Are you Ready

A sermon for Advent 1: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44

 

It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is after I spent some time at the Thanksgiving feed, here I Blytheville, where some 1,000 meals were shared all over Mississippi county. And later with family & neighbors, where there was food, food and more food. There was some conversation about family traditions, and then a little bit of football. After that ~ I was ready to be home alone. Then there was Black Friday and all the shopping hordes. But we skipped all that and after a short trip down the road for a second, Thanksgiving feast with more family, and desserts more numerous than I can count followed by a short drive after which I was ready to be home alone. After all that ~ I recovered enough to be reminded that we have much to be thankful for even when we do not think we do. And now ~ now I am ready to use this time to teach myself to see the abundance of God and to share the abundance of God.

Today is also 1st Sunday of Advent it is the 1st Day in a new church year. There were no late-night fireworks or morning concerts; there were no parades of floats, and marching bands, or giant balloons and no celebrity-studded commentary. There was this morning there is a hopeful proclamation of the days to come we heard from Isaiah prophecy. There is a psalm celebrating going to the Temple, and prosperity, and unity and peace. We have to back up several verses to get here, but there is the story of disciples with Jesus at the Temple, seemingly pointing out its grandeur, followed by Jesus’ reply “It is all coming down.” A little bit later and in private they ask him “When?” And  Jesus answers them with a warning not to be lead astray, he tells them about persecutions, sacrilege in the Temple, false prophets, and false messiahs, and the darkening of the sun, and the moon and the stars; and then Jesus tells them “no one knows the day or the hour when” and cautions them, cautions us to be alert and remember that the people of Noah’s day were not so alert, and he ends with some puzzling stuff about one being taken and one being left and a home owner knowing when the thief will come. Paul follows Jesus’ example by telling Christ’s Roman followers to stay alert because salvation is nearer now than when they became believers (Romans 13:11b).

By the way none of what Jesus or Paul has to say supports the Left Behind series’ idea of rapture (Boring). And if Jesus’ and Paul’s warnings and their less than gentle encouragement to be prepared don’t have anything to do with the rapture what are we to learn from all this? Why do we read these lessons as we begin a new church year? What are we to see as we seek to continue a renewed Christian life, as we look forward to the coming of Christ not only as the baby born in a stable but also as the Son of Man with Angles and Trumpet calls (Matt 24:30-31). Well, it just might have to do with how we answer the simple question “Are you ready?”

So, are you ready? Are you ready to live knowing that Advent is not a countdown to Christmas? What Advent is ~ is time to reminder to be as ready as you have ever been for the most unexpected thing you can never imagine (Bowron). Isaiah’s introduction “In days to come” is not a prediction but an affirmation; and while it is definitely unspecified and clearly far-off, it is in no way vague (Tucker). So ~ are you ready? Are you ready to trust that God, Jesus, and the Spirt will not be ready someday, but are ready now, and have been since before Jesus’ birth? Are you ready? Ready to learn (once again) that being ready for the Kingdom of Heaven is not about determining who goes and who stays, but is all about being together. Together in the field, or in grinding meal, together in school, or in lanes, or at sea, or at church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; together in all of life trusting that God is already ready (Scott). Are you ready to ask your neighbors, those you like you and those you don’t like, those who look and speak like you, and those who don’t look or speak like you; are you ready to ask them “How can I help you get ready?” (Lewis). Are you ready to live knowing, to live believing, that God has not and will not abandon you or us, or anyone at all, or the world? Are you ready to stretch your imagination, so you can see that there is a real alternative to the violence and abuse in the world, and then work together to reconcile ourselves to each other and live as if God in Jesus by the Spirit are right here right now (Bratt)?

Are you ready to follow Torah, that often translated “law” but here is an invitation to learn (Gaventa and Petersen Isaiah 2:2)? Are you ready to learn that keeping watch by being faithful to the Lord in our mundane everyday routines is a holy watchfulness? Are you ready to learn how such a watchfulness witness means to live the best lives we can for our great God in Christ (Hoezee, Advent 1 A | Matthew)? Are you ready to give up going along through life as usual (Boring)? Are you ready not be surprised by, or to at least accept God’s invasion into everyday life (Harrelson)? Are you ready for God to be all in your stuff?

