|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 17, 2013||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10|
|Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 10, 2013||Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38|
|Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 20, 2013||Proper 24C||Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8|
|Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 13, 2013||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 6, 2013||Proper 22, Year C||Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10|
|Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 29, 2013||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 22, 2013||Proper 20, Year C||Luke 16:1-13|
|Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 15, 2013||Proper 19, Year C||Exodus 32:7-14, Luke 15: 1-10|
|Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 8, 2013||Proper 18, Year C||Luke 14:25-33|
|Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 1, 2013||Proper 17, Year C||Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14|
|Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 25, 2013||Proper 16, Year C||Isaiah 58:9b-14;Psalm 103:1-8;Hebrews 12:18-29;Luke 13:10-17|
|Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 18, 2013||Proper 15, Year C||Hebrews 11:29-12:2|
|Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 11, 2013||Proper 14, Year C||Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40|
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:July 7, 2013
Scripture: Isaiah 66:10-14, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 9, Year C
When I was in college, my family took a road trip. My parents, my brother and sister and I piled into a well used station wagon that my father bought for this trip, and we headed out West.
Our visit to North Dakota was unforgettable.
In early July, July 3rd, to be exact, we rode down mile after mile after mile of roadway lined with dusty prairie grass and low green hills, with very few signs of civilization.
Our destination—old family friends that we hadn’t seen for years who were North Dakota ranchers.
As the day wore on, my brother and sister and I asked about supper. Weren’t we going to stop somewhere to eat? The possibilities were few and far between.
“No, don’t you worry. They’ll have supper ready for us when we get there.”
Long after dark we drove up to a ranch house in the middle of absolute nowhere, worn out from the long day’s ride, and very hungry. And when we’d all crowded into the house, our hostess said brightly,
“Well, I’m sure you all ate hours ago. Would anyone like something to drink? I could pour you some tea.”
So we politely agreed to tea, trying not to look horrified at the thought of no supper.
I grew up in North Carolina, and in North Carolina, any tea fit to drink is loaded with sugar. You could, in a pinch, make a meal off of a glass of sweet tea.
But we found out, to our great disappointment, that in North Dakota, people don’t put sugar in their iced tea. And so we politely sipped away at that unsweetened tea, while we took turns making excuses to go out to the car for something or another, and while there, we broke out the plastic spoons and the emergency jar of peanut butter.
I’m sure our hostess would have been horrified if she’d realized we hadn’t eaten anything since early that morning, and would have rustled up something for us if she’d found out, but we knew better than to spill the proverbial beans, so we kept our mouths shut and went to bed with our stomachs growling.
The Israelites who hear the words of Isaiah in today’s passage have also been on a long journey—
All the way from exile in Babylon, back to their promised land.
And this situation that the Israelites found themselves in certainly mirrors many of the events and times of our own lives. We long and work and strive to get somewhere, only to arrive at last and that nothing is as we hoped and expected.
I recently saw someone who moved from our neighborhood after years and years, and I asked her where she had gone. She’s moved several miles away to a more upscale subdivision and she said that it was the biggest mistake of her life. “I should have just stayed put and remodeled,” she said.
And our own dear Laura, out in Los Angeles, following her dream to become an actress—and yet in many ways, Los Angeles is a harsh and inhospitable place in which she must make her way.
Parenthood can be this way too. One of my college professors and his wife adopted a child, loved her, brought her up with all she needed to become a success, and yet, now in his nineties, my professor still provides his daughter with financial support, and he never hears from her unless she needs money. Although he never complains about it, this condition is one that my professor never expected—and it’s harsh and unfair.
Aging is like this too. How many of us have heard the later years of life described as “the golden years.”
I’ve heard people talk about all the things they’ll do in those golden years of retirement—and yet, when they get there, they find harsh conditions they didn’t expect.
My father is a great example of someone who would have savored a retirement full of physical activity, and yet he has to deal with the physical limitations of a bad back and nerve damage and his activity has been limited.
All of us can think of plenty of examples of what I’m talking about. Take a minute to think about your own life.
That’s why we NEED these readings from today’s lectionary!
They speak straight to our hearts because we’ve all been in situations that didn’t turn out the way we had hoped and so we got discouraged.
These readings give us hope and guidance! Here’s the hope part.
Listen to these words from God that Isaiah spoke to those depressed Israelites.
“You shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.”
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies flourish like grass.”
God watched over the Israelites in this bad time.
And God watches over us and cares for us as a mother watches over a new born infant, vulnerable and helpless and totally dependent on the mother for survival, totally dependent on the milk from the mother’s breast, totally dependent on the security and safety of the mother’s arms.
And here’s the guidance part.
We can’t know the power and the joyful audacity of this promise of God until we finally let go, admitting our helplessness and vulnerability, and opening ourselves to receive the love of God as an infant nestles in the arms of its mother—totally dependent, totally safe, totally loved.
This sort of letting go is difficult for us to do, because we are always trying to prove to ourselves that we can manage on our own.
We’re stubborn about receiving help or hospitality—God’s or anyone else’s.
In our Psalm today, Psalm 66, the psalmist reminds us—it’s not what we can do on our own that brings us success and joy
—it’s God’s hospitality and love for us—
“Bless our God, you peoples….bless God, who holds our souls in life and will not allow our feet to slip.”
Now we come to this very powerful gospel reading from Luke, when Jesus sends the seventy out ahead of him to every town and place where he himself intended to go on his way to Jerusalem.
We are his disciples—
and Jesus sends us out ahead of him, to be his messengers, to be the very word and embodiment of God’s peace.
And we’ll certainly run into harsh and inhospitable conditions when we go out as His disciples.
And yet –Jesus sends us out, not as Crusaders covered in suits of mail, armed with swords and shields and riding muscular steeds,
Jesus tells the disciples that the success of their mission will depend on the fact that they know that they are vulnerable and that they must depend on God and on God alone for their success, not on their preparations, not on their own strength, not on their ingenuity, and certainly not as a result of their own power.
And they have to depend on the hospitality of others—just as we did that night in North Dakota as we drank that unsweetened tea—Jesus tells the disciples to eat and drink whatever their hosts provide.
In our desire to be independent and self-sufficient, we want to make sure that we can do for ourselves, and it’s very hard to accept help and hospitality from others.
But in order to accomplish their mission, the disciples go out in trusting obedience, knowing that God is holding on to them as they travel out into the unknown as lambs in the midst of wolves—and please note that Jesus sends them out in pairs, dependent on one another. We can’t be lone rangers in the work God has given us to do.
Paul reminds us in the closing of his letter to the Galatians that Jesus went to the cross in trusting obedience, facing certain death, in complete vulnerability and nakedness—and this is God’s act of ultimate hospitality for each one of us, experiencing our human suffering, entering into death and dying with us, in order to open for us the way of everlasting life. And Jesus did not go through this experience alone—God was with him throughout that awful time on the cross.
We too will face awful times in our lives as we try to do God’s work.
And yet, Jesus says to each one of us—“Go your way.”
—to bring God’s peace, completeness, wholeness, and the evidence of God’s presence and activity—God’s shalom– to the people wherever we’re sent.
So go your way, let go, drink deeply from God’s consoling breast, let yourself be carried in God’s arms, soak up God’s comfort, flourish even in your weakness, and
Rejoice that your names are truly written in heaven.