Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sixth after Pentecost, 2008

Sixth after Pentecost, 2008
June 22, 2008 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (RCL Proper 7A) Matthew 10: 24-39

Last week’s reading from Matthew and then on to our reading this morning will raise for us always these great and foundational themes of Christian identity, ministry, and discipleship. Who we are. What it means to be a follower of Jesus. How to live our lives in these dawning moments of God’s coming kingdom and power.

Last week Jesus said “the fields are white and heavy and ready for harvest,” and with that—a job description about proclaiming the kingdom, curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, casting out demons. And now this morning we have painted for us a portrait of a life of ministry leaping out and forward into the world with this incredible and almost breathtaking energy and freedom and power. What was whispered fearfully in dark corners, he says, you now shout from the housetops. Striding forth fearlessly, unafraid even of those who may destroy us, knowing that their apparent power is an illusion, that we are through the waters of baptism and the power of the cross already standing triumphant on the heavenly mountaintop.

The soundtrack is Martin Luther, Ein Feste Burg: “And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, [we will not fear!], for God hath willed, his truth to triumph through us; the prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him . . . . Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever.” We stood around this font last Sunday and looked down deep into the baptismal waters to catch a glimpse of the mystery that is at once so far beyond our understanding and at the same time so near, right beside us, in our midst. The presence of the risen Christ himself. Pretty heady stuff, inspiring, exciting.

We are of course fully aware of our own brokenness, our own limitations. I don’t know about you, but even though I sing that great hymn with Luther, I am afraid some of the time. Maybe a lot of the time. For family of course, friends, the precariousness of life. Even these days afraid for the church, odd as that sounds. As if I lacked the faith that he would see his church through all the storms. But what we know in our heads we don’t often confirm in our hearts. How so much of the time it’s two steps forward, then three back. How our insecurities, our fears box us in, limit us. So much of our lives walking on eggshells. Killing ourselves with stress, or then inevitably falling short and sliding into the deep pool of guilt. But what it might be like to throw all that off, all that has been weighing us down, covering us like a heavy blanket so completely that we can hardly breathe freely. What it might be like to have it lifted from our shoulders.

I know sometimes for us these great movements of faith, personal conversion, mystical transfigurations happen in the manner of a sudden elevation, a mountaintop experience, new freedom in Christ fresh and new and all at once, as it was for the disciples in the upper room that Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit filled their hearts like wind and fire. For most of us, maybe, at least most of the time it’s a long winding trail, tracking up and down, a few steps forward at a time, sometimes even losing elevation, and then other times just for a moment the fog lifting and a glimpse of the summit. What is that like for me, for you, for us. To ask, as we hear these words from Matthew, where am I in this picture?

But at least to know that we’re not left alone in this. That’s really the message this morning in a nutshell, as we respond to the invitation, come to his table. “Whoever acknowledges me, I will acknowledge.” You call, and I’ll be there, no question about it. Not just with good intentions from a distance, but right there with you, in the flesh. Bread broken, wine poured out. Right there with you. Be not afraid. What happens, sometimes whether we know it or not, is that he is taking the ordinary of our lives, and turning it into poetry. Singing, we become the song. To breathe that in, that freedom of our hearts and minds and lives, lived with him and in him, and in all that, the foretaste of the Kingdom.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Bruce Robison

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