Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sermon: Stay The Course

Sermon for February 24, 2013 Year C – Lent 2
St. Philips In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki Hesse
For readings, click here
“Take my lips, O Lord, and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for You.  Amen.”

I found an interesting story on the internet,
which means it must be true.  (ha ha)
The story is of radio conversation
between a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and
Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland
in October, 1995. The conversation goes like this:

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.
Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

The point of this story is the obvious power struggle.
It is not uncommon to see power plays unfold,
in a culture obsessed with status and power. 

One obvious place we see power plays unfold, for real,
is in government –
candidates for-, and holders of-, elected positions.
Candidates or incumbents often try to make themselves right,
or look better than, their opponent. 
Another place we see power plays is in the workplace.
One colleague might try to take credit
for someone else’s ideas or efforts. 

Jesus was no stranger to political power plays. 
Jesus held fast, in his heart and in his soul,
to God’s dream of a new and more just world – God’s shalom
as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori offered,[1]
“…shalom is that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one
goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board,
…where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed,
 …where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given,
…where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another,
…where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God.”  

With God’s dream of shalom in his heart and soul,
Jesus made the journey to Jerusalem.
With God’s dream in mind,
Jesus said things like,
“…when the kingdom arrives in its fullness,
some are last who will be first and
some are first who will be last.”[2]

This is what Jesus said, in fact,
just prior to the gospel reading for today. 
It was his way of saying to
the Pharisees, “I am a lighthouse. Your Call.” 

He did not budge in his mission to bring about God’s shalom.
God empowered Jesus to stay the course for God’s dream. 
Other “powers that be” could divert.
 - pause -
Some bible translations include: “And at that very hour,”
the Pharisees told him that Herod wanted to kill him. 
Does that seem strange that the Pharisees,
were now concerned for Jesus’ safety?  
The Pharisees and Herod wanted to keep their power. 
They were threatened by Jesus’ power with the people.

I wonder how often we are working towards a dream
and “at that very hour,”
we are approached by someone or
an institution of power that attempts to divert us.
·        Perhaps we are passionate about early childhood education, or affected by mental health,
but the federal budget sequestration is looming. 
We feel threatened and fearful. We sometimes lose hope.
·        Perhaps we dream of a creative solution
for a work problem and
want to form a team of people to work together.
But then someone hounds us, or
says that we should not do that project because that is not.
what they think is important.
They say, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
So, we start to question our dreams.
·        Perhaps our hearts are broken, knowing that
30% of children in AZ live below the poverty level.[3] [4]
The size of that problem leaves us
feeling impotent to solve it.

So, we dig in with our own power. 
We pull ourselves up “by our bootstraps” and
make our way through the resistance.
What does God want us to do? 
Will things turn out alright?
How do we find the strength to stay the course?
--- ---
We don’t know the Pharisees or Herod’s real motives,
but Jesus noticed their power play and returned the volley. 
“Go tell that fox…” he said,
“that I am working for God’s dream and
will not divert my course.” 
That fox! Jesus called Herod
a sly and unprincipled animal. 

Jesus showed that he knew
that the Pharisees and Herod were in cahoots.
Jesus knew that his
“casting out demons and performing cures”
especially among the poor and neglected –
was an affront to the powers that be. 
Jesus knew that the discomforting politics of shalom
would not stop at any regional government.
Jesus headed to Jerusalem,
that power-playing city with a reputation
of killing prophets and
dreams for a new and more just world. 

“At that very hour,” God empowered Jesus
to stay the course for God’s dream.

And though Jesus expected violence in Jerusalem,
he did not respond with rage. 
Jesus wailed an aching lament. 
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, he cried,
echoing other divine cries from scripture:
Jesus ached for Jerusalem to reply, “Here I am!” – but no…
“How often have I desired
to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings
and you were not willing!”

At that very hour, divine mother hen Jesus,
knew he was in a fox-den. 
Now the mighty appeared not so powerful.
Now the mighty who wanted to be first and powerful over all, were not.
Now the mighty emerged as they were – humans broken and trapped in a self-serving power play. 

In that very hour, Mother hen Jesus saw
all God’s people as baby birds. 
Baby chicks, who need care, protection, and refuge –
even the so-called powerful ones.
Mother hen Jesus longed, as God longs,
for all people to come from East and West,
from North and South, and
to eat at the kingdom banquet.

The good news is that today, in this very hour,
God empowers us to stay the course for God’s dream. 
When we are working towards God’s dream,
we can count on God to reveal unexpected reversals.

We, too, may be tempted to respond with rage
at the power player who wants to stop us. 
Yet with compassion and soft hearts, we can stay the course. 

When we work for shalom –
FOR feeding the hungry,
FOR helping the sick or those imprisoned by greed or boredom or lifelessness,
FOR inviting everyone to use God’s gifts and love abundantly,
When we work for shalom,
we are empowered by God to stay the course.

When that person or institution flashes power
and wants to stop us, they cannot touch our heart. 
God’s salvation overturns the powers of the world and
restores broken, greedy institutions. 

Maybe not in our time, but in God’s time,
today, tomorrow and on the third day.
Every effort we offer as God’s partner
begins a movement towards unveiling of shalom.

Powerplays will come and go,
but God’s dream of shalom endures for all times. 
God’s power, through Jesus,
reveals a living God who seeks salvation –
healing and wholeness –
for all people. 

In the kingdom of God,
the blessed will not be those who come in the name
of power and strength,
but those who come in the name
of the humble and faithful Lord of all creation. 

God empowers us to stay the course and
work as partners in God’s dream. 

This Lent, there are many ways
to align with God’s dream of shalom. 
How can we work with outcasts?
With people who are marginalized,
less privileged, hungry, grieving, lost? 

This Lent, God empowers us to work as partners
and to love our neighbors as God first loved us. 
For God loves all people.  No exceptions. 
And love matters!

This Lent, Jesus diverts the powers-that-be
to bring about God’s dream of shalom. 
And so we stay our course of faith. 

At this very hour, we can depend on God
to love us, and to empower us to stay the course,
with Jesus, on his journey to Jerusalem.


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