Sermon,  Sermons

Disciple’s Communion

sermon video. Click for pt2

When Howie and I were first dating, one of our first topics of debate was the usual sort that newly besotted couples participate in: our theological stance on eternal salvation. Now his form tradition was steeped in a Wesleyan theology while mine was informed by a more Calvinist lens. And as we fou.. uh, debated the issue, the first thing we each said to the other was: How, then, can you believe in Grace?

Well, our growing love for each other prevailed. We continued to argue it out, and came to the conclusion that we were, in essence, saying the same thing.

            After more study and seminary degrees, exploring the reforming theologians themselves, it became increasingly clear that even their perspectives shifted and accumulated nuance throughout their lives.

World Communion Sunday was initiated by a Presbyterian minister in 1936 and ratified across denominations by 1940 – during a time of war. The upheaval great, yet the desire to be unified in faith and love was far greater. It may seem we currently occupy a time with a fair degree of upheaval. Since this is true (because when is it really untrue from our perspective, right?), unity is so important for those who believe God IS, and Jesus is who he says he is.

            When something is not right between us or between us and God, we are not at peace and begin to make bad decisions in other areas of our lives. It feels yucky. And things can seem stale, ungrowing – choked and withering. We cannot always please everyone, and there will always be people who will act against us for reasons we might never understand. So insofar as we are able, unity is crucial to our personal – and communal – well-being.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  

– Howard Thurman

The only choice we have is to do and live into what is life-giving to us. And that will always spring from that divine spark, that essence that makes you and I unique. That is not only what the world needs, but it is absolutely what I need. You need. To come alive to the loveliness – in all its quirkiness – that is you.

“There are moments in life when it is no longer clear whether we dream our dreams or are dreamt by them — moments when reality presses against us with such intensity, acute and overwhelmingly real, that all we can do is sit on its sharp edge of uncertainty, feet dangling into a dream, hoping for clarity and fortitude. And then, on these dream-drenched feet, we get back up and march into the uncertainty, then soar over it on the wingspan of perspective we call hope.”

~Maria Papova

            And we may also call faith.

Ephesians 4:1-7:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Word of the day: Bugaboo (Celtic, mid 18th century)
  1. An imaginary object that inspires needless fright
  2. A problem that persists

How much of what separates us, disrupts unity, comes from something I imagined but is not really a thing? Merely assumption carried through to action and/or judgment? Remember the woman at the mediation retreat? The clicking from a neighboring retreatant’s mouth threatened to undo her until she realized it was, in actuality, the radiator making those clicking noises.

Or what about a problem that cannot be resolved, that turns into something big, and bigger still, then catastrophic when, in the beginning, it was only a nuisance? The Bugaboo!

I beg you! Live a life worthy of your calling – that which makes you come alive! – humble, gentle – be gentle with yourself and with each other – patient, bear with one another: in love. Make every effort (not just a single attempt – hands up, ‘well I tried, now, didn’t I?’). Make every effort to maintain unity in peace. And not just easy-going equilibrium – but a bond, shackled to each other, a covenant – to be unified, bound by peace. A peace that only, in no uncertain terms, is fed and fueled and maintained by Love.

4 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

This weekend also happens to encompass:

Shabbat Shuvah (“Sabbath [of] Return” שבת שובה). It refers to the Sabbath that occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is named after the first word in Hosea 14:2-10, and is translated, “Return!” It is likely play on the word Teshuvah (repentance).

Shabbat Shuva began at sundown on Fri, 04 October 2019

Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year is a 2-day celebration; this year, September 28 – October 1. Welcome to the year 5780! Yom Kippur – October 9th, is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day, or Days of Awe. During this in-between time, the Jewish people are exhorted to atone for wrongs committed against each other . . . “confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.” (James5.16)

Return! Come back to each other! Be reconciled! Be unified in faith and in hope and in love! Maintain the bond of peace.

On Thursday, at our Jamboree, we listened to the Marshall’s journey through Jerusalem (among other places) and viewed many of their beautiful pictures. They shared a sense of profound presence being in the space where Jesus came into this world a baby, walked along the path he took to his death, inserted their prayers into the wall of the temple in which Jesus taught and raged and healed.

Jesus, through whom all things are made, God-made-flesh – this God “who is above all and through all and in all.” Jesus’ physical presence two millennia heretofore left an imprint in the earth, the dust saturated by his blood nourished the trees that grow there still.

This Jesus who entered hell and abolished death so that we might have life didn’t do so in order that we would live in fractious relationships and quench the life of the Spirit of God in us!  

Return! Come back to each other! Be reconciled! Be unified in faith and in hope and in love! Maintain the bond of peace.

And not just maintain peace, but Be an Instrument of that peace!

Beloved of God, love each other:

Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. They that love not, know not God, for God is love… 1 John 4:7, 8

It is often not an easy task to love always. Yeah, it’s probably not easy most of the time. But Paul was very clear in his instruction to Timothy:

7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, [not just an idea of what you might want to do or be – a sacred call] not according to our works but according to [God’s] own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, [this grace was already there before we even came into being] 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 

2 Timothy 1:7-10

What makes you come alive? Go do it! The world needs people who have come alive! Part of that process involves returning, repenting, confessing the ways in which we have maintained a bugaboo between us.

In Luke 17, someone asks Jesus:

Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ 6The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

Jesus continues by describing how the religious leaders conscripted literal applications of God’s directions and guidance. I am confident that Jesus was not asking his listeners to pray for trees to be cosmically pulled from the ground and chucked into the sea. But are not so many of our issues we have against one another out of a different perspective on the meaning of a thing?

Howie and I listened into our sense of what ‘eternal salvation’ means and even Wesley changed the way he understood that concept toward the end of his life.   

“The problem with literalism is that it demands more nonthinking than it does genuine faith.”

Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief, xv.

It only takes the faith of a mustard seed to uproot a tree (or move a mountain, as suggested in Matt17). And even then, the father in Mark 9 says to Jesus, Yes, I believe. Help my unbelief.

It requires a fair amount of faith to live in unity, with a bond of peace. We must believe there is “There is one body and one Spirit, … called to the one hope … 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” It is communion; it is the disciple’s communion.

But it is active faith – not unthinking, holding to some literalism that creates a fissure between us – but genuine, ‘working out our faith’ (Philippians 2:12) working hard at it, with even a bit of fear and trembling. For this kind of faith we absolutely must be gentle with each other and with ourselves, patient, bearing with each other in Love.

Because those who love are born of God and know God. Those who don’t love – and it is easy to love those who love you, but Jesus says, “love your enemies too!” (Luke 6:35) those who don’t love, don’t know God. Period. Because God. Is. Love.

And really, the only way we can even conceive of doing this is because of the abundant, extravagant, inconceivable, blindingly brilliant Grace of God.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, members of the Durand UMC and of the holy catholic church all around the globe, we will take communion together. And as the servers prepare to serve, I will show a music video. Recently, there was a time when worship through music did not move me. I felt maybe a little dead. Greer played this song – blasting it, really, throughout the house – and I came alive. I pray it does the same for you. It’s called, “Blinded by Your Grace” and it will be on our website if you want to enjoy it later, as well.

            This is the table, not of the righteous…

Blinded By Your Grace, Stormzy

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