Kick Off Sunday September 10, 2017
Luther Memorial Church Seattle, WA
The Rev. Julie Hutson
Isaiah 43: 16-21 + Psalm 40 + 2 Corinthians 5; 17-21 + John 13: 34-37
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Wow! It’s good to be together as we Kick Off another year of mission and ministry in this place! You all look great as you are sporting your team colors, too.
Every team has a chant or a cheer that is a fan favorite, right? I mean, just by way of example, MY team’s cheer is Roooool Tide Roll! What’s the Husky cheer? Go Dawgs! The Seahawks often do their cheer antiphonally, like we read the Psalm this morning, side to side….so SEA…HAWKS….SEA…HAWKS.
In the state of Alabama, Roll Tide is more than a cheer though. There’s a great video that illustrates this, you can look it up on YouTube. I know you want to. But in Alabama when people meet one another, they might say Roll Tide, as a greeting. When a parent drops the kids off at school, they may very well say “Learn a lot today. Roll Tide.” When people leave one another, they may also use it as words of leave taking: “So, good to have lunch together. Roll Tide.” I’m not making this up. It’s true. Being an Alabama fan is a way of life, not just a team we cheer for.
It makes me wonder, then: If we were to have a phrase or an expression that identified us as followers of Jesus, what would it be?
The world desperately needs to hear the message that Jesus brings. I mean, things are a mess right now. Of course, things have been a mess before, but right now we have hurricane after hurricane, earthquake, forest fire, the progress toward equality being threatened, and North Korea aiming missiles in our general direction. We don’t have faith in our elected leadership, no matter what side of the aisle you look at it from. We aren’t sure whether policy to guide our life together is being made in wisdom and around a table or on Twitter. And these are just the things that we are experiencing together.
All of us are experiencing brokenness in our personal lives. We all do, at one time or another. People we love leave us, in some form or fashion. We have a hard time finding vocational fulfillment. There are difficult diagnoses. Relationships are severed.
And into all of this….both the communal brokenness and our personal brokenness, God sends prophets to share God’s message in the midst of our heartache. In the first reading today, God sent Isaiah who proclaimed this word from the Lord: “I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness…”
God will make a way. What will that look like? I can hear the questions now: How will God make a way? Why doesn’t God just stop the hurricanes and put out the fires and calm the earth as it trembles and shakes? Why doesn’t God fix our country and turn our hearts and minds toward love and inclusivity? What do you mean, God will make a way? What is this new thing God is about to do?
God makes a way through the people of God. God does not directly intervene in the lives of God’s people; we are given free will. God does not step right in….turning hurricanes away and removing cancerous cells and mending relationships. If that were the case, what a capricious God we would serve. What would we say about a hurricane striking New Orleans, in that case? Would it be God’s judgment on that city of partying and celebration? What would say about a hurricane in Houston? Is it God’s judgment on a conservative city?
No. Hurricanes and earthquakes and tornadoes and fires ignited by lightning are products of the earth itself. To be sure, our neglect of the earth plays a hand in this. We cannot, with integrity, deny that the earth is changing and responding to our abuse and neglect. But natural disasters have been with us for as long as people have shared stories of their life together. And people of every religion or of no religion have tried to make sense of them by attributing them to God.
So, on this day as we pray for and hold closely those who have been affected by hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes we ask again: How will God make a way through this?
God makes a way through the people of God. Those people who have opened their homes to strangers in need of shelter, those people working in the large shelters, those people who took their boats to Houston to help rescue the trapped. God makes a way through the work of Lutheran Disaster Response and other agencies and the people who have generously donated to those relief efforts. God will make a way through those who are digging through the rubble in Mexico in search of survivors or to recover the remains of those whose lives were lost when the earth shook. God will make a way through firefighters who work to salvage homes and livestock and forests.
God makes a way through God’s people.
God makes a way through the tender care of the sick; through a friend who drives another friend to her doctor’s appointments. God makes a way through encouraging words, in a card or a note or some quiet thought shared. God makes a way through hearts and ears that hear and receive the pain of another.
God make s a way through God’s people.
Let me turn to some very close at hand examples: God makes a way through lunches given out every weekday, to hungry neighbors. God makes a way through a congregation willing to share their building with another congregation, and with little second graders who may never have another chance to learn about dance, but are going to get that opportunity here, in this place, with the dancers of the Pacific Northwest Ballet as their teachers and their own teachers from Broadview Thomson accompanying and encouraging them. God makes a way through affordable housing on a bus line and across from a school and down the street from a library and community center, that will create community for families who long to live in it.
God makes a way through God’s people.
How will the world and the broken, battered, beautiful people in it know that we, the people of God, are bearers of light and peace and love? This is when we need that cheer or that song….our version of Go Dawgs or SEA-HAWKS or Roll Tide.
Jesus had something to say about this. In the Gospel reading today Jesus said that he gives a new commandment and in so doing, provides a way that that the world will know we are disciples of the risen Christ. It’s not complicated. It’s Love. Love one another.
Jesus said “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is shown in many ways…..it is shown in our responses in times of natural or human made disaster. It is shown in our care for one another. It is shown in our willingness to listen before we speak and to think before we use words that are unhelpful at best or hurtful to the other.
Love is simple, but it is not easy. To love someone does not mean we overlook abusive or hate filled behavior. To love someone does not mean we excuse their unhealthy words and deeds as “just how they are.” But love is to be our cheer…our song…our rallying cry….whenever we gather, whenever we see need….whenever we are the ones with the need. Love is our response. It’s how people will know who we are. That we are ambassadors for Christ.
This is our kick off Sunday! A broken world watches and asks how Jesus responds and how God makes a way.
What will we say?
Thanks be to God and let the church say…Amen.