Knowing that there is no rapture with Christ’s return and that the coming of the Son of Man will reveal the hidden reality that is already present are you ready for mercy; are you ready for forgiveness; are you ready for peace (Micha 6:8) (Boring). Are you ready to do believe as C.S. Lewis once said

I believe in God for the same reason I believe in the sun that shines in the sky.’ ‘Not just because I can see the sun but because by it I can see everything else. (Hoezee, Advent 1 | Romans 13:11-14).

Are you ready for Christ’s return to reveal the hidden reality that is already present and commit the next four weeks to recommit to living life as if the Kingdom is right here right now? Are you ready do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micha 6:8).

Are you ready?

Well, are you?

Come on   ~   are you ready?

Then let’s light it up!

An acolyte lights the 1st Advent Candle


References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Matthew 24:3644. 27 11 2016.

Boring, M. Eugene. The Gospel of Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. App Olivetree.

Bowron, Josh. “Be Awake and Ready – Advent 1(A).” 27 11 2016. Sermons that Work.

Bratt, Doug. Advent 1A | Isaiah 2:1-5. 27 11 2016.

Chan, Michael J. Commentary on Isaiah 2:15. 27 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Ellingsen, Mark. Advent 1, Cycle A. 17 7 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 27 11 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Advent 1 | Romans 13:11-14. 27 11 2016. <cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-18c/>.

—. Advent 1 A | Matthew. 27 11 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Kirk, J.R. Daniel. Commentary on Romans 13:11-14. 27 11 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher Are You Ready? 27 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4706 1/3>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Scott, Lisbia. “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” Hymnal 1980. Church Publishing, 1980.

Tucker, Gene M. The Book of Isaiah 1–39. Vol. 4. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. 12 vols. OliveTree 2016.

 

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Edmund, Christ, and Us

A sermon for Proper 29 Christ the King; Jeremiah 23:1-6, Canticle 16, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

Today is a three for one; it is 27th Sunday after Pentecost, it is the Sunday we celebrate Christ the King, and it is also the Feast Day of Edmund King of East Anglia.

edmund_east_anglia_statue

 

When facing far superior Danish armies, and against the advice of his advisors and his bishops, he refused an offer to be their figurehead King and renounce Christ. Though his army fought bravely, they were defeated, and Edmund was executed by a variety means.

His tomb became a traditional place of pilgrimage for England’s kings, who came to pray at the grave of a man who remained steadfast in the Christian faith and loyal to the integrity of the English people (Episcopal Church).

We do not have Kings or Queens as rulers. We do, however; elect Presidents to lead us. And I got to wondering what we might see if we put aside our political consternation, and backed up quite a bit. Here is what I saw:

Candidate one

  • is a man
  • white
  • has an established political perspective
  • is a billionaire
  • has distinctive personality characteristics
  • a particular leadership style
  • is a disrupter
  • is politically connected (my connections tell me you can’t be in big time real estate and not be politically connected)
  • does not have a lot of political or government leadership experience, and
  • whose character was challenged 

Candidate number two

  • is a woman
  • white
  • has an established political perspective
  • has distinctive personality characteristics
  • a particular leadership style
  • uses the existing system very well
  • is a millionaire
  • is politically connected
  • has a lot of political and government leadership experience and
  • whose character was challenged 

Both candidates have a regal air about them. Close your eyes and you can imagine them dressed as royalty from a crown, to purple clothing, to a scepter, and to heraldry. As different as these candidates are, from this perspective Clinton and Trump are interestingly similar especially when we compare them to Christ the King.

The title for this day Christ the King is curious. There is nothing in today’s Gospel that shows us Christ as king. In fact, he is executed as a common criminal. Last year, from the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus say “my kingdom is not of this world – I was born to testify to the truth.” (John 18:33-37). It is thoughtful, but not regal. Next year we will hear “the son of man comes in his glory” and the story goes on to say

the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison?’ … And the king will answer them just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).

I am not at all sure our images of Christ the King fit the scripture readings. And that has been a reality for a long time. The earliest portraits of Jesus show him dressed in the simple clothes of his day. Over time as the church grew in power and in importance portraits begin to show him in more grandiose regal clothing and setting, (Warren). If you Google “images of Christ the king” (https://goo.gl/P6F8kk )

screencapture-google-search-1479683532934

everything that shows up is grand and glorious regal. IF you Google “earliest images of Christ the king” (https://goo.gl/9tcMZM ) scroll down a little bit to 6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ or Three of the Oldest Images of Jesus, and you can see how very different the portraits are. When we think of Christ the King, what images, what characteristics do you see?

