Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus and his friends were in Jerusalem in the temple. Some of his friends remarked about the temple how great the stones all looked in their places and how the whole temple was appointed with gold and gifts dedicated to God. And Jesus warned them as they took awe at the work of human hands,

As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” Luke 21:6 NIV.

We who dwell on earth want things to be constant and to just make sense. But the longer we live on this earth the more clearly we see just how many things aren't certain and aren't guaranteed.

A few days ago word came to many in our town that a long standing business will soon stop production in town relocating it's production to another state. The business' production has been slowing for years, but now production will completely cease in town. In my folks neighborhood there's ongoing conversation about a plan to close and consolidate many Roman Catholic churches. For some it's this kind of distressing news that shakes them out of faith in earthly things.

We look for guarantees and certainties and there is a guarantee and certainty; but it's not found in what humans do or accomplish. It is found in Jesus and his Word. The writer of Hebrews wrote boldly of the simple essense of faith,

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

We in the church live on faith nothing more and nothing less. Many search for reified human institutions, traditions, and interpretations of the Word that they can cling to instead of faith. Humans have long conflated church with buildings or church with people who share their exact beliefs. The church just like faith is far simpler than we might make it: the church is the people of God who gather around the Word and Sacraments.

Jesus invited his friends, shortly before his death to live on faith and nothing more. Even when challenged about what they believed he told them to cling to him and not themselves,

So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls. Luke 21:14-19 (NRSV)

The Church is the Body of Christ, believers gather around the Word of God rightly preached and the sacraments rightly celebrated. It's just that simple and Jesus is inviting us to live together on faith in the midst of this world's challenges and changes knowing not even what we'l say when challenged but confident that God will provide words and means for us.

pax, John

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Glimpsing Heaven: All Saints Luke 6:20-31

Minnesota Lutherans start November with a weekend set aside in church for remembering. Many of our churches send out invitations to families who have lost loved ones to come and join us worshipping God and giving thanks. We have rituals naming aloud all those who we have laid to rest over the past year.

We give thanks to God in song. Candles might be lit or roses might be placed on the altar in rememberence of those who have gone on before us in faith. This coming weekend is our time to remember the all the saints who have walked in the light of Christ. We remember those who are with us on this earth and all who are in Christ's light long after their remains have been returned to the earth.

In the church I grew up in 1 day, November 1 was set aside for remembering all the saints and a second day was set aside for remembering all souls. Today we celebrate in 1 day reflecting on the full promise of the resurrection for all who trust in Christ.

As we remember this year we'll listen to words from Jesus' Sermon on the plain in Luke 6:20-31. It's a sermon about a world turned over in which eternity matters more than the passing things of this earth. It's a sermon that Jesus preached to a crowd who wanted to be near him. Luke writes describing the crowd,

Jesus and the apostles came down from the mountain, and he stood on level ground. A large group of his followers was there, as well as many people from all around Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast cities of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They all came to hear Jesus teach and to be healed of their sicknesses, and he healed those who were troubled by evil spirits. 19 All the people were trying to touch Jesus, because power was coming from him and healing them all. New Century Version Luke 6:17-19.
The crowd came to touch a little bit of heaven in the person of Jesus and he told them of the new world in which things would be turned upside down. He told them of the world in which the

  • poor
  • hungry
  • weeping
  • detested
of today would be happy/blessed by God.

In 2008 I wrote about one phrase that's repeated over and over in this sermon and in the sermon on the mount in Matthew: μακάριοι οἱ often translated blessed are those or happy are those. This one word μακάριοι is repeated over and over, blessed or happy. The popular definition of happiness or blessing that grows out of material wealth doesn't fit these very real life circumstance that Jesus' followers face every day but it makes sense when we see things as Jesus turn overturned for the better.

Jesus shared news of the sorrows that await those who are too comforable in this world. He warned
  • the rich
  • self-satisfied
  • those carelessly laughing
  • those beloved by people.
The crowd came to touch heaven and Jesus spoke to them of the great reversal that he came to inniate both now and in the world to come.