Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sermon 081714

I have been posting about beer and about my sermons on here for over a year.  You have seen the beers, but you have not seen one of sermons on here. Well, here one is. I hope you like it.

“And the foreigners…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer”
I speak with you in the name of the Loving, Creating, and Expansive God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen!
  • Teach Alleluia We Sing Your Praises

Thanks for bearing with me.  I know that was out of the comfort zone for some of you, but you all just auditioned for the choir.  You are all accepted, see you at rehearsal Wednesday night.  
I’m going to come back to the words of that song; so, keep it in the back of your head for a bit.  First, though, let’s talk about this Gospel Passage.  This is one of my favorite stories from the Matthew’s Gospel.  The whole exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite Women is fascinating, but I had forgotten the bit before we read of his meeting her.  Jesus is critiquing the Pharisees for not having the vision to see beyond the rules.  Now, I do not want to bag on the Pharisees.  I believe they were faithful people just trying to follow God as best they could.  It is really tempting to want to just follow rules, to have a check list, to know I have done a, b, and c so I’m included. Furthermore, it can be REALLY tempting to say I’ve done a, b, and c so I’m included, but those folks over yonder haven’t so they are excluded.  They don’t look right, eat right, talk right, and were born wrong so they’re out. If we are honest, we all do that to some extent or to different degrees in different contexts.  I know that we all do that because even Jesus did it. 
He criticizes the Pharisee for excluding, then immediately goes to Tyre and Sidon, non-Jewish territories by the way, and runs upon a Canaanite women and says that he’s only there for Jews.  He even goes so far as to call her a dog.  But then she checks him.  Now did you hear me, this woman in what’s now the Middle East in the first century, pulls Jesus up short and says “but even the dogs are cared for, even the dogs are the responsibility of the God.”  The miracle in this passage is not the healing of the daughter.  Nope its that Jesus learns.  Jesus expands his own vision by listening to an outsider.  Jesus learns the lesson he is trying to teach, because he listens to an unlikely voice.  That’s another reason we need to continue to grow the Church of the Resurrection.  Not only because the more people God feeds at the altar, the more people we can feed in the world, but if our vision is to expand—if our understanding of God’s love; our understanding of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ—is to deepen and further enrich our life, then we need outsiders, guests, visitors, new people, different people constantly in our midst. 
Now, we have a tradition of rich hospitality in this congregation.  I would stack our ability to welcome people up against any congregation in the land.  We work hard to welcome all as we would welcome Christ.  BUT we must invite people with the same spirit, frequency, and depth as well. 
Now, the spirit of our invitation is very important.  It needs to be like Coconut Crème Brule’.  Here’s what I mean by that: While I was on sabbatical Jodie and I got to spend a week together without the kids; the first time we had done so in four years. We had date night every night for a week, and we thoroughly explored the culinary offerings of Philadelphia and New York City.  It was glorious.  One night we were at this placed called Monk’s in Philly.  It is an amazing place.  It totally looks like a dive bar, a couple of women even got in a fight in the bar area while we were eating.  But they had a dedicated pastry chef on staff and these amazing desserts.  Jodie had Coconut Crème Brule’, and after the first bite—I mean she hadn’t even finished chewing—and she was like, “Oh my God, Jason you have got to try this.”  That’s the spirit with which we should invite people to God’s holy meal…”Oh my God, you’ve got try this.”  This is where it’s at.  This is where God comes to be with us. 
See, the Eucharist, what we do around that table is an offering and a promise.  It is inherently related to Jesus’ table ministry, which was a foretaste of the kingdom of God and where Jesus was constantly criticized for including sinners and outcasts.  William Crockett writes of the Eucharist as, “both the offer in the present of the possibility of a new kind of relationship with God and with one’s neighbor, and an anticipation of the fellowship to be expected in the future in the consummated kingdom of God.”  My brothers and sisters, “Oh my God, you gotta try this.”
This feast is a reminder of the Cross, that Immanuel, God With Us, is willing to go into the darkest places of human experience.  This week has been vast number of people on this planet.  From the middle east to Ferguson, Missouri, and from the death of Robin Williams to whatever is going on in our personal lives, this week we most certainly do not and will not deny there is darkness in our world. We all know the darkness of which I speak. We all know there is darkness in everyone, places of fear and brokenness desperate for a reminder that we are not alone.  This week we need a reminder that God is present even in the darkness and the blackest night is as bright as the noonday sun to God.  We need reminded of God’s Love…”Oh my God, my brothers and sisters, you got try this.”
This week as conversations about race and violence again make the news; as conversations about the militarization of police, and the racial dynamics of law enforcement erupt…this week as our nation is put to the test to see if the constitutional right to peaceably assemble truly extends to all or is it just for white people, we need more Eucharist and less bullets.  This week you gotta tell someone “Oh my God, you gotta try this.”
A bit ago we sang the verse of the song I taught you:
“Christ the Lord to us said
       I am wine, I am Bread
              Give to ALL who thirst and hunger.”

Give to ALL who thirst and hunger.  My brothers and sisters, there is a lot of thirsty people in Omaha; thirsty for peace, for love, for some sign they are worthy…this is where it’s at.  Christ the lord comes to us in this holy meal.  He is present with us in the most real reality of the Eucharist.  So present that when we receive him, he is not only with us, but within us.  We become Christ bearers; equipped, empowered, enabled to go out into a world desperate for Jesus.  Come to this table, not for solace alone, but for strength—the strength to carry Christ out in to the world and compassionately proclaim to all, “Oh my God, you gotta try this!”  Amen!

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