I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July! At the Lentz house, we hung our flag and grilled our ribs and enjoyed the day with deep feeling this year. Having a brother serving our country in Egypt focuses one’s attention on freedom and democracy and what kind of country we live in.
Last week Clover mentioned at the beginning of her sermon – how right now, it seems as if we are as a nation at a crossroads, when the times are a-changin’.
The issues being decided upon by the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are nothing less than game changers.
The Defense of Marriage Act is no longer. The federal government now recognizes same gender marriages as legal. I rejoice at the ruling, but others believe this is disobeying God. Still others hold that the word “marriage” by definition is between a man and a woman.
Whether you are applauding, wringing your hands, or confused, the reality is: there no turning back. All the polls and research groups are in agreement – the “times, they are a-changin’. Even a majority of young evangelical Christians support same sex unions….heck, some young evangelical Christians are gay!
The Senate’s immigration bill brings up all sorts of issues. But the fact is that within a short time the United States will not be a majority Protestant Caucasian nation. And that causes unease in some, even among many who marched in civil rights and rejoiced in expanded opportunity for all.
It is not going to be a white man’s world very much longer. And I guess I am OK with that. However, those of us with the privilege always find it difficult to give up the power. We are not even aware of the privileges we have because of our race, creed and gender.
You can watch your favorite news shows for your politics. I want to preach the Bible. I want to invite you to think about your world as a follower of Jesus Christ. How are you feeling?
I think it is a great time to be a Christian because you and I are called to proclaim God who is always creating, redeeming, and expanding circles of grace. It is really important when it seems as if “the times are a-changin’” or all “hell is breaking loose;” or when you are losing your way, or you are feeling scared – that you remember: You are a beloved child of God. You are called on to search the immediate for signs of the eternal.
St. Paul reminds the Christians in Rome: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
Folks will disagree about what it means to be too “well-adjusted to your culture.” I don’t want to get academic – it is too humid for that. I do want to fix your attention on God. I believe that faith in God, focusing on God, is more an attitude for living than a proscribed set of answers or actions. Actions follow attitude. Faith means trust.
Do you trust God to continue to do divine work in the midst of it all? Do you believe that love gets the final word? Are you going to orient yourself to the wonderful claim that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out? That nothing is good or bad until God gets through with it? It is a choice you have to make.
This is why the verses from Habakkuk is so timely. Habakkuk is prophesying during changing times. Babylon was at the heights of its power and Judah was about to get swallowed! And Habakkuk wondered why God is: “silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?”(1:13) But Habakkuk trusts that: “though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; God makes my feet like the feet of a deer, God enables me to go on the heights.” Who knew that Habakkuk was an East-sider?!
Christians are a bit mad… for in the midst of confusion and chaos – we proclaim God is still creating.
In the midst of the raging storm – we remember the one who said; “Peace, be still!”
In the midst of changin’ times – we rejoice!
If you are with people who feel that all is going to ruin, and we are ‘slouching towards Armageddon.” I say: STOP! As Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul “Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell God what to do? Anyone who has done God such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?” “Everything comes from God, everything happens through God, everything ends up in God. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes!” St. Paul was crazy – but I like that in a disciple.
You and I are called to the attitude of YES – the attitude of hope, the attitude of trust.
If you cling so hard to the past you get nothing but hand pain.
You can’t receive with clenched hands.
You can’t see with closed eyes.
You can’t smile with pursed lips.
You can’t think with a closed minds.
As Jesus says: “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:51)
The God I serve,
the God we worship and adore,
the God to whom we bring our babies for baptism,
the God we see in the body and blood of Jesus Christ who was broken for us, who was shattered by all the world’s craziness in order to redeem it all – is more than up to the challenge of “changin’ times” – God is in the midst “making all things new,” during these tremors of history. Are you ready to receive it?
So let the debates rage about whether America is on the slippery slope or the heavenly arc that bends towards justice – but do not doubt, for one instant, that God is in the midst and that God is good, and that there is bread and wine enough for all – for the story will not end until:
the last are first,
the weak are strong,
and the poor are rich;
and the bushes are shaken on every hi-way and bi-way until the Kingdom of God is full!!
Hallelulah – let the celebration begin.