I am not at all sure that today the question is about images of Christ the King. I really suspect the question is about ourselves, about our visions of leaders, who we will follow and what we expect. When we think of government as instituted by God for the care of God’s people what images of leaders do we see? When thinking about our elected leaders, from a school board to a representative to the governor or the president, what images do we see (Romans 13, Jeremiah 23:5)? Do we seek a leader who fights our battles for us (1 Samuel 8:20)? Or do we see a leader who

  • washed his disciples’ feet,
  • fed the hungry
  • took pity on those who suffered
  • ate with sinners,
  • forgave sins
  • spoke out against injustice
  • challenged the status quo
  • welcomed the social outcasts, and
  • took on the mantle of poverty and obscurity (Warren).

Do we seek a leader who

  • is crucified
  • forgives the very people who have secured his death
  • and while hanging on his cross, grants salvation to the criminal on the cross next to him
  • and who brings the condemned into paradise (Lewis)(Culpepper)?

Will we follow a leader whose followers are a ragtag group from the lowest classes? Will we follow a leader who is marginalized by the ruling classes (Warren)?

The reading from Jeremiah is about God’s promise to gather the scattered people of Israel and to raise up a new leader, who Christians believe is Jesus. But before that, we hear a judgment against the Kings of Israel who failed to tend to the flock. For Jeremiah kingship and justice are mutually interdependent. And justice is seen in how the weakest, the most vulnerable, the least resourced and capable are treated. This is the measure, the plumb line God gives Amos, and against which Israel fails to measure up (Kennedy). The way Israel’s kings are to be measured is through righteousness, justice, and safety of the people. Is their relationship with God truthful, is everyone treated equally, and are the least of God’s people taken care of?

We are a democracy, we elect our leaders, and so we have to break down this measurement and tweak it just a bit. It is not how our elected leaders are righteous, just or take care of the people. It is how “WE the People …” are righteous, just and take care of each other, both individually and as a community; locally, as a county, as a state as a nation, and as people of the world. And yes, it is a daunting, overwhelming thought. So we can understand why the ancient Hebrews want someone else to take care of all this for them. They knew as we know that the real battles a community faces are not from the outside threats, but from the inside threats of how we treat and mistreat, each other. And yes, it does mean that we will have to be bolder in what we say, challenging each other and holding each other accountable for words and actions, and we will have to be braver in our actions; not only in standing up to injustice but in acting to feed the hungry, sharing a drink with the thirsty, welcoming a stranger, clothing the naked, healing the sick and visiting those in prison (Lewis).

This is a daunting, overwhelming thought. Maybe ~ maybe. Just this morning, in our opening collect we prayed: “whose will it is to restore all things.” God is with us. It is easy to think of God/Jesus/Spirit on a cosmic scale. It really sort of keeps them at a safe distance. But, God/Jesus/Spirit are intimate, available to everybody, to each one of us at any moment. “There are no God Free Zones” (Epperly).

 So, this morning as we bring one church year to a close, as we celebrate Christ as our leader of all leaders we are thankful that Jesus’ reign seeks to serve us (Lose). We also realize that this year, and years to come it not so much the leaders we choose, as it is our own relationships with God, the way we assure justice for all, and provide for all God’s people that will be measured against the plumb line. And perhaps, perhaps this is why Paul prays that

[We may] be made strong with all the strength that comes from Jesus’ glorious power, and … be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1:11-12).

Amen.


References

Culpepper, R. Alan. New Interpreter’s Bible Luke. Vol. 8. Abbington, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Episcopal Church. Lesser Feast and Fast. New York: Church Hymnal Corp., 1988.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 20 11 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Kennedy, James. M. New Interpreter’s Bible Jeremiah. Vol. 4. Abingdon Press, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Lewis, Karoline. Who and What is Your King? 20 11 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Christ the King C: What Kind of King Do You Want? 20 11 2016.

Pankey, Steve. “What kind of King?” 20 11 2016. Draughting Theology.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Warren, Timothy G. “Christ the King – Sermon for Last Sunday after Pentecost(C).” 20 11 2016. Sermons that Work.

