Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sermon: October 18

We all have things in our lives that are symbols for us. For some, it is an AA chip that reminds them how long they have been sober and the importance of that sobriety to their lives. For others, it is their wedding ring, not only a reminder of the vow they have made to their spouse, and the love they share, but often the rings have been passed on from different generations. That is also true, sometimes of wedding gowns, but more often baptismal gowns that many generations have worn when they were baptized as infants.

And then there are the crosses we wear, a symbol of connection to Christ and our following him as a disciple today. So often they were given to us at a special moment in our lives, or maybe passed on from an older generation. There are lots of symbols in our lives that remind us of our connection to one another, to generations past and our connection to God too.

For Job, whose whole life and family fell apart before his eyes, sat on a dung heap wondering how it all happened, the symbol he wanted was God’s voice. He wanted to hear from God – he wanted to know why. A most natural question especially when everything has gone wrong. And Job has lost it all, but we are reminded that he didn’t curse God for what had happened, nor did he believe his three friends who accused him and his family for bringing the calamity upon themselves. Job sat and waited, argued with his three friends for He just wanted God to speak. That was his symbol, his connection…

He finally got his wish in the 38th chapter, for then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

This was probably not what Job expected to have the Lord question him. And yet in the midst of this Job will be vindicated for after the Lord had spoken to Job, the Lord said to his friends: “My wrath is kindled against you; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” The voice of God gives Job his symbol, his connection and he was satisfied.

For James & John, 2 of the disciples of Jesus, they asked Jesus a favor. They wanted to know if one of them could be at his right hand and the other at his left, that is, they wanted the place of honor in heaven to be next to Jesus. Such symbolism to know you are the favored ones. A bold favor but not one Jesus could grant. Of course, the other 10 disciples are angry at James & John for asking.

Jesus then moves the argument from greatness = next to Jesus, the place of honor, what society expects, to greatness = service, for the Son of Man came to serve not to be served. His example is to be their guide. To be great, is to be servant of all. So very different from the world, for to be great, is to be powerful, wealthy, notable. Not so says Jesus. If you follow me, then you will be servant to others, and there will be your greatness.

And in the midst of this, Jesus also asked a question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” To which James & John replied, they are! Of course, we are too.

We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. We follow his steps into the water and the Spirit comes upon us just as it did Jesus. And as we gather each Sunday here, we gather to eat his bread and drink from his cup. Think of the prayer we say after communion:
You have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. (BCP, p. 365)
We are fed spiritual food in the Sacrament and we are sent into the world to love and serve. That is the symbol of our connection to God in the Bread & Cup, and going out from here to serve others. That bread and cup, is our symbol, our unity with Christ and one another, on a common journey to restore our unity with God and each other in Christ. For it is our gathering here each week and partaking of that communion that gives us such a symbol.

Let me end with some words from the late Henri Nouwen on this Eucharistic Symbol:
“It is the life of Christ and our life, blended together into one life. As we drink the cup, we drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we also drink our cup. That is the great mystery of the Eucharist. The cup of Jesus filled with his life, poured out for us and all people, and our cup, filled with our own blood, have become one cup. Together when we drink that cup as Jesus drank it we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.”

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