Monday, November 23, 2009

Sermon: Last Pentecost (Nov. 22)

As preached at the 8 AM service:
Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. A global cataclysm brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.
Or so says a description of the movie “2012” – in theaters now which depicts the end of the earth. It is a favorite topic of Hollywood, think of these End Times themes: Nuclear Annihilation, World War III, Killer Asteroids, Ecological Meltdown, UFOs… The premise of 2012 is the end of the Mayan Calendar. Since their calendar ends, we must be in trouble…

For us as Christians, our liturgical year ends today on Christ the King Sunday and so our mind considers last things. When we think of end times, we think of our book Revelation. It is the last book in our bibles and it includes Four Horseman, 7 seals, trumpets, armies, & destruction... It is not a book that is for the faint hearted but it doesn't exist for its own sake and it really does tie in with the hope of the New Testament, many scenes in Revelation view heaven with its multitudes of people giving praise to God and those passages are often read at funerals. The end times are mentioned differently in the Gospels with each Gospel saying something on the matter. The Gospel story today is Jesus before Pilate and in John’s Gospel, it is Jesus who responds to Pilate...
"My kingdom is not from this world…" Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
The truth on this last Sunday of our Church Year is that Christ reigns. He is the King of Glory. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to make the kingdom of God a reality in our lives & to celebrate his reign. Faithfulness is to see the face of Christ in every man, woman and child and to then respect their dignity, and to respond to a need with action. We are called to listen to his voice and go forth:
On September 12, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug died at the age 95. Most people have not heard of him unless you are a horticulturist or botanist. But, because of Doctor Borlaug, millions of people on this planet have enough to eat every day.

Norman Borlaug grew up on an Iowa farm during the Depression. He was fascinated by plants and how they grew - and why some plants grew better in some places than others. A gifted student, he went on to graduate school, earning a doctorate in plant pathology. Shortly after World War II, he walked away from a promising career at Dupont to go to work for a nonprofit foundation working in Mexico trying to help farmers improve their crops.

For Mexican soils were depleted; disease ravaged the few crops that farmers managed to grow & the yields were so low farmers could barely feed themselves and their families, much less sell any surplus. So Dr Borlaug and his team went to work in the blazing Mexican sun, experimenting with wheat seeds and blossoms. Within a few years, they had developed a variety of wheat that could grow in the harsh Mexican climate. Dr Borlaug soon developed a second strain of wheat, a smaller "dwarf" plant that could withstand tropical winds and diseases while increasing yields. His idea was later applied to rice, resulting in yields several times that of traditional varieties. At the time of his death, Dr Borlaug was working to bring high-yield farming to African countries.

Today, farmers in the developing world are able to feed their growing populations because of Dr Borlaug's work. It is estimated that half of the world's population is fed from food made from the grains descended from the high-yield varieties developed by Dr Borlaug and his colleagues.

Dr Borlaug lived under primitive conditions, often with little money and no equipment; he fought tradition and class warfare in many of the countries he worked; he was criticized by naysayers and frustrated by bureaucrats. But quietly and tenaciously, Norman Borlaug helped avert the mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, thus altering the course of history. (That should be told by Hollywood!)

For his work, Norman Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Many credit him as the founder of the Green Revolution - but the self-effacing scientist shied away from such acclaim. Norman Borlaug, Ph.D. - may not be well-known, but his legacy - food for a starving world - will last forever. (portions taken from the NY Times Obituary)
His story like that of Jesus calling us to listen to his truth is about encountering human need in our everyday lives. Not just a particular moment of giving oneself to service, but to see that it really is about the daily encounters in our life and our relationship to those in need. Mother Teresa of Calcutta talked about the end of our lives this way:
"At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread—but hungry for love; naked not only of clothing—but naked of human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.”
Our call is to bring God's kingdom to life among us, to know the Kingdom is prepared for the ones who have found the truth & listen. Revelation speaks of him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom. This is grace for salvation is not something we can earn but is gift. A gift we share with the world now in need (Christ in disguise) and at the end of our days. Amen.

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