Monday, November 28, 2016

A Sermon on Psalm 46
For the Community of First Austin: a baptist community of faith
On the Last Sunday of Ordinary Time
November 20, 2016

Incarnate God, we ask that you once again take the Word and transform it into a living and breathing reality we can all together experience. Be present here in this space and in these words God for if you are present here then nothing else will matter, but if you are not present here then nothing else will matter. In the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Comforter. 

Today is Christ the King Sunday… or as I think of it “Not Yet Sunday.”

For most of the liturgical calendar year we are reliving a story, a story that defines who we are- the story of our Christ and the church, however today instead of reliving a story we are living into a story. The ending is already written and we know that love will win, but we are not there… yet.

Christ the King Sunday is one of our Feast Days. It’s the last Sunday before Advent begins and it marks the end of our liturgical year (the church calendar and the Hallmark calendar don’t quite align). And this celebration is really the perfect way to mark the ending of a year and the beginning of the next one…. Imagine how different our New Year Eve celebration would be on Dec 31 if instead of Auld Lang Syne we greeted the New Year with shouts declaring that this world is not all there is, there is More.

Because this story that we are living into is not yet finished, despite what you may have heard from a well meaning Sunday school teacher or a less well-meaning preacher. You see sometimes our story and the church has gotten this story a bit wrong and we have fallen for fake news.

As a people we are really susceptible to this. Just this week we have seen further cases of fake news, NPR ran a very interesting story on this recent election and fake news. In our days of social media there is little distinction between actual journalism and everything else and this goes way beyond the 24 hour news cycle. How many of us saw a news story shared earlier this month on Facebook about Hilary Clinton having an FBI agent murdered because of the email scandal? With a bit of fact checking we easily learn several things: the article claimed to come from Denver’s oldest news source, The Denver Guardian, which is not a paper but is a Go Daddy website, the address listed for the newsroom leads to a tree in a parking lot on Colfax Avenue, the name of the town where the murder happened is not a place, or even the image which was from Flickr came from a house fire in 2010. And yet instead of doing the work to think through the story, it got shared over and over again. It has come to light this week the Denver Guardian is another fake web site created by teenagers in Macedonia trying to change and influence the American narrative. Or the quote that went viral that was from a People Magazine interview, which had Donald Trump saying “If I were ever going to run as President, I would run as a Republican because people who watch Fox News Will believe anything.” It does not take much fact checking at all to find that is a fabrication, Donald Trump never said that. However these stories have been shared millions of times on social media in the last month.

And we bought into these stories because they told us what we wanted to believe.

And there is a version of Christianity that does the exact same, it’s the Happily Ever After narrative… a version where after the Resurrection, Jesus and the disciples go skipping off into the sunset holding hands and then the words show up on the screen: “And Jesus and all those who followed Jesus lived happily ever after.” And that’s a nice thought, it’s just not what happened.

Jesus leaves the disciples telling them there is a lot of work to do and then things get really tough because when the way of Jesus is done the right way, we end up standing up to power and that never goes well. When we follow the Way of Jesus we end up advocating for all people, we share all resources, we advocate for the common good, we call for non-violence…. And that is not how power works so we get in trouble. When we are truly following the way of Jesus there is going to be tension, and things are going to be put on the line, and there is going to be pain and suffering are we are going to get in some real trouble. And the disciples did live like that and things got really tough for the church.

Which might explain why upon entering Jerusalem for the final time, Jesus stops and weeps over the city… because he knew that what was about to happen opened up a world of trouble and pain and not just for him but for all those who followed him and yet he knew this was the only way. And he wept.

And it makes sense why we want the “Happily Ever After version.” No one wants to choose the road of suffering. And the Happily Ever After version gets us off the hook. Christianity becomes something that has happened in the past, not something we are called to live and do today.

This Psalm for today tells us the same thing, if we pay attention to it like we should. Because it’s so much more than just “Be still and know that I am God.” Unfortunately those are the only words we know from this Psalm and we have taken them out of the Psalm and put them on a cross-stitched pillow on the sofa where they seem so perfect and comforting.

And I wish I could preach that sermon this morning… a sermon where I could encourage you to rest well, to sleep 8 hours a night, to get a cup of coffee this week and slowly savor each sip while watching the sunrise, to take time this week to go to Yoga class every day and to spend time in meditation…. But that is not the truth of this Psalm.

Psalm 46 warns us of troubled waters, shaking mountains, of natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, political brokenness, civil upheaval. Psalm 46 is about a world where nothing is happily ever after, instead everything is broken. It may very well be a Psalm written for the Year 2016, which we all have to agree has not been a good year for us as human beings.

And yet Christ is king.

What the Psalm is telling us is that it’s in the midst of the very broken and pain filled world where we stop to be still and know that God is God. It’s not in a yoga class, it’s sitting with people who are hurting. It’s not watching the sunrise, it’s sitting at your kitchen table with tears falling down your checks.

This Psalm reminds us that God is not a refugee from the world but is instead a refugee in the world. There is no promise of a pain free life ore a pressure free existence, there is instead the promise that God will be present with us in the pain. Because that is the way of Jesus. That is Christ the King.

This Psalm is a steadfast proclamation of God’s divine presence in the midst of a messy world. And that is very much the story of God… our God who created this world from chaos and stormy seas, our God who chose Israel when they were in slavery, our God who has always been found in the margainzlied, our God who chose to be born during one of the darkest periods of history, our God who chose a cross instead of a throne.

And Christ is king.

The Christian life- our calling- is a slow sunrise, it’s a slow journey where surely there is more and more light but that light comes in the midst of a broken and messy world.

And so what does this mean on Christ the King Sunday? Is the Kingship not yet? To be honest, I am not sure. My heart cries out that my faith lives in the not yet. And as much as I want to say Christ is King with my lips my eyes look around and see otherwise.

But maybe that is because I don’t understand Christ the King.

When I think of a king I think of royal robes… the best robes money can buy… I think of a throne and scepter… I think of power and influence and money… I think of walls of protection and guards… I think of gold and towers… I think of eradicate displays of power (“off with their heads”)…. I think of male dominance… I think of one removed from the ordinary people… I think of a pain free life where everything is brought to you on a silver platter.

And Christ is not that king.

Christ as king looks nothing like that… Christ’s view of kingship looks a lot less like how we view kingship and more like kinship.

In the words of Father Greg Boyle: “Kinship- not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not a man for others, he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”

Christ’s coronation is a slow journey, a gradual transformation marked by less and less of self, less and less of power, less and less of ego, less and less of all the worldly marks of kingship…

Christ’s coronation is a journey of love, where all are invited, where all are equals, where the only power is the transforming power of love. And by the end of the journey when we all have reached the royal throne of Christ, we will have nothing left to give, we will be empty handed but we will be wise and loving and One.

Empty hands but full hearts. Nothing left to give but having received the greatest of these.

And that Kingdom- that one- is the only Kingship worth attaining and it’s the only journey worth making.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


Post a Comment