In Football Every Play is a Potential Touchdown: January 27, 2013 Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 1 Cor 12:12-31a Luke 4:14-21
In Football Every Play is a Potential Touchdown
When the Assistant Bishop Katy Grindberg emailed me about your interim I felt pretty challenged, because my last assignment was back in 2010. But I’ve been going all the way up to Shepherd of the Sea in Gualala, up in Mendocino County and they’ve tried to get me for Super Bowl Sunday and another Sunday already and I tell them, I think I’ll have an interim. I miss preaching and teaching, because those are things I love to do, as well as play my trumpet, of course. Let me say, when we sign the three month interim contract, I’ll be glad to be the one to proclaim the real presence of Jesus Christ among you until you can call a new pastor.
Now to serve and nourish you with the word: Notice that in both the Nehemiah and the Luke Gospel Lesson, we have descriptions of the public reading of scripture. So that goes back to the fifth or sixth centuries B.C. and when you are a lector, then you know that Jesus was one too. With the public reading of the scriptures in this church you are continuing a tradition that goes back over 2,500 years.
In the Letter to the Corinthians, we have the mystery of how the Word of God forms the body of Christ among us, how we are different members, who also have different gifts, but we have one heart and soul. We are all one, and if one hand in the congregation hurts, then the whole body hurts.
When I studied this passage the notes sent me to Galatians 3:28: “In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Today we would have to add, we are no longer White or Black, gay or straight, rich or poor. Perhaps we also need to add, we are no longer Democrats or Republicans, because the parties have almost become two tribes, who have brought gridlock to Washington. No matter your political party, we are one in Christ Jesus, sisters and brothers with one another.
The commentaries for Luke said that the first verses were important, because we tend to go right to the Isaiah passage. They say that when Jesus returned to Galilee, he was filled by the power of the Holy Spirit and the report of him spread throughout the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. If we would continue reading, we would discover that he was not praised in his hometown Nazareth, but soundly rejected. They tried to throw him off a cliff. A prophet is praised and accepted except in his own home town.
The passage Jesus reads from Isaiah is called his Inaugural Speech, much like the one we heard last week given by President Obama in Washington. Now Jesus overshadows the president of our country and the leaders of all the nations of the world, but of course, we won’t be able to get Beyoncé to sing for us. Anyway Jesus calls ordinary people.
In his reading of Isaiah, Jesus does not include every miracle and nor all the miracles of the long lists that are usually reported. In this list he leaves out “to bind the broken-hearted” and in others, to open the ears of the deaf, cure the lame, heal the sick, drive out demons, and raise the dead.
Jesus heals those who are in the gridlock of paralysis so they can move once again. Jesus gets us to move. The progression of his miracles here goes from preaching the good news to the poor to proclaiming release to the captives to the recovery of sight to the blind to letting the oppressed go free and to proclaiming the year of God’s favor.
The year of God’s favor is sometimes interpreted as the year of Jubilee. After seven times seven years or 49 years, the fiftieth year becomes the Jubilee, where all the slaves are set free, all debts are forgiven, and the property that belonged to people that they lost was returned to them. If the year of Jubilee was in effect today, then all those who lost their houses because of the housing debacle and the wave after wave of foreclosures would get them back.
Still it isn’t just the Jubilee year that Jesus proclaims, but his new administration on the throne of David, which has God’s promise that it will last forever. Jesus is the Son of David, whom King David himself worshiped and longed to see. He is the Son of Man, who will one day return to judge the nations, and the Son of God, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, blessing us with the law and Gospel, the Word of God, and ruling this world forever.
I am still thinking in terms of his progression of miracles. For me a miracle is the opposite of a crime. Miracles are random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty and, let me add, wonderful acts of love. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, made the lame to walk, raised Lazarus from the dead, and then he himself was resurrected. From Epiphany we will go to Lent and then Good Friday and Easter. We celebrate the fact that even though Jesus was rejected by those of hardened hearts, was crucified and buried, God raised him up on the third day.
That sets our hearts rejoicing in the Spirit of the Lord. Because, as Jesus gives us the recovery of our sight, we can see the vision of the Beloved Community, like this congregation, which belongs to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus preached that the reign of God was near and at hand and it is here among us. Just look at each other. It becomes real insofar as we believe it and disappears insofar as we stop believing it. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus rules is within you and me and our faith that becomes active in love and our love that hungers for justice, makes it happen even today, because we serve a living Savior, who is in the world today and really present with us.
