit to the love of God, in Jesus the Christ; they can, and will help you tap into the courage and power so you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Some decades later life goes on for Jack and family. They have known their share of grief and troubles. There have been, are divisions. There are struggles.
There are questions that have no answers. But now, all those previously hidden troubles can be named, and are thereby diminished in their ability to be the source of further troubles. Life is good, only now there a few more sweet grapes.
1. Working Preacher, Isaiah,
2. Center of Excellence in Preaching, Isaiah, Hoezee
3. “ Luke, Hoezee
5. Luke 1:79
Proper 15 | OT 20 | Pentecost 13, Cycle C
episcopaldigitalnetwork.com http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2013/08/02/13-penteco st-pro per-15-c-2013/, Rev. James Liggett
August 18, 2013 (Ordinary Time)
Luke 12:49-56, Scott Hoezee
Isaiah 5:1-7, Scott Hoezee
Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Stan Mast
Isaiah 5:1-7, David G. Garber Jr.
Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Erik Heen
Luke 12:49-56, Emerson Powery