John’s sermon begins around the 24 minute mark.
What I want to share with you today is simply this: God invites everyone to the table of grace (no matter how broken our lives are) because we are beloved children of God.
Let us pray: Gracious God allow my words to touch your truth and to point to your grace and love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN
This has been quite a week. Last Sunday we voted on the call of Rev. Goines to be our Co-Pastor. I am still in a “spiritual” hangover at such momentous and wonderful news.
And I had a couple of experiences that have become confirmation signs for me that what we all did is full of God’s goodness
I shared this with those who stayed until the end of the Congregational Meeting but I want to share it with those who left early or who were not present.
Last Sunday I was walking Leo the dog to church. I was, as you can imagine. I had a lot on my heart and mind. I was praying the centering prayer. I came near the church and looked up on the steeple cross and the red tail hawk that often sits there was surveying the landscape. Rev. Lois Annich once told me that a hawk was a spiritually important animal. I always take peaceful delight in seeing our holy hawk sitting there.
But here is the remarkable thing. All of a sudden a second red tail hawk came swooping out of somewhere and also took roost on the cross. Now there were two birds–co-birds.
As I surveyed “the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died,” two birds surveyed me. I couldn’t help, in that moment, taking this for a sign that God intended us to have Co-Pastors for this church.
And then on Monday, again while walking Leo (perhaps Leo is the sign?), I reached the end of my block and a woman who I do not know but recognized (she is not a member of this church) was also out walking and she stopped and said: “I hear your church did something monumental yesterday. Thank you! It warms my heart!” and she started to cry tears of gratitude. So I started getting all choked up too. And there we stood for a moment crying tears of awe and thanks at a street corner at 6:30 on a Monday morning.
I took it as a confirming sign that what we had done was already bearing fruit of reconciliation and hope in our community.
So when I began to prepare for this sermon today I was so full – I was overwhelmed and overflowing and I expected the lectionary passages to be a praise psalm: “Make a joyful noise!” or Jesus saying “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near!”
And what do we get? The beginning of the book of Job – one of the most theologically disturbing texts in the Hebrew scripture if not in the whole Bible. God lets Satan loose on a righteous man, Job. Everything that Job has—his reputation, his family, his wealth—are all taken from him.
Some of you might be thinking of a contemporary man and a contemporary woman – both who have sparkling credentials who are now being taken apart in the harsh glare of public opinion and FBI investigations.
The theological conundrum of the Book of Job is this: Why would a God of love allow such horror to happen to a righteous man? What kind of God is this? How can a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?
Job is a sobering check on those who think that obedience and piety will automatically be rewarded.
And so I turn to Mark, hopeful, and the passage is one that has caused such horrific pain and guilt to so many people as Jesus teaches about divorce – calling it adultery.
I remember this passage well because it was the one my brother Peter turned to when he was going through separation and divorce as he was taking chemo for a cancer that would take his life two years later. He wondered if there was a connection between the two – as if he was being punished. You know how the mind makes these connections under stress.
Good gracious, the two worst passages I could think of are the lectionary passages for today, the Sunday after one of the most awe inspiring and joyful Sundays we have had in quite a while.
Through the years I have done all the exegesis on these passages – and we can theologize and contemporize and “explainorize,” seek to harmonize – these harsh passages with our intellect and emotional leaning of the 21st century – but still, here they are. Take them literally, explain away, or ignore?
But then it came to me. Instead of dwelling on “Why did God do that?” and “Why would Jesus say that?”, we should accept them as descriptive of where some people are, of where we are at times.
There is triumph and joy and happiness and power and hope that happened last Sunday–and there is terror and violence and confusion on Monday.
There are signs of red tail hawks and a joyfully crying neighbor – and there are wars and rumors of wars, there are broken hopes and shattered dreams on this Sunday. There are weddings and there are divorces. There are miraculous births and heartbreaking deaths.
And particularly as we consider the world on this World Communion Sunday – there is so much color, and beauty and diversity as you travel you see the wonders of our world – but consider the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia, and the violence in Nicaragua, and those who stand on our borders, and the tribalism of our own nation – where we may be experiencing a divorce of the citizenship of our country into partisan and warring camps.
How do we deal with this all? What does it say about God and what does it say about you and me?
I don’t know. I don’t know. And it feels good to say that!
I don’t have a good answer. I wouldn’t want to insult your intelligence or experience with a simplistic one.
But this I know and this I will witness to: in the midst of it all stands a table of welcome.
Right at the fulcrum, the point of the angle sits a table with a loaf of bread and a cup of the fruit of the vine. And all are welcome to it.
If you are riding high on the wave of success and fortune or you are experiencing devastation – come, as the hymn sings, “to the table of grace, come to the table of grace, this is God’s table its not yours or mine, come to the table of grace.” Come to the table of peace, come to the table of love, come to the table of hope, come to the table of joy.”
Because in the midst of all that is happening in your life – in our world – there is table of grace, and peace, and love and hope and joy and all are welcome to it. Yes, those who are going through hell right now! Yes, the divorced and the separated! Yes, the sick and the lonely! Yes, the children, especially the children who seem to intuitively know and show the kingdom – not because they are sweet and innocent and pure – although they may well be…at times… but because they know how to climb up on a lap, they know where the breast milk is, they know the delight of the cookie jar, they laugh at a silly face, they accept love, they cry openly, their questions are so honest – they haven’t had to a build the façade yet. And they cry out for their Mommy, Daddy, Abba, Oma, Pappy, granny! They know who loves them!
So in the middle of the muddle – right here and now – a week ending and week beginning… There is a place at the table for you.
Come children of all ages! Come!
Even Satan is invited… if he would only accept!