Hear – the Word – the Music – the Hope
June 1, 2014 Rally Sunday
First Reading: An Excerpt from A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith in Conversation with Native Americans on Religious Freedom edited by Phil Cousineau
It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river and keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally; least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Second Reading: John 17:1-11. From The Message by Eugene Peterson
Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said, “Father, it’s time. Display the bright splendor of your Son, so the Son in turn may show your bright splendor. You put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and
eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor, the very splendor I had in your presence before there was a world. I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; then you gave them to me. And they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you. For the message you gave me, I gave them. And they took it, and were convinced that I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world, but for those you gave me; for they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine; and my life is on display in them. For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world. They’ll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind.
When we come to this place –
we come to worship God
But we also come to question ourselves;
Our beliefs / Our purpose
I can only hope that what I have to share
Helps in that endeavor . . .
May we be soothed and challenged.
So – I don’t ever do this; but this time I felt really compelled, because of some developments this week, to sit down at 6AM on Saturday morning and rewrite the sermon. A couple of reasons: First, the one I had was not compelling enough. Second, I read a devotional that really got me thinking I should go in a different direction.
Thursday was Ascension Day. Many of you will remember those paintings or images from renaissance paintings of Jesus, with his arms spread wide as he floats on up into the clouds. The passage in the Bible that talks about it, expresses the idea that those who were privileged enough to see Jesus after the resurrection, were standing around with him, his disciples and a few others as he is lifted up into the heavens. And then it says, “…two men stood by them in white robes and said, ‘what are you standing around gazing at?’”
Now, this Ascension Day passage has been a difficult one to think about, largely because of all those paintings that depict Jesus floating in the air. Once you have that image in your head, it’s hard to imagine anything different. Then, there was also the way it presented itself to me that REALLY spoke to our situation here at HOPE –
I want us to imagine a new way of looking and thinking about that passage. I want us to think about it in a way that speaks to US at HOPE CHURCH on this day – especially as we gather around to celebrate all we are as Hope Church! I want to ask you to be open to a new idea.
Remove or set aside that picture of Jesus suspended in midair floating up in the clouds, and think in a little more practical way.
They didn’t have cameras … it’s not a photograph. So just because it’s in the Bible that way, doesn’t mean it happened that way. We have to remember – these paintings are essentially stories, using vivid thoughts and images to tell the tale.
The disciples were all feeling pretty good. They were in their post-Jesus’-death-coming-to-grips-with-things frame of mind, and they were starting to feel pretty good about the spirit that was alive among them (those of you that are hard and fast bodily resurrection people, bear with me). They had been through some really tough times. But now they were high on the fact that they knew they were going to make it; they were getting a grasp on the fact that the spirit of Jesus was with them, and they could go on with strength. So they are all, figuratively speaking, standing around thinking, and probably saying to one another, “Man, things are pretty good! We understand that the spirit is with us, and we are going to be OKAY!” They are starting to cop an attitude like, “We got this; things are good!” They are realizing that what Jesus said about the “kingdom of heaven” being on earth is real -because they are experiencing the good of it!
The image, then, of Jesus being “lifted up” could be the realization that Jesus’ spirit was alive in their presence, and being lifted up to this heavenly experience among them! Then, enter stage left, the two guys in white robes – the two angels or, more literally, the two messengers of the sacred – and they say, essentially, “What are you looking at? You are standing around looking at and thinking about how great things are, when you ought to be busy preparing for the future!”
Life is good here at HOPE CHURCH right now. We have new members. We’re not in the financial trouble from years past. Everybody is feeling really great about who we are and what we’re doing. The choir is growing, we’ve got fantastic musicians and great musical leadership . . . and everybody is feeling great. Enter stage left – the two guys in white robes . . . . . . . . . .
Okay . . . I don’t have angels for you. Or do I? Maybe I have a message from the sacred for us all. I earnestly hope and pray that you do feel the presence of the sacred; the message of all that is good speaking to your heart and saying this is no time to be standing around congratulating ourselves – “WOW life is good, we got it! We got it, we’re THERE!” – But rather, this is the time when we are to be planning for the future; laying the groundwork; thinking about all those things that we need to do to really grab ahold of the future of HOPE and make a difference!
We CAN make a difference in our community – we have done it before we can do it again!
Blessings – Amen!