Sermon Notes July 11
The poet Emily Dickenson wrote that to really see life, we need to see it “from a slant.”
To put it in the perspective of faith, we are what the early church called “in curvatis sae,” or bent into ourselves—so bent, we can’t easily see or hear who God is, or how God is working in our lives, and the life of the world around us.
That’s why Jesus spoke so much in parables—to try and get at us, disarm our defenses, and open eyes and ears.
And why he did it over and over again.
Jesus spoke in parables to startle us to see what God is like:
God is like a woman who searches for a lost coin, using a broom to sweep every corner possible, who does not quit until she finds it.
God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 of his sheep behind in order to find one who has strayed away, lost.
God is like a Father who lets a self-bent, self-willed son go, a Father who runs down a long road to greet the son, give him his own robe, his own ring, a fatted calf to celebrate the son’s long-waited return.
God is like a vine-yard owner who pays those who have gone to work last in the day, for the fewest number of hours, the same as those who have worked throughout the day, from its very earliest hour.
God is like someone who throws a party for friends and, when they make excuses for not coming- invites anyone and everyone off the streets.
Jesus spoke in parables to startle us to see what God’s realm- God’s kingdom, God’s landscape, God’s way, God’s terrain—is like:
The way of God is like yeast, invisible in bread but the source that makes it grow, makes it bread.
God’s way is like wheat that grows right in there with the weeds.
The way of God is like someone who has discovered a precious pearl, and, in joy for it, sells everything that they have in order to get it.
God’s way is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that grows to be the greatest of all plants.
God’s way is like a seed growing secretly in the night—you don’t see it grow, but there, there it is, in the morning, when you least expect it.
Jesus spoke in parables to show us what we are like:
Unmerciful masters who do not forgive debt that has been forgiven us.
Brides maids who get impatient for the groom and so leave the wedding, flowers (or candles) and all.
Recipients of gifts who bury the gifts in the ground, out of fear.
And, as we read in the parable before us today:
People who will not hear or receive the word of the love of God poured out in Christ because we do not and cannot let it get to us –and so the birds come, and there you go. People who will not hear or receive the word of the love of God poured out for us in Christ because we do not go deep with us, and so are quashed by the rocks People who receive that love, but at the first sign of the lack of love, grace, or mercy, die to the promise.
And people, yes, who hear and receive the word of the love of God poured out for us in Christ, let the Spirit get to our deepest roots, and so- bring forth grain untold.
The love of God is real, the love of God is near, the love of God is here.
There is no condemnation for us.
Every stupid or self-willed or selfish act we have made, spoken or unspoken, intended or unintended, has been forgiven, removed from us as a final, unbending, flat, that’s it, no more, judgment on who we are, who we will be, and what awaits us.
We have been given life, and peace.
Life that can celebrate life even in a Pandemic, reach out in love to others even in the midst of the fear of that Pandemic, hold steady in hope as all kinds of things come crashing down upon us, work for justice in love when justice in love seems to long and great a path to even begin tending.
The Spirit of God dwells in us
We hold, as the Apostle Paul says, “treasure in earthen vessels.” As fallible as we are, as “in curvitis tae” as we might be, God, in Christ, makes a home in our very hearts.
Indeed, it is the Spirt of God who raised Jesus from the Dead that dwells in us. The power of Resurrection and Life, of the empty tomb, of three long days of despair met by the surprise and glory of Easter lives right here, among us and within us. Imagine—what kind of difference that Spirit can make in our own lives—to say nothing of the world around us.
Are you seeing?
Are you hearing?
Do you perceive Jesus’ bent?
Can you see through the slant?
God is a gift of joy.
Jesus, God’s Son, has come for no other purpose than to unearth that joy.
The Spirit is within us, within you, to make that joy felt and known in your life, and shared by and through you.
Can you see through the slant?
See the joy? See the gift?
God is gift
And God is joy among us, even here, even now.
Sermon Notes, July 5, 2020
In the text before us, Jesus seems to suggest that the people around him are restless, at best, in the face of their religion.
They are like children who don’t want to participate either in games of joy or in games of sorrow. God comes as a sign in John, who neither eats nor drinks, separating himself off from community, and they want nothing to do with it. God comes as the Son, as Jesus, who eats and who drinks right there in community, even with known “sinners”—and that’s not enough either.
They get ticked when religion seems too harsh and ticked when it seems too lax. A lack of joy isn’t enough, but neither is its presence.
They don’t seem to really know either what God ultimately expects of them, or what they expect of themselves, before God.
Is God known in joy, or is God known in judgement? Or are we unconvinced, either way?
It’s not as if those questions have entirely gone away.
Think of the Pandemic alone.
Are you ok with thinking it’s some kind of sign from God, indicating that we need to somehow get our stuff a little more together?
But are you totally ok with thinking God isn’t working in this at all, calling us to somehow get our stuff a little more together?
Or are you—even as someone who would be called a person of faith—really not all that sure God is involved in any of this, at all? That the Pandemic is purely secular stuff, a part of the earth, far from the mind’s eye of any Creator?
Is God judging us in this? Calling us to a deeper sense of faith and joy in it? Or not there at all?
Jesus said this, watching the people around him:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“Come to me, “ he says, “all you that are weary.”
Weary of masks, even while unhesitatingly putting them on.
Weary of the battle in the midst of them.
Weary, weary, weary, of the deadly virus that gives cause for them in the first place.
“Come Unto Me.”
There may well be a sense of judgement in all this. It may also be that there is a new freedom, a new sense of the gift that is in the gift of life.
Either way, Jesus invites us into his presence, into his yoke.
And he invites us, whether or not we think there is any truth to the invitation.
Jesus—God incarnate, God with us, God among us, is “gentle and humble in heart.”
God is, even in this.
God is not to be confused with the virus,
Equated with individual freedom in it,
Or dismissed altogether as it rages.
“Come Unto Me,” the Word-made-Flesh bids.
Jesus—God’s own self—is gentle.
Jesus—God’s own self—is humble of heart.
Where this time would push you to the edges, God is here, in Christ, to beckon you into the peace that passes all understanding.
Where those around you demand freedom, God is here, in Christ, to call you to share the yoke that holds and binds us all: the love that so loved the world, it gave . . . .
Where the virus feels like a pressure of judgment, God is here, in Christ, to both nod that very well could be—and release it from your shoulders. Judgement, in the Good Shepherd, never comes for the sake of power, control, or cruelty. It comes that we might see who we are, who we have been, and turn out of all of that toward the gentle, humble heart that is at the center of all existence.
Where you think that the question of God in all of this is a mute point, God nonetheless is. Quiet. Humble. Gentle. Waiting.
Christ’s yoke is easy.
It the joy experienced by one gathering together with loved ones for dinner,
After suffering for weeks on a ventilator.
Christ’s burden is light.
It is the mask you wear
Because of the life you have received
in one worn for you.