Friday, May 13, 2011

Peg Preaches/Rich Teaches on Sunday

Rich will be teaching the folks at Northshore United Church of Christ about homelessness and social justice on Sunday. So our newly elected Associate Pastor Peg Faulmann will be preaching and leading worship.

Sunday Sermon, We Have Met the Savior...

Easter 3 Year A
Luke 24:13-35
By Rich Gamble

In this story the disciples are experiencing the sorrow of the defeat of their dreams. It is clear from this text that the hopes of these two disciples were not in accord with the message that Jesus had been trying to communicate during his lifetime. One of the things the disciples said when he asked for an explanation of their sadness was, "We were hoping that he was the one who would set Israel free." In other words, these disciples--and this may have been Judas' problem as well--had preconceived ideas about who the Messiah was to be and what he was to do. One of their expectations was that he would deliver Israel from the domination of the Roman Empire. In other words, they wanted a Messiah who would fit into the nationalistic aspirations of the Jewish people of that time.

Jesus was going to save them. Jesus was going to save their nation. Jesus was going to be the answer to all their needs and fears and dreams. Then Jesus dies a horrible death at the hands of the occupiers of their nation. Suddenly the fate of Jesus might be their own fate, so not only do they suffer the loss of their savior but also must fear for their lives. Their glorious campaign of liberation has turned into fearful rout overnight. Then Jesus’ body is missing, who would steal a corpse?

It is all too much for two of the disciples. They are headed out of Jerusalem, out of the place of conflict, back to their homes and their old lives. Jesus was a great man but even great men cannot prevail against those capable and willing to inflict death on their enemies. Jesus was a good man, but not the hoped for messiah. They explain all of this to a stranger they meet on their retreat from Jerusalem.

Then the stranger shows them a different way to think about recent events.

This story points out how the same experience can look totally different depending upon the lens through which we look. To the disciples the death of Jesus was the death of hope but this stranger opens up the lens of scripture and they see the recent events of their lives in a very different way. That is the power of stories. That is why we study the Bible. In such a way we can take the interpretive lens crafted for us by our culture and see it for what it is, set it aside and pick up another. But study alone isn’t enough.

It is not through this teaching that the awakening of the disciples takes place. No, their hearts are warmed, their minds are opened but the shocking transformation of their lives does not happen until they invite the stranger to their table. It is there in the breaking of the bread that they recognize in the stranger the resurrected Christ and in the instant of recognition he disappears.

Here, outside of the frontiers of reason, comes the insight. The resurrected Christ is the stranger at your table. It is in the practice of hospitality, that the Christ is recognized. The living Jesus used the intimacy of the table as a lesson of the radical inclusion of God’s grace. The table became a symbol for the economic and social realities of the Realm of God. As they shared food with the poor and the sinners, so disciples were to share their resources with those in need no matter their race or faith. This practice of the living Jesus was magnified by the resurrected Christ, who is so identified with the other, that he becomes the stranger on the road. To invite the stranger to your table is to invite Christ.

Then the Christ/stranger disappears. Christ goes into the world and into the disciples. The will of God is no longer embodied in one person. It is embodied in all those who suffer, who are excluded, oppressed, ignored, hated and abused. It goes into those who, out of compassion, reach out to the stranger and share their table.

What did the disciples do in response to the awakening of the Christ within them? They went back to the place of fear and conflict. They went back but no longer fearing what would happen. They went with joy, knowing that will of God could not be killed, it would be embodied in all those who do God’s will. They went back not simply as bearers of the good news of their encounter with the risen Christ; they went back as those transformed into the embodiment of the will of God. They became the good news.

We yearn for an externalized savior: a good job, a child, a spouse, a retirement plan, a house, a pastor, a president, a cure. Whether we gain these things or lose our grasp on them, in the end, we will find that they cannot fill the emptiness in our lives and souls. When these externalized saviors have failed us, there may be great sadness or weariness, or hopelessness. As the disciples had to experience the death of their externalized savior, Jesus, so, if we are to grow in our faith, we may need to experience the loss of the externalized savior of our lives.

The savior, the Christ is not sitting on a cloud, looking at a calendar, awaiting a return. The savior, the Christ, is here, in the community. It is there, within each of us. It is out there, in a hurting world.

We look at the world and see people desperately clutching at saviors. But for us the death of Jesus brought about the death of all such delusions. No person, no church, no philosophy, no drug, no relationship, no amount of wealth or power or security will give us that which will truly fulfill us. Nor will such things provide the answers the world needs.

We are told by this story that the discovery of the presence of God’s truth in our lives comes not through any particular religious practice, not by mastering any great words or truths. This discovery comes only when we see the face of our savior, the truth of our salvation, within us and within the face of the other.

Love God with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself. In the story of Emmaus we learn that we experience the love of God in our whole being when we love, as sacred, God’s truth residing in our neighbors and ourselves.

How do we discover the Christ? We pray, not only by speaking our concerns and proclaiming our thanks but also by listening to the Christ within us.

How do we discover the Christ? We serve, not only by providing for the basic needs of our fellow humans but by sharing our table. In other words, we seek create a world where no one is excluded from the radically egalitarian intimacy of common community. It is about justice and charity, not just the bread but the place at the table, not just human needs but human rights.

It is only as the Christ within us sits at table of common community with the Christ within the stranger that the wholeness of the will of God is experienced. It is there that we begin to understand the miracle of the resurrection.

This past week, I have been saddened by the execution of Osama Bin Laden and the celebration of his death. The jubilation points out how lost we are as a people. To laugh and joke about and celebrate the death of even an enemy shows how far we have journeyed away from the insights of this story. It shows how many of us have been seduced by the idea that killing our enemies will bring us any closer to true peace. It shows how far we have moved away from the ability to embrace the humanity in the stranger and the enemy. The Powers that Be will always supply us with another boogeyman to hate and fear and they will always supply us with violent and dominating solutions to our fears. They will always provide externalized demons to scare us into submission to externalized saviors.

Before we can truly see the Christ we must experience the death of all the cheap and easy solutions to the problems besetting the world. There is no politican, there is no technology, no political party, no army or investment strategy that will save us. There is no external savior for us. But there is salvation. It is not found in the death of an enemy but in our transformation away from fear and hate.

There is an awakening possible. There is a hope that shines out bright even in these dark times. There is an aha moment awaiting us. Christ is here. Christ is us. Christ is out there. Christ is them. There is one human family and everyone is a part of it. There is one home for humanity and this planet is it. There is one path of salvation for us and the planet and Christ shows us the way: faith. Not in a doctrine or a religion but in a path: love expressed in a radical commitment to the other, love expressed in a radical commitment to non-violence, love expressed in a radical commitment to social justice, love expressed in a radical reversal of priorities and a radical undoing of the power of domination.

We need not be gloomy. Christ isn’t dead. Hope isn’t dead. Christ has risen. Hope is alive. And that is good news.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Nickelsville Pancakes Saturday Morning

Keystone United Church of Christ
It is pancake time again at Keystone. The Nickelsville Community is having another pancake fundraiser Saturday May 7 from 8am to 11am. All donations greatly appreciated. Good food, good company for a good cause