 

 

Strangers In Our Own Land

A Sermon for Proper 28: Isaiah 65:17-25, Canticle 9, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

 

I don’t remember Monday and Tuesday of this past week. I was not surprised that Mrs. Clinton received 33% of the Arkansas votes and Mr. Trump 61%, or in Mississippi county that Mrs. Clinton received 43% and Mr. Trump 53% (AR Secretary of State). I never expected Mrs. Clinton to earn 228 electoral college votes and Mr. Trump to earn 290 electoral college votes to win the presidential election (Google). I expect that some of you are as pleased with the results as I am concerned. You may have read Wednesday’s post in which I shared how I found some release of my fear in Philippians 4:6

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

You may also have read Friday morning’s post where I retract my release. Not because I no long place my trust in God and God alone, but because I was reading of violent, vitriolic behaviors of both Trump and Clinton voters towards people they believe were now the enemy. I cited the Old Testament law on how to treat the alien, which also means stranger. The law says to love them as you love yourself (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:33-34). And I believe this applies to everyone who is demonizing the other because of a vote they cast, or a vote they think the other cast, or because they are somehow different than themselves and that difference is a threat. All of this is still swirling around in my head and in my heart, and I had no idea how to address it this morning except that I am called to speak.

Our Bishop posted a letter, which I emailed to everyone that the church’s calling is to set the moral guideposts. There are copies of his letter on the table in the hall. What I am discovering is that today’s reading provides us a guide for planting those posts. We begin with the collect for the day where we prayed

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Episcopal tradition is that the burial rite is an Easter service that seeks to move us through our loss and reconnect us to the resurrection promise of new heavens and a new earth. Tuesday’s election is about loss. Many people who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they have known decades of economic loss and the social status associated with it. Many of those who voted for Mrs. Clinton did so because in the last decade they have begun to see liberty and justice our pledge says is for all but has excluded people of color, those from foreign lands, Native Americans, women, and those of the LGBT community. The church’s calling is to, by our actions, share with them the Easter promise revealed in Jesus’ resurrection.

Isaiah’s prophecy, delivered in a time of retching national loss, gives voice to God’s promise to create new heavens and a new earth. Verses 21 – 23 makes references to houses, vineyards, fruit, children, and prosperity. It is a reference to the current economic injustice that shall not endure (Bratt). As I have mentioned, there are some voters who have suffered economic injustice as they were left behind in our country’s economic transformation over the last 20 or 30 years. The trade policies and technology, which shifted jobs, in themselves are not evil. The injustice is that “We the people” (as we name ourselves in the Constitution) did not ensure that no one was left behind. Many were, and many of them voted Tuesday. The reading ends:

Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; … They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

I have to confess my notes by the side of that reading say “God, please hurry up!”

Canticle 9 begins

Surely, it is God who saves me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, * and he will be my Savior.

It fits well with Paul’s admonition, I mentioned earlier, to lift all our concerns to God. It is a reminder that violence, even against violence, begets only more violence. It is a reminder of the tragic failure of Israel when they talk Samuel into anointing a king for them “to go before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). By the end of the third king’s reign, the Israel had been divided in two, and it was never restored. To this day, ten of Israel’s twelve tribes are gone. Of course, the failure was Israel’s turning away from God as their defense and stronghold. No one, no King, no president, no governor, no business leader, no one can fight for us, and only God will stand with us until we walk upon a new earth.

Of course, there are always those folks who try and convince us otherwise. Late night TV is, well it used to be, I don’t see late night TV so much anymore, late night TV is full of ads for products that do amazing things for only $9.99, “but wait ~ there’s more!” Today our computers, tablets, and smartphones are one endless stream of highly sophisticated targeted messages luring us into the same trap. Some news analysists are concerned about the trend towards Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms as the primary source of news. And yes, they have an economic benefit in the existing system, however; they have a point in that anyone on social media can post anything and there is no hope of any kind of fact checking. There have been instances in the last couple of years of a traditional news outlet not following good journalism standards, but they are few and have been called out, and there have been consequences, ask Rolling Stones. Another trap of social media is that you are more likely to be bound to those who already think like you, why else are you ‘friends.’ The result is that you are rarely exposed to thoughtful expressions that challenge your beliefs. And my experience is that when my belief is challenged is when my belief deepens and grows. This is a long way of saying I hear Jesus warning

 Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

 in Paul’s caution

to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.

