Summer Hiatus

Recordings of Sermons takes a hiatus for the summer. Pastor Jay preaches more often without manuscripts and recording is difficult for quality outside of the pulpit. Look back every so often as guest preachers and guest sermons may show up here!

…but not yet.

Pastor Jay’s Sermon from Holy Trinity Sunday.

Readings: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15.

You can listen here:

Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

I don’t know why this particular statement from Jesus stands out to me the most. Perhaps it is because it is Trinity Sunday. The Sunday when we contemplate and celebrate the divine mystery that is our God. The day when no matter how hard we try we just will not be able to get close to describing out God. I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Thanks a lot Jesus. Wanna tell us when we will be able to bear them? Because that is a heavy cliff-hanger. I have many things to say to you…just not now. It’s kind of a disappointing statement. It leaves us wanting more and somehow Jesus doesn’t usually do that. I mean from baskets of loaves and fishes left-over to healings to life Jesus usually gives us more than we can ever desire and here he is stating the obvious: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Of course, this is probably the truest statement of Jesus’ entire ministry. You have to put this statement in perspective. It comes in the sixteenth chapter of John. Now, John is not like the other gospels. There is a lot of teaching in John, a lot of sayings, a lot of self-descriptions by Jesus. This is the gospel of the I Ams…the good shepherd, the vine, the gate, the door, the way, the truth, the life, the… And after all that, Jesus still has more to say…but the disciples cannot bear it yet. Well why not?          Again, let us put this passage in perspective, this is part of Jesus’ last sermon. He has not yet been betrayed, tried, killed, or raised from the dead. This is still just Jesus the teacher. Well…not just…but you know what I mean.

Before all the deeds of Good Friday and Easter, the disciples have no way to comprehending all that Jesus is about. They need those pivotal moments of God’s action in the world to put everything into perspective. And, if we’re honest, it takes them a little while even after everything this put into perspective. Let’s say…oh I don’t know…about 50 days. But with the fulfillment of the Resurrection in the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, everything starts to click. And the disciples not only get it, but finally they begin to preach it. They begin to live into the awesome truth of a God who loves creation so much as to get involved as part of creation to save it from itself. There is no way the disciples could have gotten that before the dreaded cross and empty tomb. And only in the fullness of the power of the Spirit does it all make sense.

But that still doesn’t mean they—or we—can bear all the truth that there is about God’s work in the world. To say that we are ever ready for the fullness of God is to say that everything that God needs to do in the world has been done. And that with that final act of God in the world, we can put everything into perspective. But my sisters and brothers, you and I all know that it definitely not the case. God cannot be done acting the world because we are still surrounded by so much that needs God’s loving touch. There are still so many dark and cold tombs that need Resurrection Light. There are still so many silent and downtrodden persons that need to be filled with the power of the Spirit. There is still a church that is silent when it should be speaking, waiting and watching when it should be acting, excluding and closing off when it should be opening itself up and reach out with the amazing hands and feet of Christ. There is still so much for you to know, but you cannot bear it now.

In Jesus’ profound statement we find our life. The already but not yet, the now and the coming, the everlasting and the instant. We have been given so much, we have witnessed the mighty deeds of God, but it’s still not over. Jesus’ statement is both a statement and a promise. It dangles before us.   Jesus doesn’t say anything about this being his final statement. It isn’t I still have so much to say to you but you can’t bear it so oh well. No, Jesus statement is a yet statement. I still have so much to tell you but you cannot bear it yet.

The disciples needed the fullness of the Spirit for it all to be put into perspective. The fulfillment of all Jesus’ promises was what enabled them to step out into the world and proclaim with word and deed all that God had done in their lives. And we have that same fullness, but there is still one promise of Jesus we wait to be fulfilled and it is the yet of his statement. I have so much more to tell you, so much more for you to know, but you cannot bear it yet.

And that is the life we live today. We live in the yet. Proclaiming what we know in Christ, but waiting still for so much more from God. Because the God we center ourselves around, the God of creation, the God of redemption, the God of sustenance is the same God who is fully inside the person of Jesus Christ, the same God who fully was poured out upon the disciples in the upper room, and is fully at work still in the world today. And we are called to be a part of that.

