Sunday, December 09, 2012

sermon on Luke 21

[Watch Pixar's Boundin' short--it's before The Incredibles or somewhere on the interwebs.]

That jackelope, my friends, is Jesus. Not that Pixar is a Christian filmmaking company being stealthy about putting Jesus in front of millions if theatre-goers...As far as I know, they’re not. No, the jackelope’s essence is that of Jesus—he sees the miserable sheep and stops, mid bound, to see what can be done. 

Think of the children that the disciples wouldn't let near Jesus or the blind man they told to keep quiet—for all of whom Jesus stopped, mid-bound, as it were, to see what could be done. And, while Jesus doesn’t speak in rhyme, as far as we know, he did speak wisely and apocalyptically. 

Now, let me break that down for you. We assume that "apocalypse" means the end if the world in fire with a beast and signs and blood and just weirdness happening, right? Think a surface reading of Revelation. 
Or of a Hieronymous Bosch painting.

And we make “apocalypse” synonymous with “rapture” and “eschaton” (fancy word for the time of the end).
That would be wrong.

Apocalypse certainly looks like that stuff to start with, like the reading from Luke today: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,” he says, “and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” But if we stop there, we miss the point. Apocalypse is literally “uncovering” or “revealing,”  It’s a drawing back of the curtain--think of The Wizard of Oz and Toto revealing the dude behind the curtain.

Apocalypse is poetry written to oppressed people to give them hope that a better day is coming and even that that better day could be here now, if we just see differently. And it is a change, a change of perception and of life. Things aren't as they seem, God’s hand is in the mix, and we can live into that revealed world. Jesus talked about this all the time. It was his primary message. Sometimes he spoke in the poetry of apocalypse and sometimes he spoke about it more straightforwardly. 

And that is exactly what the jackelope did. The sheep was lost in the misery of his nekkidness,

the jackelope stopped,

really saw what the story was, and revealed a different way to look at it.

Instead if his nekkidness being a shame, it was an opportunity for bounding. Fun! Delight! Silliness! The Jesus jackelope called the sheep into a new, deeper life of bounding in love. So too, in his letter to the folks in Thessalonika, Paul tells us to respond to God’s call to abound in love. (See what I did there?)

What does that mean, though, to “abound in love”? I suppose a true but snarky answer would be “everything Jesus says in the Gospels." Abounding in love means that your default setting is love, is patience, is understanding, is care and concern for others rather than ourselves. Abounding in love means we don’t just give ourselves and our stuff away 
once a year at the holidays, but every moment of every day. Abounding in love means knowing in the front of our brains
that we are loved so deeply by God that God became human and moved in next door to us. Abounding in love means knowing in the pit of our stomachs that our new next door neighbor knows what we’re doing behind closed doors 
and loves us anyway. All of this learning to abound in love is an apocalypse. It is an uncovering of our “made in the image of God” natures and of our own nekkidness, our sin and our shame. It is a revealing of what we were made for in the first place. Rather than stewing in our own nekkidness and misery like the sheep, Jesus comes bounding in and teaches us to see in a new way.

This new Advent season is time to get excited about lil baby Jesus, but it’s also time to prepare for the discomfort of wise, incisive adult Jesus who will help us change the world if we just let him in. His presence with us, Emmanuel, 
wonderful counselor, mighty god, everlasting father, prince of peace, holy jackelope, is an apocalypse. Jesus reveals to Which is Fun! Delight! Silliness! And which also draws us out of ourselves and shows us the world and God’s presence in every bit of it. In a way, this baby that are preparing for is the end of the world. Or the end of the world we’ve become accustomed to.

We all have a story one of being the oppressor, one of being the oppressed, one of being the lover, one of being the loved. We all need apocalypse one where God stops, really sees what the story is, and reveals a different way to look at it. This is what Advent is about. Welcome to the end of the world.

sermon on John 18:33-37

Happy Christ the King Sunday! Hooray!
So, what does that mean, exactly? Anyone? Aside from being a kind of New Year’s Eve for the Church—next week is Advent and a whole new church year, you know—what’s Christ the King Sunday about? I mean, don’t we celebrate Jesus the Messiah as King every Sunday? Isn’t that kind of the point of the Resurrection and/or Ascension?

