Sermon, Proper 18 Year C and Syria

Author’s Note:  Each week I usually look over the text and consider a couple questions that help me think over the following week.  This is not meant to be exegetical or comprehensive – there are plenty of stronger sites for such research. 

Syria is on my mind.   Although I’m someone who wants to think that the involved institutions have the best interests of the country and world, I wouldn’t know what the answer is.  Many of the arguments either for or against are unconvincing.  Words like “credibility” and “confidence,” for example, are less important than a completed task.  For most people, feelings about the president seem to be prior to clear thinking or collaborating on finding a suitable solution.

Furthermore, I’m struck by the utter lack of creativity by the mindset that insists that the only proper reaction, ever, is a military response.  It was the view of the previous administration; it’s apparent it is the view of whoever holds the reins of power.  

It’s easy to be misdirected.  What is revealed leads us away from what is concealed. Platitudes and conviction overwhelm logic, and humility and fear disappear in a wisp of bluster and braggadacio.   It’s hard to sell a war through humility, but I wish there were more people who could just say, “I don’t know” and admit that there are no good answers.

In the reading this week, Jeremiah speaks out of a country that’s been dismantled, dispersed.  The middle east even then was complicated.  How would he seek to bring the people together out of exile?  The Assyrians sought to conquer and scatter, while Jeremiah pleads to remember.  And then, like now, the challenge for us is to remember, to gather up the broken pieces around us, and with the grace of God always be ready to rebuild.  Our community, our church, our world.

In the gospel, Luke this week has Jesus admonishing:  “you cannot follow me unless you sell all your possessions.”   Jesus reminds us that the economic must be subservient to the human; it represents kinds of social relationships.  To sell possessions means always allowing ourselves to circulate.  This circulation allows for a dynamism for us, one that allows us to better handle the cycle of disappointment and success that marks the human experience.  We cannot get out of it; we can only see it clearly.   Those who hoard and accumulate will find themselves even more afraid of losing status; unable to handle everyday disappointments. Perhaps this may explain how the wealthier we get, the less resilient we become. 

The gospel this week also makes me wonder about how little we actually plan well.  The evidence is that we don’t always know what actually makes us happy; we are poor judges of risk.  Planning well is expensive, hard work, and requires patience.  We tend to underestimate the resources it takes to make an institution viable.   Instinctively, we often complete things on the cheap, hoping our band aid solutions will last for the long term: perpetually afraid of disappointment, we diminish the possibility of glory.

Sermon Notes Proper 28c

Isaiah 65:17-25  “The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind”  and offers a vivid description of what was normal:  precarity; death; calamity.    God will create “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.”

It’s an opportunity to discuss memory – how it prefigures and affects how we live into the future, our hopes and desires.  Can we ever see things anew?  I may spend time reflecting on precarity itself.  God looks forward to a time without sorrow; and this means a mitigation of the everyday calamities in biblical culture.   One paradox is when we are so distant from precarity, we forget God.

Thessalonians is an exhortation within Christian community.  How might Christians work with one another?  Some Christians are lazy.  The exemplars live by example, seeing to do well through encouraging imitation – rather than, perhaps, by diktat.    I’m instinctively wary of the rigor of the command, but perhaps Paul reminds us of our obligation to each other.   They seek avoid idleness but to work so that they might not be a burden.  That said, what of people who are truly burdens?   Within a community we share the work; but we still serve others who are destitute.  We are still called to serve the poor; but we have high expectations of ourselves

“All will be thrown down.”  Jesus gets apocalyptic here.  He denies those who claim the world will end, and yet also giving instructions about what to do.  Luke clearly thought Jesus understood that the end of the world was impending.   This may be an opportunity to talk about transformation, and that we have nothing to fear.