Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sermon: Summer is Coming

Summer is Coming
         “Winter is coming” this is the constant refrain of the fantasy series Game of Thrones. George RR Martin is 5 books into the series and winter has not yet come… in the TV series it isn’t until 60 hours in that winter comes… and yet that reality frames the whole thing, winter is unfolding—the birth of dragons, deaths of kings, wars and rumors of war, Wildlings and Others encroaching upon civilization, snow falling first in the north and then in the south—all of these point to that one foundational reality, “Winter is coming.”
         And we read about just such signs in scripture today, read about looking forward in hope to a thing that is not yet, and yet is unfolding, it frames the whole of scripture and life…
         Jeremiah points to the sign of a righteous branch, God’s actions through David may have been chopped down, but they didn’t grind the stump—new life is coming.
         Jesus promises us that God is doing something new, promises us tender tentative tendrils—look carefully friends, you will find the leaves greening in this gray and foreboding world…
         All these are signs that “Summer is coming.”
         Jesus warns us about sea and waves
—one of the Bible’s ways of talking about Chaos and Death
—we are warned about the threat that looms so often
—losing life and losing control.
         Not only that, the world will be threatened
—and to clarify, the Greek word for worldused means the civilized world (so not the “He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” world), instead the economically integrated world
—yes from time to time we will realize the societal structure we live and breath in, we move in the same way fish move through water, is ephemeral and fleeting—sometimes it is really obvious how threatened the whole project is.
         The powers themselves shake (have you seen the videos of Alaska—it is like that!)
—all those forces beyond ourselves that shape our day to day life
—the little gods of this world we cling to
—behold! They shall all be shaken loose
—they shall all be revealed to be what they are, Idols… all those things we fear, love, and trust—that are not God
—they shall be sifted through, burnt away
—they shall fall away.
         All of this shall be an earthquake showing what stands and what falls.
         And have you ever thought how much all that weighs us down?
How much we worry about life and control, our society holding together, the powers holding fast
—how much we drugourselves in many ways
(shopping, shooting up, shutting down, tuning in, going online, main-lining, maligning our neighbor)
drug ourselves in order to look away from all this…
how much we time and talents… and our very lives… we fritter away concerned about all these things.
We lack hope.

         I was reading Conservative columnist Arthur Brooks the other day, he wrote an article entitled: “How Loneliness is tearing America apart.”
Did you know 13% of Americans don’t believe there is a single personwho knows them well. 42 million people who feel like they are anonymous—unknown to anyone but themselves…
Brooks believe this has led to the record 45,000 suicides that have happened across the country this year
—to get the scope of this it is like the entire population of Plainfield killing themselves…
he also notes 70,000 people died of drug overdoses this last year
—that’s the entire population of East Orange…
         And this alienation also leads people to seek simulated communities, communities almost entirely made up of screens,
be they social media platforms or obsessive watching of partisan Television
—all of this telling them who to hate
—most often our fellow Americans…
         And, you know I often tell you all, when it comes to the internet, never read the comments section
—well this article may be an exception…
 the 1,034 comments at the end of this article—I didn’t read them all of course…
but my God!
It was people pouring out their hearts about their isolation
—how they yearned so completely for realcommunity, realconnection.

         Now, I can’t imagine how much more painful this isolation will get for folk this time of year (Daylight savings time and darkness),right…
imagine you don’t believe anyone really knows you
—you are always alone, and you go to work in the dark and get home in the dark and the only human-ishinteraction you have is with the warm glow of you TV or Smartphone or Computer Screen… So hopeless…
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.”

         No… be alert! Crane your neck up, stand up straight
—your redemption draws near!
(Point to tree)
         In the face of Babylon battering down all that is Holy
—know there is a righteous branch!
         In the face of the falling away of all the small gods—this grand and horrible earthquake, they no longer grace the heavens—look!
Look what remains!
The Son of Man, he lives that we may have life.
Look what remains!
The Kingdom of God, revealing the world as it is, in the face of the world as it seems, so we know that God rules!
Look what remains!
The Word of God! The promises of God for us and to us, promises which God shall not forsake,
God shall not forsake us!

(Point to tree)
         In the face of unbelievable isolation, anxiety, addiction, and death…
When all the simulated community crashes and there we are…
What remains, what’s real?
Christ, community, promise…hope
Real Christ—for you, the Lord on the donkey who sees fit to join us in all things, God made man that Humanity might be found Holy!
Real community—Surely a mixed body, saints and sinners all trying and failing and trying again, but here we are, thank God!
Real struggle—It isn’t just our communal life that is mixed, but each of us, all simultaneously saint and sinner
—a real struggle really worth it
—our whole lives found in the sanctity of God
—we are made in the image of God
youreally are a part of it,
you really matter to God!
Real words of promise—Promises of Christ
—I will be with you always,
I’ve purchased and freed you from the powers of sin, death, and the devil.
You belong to Christ and none can separate you from him!

Summer is coming!
The stump was not ground down—it still grows!
We’re all interconnected and are rooted together.
Even when all appears dead, the necessary work of new life is taking place, the seed is being made ready!
Winter isn’t even a pause, it is part of the whole process!
Look at those green leaves, those tendrils tender and tentative, yet clearly alive.
Have hope.
Summer is coming!