Sunday, October 30, 2016

Twenty-Fourth after Pentecost

Proper 26C-1  Luke 19: 1-10

Hard not to be struck these stories through this section of Luke, about what we might call major and sudden changes in life-direction.  Just a few weeks ago Luke 15:  the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The son who with breathtaking disrespect asks his father for his inheritance.  “Waiting for you to die is taking too long, dad.”  And then who squanders it all in loose living.  And then that moment, when he’s broke and broken, his eyes are opened. The wonderful phrase, chapter 15 verse 17, “when he came to himself.”  He realizes all at once the crushing enormity of his sin, and his heart and mind overflow with sorrow and love—and with the desire for reconciliation and forgiveness.  

We heard in Luke 17 the story of the Ten Lepers.  Gathered outside a village in the borderland between the Galilee and Samaria, they are begging, calling out for a bit of kindness, a token, some spare change.   Rejected in every aspect of their lives, cut off from family and friends.  Hopeless.  And then Jesus comes along and responds not with a coin but with the command to go and show themselves to the priest, which is what they would need to do to be certified to return to their lives.  Somewhat surprisingly, they do what he tells them.  On their way, they are cured of their disease.  All I’m sure are filled with joy, but the story is really about this one, a Samaritan, the least likely one to want to relate to a Jewish rabbi, who stops and turns at once, when he sees what has happened.  Who, like the Prodigal, comes to himself. And even before he gets to the local priest for his certificate he and he alone comes back and falls at the feet of Jesus, his heart overflowing with thanksgiving and worship. 

And now  in the series of portraits of people “coming to themselves,”  Zacchaeus.  We think about what it would be like to be Zacchaeus.  “Little Zacchaeus,” although his stature is probably the least of his problems.   He some time ago made what we might call a challenging career decision, as Canon Andrew Piper described for us in his sermon on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican last Sunday.   Not a vocational direction for the faint-hearted.  Deciding to go into the tax collecting business is a choice that raises a lot of issues.  It was a lucrative profession.  But we understand the downside.  In those days the tax collectors worked on commission, so the more he could squeeze out of his neighbors, justly or unjustly, the more his own bank account grew.  To be anachronistic, we might say that if he didn’t approve an exemption or a deduction, there could be no appeal.   And he didn’t approve many of them, we can be sure.  So: a job guaranteed  not to make you a lot of friends!  Everybody in the neighborhood looked at his lovely home and his new cars and the new clothes his kids wore to school and the fancy vacations and all the rest and they knew, they knew, that Zacchaeus had wrung all his wealth out of their hides.  And they just plain hated him for it.  He can feel the waves of resentment that would surround him every day--the moment he hit the sidewalk, the moment  people caught sight of him.

You would wonder if maybe he hadn’t many times have had second thoughts.  Sure, we all think about money, what a job pays.  And we all want to do the best we can for our own family.  But there’s more to life than money.  What it is that makes you feel good about yourself, happy, content.  And Zacchaeus must have had more than a few sleepless nights.  Maybe when his kids came home from school with tears and hurt because none of the other kids wanted to be their friends.  Maybe when his wife began to feel the burden of her isolation in the market and the town square.  And of course the whole business was compounded by the fact that he was collecting taxes that support the oppressive system of the Roman occupation.  He’s a collaborator, a traitor to his people.  Can’t even show himself at the local synagogue without scowls and whispers.  Probably can’t show himself pretty much anywhere, without one or two of his security people alongside.   Rocks through the windows sort of a regular occurrence I would imagine.  Catcalls on the street.  In some ways he was a big man around town.   Powerful, sure.  Or at least a man with powerful friends.  Not liked, not respected, but certainly feared.  In so many other ways though, and not just physically, he must have felt pretty small.  

So then this moment, when Jesus comes to town.  I don’t know if Zacchaeus could have put into words why he was suddenly so eager to see Jesus.  In theological vocabulary we talk about God’s “prevenient grace.”  Before we know him, he knows us and loves us and calls us to himself.  We feel like it’s our idea, like we’re taking the initiative, but it’s really his work in us from the very beginning.  And now this almost slapstick moment when for all his dignity as a man of wealth and power, as if that was all nothing to him.  He rushes down the block and climbs into the tree,  like a kid.  And who cares what other people think, how they’re going to point and laugh?  Just to catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Again, hard to put into words, though I guess the Prodigal Son and the Samaritan Leper might understand. 