But we are captured and oppressed in our worldly city, our South San Francisco, our state of California. And even though we love it and we do because we experience so much goodness, we also live in a culture of violence. We ourselves and our worldly governments, our powers and principalities rely too much on the threat of death, coercion, and war. The Beloved Community of Christ is based on trust, gifts that are freely given, life and love – a love ready to die for other lives, more love and abundant life.
What good is the threat of death to the mass murders, who kill themselves? What can we make of one of those heartless murderers who can shoot all those first graders, the teachers and the principal, who gave up their lives when they threw themselves into harm’s way to save the lives of their children? Then the shooter turns the gun on himself and shoots himself. What do we do when they have already put killing themselves into their equation? The threat of death becomes bankrupt when we consider these murderous suicides here and the suicide bombers over there in our wars.
We who believe in Christ, the Lamb of God, also become like lambs. What kind of a threat is it when we say, “If you do that, we’ll still love you?” You are going to sin? “Well, I’m going to forgive you!” Take that! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Those Mennonites whose daughters were murdered in their classroom, went to the funeral of the murderer! Personally, I don’t think I could have done that.
Let’s all remember that each of us has a death instinct and a wish to live and sometimes it is easier to die than to live, especially when we are used to being very comfortable. But there is hope. Christ is our redeemer, who will release us from our captivity. Christ can set us free from the culture of violence that we are imprisoned in.
One thing that it took me quite some time to learn is that we are threatened by love as well as by criticism and rejection. You criticize some people and you lose your relationship. Perhaps they have low self-esteem and experience criticism as a rejection. We should always ask someone if they can take it at that time or first build them up with compliments. But other people cannot handle love. But Christ deepens our relationships so that we can share love and makes our relationships so steadfast and strong that we can bring up issues, talk them through, and have even stronger relationships thereafter because of it.
Love is sometimes hard to take. I remember a first grade teacher, who kept wanting to hug me, and boy, did I hate it. My youngest son introduced saying, “I love you!” in our family so we have begun saying it to each other. He can sing the line from a song, “We are sinners who need love” and say the word love with so much love that it melts me away. Did you hear about the Norwegian farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her?
Jesus, you see, is inaugurating a Kingdom of Love, one that is based on the rejection of the power and threat of death and brings life and life more abundantly.
I don’t know the history of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco. But I know that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that you were all brought together.
I thought today was Super Bowl Sunday, but I guess it’s next week. In football, you know, every play is a potential touchdown. After every huddle or every Annual Meeting, you can preach the good news or throw the ball like Kaepernick, Joe Flacco or Tom Brady and make a touchdown. So every time we meet as a congregation of the body of Christ, we can have an in-breaking of the Beloved Community. Every member, every person, baptized by the water and the word is a potential Christ … a person anointed with the power of the Spirit.
Let’s let the Good News set this congregation moving because in Christ we are alive and kicking. Sometimes we may be kicking, but not too high! A woman called Berenice always used that expression. When I asked her, “How are you doing?” She would answer, “I’m kicking, but not too high!” She immigrated from one of the Caribbean Islands. Her uncle met her and stood at the visa counter with her. The official there asked for her name and he answered for her, “This is my niece.” and the official wrote down “Berenice.” So we all called her Berenice, but her real name was Alice.
But sometimes I feel like her as a Christian, let alone being a Christ for others. Do you as well? “I’m kicking but not too high!” Let’s get kicking. Not like that kicker David Aker, whose been missing easy field goals lately. And we’re not Catholics so we don’t need to throw any “Hail Mary” passes.
You can trust the Holy Spirit and if you allow the Holy Spirit to move and stir you with the love that comes down from on high, then God will also find a pastor that fits you, like a lid that belongs to a pot. We have a cabinet in our kitchen where we keep all our pots and we have to get down on our knees and rummage through them until we find the lid that belongs to a particular pot. Get down on your knees. Seek and you shall find. In the Beloved Community, there is a pastor that belongs to this congregation. Every pot has a lid that fits and then you can start cooking! Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey