In pm's words
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November 14, 2016, 7:40 AM

the one about opportunity...


Sermon from November 13, 2016

Texts: Psalm 98, Luke 21: 5-19

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, amen!

Wow, what a bunch of lessons to read after an election of great magnitude in this country, right? What words to hear from Jesus’ lips this morning about the ‘signs’ to come. Earthquakes, wars, famines, and more. None of this sounds good. Jesus is speaking about an apocalypse that is to come.

First, I want to make something absolutely clear – this was the assigned text for this day. I didn’t pick it. It comes up at this time every three years. But, I think it is a needed text for us to hear.

For many, they say that the end times are here because Mr. Donald Trump has been elected. Yet, on the opposite side many would have said the apocalypse would be at hand if Senator Hillary Clinton was elected. We place so much into those we elect that we forget that this little text is trotted out whenever someone we personally don’t agree with is lifted-up by others.

Look what Jesus is saying about Obama! Or Bush! Or Kennedy! Or Nixon! Or Lincoln!

We do this every time. And we survive. Things incrementally change for the better. We stand up when things go ways that we cannot. We continue and always pray for God’s guidance amidst the roaring sea.

And that my brothers and sisters is what I wanted to focus on this morning. I think the one text today that would get over-shadowed amidst all these other ‘fun’ choices would be our Psalm, particularly verses 7 and 8.

Let’s look at those verses again…

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy…

I don’t know about y’all, but have you ever seen or heard a sea roar? Have you been a part of a river that ‘clapped’ its hands? For us as creations of God – those aren’t fun times. It was just over a year ago, that this area and closer to Columbia experienced those ‘clapping’ floods. The waters clapping and slapping up against homes, businesses, and over the tops of cars. Seas roar and rivers clap when things are stirred up. When we feel like we are being figuratively and literally tossed from side-to-side.

Yet, in that moment we know that God is present. God is present in the churning, in the tumult, in the stirring. God is present in the waves and God is present at our side. God is present within us.

God is here.

The thing that I’ve heard the most from all those who voted – is that they didn’t feel good about it. Whether they held their noses to vote or not – we can all look out among the country and world say, “Things aren’t really that great.”

There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a lot of worry. There’s a lot of angst. There’s a lot of anger.

Some of it is greatly justified. Some of it is the unwillingness to move – in either direction – because of stubbornness. There are those who incite and participate in violence which brings more cause and worry.

Yet, no candidate is going to bring peace. No candidate is going to solve all our ills. No candidate is going to be able to live into all of his or her promises. No candidate is going to ‘solve’ this all.

But, God is.

God working amongst and in us will. God continues to surround us, calling us to rejoice in the words of Psalm 98. Calling us to remember that what’s on the other side of the churning and stirring is what is at hand and what we look forward to.

Within the scary words of Jesus that we hear this morning, we are called to do something.

One of the things that I’ve heard and read during these past few days is those who say, “Y’all just pray. Just pray that God is in control. That God’s got this.”

And, on face value I truly love that. We should be praying. We really should. Praying that God is in control – not in a feeble ‘boy, I sure hope so.’ But, praying in the ‘I know that God is in control – even if I can’t always see it.” Praying in such a way where we acknowledge that God just might not be working in the ways that we hope. But, that God is truly in the midst of this. Because in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus God has declared that God is present with us.

But, on a broader view, what I get so worried about as a pastor and a leader of a faith community is that many will just pray, but won’t be moved to act. Where we don’t acknowledge God’s action and grace in us and moving through us to bring about God’s Word to the world in such a desperate need to hear it.

After Jesus outlines the ‘terribleness’ that is to come, Jesus turns to his disciples and to us and says this, ‘you will be given an opportunity to testify.’ Jesus’ words will be in you; Jesus’ words will spill forth from your mouth. Your faith will lead you in action and words.

So, how is it that we testify to the gospel of Christ? How do we testify – how do we make witness – to the words, deeds, and faith of Christ who leads us?

We continue to love. We continue to share. We continue to proclaim. We continue to point. We continue to invite.

As we quickly approach the Advent season – that season of expectant hope in the coming of God into the world – we get to live into that testimony.

We get to put together boxes full of fun, love, and needed items for children through Operation Christmas Child. Today, we heard from Lynn Cary about a new ministry we get to participate in – helping those in need throughout the world to help better care and support their families and communities through the ELCA Good Gifts Fair. Soon we will begin the Angel Tree Ministry in our community of Newberry to help bring a bit of joy to some of the most in need near us.

And yet, there are still more opportunities to testify and live out this life of faith through love, care, and grace that are not just confined to this specific time as we approach the coming season. We provide food and time to the Manna House – who is always in need of loving donations through our abundance of food. We help in donating to Interfaith Community Services to provide needed financial assistance to some of the most underprivileged and unnoticed members of our community. We provide skills, funds, and more to places like the Free Medical Clinic so that those who cannot afford medical care are provided and cared for.

Then there are those ministries that are sometimes overlooked, yet continually provide those moments of warmth and grace – our knitters who make beautiful prayer shawls and caps for newborns, our card care ministry that sends notes of love to those who cannot be here throughout the week and to those who are going through difficult times, our bereavement meals team who help a family not have to worry about food during their most desperate hour, our Sunday school teachers who provide guidance and love to those forming in their faith, and so much more.

Then there are those ministries that we don’t even know about, but we feel a call and a pull to say something – anything – to provide care to those who need it most. Especially to those who feel so threatened and fear for their future now. There are those opportunities within our community – that are not attached specifically to this community of faith – where we too get to live into and live out our faith in caring for others.

No candidate is going to stop that. No candidate is going prevent us from living into the faith that we know, the gospel that we proclaim, and the life that Jesus calls us into.

That life of faith that we are given an opportunity to live out and in which we get to live into through our testimony is what provides me hope. It provides me hope in a world and in a country that is so divided.

I know that God breaks down all those walls. I know the Christ crosses those lines in bringing people together. I know that the Holy Spirit guides our actions and words to be with one another.

Amen.

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