Jesus has been going around the region of Judea, in these days and weeks before the Passover Festival, preparing for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  Preaching, teaching, healing, blessing.  Zacchaeus must have heard something of this.  Something is stirring, anyway, to get him up into that tree.  And then the turning point.  Jesus sees Zacchaeus.  Seems to know who he is, calls him by name.  He seems to be the one Jesus came to town to see!  He speaks to him, not in judgment or condemnation, but with kindness. A smile.  To say, “I will come into your house today.”  -- It has been a long time, a long time, since anybody had talked to Zacchaeus that way.

And so then, the turning point.  Remembering the point in my sermon about the healing of the Ten Lepers, to point out the contrast in St. Luke’s Greek vocabulary.  All ten were cleansed, we remember the way the Greek worked in that.  All were cured of their disease, but the one who returned, who came back to Jesus, was saved, made whole.  “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus says.  The Greek verb sozo.    And now as it was for the Samaritan, the ocean of gratitude and thanksgiving and love that swells in the heart of Zacchaeus—it leads to a complete change of life and direction, what the word “repentance” means, metanoia, a changed life, a renewed heart and soul.  “The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”   And Jesus says, again from that same Greek root:  “Today salvation—salvation-- has come to this house.” 

A new direction.  A new life. What happens when Jesus shows up.  “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”   It is the ordinary pattern of an authentic Christian life.  The Prodigal, the Samaritan Leper, Zacchaeus: when we tell our own stories as Christians they are sooner or later going to sound just like their stories, though the settings and details will be unique to each of our lives.  In the same moment that we become aware of just how far away from him we are, he shows up on our doorstep.  He gives himself to us to forgive and bless, to renew and to save. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Twenty-Third after Pentecost

Proper 25C-1  Luke 18: 9-13

It was a great pleasure on Sunday, October 23, 2016, to welcome the Men and Boys of the Choir of Hereford Cathedral, U.K., to sing a choral service of the Holy Communion at our regular 11 a.m. service and then to return in the afternoon to sing a service of Choral Evensong.

I invited the Canon Precentor of Hereford Cathedral, the Rev. Canon Andrew Piper, to preach at the 11 a.m. service.  His text, in reference to Proper 25C-1, was Luke 18: 9-13, the Pharisee and the Publican.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Twenty-Second after Pentecost

Year C, Proper 24, Track 1
The Rev. Daniel J. Isadore

So two weeks ago we took a look at the Kingdom of God through the lens of David Foster Wallace’s address, “This is Water”…

If you’ll remember, what water was to the two young fish in Wallace’s story, the Kingdom of God is to us…
- Like the water to the fish, God’s Kingdom is one of those realities that is so “obvious, ever-present, and important” that we often don’t realize that we’re in it all of the time…(pause)

I also mentioned what, exactly, was meant by God’s Kingdom…(slight pause)
- …that the foundations of the universe are not mechanical nor chaotic, but personal…
o …that Jesus called this personal reality at the core of our existence “God,”…
o …that this God was love…
o …and that Jesus was, somehow, someway, “one” with this God. (p)
- Furthermore, the “Kingdom” of this God is…
o …the sphere of existence where what God wants done is done…(p)
- …and we have been invited to participate with God as He works to heal and transform everything…(p)
o I hope to spend future sermons sermons more fully explaining these realities…

