This sermon was preached at the 8am service on Sunday November 13th, 2016
This creation we are a part of is of God, and yet, we live in it amongst other human beings. Human beings who use the free will we have been gifted to make decisions that affect the others in this creation. Human beings that use this free will to create great systems and societies, build amazing cities, create social systems to insure order and peace. But, we forget one crucial piece of this reality: all of these things that human beings supposedly accomplish are man-made accomplishments, they are not of God. This is not to say that the gifts and abilities we have to accomplish these great heights are not from God, but as long as human beings are in charge, the end result is simply not of God, it is a manmade construct trying to make sense of this gift of creation we have been given, make sense of how to keep order and promote a unified front as we progress together.
And, when we look around at this world, we see that we live in a manmade construct, an attempt at creating societies and cultures that honor God, but doing so through our flawed and imperfect means. For ultimately we are all flawed and imperfect. This is why God was made manifest in Christ. To understand our imperfectness, to understand the human reality that we must live into. A reality that has created structures and systems of power that are of this world, not of God. We have created for ourselves politics, trying to neatly label and place other people into a generic set of labels so we can “understand” them at a glance. We have created for ourselves this Church and the many Christian denominations, because simply following Christ was not good enough, was not fulfilling enough, we needed to create our own understandings of what that meant, to justify our own sense of self-worth and importance in making sure that only those who believe as I believe were allowed within my circle of trust.
And because we hold so strongly to these man-made structures of power and influence, Jesus warns us that a lot of bad is going to happen before we can turn the corner. False prophets will come in the name of Christ in one sentence, and demand their followers pay for a $50 million dollar private jet in the next, as proof of their faith in our one God. False prophets will come in the name of Christ in one sentence, and denegrade, ostracize, oppress, condemn those who view the world differently in the next. Jesus warns that wars, insurrections, nation against nation, disease and disaster, will all come to pass. These are our reward for the man-made structures we create. These are the necessary outcomes when we rely only on our own providence and forget that it is only through Christ that we can find true happiness.
It is because we hold so tightly to these man-made structures that we have to fight for others in this world. Fighting for equal treatment, equal rights, for all peoples regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, is a necessity because within our man-made structures, those rights are not a given. If we truly lived in a society and culture that was of God, and not of this world, we would not have movements like Black Lives Matter or its opposite the KKK and white supremacy, we would not need water protectors to stand in defiance of a pipeline built for a nonrenewable resource that can only pollute this earth in any of its forms, we would not need politicians and elections to tell us how we should operate, how we should treat others as a matter of law. If we truly lived in a world that was of God, stripped of all of the human interpretation of what that might mean, we would not need any of this, and yet it is our reality, so what must we do within this reality?
Jesus warns that the followers of Christ will be persecuted. But, and I think this is a key that many have forgotten, Christ also warns not to prepare a defense in advance. Do not go in thinking that you know how to respond. For if you prepare yourself, you are preparing yourself without the influence of God. If you prepare yourself, you will bring man-made arguments to fight against man-made power structures. However, if you trust in the faith you have in Christ, Christ will give the words to say, Christ will give a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. And they will not be able to withstand or contradict this wisdom for it will be of God, and it is only through God that we can tear down the man-made power structures that inevitably spring up as a reality of living in this creation.
To me then, this passage of terrible atrocities that are bound to come is ultimately about one thing: faith. If we have faith, then we will trust that Christ will give us these words and wisdom that is promised. If we have faith and trust in Christ, then we will express a resilience against the structures of this world. Resilience that fortifies our understanding that Christ is with us, that we put our faith and trust in Christ, that we turn from the man-made structures of this world, its oppressions, its reliance on self above all others including God, its categorization of people into labels stripping them of their humanity. And, if we have this resilience then we must also exercise the patience that is so vital and critical to being of God. For, God does not operate within our understanding of time. God does not act with swift and exacting justice. God is patient. God will wait. And as a Jesuit theologian once wrote: “Who are we not to?”
For if we exercise this patience and resilience of trust in the faith we have in God, through the example of Christ, then, as Christ assures us, not a hair of our head will perish. Better still, by our endurance we will gain our souls. It is through our resilience, our patience, our trust, our faith in a reality of being that is not of this world but can exist in this world, and then our fighting for this reality with the power of words and wisdom from Christ, that we can begin to strip away the all-encompassing powers of the man-made structures we continue to prop up and support as if it’s our only choice.
And, patience is not idleness. We hear from Paul today warning against those living in idleness, mere busybodies not doing any work to better the community they live in. The work that Paul is exhorting is not extravagant and flashy, but rather is the simple work of supporting and building up the community. Paul reminds us to not be weary in doing what is right. For it is in doing right that we are living out the call from Christ. It is in doing right that we push against the man-made structures of this world to insure that all within our communities are uplifted, are protected, are made equal.
We are coming out of an election cycle that has seen the worst of what man-made structures lift up and support. An election cycle that has preyed on the worst fears of those who see the powers that be coming to take away from them. An election cycle that has utilized the lessening of the other, utilized the use of labels and derogatory statements made about those who disagree with me and my kind. And, coming out of this election cycle, it appears that not much will change. A door has been opened to using the worst of our human inclinations in order to win, regardless the cost and ostracization of the other.
And yet, we do not have to let this become both our present and future reality. Because we believe in a world that should be of God and not of man, we must stand and fight for a new reality. And we must do so through the words and wisdom that are given to us by Christ. It is our responsibility to expose the man-made power structures of this world that were established to benefit a select few. It is our responsibility to use our place of privilege in this world, our place as protected members within the power structures that have been established, to fight for and insure that equal rights, equal treatment, equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are a reality for all in this world regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. Do not be weary in doing what is right, for by your endurance you will gain your souls.