In part, a role of the church is to ensure that followers are formed in the traditions handed down from 1st century until today. That includes reshaping ancient traditions grounded in ancient social norms, so they reveal the same truth in today’s social norms. Jesus is very clear there is no other savior than Jesus, and anyone who says otherwise will lead you off the way. And here I will admit this can be very difficult because it is not uncommon for one church community to interpret ancient scripture in today’s social norms in very different ways from another church community and both believe the other is leading to idleness. Jesus warning continues

When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

It sounds frighteningly relevant. Jesus goes on to say “Don’t worry, be a witness.” Once again we are back to the graveside, back to Easter, back to the resurrection promise, where all our hope lays. There is no promise that there is no danger, that there will not be treachery and persecution and death. Nonetheless, there is the assurance of a new earth. Now this does not mean those who suffer from injustice etc. should lay down and just wait for God to get here. It does; however, provide an interesting source of strength to stand up against the evils of this world with love, listening hearts, helping hands, accepting manners receiving the stranger as one of our own, for we too are strangers in our own land.

I am intrigued by the movement for people to wear a safety pin. The origins go back to WWII Dutch resistance; more recently it is used to quietly show victims of domestic violence that you are a safe harbor (DaddyBare) (Workowski). Now it tells people you are safe for aliens, women, LGTB folks, those of color, those who are economically dispossessed, by the election results (Durando) (Kearns). However, to be of God that safety should also extend to all those who have suffered economic injustice from changing economic structures. This is one of those hard teachings from scripture that all people are people of God and that God loves them no matter how much they frighten us. The moral guideposts we are called to set lead the way to one people, by Jesus, under God, with liberty, and justice and shalom for all.


Post Script

My reading Saturday bed time, and Sunday morning revealed that people are stepping up. Both Democratic and Republicans are stepping in to protect those who are being harassed or assaulted. In North Carolina the State GOP and Trump campaign disavowed a KKK rally. All signs that we cam love the stranger and trust in God to be  the source of strength,


References

AR Secretary of State. http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/. n.d. <http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/AR/58350/163701/Web01/en/summary.html&gt;.

Bouzard, Walter C. Commentary on Isaiah 65:1725. 13 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Bratt, Doug. Proper 28 Isaiah 65:17-25. 13 12 2015.

Crouch, Frank L. Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. 13 11 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

DaddyBare. Safety Pin. n.d. 12 11 2016. <http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread734244/pg1&gt;.

Durando, Jessica. usatoday.com. 11 11 20166. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/11/11/safety-pins-brexit-donald-trump-election/93639074/&gt;.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 13 11 2016. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 13 11 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

google. http://www.google.com/search. n.d. <https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&authuser=0&site=webhp&source=hp&q=2016+election&oq=2016&gs_l=hp.1.0.0i131k1j0l2j0i131k1j0j0i131k1j0l3j5.1126.1778.0.4593.5.5.0.0.0.0.214.707.0j4j1.5.0&#8230;.0…1c.1.64.hp..0.4.492.0.TplZJsJVP7o#eob=enn/p//0/0///////////>.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Proper 28 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. 13 11 2016. <cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-18c/>.

—. Proper 28 Luke 21:5-19. 13 11 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

Kearns, Landess. The Incredible Reason You Might Start Seeing Safety Pins Everywhere. 11 11 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/safety-pin-trump-brexit_us_58251b53e4b0c4b63b0c11a9&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher. 13 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4706 1/3>.

Liggett, James. “The Penultimate – Proper 28(C).” 13 11 2016. Sermons that Work.

Lose, David. Pentecost 26 C: Joy in November. 13 11 2016.

Ruiz, Gilberto. Commentary on Luke 21:519. 13 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2975 1/3>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Workowski, Jamiet. twitter.com. n.d. 12 11 2016. <https://mobile.twitter.com/jamietworkowski/status/796959673584906240&gt;.

 

 

Veterans Day

Today is Armistice Day marking the end of WWI. It is also Veterans Day when we honor all those who have fought for our republic and liberty and justice for all. To recognize the work of all veterans I call upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to publicly disclaim the violent actions of their supporters. I have said I was glad I voted, because even though the results are not what I sought, I did not feel at risk. Having read this morning’s papers, I have to retract that statement. Riots in the streets because we lost is deplorable behavior and does not contribute to the changes that are necessary, nor prevent changes we fear. The truants, threats and violence against people, who are different than Trump’s supporters, does not contribute to conservative causes and is contrary to the bible that directs God’s people to

  • love the alien (stranger) who resides with you for you were aliens (strangers) in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19) and
  • not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34)

I do not know what our future holds. I am concerned for my wife, daughters and granddaughters, and friends who may now be targets. I am concerned for those who, for the last several decades, have been and still are disposed of vitality. I do know a future that brings liberty, justice, and prosperity to all begins by working together from love and respect.

