Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sermon: The Election and Eternity

There were two brothers, not always the best of friends, but they usually got along okay. They owned a garage together, did brake repair, emissions testing, oil changes, stuff like that.
Whenever a customer would come in for custom and detail work, whichever brother was there would do the job and keep the profit.
Well, one of the brothers started to tell customers to come in for that type of stuff when his brother wasn’t around, so he’d get the work.
I’m sure you can imagine what happened next, the second brother eventually caught on, and it all blew-up.
They sold the garage and never talked to one another again,
they became enemies.
When the first brother died the second didn’t even attend his funeral.
It was a shame for the whole family.
And today, as we consider Jesus’ blessings and woes, his call to love our enemies and do to others as we would have them do to us
—on this All Saints Sunday,
only a few days before the election,
I would like to preach to you about The Election, and Eternity. The Election, and Eternity.
Let us pray

“Blessed are the poor, hungry, weeping, hated. Cursed are the Rich, Full, Laughing, Loved.”
This here is Luke at his most basic level, the Good News of Jesus brings reversal.
As little Mary sings at the beginning of this Gospel, her child will topple kings from their thrones,
the lowly will be blessed,
the proud will be scattered,
the hungry fed,
the rich left empty.
Yes, a Gospel of reversal.
Immediately before Jesus’ sermon here, he heals the crowd. Those most vulnerable, the possessed and sickly, meet Jesus in a profound and life changing way. And there is something to that…
when we’re in need, we are more likely to notice Jesus doing something.
When vulnerable, we’re more likely to embrace transformation. Truly, the poor, hungry, weeping, and hated are uniquely blessed when they encounter God’s riches, fullness, comfort, and embrace.

Additionally though, there is something profoundly jarring about these blessings and curses. They make us do a double take,
ask what blessing means,
what our own lives do to bless or curse the vulnerable.
Make us wonder if we’ve prioritized the wrong things, and what we thought were curses are blessings and what we thought were blessings are curses.
If we have any idols sitting in our back pocket, things we’re absolutely sure of, that aren’t the promises of God, we lose them here. Jesus’ words shake us and make us say those very uncomfortable words, “maybe I’m wrong.”
          I think about fighting with a pastor when I was in 4th grade and just read the whole bible, all on my own with no help from anyone
—I insisted that the most interesting book in the Bible was the book of Job (wrong)… and I wouldn’t let him correct my pronunciation—I knew it couldn’t be the book of Job (right)…
maybe I’m wrong—a little humility goes a long way.
          Maybe I’m wrong about riches and poverty, fullness and hunger, mourning and joy, maybe I’m wrong about loving and hating!

          And, while he touches on that last one, love and hate, Jesus pushes the case, “Love your enemy…do to others as you would have them do to you.”
          Some, the stereotypical Lutheran Theologian, might simply throw up their hands at this command—it is impossible, thank God we’ve got Jesus and he saves us, because loving our enemies is just another command we can’t keep.
          Others focus on these commands as a means of Jewish resistance against Roman occupation. They point out turning the other cheek means your attacker will have to hit you in the way that acknowledged you as of the same social standing as them, a Roman Citizen.
They point out that a Roman Legionnaire was allowed to ask for anyone’s cloak, but if they took your shirt they would be disciplined by their commanding officer...
and these historical insights aren’t without value, they point out how you can resist violence without becoming violent yourself—no small feat.

          But, if we hold onto this command—love your enemies—it can transform relationships, it can end enmity
—it can ideally make the idea of enemy itself, disappear.
If you refuse to return evil for evil and do your best to remember the other person is a Child of God, you will be changed.
Maybe—and of course we know we cannot change other people, only our reactions to them
—but maybe, they too will be softened and transformed by the changes you makes in yourself, their experience of a you as a person who refuses to see them as enemy.

          Humility and transformed relationships
—the ability to say “maybe I’m wrong” and ending the very idea of enemy…
that’s powerful stuff… and important to hold onto as we consider The Election and Eternity.
          Let’s be frank—we all, as a congregation, a town, a state, a nation, will have to live with one another after Tuesday, election day.
There will be winners and losers in this election. And, because this election has been going on since the end of the last one, losing will sting profoundly for one side, and victory will be exultant for the other.
I hope, we as people whose Lord preached these head turning blessings and woes, we Christians, can be humble about it—be willing to look at all the volleys of partisan arrows slung in this endless campaign, now at rest, and in the clear light of day say of some of our most hyperbolic of claims “Gee, maybe I was wrong.”
          I’m being very intentional about calling some of these arguments this election cycles arrows—it’s like we’re at war. It’s like we’ve become enemies, instead of simply citizens debating about the best way to govern our nation for the next 2 to 4 years.
I hope and pray we Christians can model the way of our Lord
—how to refuse to see the other as enemy, and act in such a way that they might see the same.
I can only imagine—what the cloud of saints who’ve gone before us see, how humbling the view of this world is from eternity.
I can only imagine—the reconciliation that has taken place between those who were once enemies, but now at the throne of grace are transformed, free!

          I wonder, I imagine, I hope, that those two brothers, separated over money, separated by death
—I hope when they meet one another again, they’ll see clearly, the fallibilities they both brought to the table and meet humbled,
meet as well, reconciled, their relationship transformed.