The Greek word for King basileus occurs 9 times in Jesus’ conversation with Pilate before he’s condemned—nine times—so, it’s kind of a big deal. Some history: Catholic Pope Pius XI established Christ the King Sunday in 1925
because he saw many of the Christian flock turning their attention and adoration to secular leaders,
dictators on the rise. See, at the time, totalitarianism was seen by many folks as a viable concept. A “sure, get the right guy in there, he could do some amazing things” kind of situation, and a lot of folks thought the whole world might soon be run by dictators. Pope Pius saw how folks were making idols of their national leaders and said, “NO, Jesus Christ is our king, not these folks. Don’t forget who brought you into this world and who can take you out.”

Let’s talk a bit about Jesus, shall we? What was he like? (invite answers—shepherd, truth, healing, etc.)
And now let’s talk a bit about kings—what are they like? (invite answers—rich, in control, despotic, figurehead, etc. Also consider other kinds of kings: political leaders, military leaders, economic leaders?)
What’s similar about these? Yeah, you get the point there—Jesus was and is not what we expect in a king.  He’s not Prince Charles or even Queen Elisabeth. And he’s definitely not Mohamed Morsi of Egypt who is not a king, but who this week proclaimed that his office is no longer subject to judicial oversight—his decisions cannot be changed by other arms of government, he is above the law—this is precisely what kings have done in the past and what folks came to expect of them. And this is precisely the point—we proclaim Jesus as King and he’s nothing like those other folks we’ve called King.

Back in the day, the Israelites begged the prophet Samuel to ask God for a king because all the other nations had them. And Samuel said, “you’ll regret this—a king will lord it over you and take your money and make you miserable” and the people said, “nah, it’ll be okay.” And what happened? They got kings who lorded it over them, who took their money and made them miserable. Jesus is not that king.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we went to the polls to elect a new leader of these United States. Some voted for one guy, some for the other, all of us with an eye to making the country a better place And all of us, to some extent, thought, “if we just get the right guy in there, he could do some amazing things." Some sociologists have noticed that we so identify with a political party or ideology that any criticism of the ideology is a criticism of us personally. You don’t like liberalism? Clearly you hate me and all I stand for. You don’t like conservatism? Why don’t you like me? And so we focus inward, on only those we agree with, we lift up leaders who will further our agenda, try to elect folks who will fix everything once and for all.

Course, we know that’s not how it works. For one thing, no matter who is elected, they’re broken and human like the rest of us, prone to mistakes and pride. And President Obama and Mitt Romney were not our saviors—the job was taken already. So the night of the election, some of my cross-denominational clergy friends and I got together our congregations for an Election Night Communion—we gathered for word and meal and remembered whose we were. We remembered God as our President, Congress, School Board, and King. Jesus turns our idea of what Kings are on its head—kings give up their lives for their people, kings don’t eat spectacular banquets while others starve, kings give away both food and wisdom instead of hoarding them in the treasury, kings touch sick, coughing, oozing people and have compassion for the folks no one else will even look at.

But this king is not one to be a doormat. Anyone who says the New Testament is all soft and sweet Jesus hasn’t read it. Jesus our King will tell us NO when we’re going wrong. Jesus our King will turn the governments of the nations to dust if we but follow him and enact his command to love wastefully—Pilate and the Pharisees and all nations do well to feel threatened by our calling him a King. Jesus the King holds all things in his hands,
but not in the control-freak-despot kind of way, holding loosely, cradling, keeping us from falling completely apart. The true King is the one who lives with the people, who speaks Truth to both power and to the powerless,  who dies for them both, who defeats death by rising again. The true King who we celebrate today is not our government or our retirement funds or our spouse or anything else we put in the place of God. He is Truth itself, he is humble to the point of death, he sees into the heart of us, our sin and our virtue, and, looking at us, loves us.
The King is dead. Long live the King.