JST+

And now …

It was 2:30 am Wednesday morning when I headed to bed after a difficult evening watching election returns. Only then did I remember I was scheduled to share a devotion for the Ministerial Alliance. My notes said Thanksgiving, so I looked up the lectionary reading and there found Philippians 4:4-11

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (NRSV)

Immediately I felt some release of fear; I am still concerned for my daughters, grand-daughters, friends of color, non /Christian faiths, and differing life styles. My gleaning is to engage violations of or threats to justice and liberty for all from prayerful, thoughtful, and the peace of God. I suggest this is also a faithful stance for those whose candidates won.

This morning I did as I have done for the last couple of decades, pray by name for my elected leaders including Trump and Pence, simply raising them to God, trusting God guidance. After prayers, I will seek to be prayerful, be peaceful, be thoughtful and be engaged.

 

Vulnerable Saints

A sermon for Proper 27 & All Saints
Proper 27: Haggai 1:1-5b – 2:9, Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22, Luke 20:27-38
All Saints: Ephesians 1:11-23

 

Tuesday is election day. The responsibility to vote is relatively new. In Samuel and Chronicles, the people do have a say in approving who is appointed to be anointed King, but not who the person is. But it is not so much the story of voting as it is the story of their turning away from God. Ancient Athens and Rome had something like voting, and the selection of popes and the Holy Roman Emperor included a type of vote. But what we think of as elections first appears in 17th century Europe in limited ways (Britannica). The responsibility to vote in the United States is a long ~ ever changing story. In 1776 only males who owned land could vote; just 6 percent of the people were eligible to vote for president when George Washington was elected. In 1856 all white males gained voting rights, in 1870 voting rights could no longer be denied because of race, in 1920 women gained voting rights, in 1947 all Native Americans gained voting rights, 1952 people of Asian Ancestry gained voting rights, legislation guaranteeing voting rights was passed in 1963, ‘64, ‘65, ‘66, and ‘67, in 1971 the age to vote was lowered to 18, and in 2000 residents of U.S. colonies become citizens, but cannot vote (KQED). If you have not already voted, I encourage you to exercise the relatively rare responsibility to vote.

There is also some biblical direction to vote. In Romans Paul writes:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed (NRSV, Romans 13:1-2).

Without getting caught up in the resisting authority bit, Paul implies God is at work in establishing governments, and we have a responsibility to follow the established rules, which includes voting. To thoughtfully and prayerfully exercise your responsibility to vote is following God’s way.

I do understand that this has not been an easy nor comfortable election season. Many people I know are not comfortable with either the Republican nor the Democratic candidate. I know several who voted for one of the many other choices; there are 8 presidential candidates on the Arkansas ballot and as many as 31 candidates on ballots scattered across all the states (Politics1). I know many people are feeling vulnerable because of the implications of threats from self-appointed poll watchers. There was an incident in Arkansas; a person was standing in the doorway telling at least one person to shut up and go home (Musa). I know folks who are uncomfortable with the thought that people will not accept the results if their candidate does not win. I know folks who are genuinely concerned about the sporadic talk of taking up arms. So yes, this is a season in which you might very well feel vulnerable. So, it just may be a good thing that our observation of All Saints Day and election day fall so close to each other. But before we get there, let’s remember that we are not the first people of God to feel vulnerable.

Haggai is a prophet in Jerusalem some 20 years after the return from exile. They have not yet rebuilt the Temple, as they were supposed to. It’s just not right. Some of the older folks remember the splendor of the Temple Solomon built, and they don’t have the money or material resources to rebuild it. Besides that, all the important things inside the Temple, like the Ark of the Covenant, the protecting Cherubim, the Tablets of the Law, the molten sea, and so much more are all gone (Wines). It is a bleak time; the people feel dejected; their homeland is still in ruins, and the Temple where the Lord’s glory had shone can never be rebuilt. It is a world that provides few reasons for hope (Lynch).