But this morning I want to address an email I received in response to that sermon from two weeks ago…
- It was from a theologian (someone who thinks and talks about God), a resident theologian, I might add, who gave me permission to share his thoughts…(slight pause)
- Dr. George Knight wrote this to me: "As a citizen of the Kingdom of God (as one who is “in the water” so to speak), are we just floating along, enjoying ourselves, or are we using the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom, inviting others to dive in, to swim, and make a splash? (p)
- “In all of Jesus’ instructions (and commands) to us He uses active verbs; go, preach, teach, feed, etc. Nowhere does it say, sit back, relax, float…” (p)
- “I don’t know why I feel this sense of urgency about being proactive…it may be personal since I am old and feel time is fleeting and there are so many who don’t know Jesus.  Oh, people know about Jesus, but for so many there is no personal, life-giving connection.  How do we motivate people to take an active role, to become empowered and enabled, and then go out to share the Good News? My constant struggle!" (p)
How indeed? (p)
- What a thought provoking question: What motivates people to "swim around and make a splash" in and for the Kingdom? (p)
Actually, I think Dr. Knight answers his own question…and according to Scripture, I believe we would do well to take note…
- Listen again to how he ends his email, paying careful attention to what motivates his plea…
- “I don’t know why I feel this sense of urgency about being proactive; it may be personal since I am old and feel time is fleeting and there are so many who don’t know Jesus.  Oh, people know about Jesus, but for so many there is no personal, life-giving connection.” (p)
- (9 am) I know why George feels that urgency: because he knows God. (p)
- (11am) George, I know why you feel the urgency: because you know God. (p)
o Our brother doesn’t just know about Jesus; He knows Him personally…
…not like we know movie stars or politicians or athletes…
…but like we know our family and friends. (p)
o He knows that the accounts we read, Sunday after Sunday, about the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, are not myths…
They’re not stories made up primarily to illustrate moral truths, or to provoke us to social or political action, or to get us to make a one-time decision for Jesus, or to get us to come to church, put money in the plate, and then go home…(p)
o No…these Scriptures were given to us to us by God, the living God, that we might come to “Know the LORD,” as the prophet Jeremiah put it…(p)
…the God of Abraham, Isacc, Jacob, Moses, David and Isaiah…
…the God made known in, through, and as the man, Jesus. (p)
o God gave us the Bible so that we might come to gain an intimate acquaintance with Himself …
…and then live our lives in cooperation with Him as He works the heal, restore, and transform the world. (p)
What motivates a person to make a splash in this Kingdom water in which we live? (p)
- An intimate, personal, living-giving connection to the God and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. (p)
- Think about it…
o Why does Jesus tell the story we just read about the persistent widow? (p)
o He tells the story to communicate who our Father is…
He tells the story to fuel us with motivation for not giving up, for not losing hope, because God will indeed act to fulfill His promises to set everything right (to give “justice” as our text puts it)…(p)
o It is on the basis of who God is that Jesus appeals to us to persist, to keep on…
…to keep on praying, and acting, and living as if the Kingdom is real, as if we really are in water. (p)
- And if anyone lacks this motivation, then the fact of the matter is that person just does not know who it is that has loved them and invited them to participate in what God is doing in the world…(p)
- And if that is the case, then you’re missing out…(p)
o …you’re missing out on real, true, deep, life…
o …”the life that really is life,” as Paul puts it at the end of his first letter to Timothy…
(11am) Can I get an amen? (p)
But here’s the thing: No one has to miss out. (p)
- And I think that this is what Dr. Knight is at pains to communicate…
o Don’t get me wrong: you can opt out if you want…
…you can choose, instead, to orient your life around money or politics or fame or fashion…
…the list of replacements that will leave you ultimately wanting never ends…
o But no one has to miss out on knowing the One for whom they were made. (p)
God has made sure of that by giving us His very words…
Note 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture,” writes the apostle, “is inspired by God…”
- Literally, “All of Scripture is breathed out or spoken by God…”
“…and is useful for teaching…”
- (for communicating to us the truth about the nature of ultimate reality, the truth about who God is…)
“…for reproof…”
- (for pointing out what we’re getting wrong…and yes, we do get things wrong…or else we wouldn’t need God to come and die for us…)
“…for correcting…”
- (for setting what is wrong in us right)
“…and for training us in righteousness…”
- (for helping us to live in a cooperative, interactive relationship with God)…”

“…so that we might be proficient (or competent) in (doing) every good work that God calls us to do.” (p)
No one has to miss out on knowing God and all that that entails because the Scriptures are the means by which God has promised that we can get to sufficiently know Him…
- And by “sufficiently,” I mean that God, through the Bible, promises to equip us to know Him in a way that we know where we stand with Him and how to participate with Him in what He is up to in the world…(p)
- By giving us the Scriptures, God has given us access to a personal, live-giving friendship with Him. (p)
And so if it is, indeed, knowledge of God that motivates us to dive in, swim around, and make a splash in this Kingdom water in which we find ourselves, I say let’s go to the means by which God has promised to make Himself known…
- Let’s become people who read, mark, and inwardly digest Holy Scripture, as the collect puts it so well…
- And as we do so, let’s invite others to join in…
I sense Jesus asking us a question this morning…
- It’s coming through Dr. Knight’s email, and through the texts we’ve read…
- When Jesus returns to the creation bodily, as we confess in the Creed, each week, that He will…will He find faith on earth? (p)
- Will He find us, the people who identify with the institution we call “the church,” as people who know Him? (p)
o Will He find us swimming in this water of the Kingdom that He died to give us? (p)
o Will He find us getting to know Him through Scripture, and acting accordingly, “making a splash,” as George has put it? (p)
o Or will He find those who claim to be His people floating along…aimlessly drifting from one amusement to the next? (p)
The water of the Kingdom of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is all around us. (p)
- The means to knowing this God is readily accessible to us…(p)
- The life that really is life is within our grasp…(p)
“And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Twenty-First after Pentecost

