Sermon for September 27, 2020 17th after Pentecost “give me give me”
In Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s search for Meaning” he says the one thing that cannot be taken away is our capacity to choose. More than anyone Victor has perhaps the right to choose despair. A Jew in concentration camps, his family killed in the camps along with thousands of friends, beaten, underfed, forced to work, need I go on. And he writes that the one thing that was not taken away was his capacity to choose. And he chose joy. He often quotes Neitchze who said ‘when you know your WHY the HOW does not matter’.
The saga of the Exodus continues this week. The people are fed morning and night, satisfied for a moment. But it seems that they are now thirsty. We are not sure how many weeks or years have passed but we do know the water has run out, there is no sign of an oasis to refill and replenish the water supply. So once again the people complain to Moses ‘how and where are we going to get water’ and once again the people look longingly at the good ole days with rose coloured glasses, and wish for the slave days when at least they had water. The long trek in the desert is about figuring out the why, the corporate why and the personal why. By all accounts that journey took a long time.
In the closing days and weeks of September the Provincial government is settling into its work and as people, groups, cities and municipalities are wont to do there is the refrain of ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’. We also heard the Throne Speech witch lays out in broad ideas the direction for governance. And the first refrain is ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’. The problem with all of this wanting of more is that it removes us as having to be responsible and we forget that all levels of government get money from you and me.
I know that we are in unusual times for us. For the world, not so much so. Yes COVID-19 has not been fun and we are challenged by some of our freedoms being restricted. We long for the good ole days but that is as far as we are willing to go. Nostalgia is great for reminiscing but we really do not want to go back.
Even today God will lead, but it is one of the things we often neglect, or just can’t trust, is belief in the truth that God will guide. So that there is no confusion we need to be aware that GOD will guide. Last night it seemed I wrestled with these texts, I had a sense that God was trying to covey something to me and in my awake state I just could not figure it out. In sleep the revelation came that the teachings today are about gateways that we pass through to greater understanding. We keep asking for more and forget that we have more than enough. The gimme that comes from greed, envy, malice and mediocrity will leave us trudging in the sand. Without taking away the great faith people have nurtured in their lives, the church of the 20th century has been more concerned about tradition and maintaining an element of status quo, reliance on God has well…waned. And we complain that there is no food or water. Or whatever the 21st century equivalent is. We again are being asked; what is our why? And to choose joy and love.
It took 40 years for the people of Israel to get to the promised land. Not that the trek was that long, it wasn’t but it took that long for the people to learn and we hear in the story that not one person who left Egypt entered the promised land. Jesus was afforded three years to get his message to the people and it was not until death and resurrection that there was an aha moment. Since then followers have argued, sometimes violently, about how to live out the teaching to ‘love God, self and neighbour’. What has been consistent over time is that God is always leading and always opening opportunities for change.
The Gospel teaching offers to stories to guide our understanding of Jesus and God. The first about the question of John the Baptist reminds us that attempts to trick will not work. The second that our actions will always speak louder than words. That we have the capacity to live out the teachings of Jesus even when our words fail us.
This all nudges me to wonder where is God’s leading today. The evangelical conservatives would have us believe COVID-19 is God’s wrath on a sinful people or that it is nothing to worry about and masks, washing hands and physical distancing are not necessary because Jesus will protect. Take Tony Spell a pastor in Baton Rouge who said “we are God’s anointed, we will never wear masks, Jesus will protect’. Some churches have shuttered the windows and doors and teach fear. And there is everything in-between. My thinking in these days is that God is pushing us to listen to the good reason of science and faith and to be on the lookout for how we can be the best people of faith in these days.
The task today is, I believe, the seeking to believing that God is guiding and the conviction to know that, with all our being. I don’t know is the best I can do for today but I can assure you that I will continue to seek the truth, to choose to live with joy and love, to daily discover my why and to nurture fellow seekers and applaud success wherever it emerges. Knowing that like the sons in the parable I sometimes offer an enthusiastic yes and then get side-tracked and by times I can say no and change my mind and in both circumstances Jesus is willing and ready to equip, love and forgive.