Haggai acknowledges all of this. He hears the people wonder “How will God ever be among us if this is God’s house? And then he reminds them that God chooses to be among us. Haggai assures the people God is establishing shalom; abundant life and peace for God’s people (Bratt). I know it sounds strange, but Jesus is following Haggai’s example in his encounter with the Sadducees.

The Sadducees follow the first five books of the Jewish Bible. There is nothing there about resurrection, so they do not believe in resurrection. Along comes this itinerate street preacher attracting all sorts of attention, in part by teaching about resurrection. He is making them feel vulnerable. While their ancestors got depressed when vulnerable, the Sadducees go on the attack. In fact, they form an alliance with their usual enemy the Pharisees. They present an absurd story, built on the Jewish tradition that a brother of a dead childless Jewish man marries his wife to continue the family name. Jesus counters their story by referring to Moses meeting God in the burning bush where God calls Gods’ self the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And as everyone knows God is the God of the living, so Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be alive. The implication is, there is some sort of resurrection.

And yes, it is a trap. And yes, Jesus best them. However, Jesus is not out to defeat them. Jesus is seeking to calm their vulnerability by giving them the opportunity to expand their imagination and accept God who is far bigger than they have imagined before (Lewis, Resurrection).It is like Jesus’ sermon off the mount way back in chapter six.

In Luke’s version of the story, Jesus comes off the mountain to the people gathered on the plain. They are vulnerable; there is lots of illnesses, troubles with unclean spirits, and just plain ole hard living (Luke 6:17). Jesus comes to the saints of the day. Then, like now saints are not perfect, nor pious, nor zealous; saints are people who know they are vulnerable. They know they need help, they know they are dependent on someone else, divine or otherwise (Lose, Saintly Vulnerability). As Haggai does for the people in Jerusalem, and as Jesus does for the Sadducees, Jesus brings the presence of God to them.

All this is part of the foundation the Letter to the Ephesians stands on in its argument for our inheritance of new life in Christ where no one is vulnerable (Alfaro).

I suppose the question this morning is what do we do with our feelings of vulnerability? The first step is to admit that we are vulnerable. And all of us, one way or another are vulnerable. We can try to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable or pose a risk, or that make us sad; but, in doing this, we also dull our ability to be satisfied, or feel happy or to be joyful (Lose, Saintly Vulnerability). We can try to remake resurrection life like we want it, and risk missing the promises Jesus offers for our lives not only in the future but also for today. We can spend all kinds of energy trying to imagine the unimaginable, or [pause] we can use that energy to join with all the vulnerable saints of ages past by choosing to live in the presence of the Kingdom that is right here right now (Lewis, Resurrection). And who knows, our efforts just may appear as a saintly inspiration to another vulnerable child of God.


References

Alfaro, Sammy. Working preacher Commentary on Ephesians 1:1123. 6 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2975 1/3>.

Bratt, Doug. Proper 27 Haggai 1:15b-2:9. 6 11 2016. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Britannica. election-political-science. n.d. 4 11 2016. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/election-political-science&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 6 11 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. Proper 27 | Luke 20:27-38. 6 11 2016. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

KQED. us-voting-rights-timeline. n.d. 4 11 2016. <http://www.kqed.org/assets/pdf/education/digitalmedia/us-voting-rights-timeline.pdf&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher Singing on All Saints Sunday. 6 11 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

—. Dear Working Preacher Who Says There’s No Resurrection? 6 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4706 1/3>.

Lose, David. All Saints Sunday: The Sermon I Need to Hear. 6 11 2016.

—. All Saints’ Sunday B: Look Twice. 6 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

—. All Saints’ Sunday C: Saintly Vulnerability. 6 11 2016.

—. Commentary on Luke 20:2738. 6 11 2016.

Lynch, John J. “Study of the “Last Things” – Proper 27(C).” 6 11 2016. Sermons that Work.

Musa, Aziza. Election commissioner in Pine Bluff accused of voter intimidation. 3 11 2016. <arkansasonline.com/news/2016/oct/06/10m-grant-to-let-uams-further-alzheimer/>.

Politics1. p2016. n.d. 4 111 2016. <http://www.politics1.com/p2016.htm&gt;.

Wines, Alphonetta. Commentary on Haggai 1:15b2:. 6 11 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.