Proper 23C-1 Luke 17: 11-19

It isn’t a parable, though it sure sounds like one. Luke has spent the last few chapters of his gospel presenting this extended scene—beginning with Jesus leaving the Sabbath Table of the prominent religious official to mingle with the crowds, to preach, teach, heal and bless.  And then when he is criticized for conduct unbecoming a rabbi—consorting with sinners and working on the Sabbath--he strikes back with a series of pointed parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Prodigal Son, the Unjust Steward, Lazarus and Dives.  Each presenting a vivid contrast between the comfortable, materialistic, secure, compromising, fearful, and ultimately hypocritical values evident in the lives of the establishment religious officials, and a vision of God’s kingdom: a kingdom of extravagant mercy, generosity, joy, humility, hospitality, modesty, unselfish holiness and obedience.  A vivid contrast that certainly made the officials more and more intent on getting Jesus off stage, by any means necessary. 

Luke decides that this is the time to tell about something that happened maybe a few weeks earlier.  We will remember back in Luke chapter 9, as the journey from the Galilee to Jerusalem was just beginning, the first place Jesus and his disciples passed through was a village of Samaritans.  (I preached a sermon on this text when it was appointed back on June 26th, so I’m sure it’s still going to be fresh in your minds!)  Jesus had sent someone on ahead to see if they might find somewhere to spend the night, but the Samaritans, who were hostile to the Jews, shut the door in their faces.  (If the tables had been turned, of course, the residents of a Jewish village would for sure have refused a similar request from a group of traveling Samaritans.)  In any event, the disciples wanted to punish the Samaritan villagers by praying that God would send down a storm of fire to consume them, but Jesus rebuked the disciples, and had them continue traveling.  Now here in chapter 17 we have this flashback.

 It seems that soon after this event, while they were in the same region, they came across some lepers at the entrance to another small village.  (We’re reminded that the word “leprosy” in the gospels doesn’t necessarily refer to the specific condition modern medicine calls Hansen’s Disease.  It’s what they would call any kind of disfiguring skin condition, whether chronic or transient.   We would probably have a number of diagnostic categories.  But those who suffered from these conditions were all considered ritually unclean and socially untouchable.  They were not permitted to work, to pray in the synagogue, to live at home with their families, to participate in any aspect of community life.   They became outcasts and pariahs out on the farthest margins of the community.  Their wives and husbands and parents and children could have nothing to do with them.  In the deeply family-centered and communal near-eastern culture this was pretty much like a sentence of death.)

So now Jesus and his disciples come along.  The lepers call out, “have mercy on us.”  Spare change?   You don’t even have to come close.  Just toss us a few coins!  But Jesus responds dramatically.  He stops, approaches them, speaks directly to them.  Eye contact and physical proximity.  He says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  Which is what would need to happen for them before they could be restored to their families and community.  To get an official health department certificate to show that they are no longer suffering from their condition and can return to ordinary life.  And Luke says that that’s what they did, right away.  They heard Jesus, and immediately they got up and headed to the synagogue.   No questions asked.  The gospels sometimes comment Jesus spoke as one “with authority.”  In any event, the Ten Lepers don’t respond in a skeptical way.  “Thanks very much, but how about a couple of dollars instead?”  Even before they can see any evidence of change, they do what he says.  Hebrews 11 calls faith “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  And as they stepped out in faith, a miracle happened:  “As they went,” Luke says, “they were cleansed.”

