Tuesday, July 30, 2013

10 Pentecost, Year C, 28 July 2013

Colossians 2:6-15; Luke 11:1-13
Preached by Rev. Dr. Jason Haddox 

It was a hot, sticky August day in southern Louisiana.  Old Mrs. Thibodaux was sitting on her front porch, down in the bayou outside of New Orleans, rocking and fanning herself in the heat.  The deputy sheriff drove up in a jeep and spoke to her.  “Mrs. Thibodaux, you better come with me.  There’s a hurricane on the way, we need to get you to safety.”  Mrs. Thibodaux said, “You go on, son, I’ll be all right.  Jesus will take care of me.”  The deputy drove away.

Pretty soon the rain began to fall and the wind began to blow and the waters began to rise.  The yard was flooded all around the house, when the deputy came back in a flat-bottomed motorboat and called to Mrs. Thibodaux, still sitting on the porch with the water lapping the top step.  “Mrs. Thibodaux, you have to come with me.  This storm is going to destroy all this area, we’ve got to evacuate everyone.”  Mrs. Thibodaux called back. “You go on, son, I’ll be all right.  Jesus will take care of me.”  The deputy motored away. 

The storm continued to mount, and the winds grew fierce, and the waters rose even higher.  The sheriff came back, flying a helicopter, and hovered over Mrs. Thibodaux’s house, where she was now peering out through an attic window.  He hollered down to her, “Mrs. Thibodaux, I’m going to drop this rope ladder down to you.  You climb up and we’re going to get you out of here before the storm destroys the house and everything else.”  Mrs. Thibodaux hollered back. “You go on, son, I’ll be all right.  Jesus will take care of me.”  The deputy flew away. 

When Mrs. Thibodaux arrived at the Pearly Gates, Jesus was there to welcome her into heaven. She asked him, “Jesus, I trusted you to take care of me.  Why didn’t you take care of me?” Jesus answered her.  “Dear one, I sent you a jeep, and a boat, and a helicopter.  What more were you waiting for?” 

Hear again the letter to the Colossians:
“When you (all) were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made you (all) alive together with [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands.
He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”  

The bills of indebtedness, the lists of things done and left undone; the record of sins and transgressions, the books of recordkeeping against humanity, are nailed to the cross.  For one and for all and for ever.  

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities, and made a public example of them,
triumphing over them in it.”
“Disarmed” could also be translated “stripped naked”!   

It is an image the Christians at Colossae, a city of the Roman empire, would have recognized.  They had seen the triumphal processions of conquered peoples led through the streets, naked and in chains, preceding the victorious Roman soldiers.  They knew what that looked like.  That, says the author of Colossians, is what God in Christ has done to the powers of death and destruction.  They have been stripped and humiliated.  They are finished. 

“When you (all) were buried with Christ in baptism,
you (all) were also raised with him through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.” 

This baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ changes us all, for the death and resurrection of Christ has changed everything.  Death does not have the last word; the power of God is greater than the power of death; we have the promise of new and unending life poured over us with the water of baptism and signed on our foreheads with the oil of anointing. 

When we pass the font and touch the water and sign ourselves with the cross on our way to communion, we remember that reality in our bodies.  That regardless of what we think or how we feel, what our state of mind or life condition may be at any moment, that this is the Ultimate Reality in which we live. 


The old monk of Wittenberg, Martin Luther, used to say to himself in times of struggle:  “Baptizatus Sum.”


It means, “I am baptized.” But it means more than that.  The verb form really has the sense of “I have been and still continue to be baptized.” It’s not just a once-and-done sort of deal. It’s a continual thing, something that stays with you, something that is a part of you, surrounds you, no matter what context or situation you find yourself in.


Martin Luther wrestled with the demons of doubt and despair—spending a decent part of your life knowing that there are powerful people out there who want to kill you will do that to a person. When things got really bad for Martin Luther, he would remind himself, "Baptizatus sum." What a wonderful reminder for you and me, as well! When all seems right with you and your life and the world is your oyster, you are baptized. When it seems like everything has gone wrong and everything is messed up, you are baptized. And when it seems that all you have going for you is your Baptism, then you have everything!


In times requiring patience, you are baptized. In great suffering, you are baptized. In hard work, you are baptized. In dire need, you are baptized. In distresses, plagues, when they throw you in prison, you are baptized. When they revolt against you, in work, when you can't sleep, then you are baptized, baptized, and baptized. When you don't have enough to eat, when you hear the Gospel in its purity, when the kindness of God is obvious even to you and me: baptized, baptized, baptized, and baptized.”  


