Trinity News and Sermons

11/09/14 Sermon Bullets

  • What will happen to us when we die? That is the question that our second lesson seems to be answering. Scholars believe that St. Paul is comforting the Christians in Thessalonika with these words. Many, thought that Christ Jesus would return in their lifetime – after all Jesus said that not everyone “in this generation” will pass away before they “see these things” (the end times), and there were Christians that were beginning to die – and Christ had not returned, what would happen?
  • Paul shares those who are called and beloved of God will not be forgotten. “The dead in Christ will rise first” before those who are left alive.
  • This may seem strange, but the early Christians were in expectation of Jesus’ return all the time. Remember, after the resurrection, Jesus was appearing and disappearing to the early followers. They expected him to return, AND SOON!
  • I believe that understanding his presence in the Holy Communion was perhaps a bit easier for those eyewitnesses and the first century Christians. When he said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” – and they knew he had sacrificed his earthly body and shed his blood on the Cross, they had a sense of the REAL PRESENCE of Jesus.
  • Today after 2 centuries, perhaps it is a bit harder for us to grasp this REAL PRESENCE of the Crucified and Risen Jesus in our midst.
  • We might become lackadaisical, much like the 5 “foolish” bridesmaids in our Gospel lesson, who did not prepare to meet the bridegroom. It seems so long till his return. We rest (as do all of the bridesmaids) and when he actually DOES come, we are not ready to go into the banquet to feast with him.
  • Jesus tells us to watch and be ready. For we do not know the hour of his return.
  • I don’t believe this is simply a parable about the end times. I believe it can be instructive for our spiritual lives in this present day.
  • I have shared with you before what Bishop Richard Bansemer of the VA Synod (retired now) said to a group of seminarians on retreat a number of years ago (and I paraphrase here): There will be desert times in your spiritual lives. Times when you feel alone, when the voice of God is not apparent in your hearing/feeling/experiencing. When you desperately thirst for God’s word of encouragement and hope for your life. Do not run from these desert times. Embrace them. Biblically, the desert times precede something amazing that God is preparing to do: Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days in temptation, before he began his earthly ministry; Moses was in the desert for a long time, before he encountered the burning bush and was called to be the Deliverer; the Children of Israel were in the desert for 40 years before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land – the Land “flowing with milk and honey”; Elijah was in the wilderness after he slew the prophets of the Ba’al before he heard God speaking in the “still, small voice” – then rose up, anointed Elisha as his successor, and was taken up into heaven.
  • There can be times of spiritual desert in our lives – where God seems silent. It can be hard to handle, certainly hard to embrace. We feel lost, alone, abandoned. In the midst of this “alone time” we can let the “oil” of our spiritual lamps run out.
  • What can we do to be ready for God, the One who raised Jesus from the dead, and God’s return to our lives?
  • Pray. If you don’t know what to pray, then turn to the psalms. As Rabbi Harold Kushner says in Who Needs God that we will be discussing at our Wine & Cheese, the psalms help us pray, not only when we rejoice but when we are in trouble. He says, “Sometimes I suspect that great art—music, painting, poetry—is only born out of great pain, the sort of pain that shatters your old self, your old world-view, and compels you to give birth to a new one. Sometimes I suspect that the Psalms that move me most were not written by people of serene, untroubled faith but by people who had to struggle to find where God was hidden in their lives, not by people to whom God was obvious but by people for whom God was the reward at the end of a long and arduous search. . . .”
  • Read. Perhaps the Bible is troubling or confusing to you. If so, seek out Christian spiritual writers (several of my favorites are Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton and Max Lucado). These gifted persons help us plumb the depths of God’s amazing love for us.
  • Engage in conversation with another “traveler.” I have shared with you before Dr. Eric Gritsch’s metaphor of Christianity as being like a cell phone – when the battery is low, you must plug into a charger. So it is in our spiritual lives. We can encounter empathy and hopefully encouragement from someone who has our best interest at heart and walks the journey of faith as well, with its valleys and mountaintops, its straight paths and unexpected twists in the road.
  • Stay connected with God through the Sacraments. God has promised to be with us in so many places and ways, but the chief way God has promised (from our Lutheran Christian perspective) is through the Word, Baptism and Holy Communion. Like those earliest Christians, we encounter the Living God through his Son Jesus in the water and the word, in the bread and wine and the word. We may not FEEL his presence (especially if we are in a spiritually dark place) but that does not negate the REAL PRESENCE of God. We learned in Worship class in seminary, Lex Orandi-Lex Credendi, which can be translated in many ways, but can be seen as “What we worship, we believe.” In other words, we continue the holy ritual of bathing, eating and drinking (even when we don’t FEEL anything) and eventually we truly begin to believe in the REAL PRESENCE of Christ.
    • That great pre-communion hymn “Let the Vineyards Be Fruitful Lord” (a prayer that God would be present) continues: “and fill to the brim our cup of blessing.”, ending with these words: “Grace our table with your presence, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come.”
  • Our first lesson clearly states that it is not enough for us to be concerned about our personal spiritual lives – even when we are in the desert. The prophet Amos says: “I hate, I despise your feasts.” And “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.” But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
  • Even when we are in the midst of our deep, troubling “dark night of the soul”, we are not called to spend our entire time in navel gazing. We are called to reach out to seek justice and equality and dignity for our fellow travelers on this earth. Mother Teresa, one who spent her life reaching out to others stated in private letters that often she felt distanced from God, the One who had called her to go and serve the poorest of the earth. But this silence did not stop her from answering the call to serve. We TOO are called to reach out to help those around us, often those who have no one to help them.
  • These actions: Prayer, Reading, Conversation, Receiving God through the Sacraments and Serving will help nourish us into a deeper experience of God’s REAL PRESENCE in our lives. And, hopefully, and certainly in GOD’S TIME, the voice will cry out from the desert or the rooftops: Wake, Awake! The bridegroom comes. Awake you maidens. Awake from your slumber. Awake Jerusalem at last.
  • And when we awaken from our long sleep, we will have prepared and are ready to go into the banquet – where our spiritual lives will be ones of joy and feasting and love.