So, another great work of power, as we have seen again and again in Luke and all the gospels.  Jesus exercising his authority over the powers and principalities of this world.   But then the further twist, which seems to be why Luke is telling the story.  He sees in what happens next in the story as another example of the moral and spiritual contrast that Jesus has been setting out in this series of parables.   The point isn’t only about the healing miracle. That just sets the table for what follows.  Which is that one of the lepers stops when he sees what has happened.  He turns, even before he gets to the synagogue for his certificate.  He returns to find Jesus, and to thank him, to fall at his feet in tearful appreciation--to thank him and to worship.  A perfect illustration of metanoia, repentance: a change of mind, a change of life-direction. And interestingly Luke tells us it turns out that of the ten in the group, this one happened to be a Samaritan.  Maybe originally from that village we heard about in chapter 9.  Maybe he himself or members of his family were some of the Samaritans who had turned Jesus away just a short while ago.  But now he is kneeling before him, overflowing with thanks.  And Jesus offers this grateful Samaritan a personal benediction, in verse 19: “Go your way; you faith has made you well.”

The key point of this story comes home when we notice the contrast between two words, and different translators try to communicate this in different ways.  In verse 14 we are told here in the RSV that as all 10 of the lepers were headed to the local priest to show themselves, they were “cleansed.”  But then in verse 19, again, Jesus tells the one thankful Samaritan leper, “your faith has made you well.”  In Greek the word Luke uses in verse 14 is katharizo, literally to purge, or scour, or clean, and certainly seems to refer to the evidence of disease, removing the presenting symptoms.  But then in verse 19, sozo, literally to save, rescue, restore.  To heal.  To make whole.  Your faith has saved you.

All ten obey.  All ten are cured.  But it is in the change of heart, metanoia, repentance,  in and through the response of thankfulness and worship, the heart overflowing with gratitude,  that this deeper wholeness and restoration and salvation comes to the one who returned to the source, to the giver of the gift.  Years ago Lloyd Ogilvie, the pastor of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, had a famous sermon on the character of faithful Christian life called the “Attitude of Gratitude.” A life of Thanksgiving.  The Greek word for an expression of thanks is “eucharist.”  And the fact that the one who is saved here in this “eucharistic moment” is a Samaritan is a delicious irony.  “Who you are” obviously has nothing to do with it, because he’s a complete nobody. You can’t get farther outside the circle of Jewish life than by being a Samaritan leper.  You can’t get farther from the top of the ladder where those Scribes and Pharisees were living, among the Jerusalem elites. All ten obeyed Jesus, just as those Scribes and Pharisees are great at the details of external obedience.  Yet of the ten, only one is saved.  The one who stopped and returned to Jesus.  The Samaritan.

To make a pun, what Jesus the Great Diagnostician has been saying through this section of the gospel is that these Scribes and Pharisees suffer from a kind of “heart disease.” It’s not a question of their credentials or their outward observance, but of their character.  Not about who they are, but about whose they are.  And so Luke’s invitation in recalling this story for us.  Where are we in this story?  Who are we?  About stepping back, taking a deep breath, looking deeper, turning around.  We do have choices to make.  And one choice in particular.  We may think we’re doing just fine, as the Nine Lepers must have felt as they rushed to the priest for their documents and then returned to their old lives, their work, their families, their communities.  But for the one who comes back to Jesus, a conversion and transformation, his heart is full and changed his life is made new.  For him it wasn’t about going back to his old life, but about moving on forward to one that would be new and fresh in Jesus.  Where are we in this story?  Who are we?

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Twentieth after Pentecost

Proper 22C-1  Second Timothy 1: 1-14
The Rev. Daniel J. Isadore

“Join with me in suffering for the Gospel,” wrote the apostle. (pause)
-        Why? (Pause)
o  Isn’t that one of the questions we should be asking when someone calls on us to do anything, let alone to suffer for some cause? (pause)
o  Blind obedience to those who hold offices of authority may have been good enough decades ago…
§  …but not for us.
o  We’ve seen, far too often, the way authority has been abused…
§  …from politicians and school teachers, to police officers and business owners, to family members and clergy…
o  We know better than to blindly obey…(p)
o  So if this ancient letter is just another instance of some self-important authority figure, trying to impose his ideas upon us, then forget it. (p)
o  Tell us why.
-        Why should we join with Paul in suffering for the Gospel? (pause)

