Sunday, November 03, 2013

All Saints Sunday Sermon "On the Blessing and Woes of Jesus and the Kingdoms of Daniel"

           On my right, I see folk my mom met in Kenya who are building their small, living room sized house,
brick by brick,
section by section,
for years on end, decades on end,
finally completing their house around the same time as they retire, because only the rich and well connected can receive building loans in that country.
Blessed are you.
            On my right, I see the 10 year old look-out-kid back in North West Baltimore, who risked police arrest and gang violence,
because that corner’s drug dealers gave him a chicken-box a day to take home for dinner, so that he wouldn’t go hungry that night.
Blessed are you.
            On my right, I see the 40 plus names of all those people connected to St. Stephen who died since last All Saint’s Sunday, and I see all those who mourn so profoundly.
Blessed are you.
            On my right, I see kidnapped Bishops in Syria, Burnt Churches and Christians in Pakistan and Nigeria.
Blessed are you.

            On my left, I see well off folk, with easy access to liquidity and an ability to use their wealth to create more wealth.
Woe to you.
            On my left, I see a people well fed, healthy, unworried about where their next meal will come from.
Woe to you.
            On my left, I see those entertained, enjoying being included, valued, and loved.
Woe to you.
            On my left, I see super-star preachers, mega-church attendees, successful religious entrepreneurs and the kind of people invited to pray at prayer breakfasts.
Woe to you.

            And, I wonder,
What is in the space in between these two?
What makes hated Martyrs and mourning widows blessed?
What makes healthy, happy, well fed folk the target of woes?
         In the deep place between those two sides of things—the twin hills of woe and blessing, is a kingdom in that valley.
The Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God.
         In today’s reading from the book of Daniel, we read of Daniel’s disturbing dream—of beasts and beastly kingdoms, and of one like a human being and a holy, humane, kingdom.
         And the thrust of this dream is that God’s kingdom transcends these other kingdoms,
these beastly kingdoms.
         It transcends them both morally and existentially—
the Kingdom of God is Humane, while the Beastly Kingdoms are monstrous.
The Kingdom of God is eternal, while the Beastly Kingdoms won’t last always.
         This reality of the Kingdom of God, its moral and existential superiority over and against any and all kingdoms of this world, shapes Jesus’ blessings and woes.

         Jesus says woe
 to the rich, filled, laughing, and respected
because they are doing well in a system that is not the Kingdom of God… if you do well in a monstrous system you yourself become monstrous… you yourself have been morally compromised somehow—
we all have.
         We have in a million different ways, become adjusted to injustices
small and large.
We don’t notice the little ones our culture is built off of,
the variety of vulnerable people sacrificed in every social structure.
         Yes, woe to we who have been co-opted by our respective cultures and become unconscious of the ways we fall short of the Kingdom of God.

         And for that matter, woe to us, for the fall will be great.
         The more we trust in those things which make us rich, filled, joyful, and respected, the worse it will be when those limited thing fall away.

         Think quite simply of the events of a year ago—when Hurricane Sandy stuck us and hobbled us.
         We rely so heavily on systems of transportation and electricity, that when it was pulled out from under us, we fell quickly—
relying on gas in our tanks, heat and light in our homes
failed us.
         But imagine how unchanged everything was for those in our society without homes, or cars, or electricity. Their fall was small. The fall of those who rely on these things, was great.
         Now, please understand I’m not condemning all structures equally or suggesting we need to opt out of society—
In fact there are few greater dangers than people of good will turning their back on the world in which they live.
         No, I’m simply saying it’s worth reflecting on how our ways of life miss the mark of the Kingdom of God.

         Similarly to his woes, Jesus’ blessings find their foundation in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
         This reflection on—
this compare-and-contracts with—
the Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of this World.
Faithful reflections on the morality of the societies we live in—
these blessings and woes, cause us to ask the question:
“What kind of Kingdom begins with the blessing of those who are vulnerable?”
         Let me repeat that, “What kind of Kingdom begins with the blessing of those who are vulnerable?”

         This question opens up a window from which we can glimpse the Kingdom of God.
         It points us to a foundation of the Faithful Rule of The Righteous One.

         The Kingdom of God, this trans-historical kingdom—
this kingdom within time, but also beyond time—
continually breaks in, in every age—
within every kingdom that claims to be totalizing,
claims to be the complete package,
claims confidence and control,
claims our trust and reliance.
         It breaks in and reminds us that the King of the Kingdom of God is
One like a human being—
One like the Son of Man.
         One who proclaims good news to the poor,
fills the hungry with good things,
wipes away every tear,
and rewards the faithful with the faithfulness of the Ancient One.
         It is such good news to the poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted.
         The times when the Kingdom of God comes clearly near, are such a blessing to the vulnerable.

         On my left I hear woes.
         Woes which point to our moral compromises and insist that we become freshly aware of, and maladjusted to, the injustices around us.
         Woes warning of the inevitable fall that happens when we hitch our wagon to a horse heading off a high hill.

         On my right, I hear blessings.
         Blessings that point to another kingdom—one that doesn’t begin by sacrificing the vulnerable, but instead begins by blessing them.
         Blessings that erupt from time to time, blessings from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

         Between these blessings and woes, we find the Kingdom of God.
Amen and Alleluia.