Our sisters and brothers in the United Church of Christ have a great saying: never put a period where God have put a comma. God is still speaking. And that is the life we are called to live into. The life that is ours precisely because of God’s mighty deeds in the world and yet still to be even more fully ours in the constant and eternal outpouring of the Spirit, intercession and mercy of Christ, work of God in the world. All around us. Still today.

There are many things that we still have yet to witness, still to learn, ways still to grow and to follow. We aren’t there yet. But in Christ’s promise we know that they are ours.

For our God who is still at work in the world and calls us to be a part of it. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Do You Want to Be Made Well?

Pastor Jay’s Sermon from the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Readings: Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 5:1-9

Do you want to be made well?

This healing story is unlike almost any other in the Gospels. Jesus approaches a sick man asks if he wants to be made well. This made who has spent 38 years of his life sitting next to the healing pool doesn’t actually ask Jesus to help him. He is lying there, waiting for the pool to be stirred up, and minding his own business, and Jesus walks up to him and asks: do you want to be made well? In almost every other healing encounter, someone is asking Jesus for help. Whether it is the sick person themselves or someone who loves and cares for them, someone almost always reaches out to Jesus for healing. And Jesus always helps.

But in this case, Jesus reaches out first. Jesus walks up to a man who—let’s be honest—probably has no idea who Jesus is and asks if he wants to be made well. And this man has far more restraint that I do because I would have been far more sarcastic in my response. I think if I had spent38 years next to a well known for its healing power and was still not healed me response to the question do you want to be made well would be more like duh. of course I do. I’m not just lying here for my health…well…actually I am. But intead the man responds with a fair amount of restraint when he answers Jesus. Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when it water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, omeone else steps down ahead of me.

Fair enough. That would explain it. But…it’s not an aswer to Jesus’ question. Jesus asks this man if he wants to be healed and the man explains with why he is not able to heal himself. What is standing in his way. But, that’s not what Jesus asks. Jesus asks about his desire: do you want to be made well. And, let’s be fair, the answer to that is easy: do you want to be made well.  Yes, I do.

But lest you think I’m just going to stand here and quibble about questios and phrases, let me say it’s all about this question and it’s answer. Jesus is walking along and cannot help but reach out to someone in need. And, in good Jesus fashion, he teaches a little something in the process: Do you want to be made well? And the lesson isn’t about wanting to be made well—that’s a pretty confident given. No, the lesson is that the healing power of God reaches out to everyone—whether they even know enough to ask. The blessing of God cannot be contained even in Jesus and bursts forth to heal and strengthen and uplift those who need it, even when they don’t know they do, and even when they don’t know to ask.

And, what’s more, perhaps the lesson for us today is that the blessing of God bursts forth in our lives whether we ask for it, whether we can help it along, whether we can do anything. This man could not heal himself. He could not even shuffle down the steps into the pool to receive healing. And he’s healed anyway. He doesn’t know to ask Jesus for help. And he’s healed anyway. Much like Peter last week, this man learns that God is at work in the world and doesn’t need a single thing from us. God reaches out in love and blessing and heals our wounds, bind our brokennes, and lifts us up into hope.

Now, that’s doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for us in all this. Jesus heals the man almost without thinking about it—it’s that much apart of God’s nature to help those in need, to shower forth blessing—but there’s still something for the man to do: Stand up, Jesus says, take your mat and walk.

And I know that doesn’t sound like much but if this man had been laying out in the public view for 38 years, people were bound to notice when he wasn’t there anymore. When they saw him in the marketplace, sitting around with friends, worshiping in the Temple, they were bound to take note that he had been healed. And perhaps, just perhaps a few of them would ask about it. But in the simple things: standing up, taking a mat and walking, this man shows that God is at work in the world for good and blessing. And we, we are this man: without even knowing our profound need for God’s grace we got it anyway. We got it in our own pool of healing and it was washed over us, spoken over us, signed onto us. And we are called in those promises to Stand up and to walk.

I don’t now what your mind’s eye sees in that, but I don’t think this man shuffled away. No, I think if he had desired healing for so many decades, he would have bounced up and strutted home, perhaps he even skipped or danced some of the way. And in the simple act of returning home, living his life, being about his business, he is a sign for all to see that God provides blessing without meaure or containment and fills us with joy.