The question reminds me of the commencement address entitled This Is Water given by the late novelist David Foster Wallace in 2005 at Kenyon College…
-        Wallace began: "There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the he(ck) is water?” (pause)
-        Wallace continued: “If at this moment you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” (pause)
-        Wallace concluded: “(This isn’t) about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. … It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”” (p)

The reason that Paul calls us to join in suffering for the Gospel is because the deepest, truest truth of reality is that our situation is very much like that of the two fish in Wallace’s address. (p)
-        We are immersed in an existence of which far too many of us are just simply unaware…(p)
o   …a reality that, when it is declared is referred to as “Gospel,” Good News…(p)
-        Recall the words of the great and wise Jesus: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
o  What was He talking about? (p)

To many today, Jesus was a lunatic, and understandably so, not only because He claimed that there was more going on than meets the eye, but because He claimed to be that more…(p)
-        Jesus not only prayed for the Kingdom of God to come to earth, but lived that Kingdom into our existence…(p)
-        He seemed to intend at least two things by this phrase…
o  First, Jesus was what some philosophers today would have called a “Personalist.”
§  He believed that ultimate reality was not mechanical, nor the product of random, chaotic forces…
§  Jesus claimed that ultimate reality was Personal…(p)
·      …that at the core of our existence was a Personal Being more basic than anything else…
·      …a Being He referred to as God. (brief pause)
§  Jesus, in fact, not only proclaimed that this personal Being was most basic to the world in which we live, but that He Himself was, in some inexplicable way, one with this personal God. (pause)
o  Second, Jesus spoke of this God as possessing a “kingdom”…
§  As the late philosopher-theologian Dallas Willard explained it, a kingdom is “the range of someone’s effective will.”
§  In other words, a kingdom is the sphere of existence where what a person wants done is done.
·      All of us have a kingdom…
o  For some, it goes no further than their own bodies.
o  For others it extends throughout a house, or a department or a corporation… (p)
·      No matter how large or small, one’s kingdom is the sphere in which what they want done is done.
§  God’s Kingdom, then, would be the sphere of existence where what God wants done is done. (p)
§  And Jesus claimed that at His coming, that which the prophets were waiting “quietly” for as Jeremiah put it, was finally let loose in the world…
·      …that God’s Kingdom was at last “at hand,” on earth as it was in heaven…
o  …right here, right now, in our midst. (p)
·      …that now, there was a new power on the move in this world…(p)

But it gets even better…
-        Not only did Jesus claim to be one with this personal God at the center of reality…
-        Not only did He insist that He was the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth…
-        He taught that we could actually take part in the stuff that God was up to in the world…(pause)
o  …that we, people from all sorts of backgrounds, in all sorts of contexts, with all kinds of talents and regrets and ideas and desires….
o  …that we could participate with this personal God at work in the world. (pause)

Which, to me, sounds awesome…as long as this God is someone who is up to good. (p)
-        And that is exactly what Jesus and His followers taught…
o  In fact, one of His closest apprentices (John was his name) said it this way: “God is love. And if you don’t love, then you are working against God.” (pause)
§  Implication: if you do love, then you are working with God. (pause)
-        Jesus’ whole life was devoted not only to bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as was in heaven, but also to communicating the nature of God’s rule: love.
o  …a love that does not quit, even when it is killed.
o  …a love that cracks even death itself in half, and endures forever. (pause)

This is why Paul pleads with us: “Join with me in suffering to make this Gospel, this Good News, known.” (pause)
-        The brother who wrote this ancient letter was not barking arbitrary orders at us. (pause)
-        He saw the water all around us.
-        He knew that the news was true…
o  …that the Kingdom of the God who is love, the Kingdom of Jesus, is now in our midst. (pause)
-        And he was saying, “Look. (pause) Don’t you see?
o  Don’t you see the possibility this opens up for you and for this world?
§  The power that is available to us ordinary joes and janes…? (pause)
§  God is inviting us to work with Him to restore everything that is twisted and broken…
§  …and He promises to actually meet us and help us as we go…
§  …this is what Paul thought was worth suffering for!
o  “Won’t you see?” he was saying…
o  … that “what is so real and essential, is hidden in plain sight all around us…”? (pause)

“Join with me in suffering for the Gospel,” pleads the apostle…
-        …simply because it’s true:
o  this (point all around) is water (pause).
o    We’re in water. (pause)
o  God’s Kingdom is here.

Father, give us eyes to see, we pray in the Name of your Son, “Amen.”