2018-05-13/Easter 7-B/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joseph Vought
I see them every morning driving out of my neighborhood as I stop for the school bus: mothers and fathers praying as they hug their kids; praying as they get on the bus; praying and waving as little faces are framed by bus windows, parents still praying and waving as the bus starts and they walk home. I know those prayers, I’ve prayed them: “Oh God, keep them safe, keep the bus-driver alert. Help them to learn. Keep the school safe. God bless teachers. I hope I’m raising them right.” That’s the way I prayed. On this 7th Sunday of Easter, on Mother’s day, Jesus prays like a loving parent for his children, preparing to leave them. We say “On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven.” The disciples Jesus trained, who denied him on Good Friday, whom he forgave, called again on Easter, He prays for them because He will leave them. And Jesus is praying for you and me.
How will we live as God’s children in the world, which is beautiful and lovely but also dangerous and deadly? We live with eyes and a heart of faith remembering what we have seen in the Word made flesh and heard in Scripture: Isaiah reminds us, “The grass withers the flower fades but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my Word will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) God’s Word is eternal, this world is changing and passing away, and yet, “God so loved the world that He gave his Son.” (John 3:16)
Genesis 3:5 tells us our sin of Adam and Eve is “the desire to be like God.” When we play God, there is often hell to pay and people get hurt. The disciples were competitive and some Christians are always tempted to claim God loves them more. Because Jesus preached and lived God’s Kingdom which confronts all our kingdoms, He was killed. So were many of the saints. Luther defied the emperor, preached God’s grace and was called a heretic. Bonhoeffer and others died, resisting Hitler and the evils of the Nazis. Martin Luther King, Jr and others gave their lives and stood against America’s original sin of racism. Now we are living in a time of turmoil and we have talked with many of you, on the left and right. Some of you may itch and twitch with this homily on politics but I want to talk about the church. Recently we received a document “Reclaiming Jesus” from an ecumenical group of Christians reminding God’s people who we are.
I’d like to read a part of it: “We are living through polarizing times, a crisis of leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nation, politics, race, ethnicity, gender, geography. ‘By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love for one another’ (John 13:35). The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior and restraining bad (Rom 13)… It is the duty of Christian leaders to speak truth in love to our churches… We do so with humility. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute. The question is: What does our loyalty to Christ, require at this time in history?”
“I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). That image confers a God’s dignity and equality to all of us as children of God. Racial bigotry is a denial of the image of God. WE REJECT the revival of white nationalism and racism in our nation. II. WE BELIEVE In Christ, there is no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class. St. Paul says, ‘There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, that we are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28). The body of Christ is an example for the rest of society. WE REJECT misogyny, abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God. III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, and prisoner is how we treat Christ. (Matthew 25: 31-46) ‘As you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me.’ God calls us to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable. WE REJECT policies and leaders who would abandon the most vulnerable children of God and the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural/political targets. IV. WE BELIEVE truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Truth-telling is central to the biblical tradition, speaking the Word of God to society and speaking truth to power. The ninth commandment, ‘You shall not bear false witness’ (Exodus 20:16), is a shared trust in society. Falsehood enslaves us, but Jesus promises, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32). WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying invading political and civil life. Politicians, like all of us, are fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying tries to change facts for political, personal gain, truth is undermined.” The authors make several more theological points and conclude: “Our urgent need is to recover the power of our faith. If Jesus is Lord, there is always space for grace. We believe it is time to speak and act in faith, not because of politics, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ—to whom all authority, honor, and glory. Jesus is Lord. He is the light in our darkness.” (“Reclaiming Jesus”)
Like a loving parent, Jesus prays for us to be His messengers of love and grace in the world. Jesus prays for our protection, that we will be united in faith to believe God loves the whole world and He prays we will not be overcome by evil and fear. St. Peter reminded Christians living as a minority group in the Roman Empire, “I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Conduct yourselves honorably so all may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.” (1 Peter 2:11-12) We are aliens on the earth, yearning for God and our true homeland, always praying “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Annie Dillard reminds us, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you odd.” Because God gives us life and grace we may be thankful and humble. We are called to proclaim and be God’s Good News.
How we love each other here at Community, how we may share different ideas and politics but think about our faith and be one in Christ and the Gospel, this is important. And then, how we show the wider community that we love them and God does too- this is our mission as Jesus’ disciples and apostles. People around us are noticing and saying good things about the way we Welcome, Grow and Share Christ’s Love. But when we get confused by all the voices around us, the clamor of culture and polarization in our politics, it is good to remember whose we are and what we believe. Pr. Annabelle and I look forward to having more holy conversations with all of you about our life together and our mission to love and serve the world God loves. May the Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds on Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
(See “Reclaiming Jesus” document at http://www.reclaimingjesus.org/)