So I say to you now, whether you have sought healing for decades but just can’t find it on you own, or if you have just come to that realization recently; whether you think there is no way you’ll ever be blessed or you wake up every morning knowing your blessed; wherever you are on your journey: in the name of Jesus Christ, our God who walks among us, Stand Up and Walk.

For the blessing of God that cannot be contained and that touches us even when we don’t know to ask: thanks be to God. Amen.

 

The Risen Christ

Pastor Jay’s Sermon from the Third Sunday of Easter.

Readings: Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19.

Okay. So, am I the only one wondering that Jesus looked like after the resurrection? No one seems to know what he looks like. It’s like after they stuck him in the tomb they forgot what he looked like! Mary thinks he is the gardener. The eleven are shocked when he walks through the door. Mr and Mrs Clopas don’t recognize him on the Road to Emmaus. Thomas only gets it when he sees the scars and wounds. And now here they are in broad daylight—it’s morning on the Lake. And still they don’t know it’s Jesus.

But maybe that’s part of the point. From the moment he emerges from the tomb, Jesus seems be pushing everyone away. Well…not…you know what I mean. He’s not pushing them away but he is shoving them out into the world. He tells Mary, the First of the Apostles, not to hold onto him because he had not yet ascended and instead to tell the twelve. He tells Thomas that those who have not seen but who have come to believe are blessed. He disappears the second that Mr and Mrs Clopas recognize him. And now here he is turning Peter out into the world to care for others. Maybe it isn’t really about what the resurrected Christ looks like but what he calls us to be in the world.

At all of these encounters, Jesus seems to fill his beloved with what they need for the task at hand and then shoving them out of the nest. He’s like a loving mama bird. Love, support, warmth, safety…until it’s time to live in the world and then she loving shoves her baby birds out of the nest to fly and live in the world. That seems to be more what Jesus is all about here. He has dwelt with his beloved for years now, he has taught them, shown then, empowered them to live God’s love in the world. And now, now that all has been accomplished on the cross and God’s power in this world proved through the empty tomb, he is reminding them that it is life in the world that he calls them to.

Us too. That’s what this whole season of Easter is about. This season is about remembering all that has come before and trusting on the Risen Christ in our midst here. It is about being strengthened together here as the beloved of God and allowing the Spirit to blow us out those doors to live into the abundant life Christ gives us. Because the life Christ calls us to, life in the Resurrection Dawn, is not about what goes on here. It isn’t about hiding behind locked doors, or even going about our lives as if nothing happened as the disciples seem to have done by returning to their fishing nets. Rather, the life Christ calls us to, the life Christ gives us and empowers us to live into is about living out there. It is about being full of the abundance of God and sharing it with others. It is about trusting more than anything else on the promises of God with us in Christ who proves power over all the powers of this world, even death and living into that truth and life in our lives.

You know, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. That is a lot to trust. The world is full of evidence to the contrary. We daily experience ourselves the burdens and worry and death all around us. It gets discouraging. It is far easier to believe that Jesus is still in the empty tomb and attempt to go about our business behind locked doors, getting back to the tasks at hand, traveling home in sorrow. But just remember: Jesus never leaves his beloved abandoned. It is precisely into those moments and those places where it was easier for his beloved to be discouraged that Jesus appears after the resurrection. It is precisely when they needed a boost to trust in the promises, the abundance, the life and love of God that Jesus shows up to give it to them.

And isn’t that what we gather here for? Certainly it is why we share these stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances for seven weeks, but it is why we gather here week after week: to share in the promises of God, to remind ourselves and each other that Christ is alive and we are called to tell the world, to experience Christ here in ordinary and unexpected things and be sustained. It may not be bread and fish, our morsel of bread and taste of wine may not be as filling as a picnic on the beach. But when the Risen Christ comes to us here, he feeds us with his very self, and it is more than we need for life in him.

It may be far easier to live in the discouragement and despair of the world, but what we are reminded here, what we tell each other, what we hear and share here is that discouragement and despair are not what the risen Christ calls us to. Rather, we are called to dance on the beach with Christ, we are called to feast at the table with Christ, we are called to receive the Holy Spirit, the life-breath of God, from Christ. We are called to encounter the discouragement and despair of the world and shout all the louder: Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Amen.