Sermon Notes, 13PentecostC
+In the name of God, our Creator, our Comforter, and our Cause for Joy+
My friends in Christ, the story is told about a deacon preaching this Gospel. She processed to the crossing and proclaimed the Gospel amongst the people. She went to the pulpit, looked around at everyone for a minute and said, “Ewww.” She returned to her chair and sat in silence for five minutes before the invitation to the Nicene Creed.
That story is apocryphal among deacons. Now, please understand that I was taught that if I cannot find something to preach in the appointed Gospel, I may preach from the Epistle, the Psalm, the OT reading, or lastly, the Collect for that Sunday. No matter how difficult the Gospel, I try to preach it. No matter how difficult is is for us, we must try to understand what Christ is saying to us throught the filter of time.
In the ordination rite for deacons, the bishop says this: “As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them.”
When faced with such a Gospel lesson as we have today, those words are the rub for me. This is not the Jesus I love. This is not the Jesus I want to follow. This is not the Jesus I want “to model my life upon.” This is not the Jesus of the Gospel that I know, and it is not the Gospel that I want to preach to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
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There is a wonderful ELCA pastor named Nadia Bols-Weber whom I cannot get enough of. She blogs, tweets, and is one heck of a preacher! She has tattoos on her arms and neck, and looks like no ELCA pastor I have ever encountered. She’s known as the “Sarcistic Lutheran” and it’s no surprise that this well-tattooed “Ornery Deacon” is one of her biggest fans. Listen to her words in a recent interview about the Gospel: “The Gospel, for me, is this crazy story about how the creator of the Universe, of all that is, chose to slip into skin and become human in the most fragile and vulnerable way possible and in circumstances that were entirely questionable. And then chose to walk among humanity full of grace and truth and among the least of these. Then our reaction to that grace and that mercy was to kill—To say “Crucify him”. And then went to the cross and to endure this suffering even unto death and to hell as though to say that “I am more powerful than you are” and not in a way that I am going to seek vengeance for those who put me on the cross but in the fact that I am going to offer forgiveness to them- and that is so much more powerful. Then he defeated death itself, and before defeating death, Jesus gave death a slap in the face many times before that. Then after defeating death, and then came back and was like, “Do you guys have any snacks?” Right? And then said “Love like this, forgive like this, live into this, remember this, gather around this table. Here is my body and blood which is given for you.” So, I think that is the Gospel for me.”
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As I look at this Gospel today, I am continually drawn to the last sentence: “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” The separation and division that Christ brings to that time in history, to that society, would bring such pain. Let alone that Palestine at that time was rife with class and family divisions – here comes this Christ – this God with skin on – to rip divisions further apart!
My dear friends in Christ, quite simply, God came down, became like one of us, and was saying, “Here I AM – in this present time – can’t you see Me?!?” That’s what this lesson is about. That concept of “the present time” that God speaks of as Christ always was, is right now, and is for all time. John beautifully expresses that in the prologue to his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” In a few more phrases John writes: “…the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The literal Greek translation is: God came to us as Jesus and pitched his tent among us! God walked among us as Jesus and we did not recognize him.
Please remember that in this Gospel lesson today, Jesus is returning to Jerusalem and he knows that his death is his fire. Yet God with skin on rose from death and forgave us. God gave us our fire: the Holy Spirit. That spirit of God speaks to each one of us in our own special gifts.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is among us. Remember that Christ said that when two or three are gathered that God is with us. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that.
Here are some of the things that Trinity does well: Trinity knows the love of God when we talk and when we laugh. This ornery deacon is so blessed to be in a parish where the fire of God’s love is known in the gift of holy laughter.
Trinity knows the love of God when we pass the peace – and if we have any visitors today, fair warning: When Trinity passes the peace, we pass the peace! We pass it with joy, we pass it with handshakes and hugs, we pass it with fleeting quiet conversation and concern and with all the love that we can muster!
Trinity knows the love of God when we make Eucharist together. We bring ourselves and our cares to the table and God loves us unconditionally in the gift of bread and wine.
Trinity expresses the love of God to the community in the Mustard Seed. We clothe the naked there and we return our so called profits back to the community through our outreach in many, many ways.
God with skin on is with Trinity now. Our challenges lie in the future: Will we extend God’s love to the newcomer – in the face we may not know – in the brokenness they may have? Will we lose our comfort zones for the betterment of God’s kingdom? Will we lose our individual selfishness with finances and trust God with our monitary gifts rather than hoarding them and hanging onto them with clenched fists?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I raise such questions not to bring fear or foster discord. All I know is this: The opposite of inwardly clenched fists is open arms and open hands that say “Alleluia! Alleluia! Thank you God for the gift of your love! Thank you God for your time, for all time IS your time! Thank you God for reminding us that the opposite of decay and rust is love and trust!”
Please pray with me: “Gracious God, ever living and ever loving God, lover of our souls. Thank you for the gifts you have given us in your past time. Thank you for the gifts you give us in your present time. God, gives us open hands, open hearts, and open minds, and help us to trust you in your time to come, and may the souls of the departed rest in your peace. In Jesus’ name, let the church say AMEN”