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Wake Up to Our Call

Once again, good morning and welcome to our family here at Trinity.  You are more than just welcome. You are invited to worship and fellowship with us, and if you feel so moved, please travel with us on our journey. Today we will be reflecting on the readings and in my usual style, see how they instruct us to handle our lives in a day to day manner. But it is impossible to begin any presentation without the mentioning of this past week’s election and the impact it has had on the lives of everyone not just in this country but around the world. Just as it happens anytime there are sides to take, where one group sits in opposition to another, there are presumed winners and presumed losers. Along with this winning and losing there are real and valued feelings that are attached to it.

That is a very large part of what it means to be awake. If we didn’t have feelings one way or another about the outcome of any major event, especially one that directly affects things like one’s health, protecting creation and our environment, the elderly – homeless – refugees – mothers and children, and determining the legality of who we can love …. How awake can we say we are? Because as we sit here today we sit in a divided land, and in all honesty, a divided church of Christians. Some have chosen not to allow their personal preferences to be broadcast in public and their privacy is to be respected. There are others who we do hear from at times because they feel there is a need to let their voices be heard. As long as that is done with civility and respect for those who they sit across the aisle from – we all have the right to do that.

So this morning, we must come together knowing that just as there are those who are joyful, there are those who hurt. Just as there are those who are shocked and confused, there are those who sit here with confidence. And just as there are those who fear a change for the worse, there are those who stand with a conviction of everything being just fine. Where we go from here and what we do in the coming weeks and months will depend on how we process all of these changes and come to grips with a new reality. In a pastoral note to the diocese, the first thing Bishop Audrey did on Wednesday morning was to remind us that no matter where we sit, “… our duties as Christians to participate in God’s mission hasn’t changed: we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor. Reach out to the margins and welcome in the stranger, lift up the downtrodden, make free the oppressed. This includes women, LGBTQI brothers and sisters, Muslims, refugees and all those subject to the sin of racism. Pray for peace, strive to end gun violence, bind up the wounds of those who ache. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what matters.”

I thanked her for that reminder and as I sat with myself in the next few days wondering how I could tie all of this in with today’s readings things became even more confusing. Because here I sat with two lessons from the lectionary with seemingly polar opposite messages. It appeared that some two-headed monster was attacking me from every angle there was. I was looking for one way, one solution, one clue as to what words you were supposed to hear but all that was coming through were two seemingly distinct lessons. The first is the message of Isaiah that foretells of a new world order and a utopia where everything is made right by God, people working together with other people for a common good and even the rest of the created world living side by side without fear. This world will be so perfect that all things that existed prior to it won’t be remembered. There will only be peace… violence will not exist because it says in the final verse “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my Holy mountain, says the Lord”.

Compare that with Luke’s account of Jesus’s apocalyptic world that has us – or at least me – cringing at the prophesies of a world turned upside down not in a good sense, but through both the natural and human-made destruction of our home. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying “yes, you read what Isaiah had to say, that everything will be just fine in the next life. But I’m here to tell you that you have to go through a living nightmare to get there.” Jesus had to have scared people out of their wits talking like this! We are given instances of earthquakes, famine and sickness, evil rulers, collapsing kingdoms, false prophets claiming to be Jesus … but that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that believers will be rounded up and tortured because they do the work that Jesus told them to do. The same work that Bishop Audrey reminded us is our call as Christians in the few sentences I read just a couple of minutes ago.

How do we sit with that? Can we comfortably separate these two pieces of scripture and say we are good with one but not the other, or that we’ll accept one because it’s easy and as for the other … well, maybe it’s not going in the direction we hoped it would. We’ve seen plenty of wars and natural disasters before today. Christians have been persecuted for years since back in the first couple of centuries yet the world hasn’t ended yet. Why we’ve even seen people claiming to be Jesus walking around with signs saying ‘repent, the end is near’! Surely either it’s all a big lie to get us to behave – or God is playing a game with us and just teasing us a little at a time.

As usual I’m full of questions today, here are a few more: Which is more important to you? To know what the will of God is so we can find out if this is all truth; or to have faith and hope, trusting that what we read here is in fact, truth? Figuring out God’s will in this moment is as difficult as it was when Jesus was there in front of his disciples, personally giving them clues. Right now, today, do we stand in glorious and happy times full of cheer or do we wrestle with the unknown and very mysterious ways of God?

Our faith tells us we must wake up! We must wake up and see what is going on around us. We must wake up and listen to the words of Jesus spoken through those less fortunate. We must wake up and make sure that we haven’t gotten so comfortable that we’ve lost track of our baptismal covenant. We have every reason to want to have things our way, have things easy, have things such as Isaiah promises in his vision of a new world. After all we’re told from a very young age that if we work hard early on and keep at it we’ll have the finer things in life later on because we’ll have earned them. Now, if that were true we’d have a country full of healthy, wealthy, successful citizens who don’t have a thing to worry about. What that old adage doesn’t tell us is that at any time, our lives can be hit like an earthquake, shaking things up when illness strikes us or a family member; causing finances to be eaten up with the cost of medicines and hospital bills. So while we may face our future with wishful thinking that the only thing that matters in life is to have everything go perfectly fine, we still need to keep our mind focused on our mission. We still need to do all we can to help each other as we journey through this ever changing world.

To do anything else but focus on our call, regardless of who is in charge of this earthly existence, is to step aside from the teachings of the Gospels and the words of Jesus. Those other voices, the ones who promise you prosperity in this life are the voices of the false prophets that Jesus speaks of, because according to them things should always come easy. We need to listen to the voices who know what suffering is, because Jesus tells us it is through this that we find what true joy is. The joy of being awake!

Through these threads that either weave back and forth between the passages or stand exclusively on their own, there is one point that Jesus makes that we must not ignore. And that is what to do if we ever are in a position where our association with Christianity is questioned. For those of us who write or preach as part of our jobs, it’s unlike anything we could think of. We are not to rehearse our words and plan a discourse that just might talk ourselves out of becoming a martyr. Just the opposite. We are to stand before our accusers and be faithful in knowing that we will be given the words to testify, letting our convictions be known that for us – Jesus, yes Jesus – not a politician, not a lawyer, not a family member or best friend, or performer or athlete – Jesus is our one true Lord.

When we are able to consider this without second guessing ourselves, then we will know we are awake. We will know we are alive. Will we put all of our resources together in moving forward, leading the way and doing all we can to carry out our call to be Christians? It’s our choice. We must choose to be awake and we must choose now. Being dead while living cannot be an option. So take a moment to step back and take a deep breath. Leave the “God in charge of picking winners” out of it, that God doesn’t exist. Ask the God who sits alongside those who suffer to be in our lives. And let’s continue the work we have to do to make this earth as it is in heaven – a world where one day the wolves will graze alongside the lambs.

So comfort your neighbor who mourns through this time and allow them the space to do it without ridicule. Give those who need to celebrate the time to do so, asking only that it be done with respect for others and without gloating. And let us pray for this country and its people that we will live within these tensions peacefully and filled with the ever-loving grace of God. Peace and All Good! Amen.

(Biblical Text used is from the RCL for Year C, Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28), Nov. 13)

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