Wicker Park Lutheran Church Preaching Fall 2015
15 November 2015
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I first want to extend a word of gratitude and thanks for inviting me here with you all to celebrate in worship and share the word. … This gospel text we have for today is one of those texts that makes it almost confusing to proclaim, ‘praise to you, O Christ’ at the end of the reading. Somehow it doesn’t make as much sense. Pastor Jason, lucky for you, you’ve passed along the tough text over to the seminarian. Thanks buddy. But nevertheless here we all are gathered together in worship with our hearts aching to hear the good news.
Growing up, the vacations my family and I took were always road trips. So my siblings and I got pretty good at in the car entertainment. But despite our best efforts, we would inevitably find ourselves bored and antsy, with ‘nothing’ to do, and mom would try to step in, and help us out.
On one trip to Colorado to go camping, my little sister Linnea found herself particularly antsy as we finally arrived into the mountains. Mom suggested that she should look outside upon the beautiful scenery of the peaks and trees. Linnea replied rather defiantly, “There is nothing to look at! All I see are rocks and trees, rocks and trees.”
To her credit she was right. But the landscape of mountains while containing rocks and trees encompasses a beauty that is rarely captured in words. In that moment she didn’t see that beauty, but only its scant pieces.
I often feel that we approach a text like today’s with a similar version of viewing. We tend to easily get dismayed and only see the scant pieces. What is it that we see and hear? We see destruction, nation against nation, earthquakes and famines. We see rubble, and piles of rocks.
It becomes all too easy to see nothing but the pessimistic and the apocalyptic. It leads us to questions that are heavy with doubt. Like why is there a large pile of rocks in the middle of the sanctuary? Or as you take a look in your bulletins by where the sermon is, what is this statement of ‘belief’ doing in my bulletin?
Well, lets take a look. Just the first two lines cause me to bristle. This isn’t what I believe! The unsettling feeling endures as we continue to read this statement. … (Read the statement below)…
This statement is bleak and it is dreary, yet somehow we can think of those for whom this statement wouldn’t be shocking. But this can’t be all that there is. Like our text for today this can’t be the only way to see this statement. Lets take a look at it again with fresh eyes, and perhaps a change in perspective. Let’s read it from the bottom up. … (Read the statement again, but this time in reverse. Start at the bottom and read upwards)…
I live my life according to these beliefs. So what is that we see when we look upon our community, our city and our world? At first glance our gospel text certainly leads us to easily see the destruction and strife. This is all the more easier when this week we are additionally confronted with the horrific events that have taken place throughout the world in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad.
But what else do we see? Of the many posts of dismay, pain, and unity that have filled my Facebook wall this weekend there was one that stuck out to me. Many people began to post a graphic about a lesson from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers shared with us a lesson his mother had once taught him. She told him that when the scary things happen in the news, look for the helpers. You will always find people that are helping.
Reading from the bottom up. Seeing the helpers. There is a way to look upon what is in front of us and have hope. We are able to see the world as it is and still have hope in our hearts. We see it again and again, and even when we don’t see it for what it is, we see that God’s final answer to us is always, yes.
We see this answer of yes throughout our scriptures and into our lives; God provided clothing for Adam and Eve outside of the Garden; Abraham and Sarah despite some laughter conceive a son; through water Israel was lead from slavery to freedom; and here today Mary is claimed as a precious child of God marked with the cross of Christ forever with everlasting life.
This isn’t to say that I mean to find the silver lining in all things and only envision the rosy picture. Strife is strife and struggle is struggle. And sometimes that is all we feel and see. But we are not alone in any of this. Jesus knows our struggle and our strife. He has felt our pain and taken on our humanity.
Jesus came and continues to come to us. He came to us in his own human body and proclaimed it good. He took upon our entire situation, lived it, redeemed it, proclaimed that our lives mattered and provided us with ‘the way’ as we travel along this journey of life.
I am reminded of one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing were Leo tells this story to Josh: This guy’s walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey you, can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps down in the hole. Our guy says, “What are you doing? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
Jesus entered into our lives, into death itself to proclaim to the world that death was no longer the final word. Jesus jumps down into the bottomless pit of death and says no more. Death is no longer the end; it is no longer our end. At the end of the world, Jesus says come with me, I know the way out.
The passion of Christ is also the passion of the world. We on this journey are heading towards resurrection. We are heading into new life. If we are baptized into a death like Christ’s we are most certainly baptized into a resurrection like Christ’s. As is often the case, Martin Luther has the words that describe this journey that we are on together.
He says, “This life, therefore, is not godliness, but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”
We, the broken and redeemed community of God that we call the church gather together in hope, surrounded by the love of Christ, to proclaim what God has shown and done for us. We faithfully continue along the way, confident in markers we see. With this message of hope in the world I am able to proclaim, ‘Praise to you, O Christ.’ Amen.