Friday, March 29, 2013

A Powerful Thirst

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said, "I thirst". John 19:28
         One of the hardest things to hear as a pastor is that someone has stopped eating and drinking. A person who stops eating, but will still take a little fluid is going to die, but still may have time. Once a person refuses fluid or no longer is awake enough to drink anything, we know that they will soon die. Being thirsty, wanting to quench that dryness, is a sign of life, a sign of being. We can go a while without food, but we cannot survive for long without liquid.

            When Jesus says, “I thirst”- we know that he is still alive. That Jesus, his body that is both human and divine, still has longing and need. He receives sour wine to drink, something that was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. Does that quench his need? Are his dry lips moistened? Is his aching throat soothed? Does he still thirst?

            What is Jesus thirsty for? Does he just want some water? Possibly. Probably. But he also has Living Water, as he told the woman at the well. The source of Living Water likely has a deeper thirst for more than just H20.

            On that cross, Jesus looked out at the crowd and saw deep needs- things about which he’d preached, circumstances he’d repaired, a creation that longed to be reunited with God, but was unable to keep up its end. Jesus saw all of this and he thirsted… he longed for justice, for peace, for wholeness in community, for grace and mercy among neighbors, for healing in families, for a reformation of the religious system.

            His spirit thirsted for wholeness in the world, just as his body longed for liquid thirsted for water or cool wine. This is how we know that he was still alive and that he is alive among us still because he thirsts. Our own thirsting is how we know that we are alive… alive in Christ.

            Not just our longing for water, but our longing for peace in our world, for justice in government, for equality among people, for a desire to honor tradition and to support innovation. We are to thirst for these things because that longing is part of what it means to be living in faith.

            To that thirst- the powers of the world will offer sour wine- discrimination based on race, sexual orientation or experience, gender, religious expression, ability, resources, or age. There is the sour wine of “deserve”, of “should”, of “not one of us”. All these things are sour wine… wine that humiliates and denigrates, that does not quench the thirst of the body or of the soul for the goodness of the kingdom of God.

            The Spirit has pure, clear Living Water… the power of Christ… to quench these thirsts, but who is the cup? Who can satisfy these longings? The person who carries the Living Water in the cup of their skills and their calling. If we are not thirsting with Christ, we are close to dying. To thirst is to be alive. Feeling and seeking to quench the thirst of the world is to be alive in Christ.

            Christ in our neighbor… our homeless neighbor, our gay neighbor, our neighbor of another color or race, our atheist neighbor, our fundamentalist neighbor, our neighbor without healthcare, our neighbor with a deployed spouse, our widowed neighbor, our neighbor with an unintended pregnancy, our neighbor in a wheelchair, our neighbor with a mental illness… Christ in that neighbor says to you… I thirst. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blessed is the One (Sermon)

Palm Sunday/ Feast Day of Oscar Romero

Luke 19:29-44

            So what does an assassinated Roman Catholic Archbishop have to do with Palm Sunday? It’s a good question. At the start of Holy Week, we are in a position for deep and serious reflection. On the one hand, we can enter this week with a misplaced sense of re-enactment- the idea that we are re-living the events of a certain week almost two thousand years ago.

            Sometimes the re-enactment is what we need. To re-imagine the sights, sounds, and smells. To place ourselves in Jerusalem and feel the strain of oppressed people. Sometimes that memory is what we need.

            However, there is another way to consider this week. It functions like a compass for our faith. The events of this week are our true North- they give us a sense of direction, a re-orientation to the landmarks of our faith. They put us on the right path.

            That is where our focus should be, even in the midst of re-imagining and re-enacting. Palms in our hands, we are poised to be re-acquainted with the direction of our faith and its purpose. The events that are coming are not meant to overwhelm us with sadness or even a sense of unworthiness. The events of this week are meant to overwhelm us with the way that light overcomes darkness, that life overcomes death, that the forces that oppose God do not win the battle or the war.

            When Oscar Romero became archbishop, he was appointed to that position, in part, because it was believed that his conservatism would keep him from siding with the poor who were rising up against the government. Both sides of this fight believed that he would not be involved. However, he watched a close friend get killed (shot) for trying to help the poor farmers and laborers, to end their oppression. Romero then realized that he could not remain silent. His understanding of Jesus meant that he had to speak out. He even worked to get his sermons on the radio for all to hear, sermons which frequently sided with the oppressed and called for the soldiers to end the killing of their brothers and sisters.

            Archbishop Romero spoke frequently that he knew he would eventually be killed, but he could not abandon the work to which God had called him, work of siding with the poor of El Salvador, work of giving voice to the voiceless. This is the work for which he was killed.

            That may not be the call for all of us, but each of do have a call- a call to carry the message of Jesus into the world And it is likely not something that makes us comfortable. It may not be as easy as we would hope. Nevertheless, our call into gospel living is clear… loving our neighbor, forgiving seventy times and then some, showing mercy to our enemies, working to end injustice against the poor and the disadvantaged, championing the cause of peace, and sharing what we have with all those around us.

            It’s tough work and it can be awkward, but that is why we are here- in Holy Week- pointed toward the events of feasting, betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection.. We do not journey through this week to come out on the other side, relieved. We are on this trek of re-orientation so that we can be re-energized, knowing that we have been made right with God… and daring to go into the world proclaiming that death does not win.

            The call of today is not only the cry of “Hosanna”. It is also, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” That one is the one who carries the God’s light into the world. On that first journey, it was a colt carried Jesus, the light of the world. The disciples were told to find the colt and to say, “The Lord has need of it.” As we look now for a way to carry light into the world, I say, “The Lord has need of you.”

            The Lord has need of you… to proclaim the significance of this week… to get ready for Easter joy… to live into a faith in resurrection… to trust in God’s presence as you live courageously into your calling. In our Wednesday night soup suppers, we have been talking about what it means to be church and what the future of this church is.

            The church is a place where we learn, together, how to live and how to die in Christ. That is the reason we exist. We learn and we live out what it means to be alive in Christ… now and forever. And this week, starting today… this week is our study week, our brush-up week, our re-focusing… because the other 51 weeks of the year are our exam.

            We are poised now, palms in hand, to revisit the journey to the cross and then to the empty tomb. We are resetting our faith compass and we are preparing for the work to which we are called. In the words of Oscar Romero, ““If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ's life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person's measure.”

            This is the grace we have received. And it’s not for nothing. It is so that we can carry Christ into the world. The Lord has need of you.

            Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna.