Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Sermon - Third Sunday after Epiphany

Third Sunday after Epiphany - Cycle C
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in you hearing.” Amen… So be it! Right on! Jesus IS the anointed one, bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. The oppressed will go free.
And... What a shocking revelation for the people who were used to working with Jesus as a Carpenter.
A shocked local farmer was thinking “Jesus? The Anointed one? Isn’t this the guy that just helped me build that barn?
A shocked local restaurant owner was thinking “Jesus? The Anointed one? Isn’t he the guy that just built the outhouse on my restaurant?
A shocked childhood friend of Jesus was now wondering what it all meant. Was Jesus going to be something special? Because they grew up together, played together, ate together, lived together.
People would be shocked that right there, a person who was with them for so long, a person who worked with them, a person who played with them… a person who was over for coffee suddenly was revealed to be the anointed one of God.
Suddenly on that day that seemed to be just another Saturday - Just another trip to Synagogue to discuss the scriptures and the days events - just another gathering of neighbors becomes something so much more as the presence of God is suddenly experienced in a whole new way. The Word of God breaks out all around. Perspectives, Understandings, ways of living are suddenly seen anew in a brand new light - God breaks into the world. ///
And this is how it goes in the world. In Celtic Christian Spirituality they have a concept of ‘thin spaces.’ A thin space is a place where our sense of the divine, the spiritual otherness, God - seems so close that the presence of the divine is almost tangible.
Hiking in the mountains and surrounded by the majesty of God’s creation can be a thin space.
Walking along a quiet lake, the loons calling and Northern Lights dancing, God can seem so close, this can be a thin space.
The embrace of a friend at a wedding - when all of life seems so full of joy, and the potential of all that might be is held up and celebrated - this can be a thin space.
At the birth of a child, when new life takes it’s first few gasps and all the problems of life drift away in the joy of the moment of meeting a new person for the first time - this can be a thin space.
The Word of God proclaimed - the Prayers said and the Table set - when we gather as a community to celebrate the life and death and resurrection of Christ. When we hear the words of Forgiveness proclaimed in our liturgy, when we Eat the Bread and Drink the Wine that proclaims that we are a part of God and God loves us - this is a thin space. ///
When that cheque finally comes, that promotion is finally obtained, when that issues that has been weighing us down is finally resolved, when unexpected good fortune comes our way, when we finally see and understand the people around us, it is Good.
It is during these ‘thin space’ experiences that we can so confidently say “Today in our midst, all scripture has been fulfilled.”

MOVE 2 - HARD TO HEAR (Thick spaces)
As awesome and powerful as these thin spaces can be. It’s also very possible to run into some “thick spaces.” Some time and place where the love of God seems distant, where the logic of God is incomprehensible, where trusting in God’s promises seems impossible. Hospitals, morgues, family court, nursing homes… These can be some pretty thick spaces.
Trusting God is with us is hard in the face of the the fear of global terrorism. News reports filtering in that show us 10s of 1000’s of people killed in the many wars that are raging today. This bad news is uncomfortable - it thickens the air in the room.
Trusting God is with us is hard in the face of the shame that comes from not measuring up to the community standard. When neighbor looks at neighbor suspiciously, distrusting others motives. This tension is thick.
Trusting God is with us is hard when physical health starts to leave. Losing the ability to make it up that set of stairs, remember that phone number, drive that car. The loss of freedom leaves a cloud of thickness.
Trusting God is with us is hard when our loved ones leave - when death enters our lives - when we really want to know that there is a reason for the mess that we see around this world - it’s hard to breath sometimes the air is so thick.
A Thick space leaves us feeling lonely, small, afraid, doubtful, untrusting.

In Thick and Thin, the activity of God becomes the central focus. On one extreme we are in awe of the majesty of God and wonders of all creation. On the other extreme we are searching for and questioning God. We look to God in thick and thin.
The Word of God is breaking in all around us.
And when I say the Word of God I don’t mean just the words we read from the Gospel every week (but this is part of it)
When I say the Word of God I don’t mean the text of the bible (but that is also part of it)
When I say Word of God, I don’t just mean Christ’s Body - the Christian Church - the place where the words of God are spoken and the sacraments are taken. (But this is a big part of what I mean.
When I say the Word of God, I mean the Word - the entirety of God. I mean the Word that was God. I mean the fully divine person of Jesus Christ who walked on this earth - The fully human person of Jesus Christ who died on this Earth. I mean the Gospel - the good news that comes from the fact that even when all humanity is ready to say ‘see you later God - or - We don’t need you God - or - We’ll do it our own way God - … When all humanity is ready to say - Just go away and die God - God does the opposite. Rising from the grave and saying loudly for all time that I AM God - and I love you - lonely, small, afraid, doubtful, untrusting.
I love you warts and all. And I will not leave you alone.

Who could have imagined that a Carpenter from a back water town would be the very Son of God? God imagined this.
Who could have imagined that gathering and eating bread and drinking wine would become the central way that God is known to be with us? God imagined this.
Who could have imagined that in that crisis, that moment of terrible loss, fire, tsunami, wars - that a community would be able to pour our so much - Money sent - Food Prepared - Labour donated - A community come together in tragedy to aid. - God imagined a group of people that would pour themselves out.
And in the attitudes that are changed. 50 years ago could you have imagined that the Lutheran Pastor would be meeting with the Mennonite pastors? Could you have imagined that they would be meeting together for fellowship and mutual support? Could you have imagined that your specific church background would not be a barrier to who you called friend? God imagines this and it happens. The word breaks in.
God imagined all of this. The free space where we live that is full of thick and thin spaces. God is always dreaming, always breaking in with new surprises.
And it is Good news that God is doing this creative work. It is Good news that God is not resting and doing nothing. It is Good news that we are called to be a part of this. To know God. To practice seeing God. To join in the imagination of God.
Praise be to God, who does not sleep. Who is with us. Who has dreams for us.