This is who we are, at the deepest and realest place of our souls.  Beyond and beneath all the other stories we tell about ourselves, or that have been told about us. 


God in Christ has covered us in love and welcome and new life.  We stand immersed in that love, always.  We hear it in the words of Scripture, we touch it in the water of the font, we taste it in the bread and wine of communion, we greet it in our brothers and sisters when we say “The Peace of the Lord be with you.”  Do you know that’s what we’re doing, at the Peace?  The Peace is not about “Good morning, lovely to see you, how’s the family?”  It’s about recognizing and welcoming Jesus in that other person.


For this reason, because we have been bathed and drenched in God’s love and forgiveness, we can turn to God in prayer.  We can say with Jesus and the disciples those familiar words: Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.


Two requests that are about God: that God’s name may be honored, and that God’s kingdom, God’s dominion, God’s intention for the creation and all who live on the earth may be accomplished. 


If God is the creator and ruler of all things,

 then the earthly authorities and policy makers and powerbrokers are secondary.
If God created all things and pronounced over them “It is SO GOOD”,

then how do we go about naming and honoring that essential goodness?

If we are praying for God’s kingdom to come on earth, what are we doing to help?


Three requests that are about us: 

Give us each day the bread we need for today. 

Just for today.  Never mind tomorrow.

That prayer is a little distant for most of us, because most of us aren’t that close to the edge.  We can go home after church today, most of us, and open the pantry or the refrigerator and know that there will be something in there.  And if not, we have the ability to drive to the store and select what we like.  We don’t have to beg God—or anyone else—for enough to eat to get us through the day.  We are blessed.  Not everyone is so blessed. 


How do we share “daily bread” with hungry people—physically hungry, emotionally hungry, spiritually hungry?  We all know at least a few.


Forgive us, as we forgive others.

We stand drenched in the love and forgiveness of God, reconciled to God and one another in Christ.  And for this reason, we can extend love and forgiveness and reconciliation to others, even to those who have not heard of this good news, even to those who—just maybe—we don’t want to forgive.  Because it’s not about us gritting our teeth (physical or spiritual) and grudgingly offering forgiveness even though we’re still mad or hurt (which we may well be, by the way); it is about recognizing that we have been bathed in forgiveness and love, and that we are called to give that forgiveness and love away to someone who needs it.  Perhaps most especially someone we may not really feel like forgiving. 


Do not bring us to the time of trial.

Save us from the crises that we know will come—either by keeping us out of harm’s way, or if not, then by walking with us in the midst of those crises and struggles.


How do we walk alongside of folks who are going through “a time of trial”?  What does that look like in your place, where you work or live or hang out?


It’s not much, as a prayer goes.  It’s quite short and very simple.  But Jesus gives it to his followers as a mark of identity—“their” prayer, as contrasted with the followers of John the Baptist for instance.  We call it “the Lord’s Prayer” but it really is “the Disciples’ Prayer”—our prayer as Jesus’ disciples. 


Jesus also tells them to pray and not give up.  To ask and seek and knock persistently, even shamelessly.  And he tells them that the friend whose door is closed and locked, whose children are with him asleep, will indeed get up and answer the one who keeps knocking and asking.  The word translated “get up” in Greek is anastas.  It’s the root of the girl’s name Anastasia.  It can mean simply “wake up, get up out of bed”, but it is more than just that.  It is also the word we call in English: Resurrection.  Jesus is telling them a resurrection story, about this desperate, persistent person knocking at midnight, who is aided and fed by the One who Rises Up to provide for his needs. 

We are Jesus’ people—People of the Resurrection.  We have been washed and drenched in God’s love and forgiveness and reconciliation; we have been nourished at Christ’s table in order to become Christ’s body, his hands and feet and eyes and ears in this world; we have been bold to say with Jesus “Our Father in heaven…” and pray for our own needs and the needs of the world.  So many needs; so many people who hunger and thirst—for bread, for kindness, for a word of hope and mercy.   

At the end of every Eucharist we hear the Deacon’s bidding: 
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. 
It is a sending, a final instruction:  Get out of here! 
There is something important to do, this day, this week, out there. 

How do we come to our own Mrs. Thibodauxes, the people we know, to help them in “the time of trial”?  Or are we ourselves sitting up on the porch, waiting for divine intervention to drop from heaven?  The jeep, and the boat, and the helicopter are human tools, guided by human hands.  We have tools, and we have hands.  What more are we waiting for?

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