Pentecost 4 – June 17, 2018   

Rev. Lyle McKenzie    Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15 /  Psalm 138 /  2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 / Mark 3:20-35

Words, the importance of words, words of wisdom, Jesus’ parables, showing us the dominion of God, that’s near.

We had the privilege of being present for our oldest granddaughter’s confirmation last Sunday at a Lutheran Church in Calgary. It was very good to be there with her and her family, and with the community. And I was struck by the good words.

– The first were the words I read before Sunday, written by the young confirmation students in their “faith statements” presented at a dinner a few days before. (I have not been successful in convincing our confirmation students to do this, even though I think it can be very worthwhile.)  Their writings reflected their unique learning and perspectives, both from their confirmation experiences and other life experiences. Words about Baptism and community, about learning and seeing God in many different ways, including nature and the seasons, and times of exploring questions and learning that continues. I suspect their families assisted them in finding the words. But they were good and thoughtful, and it was hopeful to read how these young people saw their faith reflected in and integrated with their lives and the world. They were good words.

– And there were the goods words of worship and of the sermon: A beginning series on the Ten Commandments, (which the students had memorized) focusing this first week on the first commandment, “I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods” words that present both a great challenge – having no other gods, and hold a great hope for us and this world – in God’s faithfulness to the promise of being God, and giving us the grace to live for no other gods. They were good words.

– And there were the words of the Affirmation of Baptism: words of renunciation and confession, and words of promise:

– to live among God’s people,

– to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

– to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and action,

– to serve all people, following the example of Jesus

– to work for justice and peace in all the earth; These are good, even great words, to affirm, and to guide, in all grace.

And Saying, “I do and I ask God to help and guide me;” and the community’s words of support and blessing, saying, “We do and we ask God to help and guide us.” And praying for each one that they grow in God’s Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and honouring of God, and joy in God’s presence, both now and forever. Amen.

These words, like those we share here in Affirmation of Baptism, for Confirmation, for welcoming those who are new as we did a few weeks ago, are good words spoken over the lives of young people, of newcomers who feel a sense of belonging, over all of us as we affirm our Baptisms, and over all the world, by God’s loving Spirit in Christ Jesus, forever. Good words…

And we hear more good words today: “God does not see as mortals see,” “the Lord looks on the heart,” “we walk by faith and not by sight,” “we regard no one from a human point of view,” and “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” Good words that speak to us of the dominion of God in our lives and world. And Jesus speaks in parables, to help all who hear, see, that this dominion of God is near.

Today’s first reading is the story of David and God’s way of looking not on outward appearances but on the heart. Samuel passes over all the other brothers to anoint David, the youngest and the smallest, to be Israel’s future king. It’s a story of political struggle and the clash of power between Saul and Samuel; but also a story of God’s desire and plan, so often surprising in its lifting up of the unexpected, the least, the lower, the unlikely. In response, do we look for similar signs of God’s acting, in the seeming least, lower, unlikely, like God’s affirming young people and their understanding, their insights, their questions, their hopes and dreams? These are good words to ponder and to hear their invitation to see differently, to see as God sees.

In a struggling new Church in Corinth, Paul tries to help the people understand that we walk by faith and not by sight. That more than outward appearance, we are to look into the heart. And in acknowledging Christ died for all, we can no longer see one another from just a human point of view. The old has passed away. And we see instead a new creation in Christ. Good words, to once again see not by a human point of view, but by faith, not the outward appearance or assumptions, but the heart, not something old, biased or prejudiced, but something new, in one another, in all others, a new creation of God.

I am not sure it qualifies as a new creation, but it was a great new way to see a movie. On Friday evening we joined a number of our family to see the movie “Incredibles 2” at the local theatre in Wetaskiwin, AB, where our son and his family live. Our daughter was concerned that we pre-buy tickets, which the theatre was happy to do, by writing on a note pad by the cash register. There were no tickets. We arrived for the 6:30pm showing and the parking lot was already pretty full with people beginning to park on the field next door. The noise was evident as soon as we walked in. And sure enough, the staff had seen the note at the cash register and all eight of us were told to just go in. We found seats together, but just, as the theatre was filling up quickly. People of every age, from infants to elders in wheelchairs were finding their seats and places and the noise level just continued to rise, as previews blared away. I noted how many, easily the majority of the people were indigenous. Wetaskiwin is located close to the Maskwacis 4 nations, known recently for the tragic car accident that killed five people, three of them sisters, all from this community. I can’t imagine how heavy the hearts of many of these people are for their community that has experienced this and seen so many tragedies over the years. But people were greeting and visiting along and over the aisles. Everyone seemed to have popcorn and drinks and candy, like you should at a movie. The crowd didn’t exactly quiet as the movie began, and in fact it is one of the few times I remember, people cheering and jeering, laughing out loud and clapping at the end of a movie, at this animated family movie. It was a new and great community movie experience for all of us, And as the lights came up and we made our way out, it looked like a popcorn bomb had gone off in the theatre. We can see and assume all kinds of things about people and communities and not see their hearts at all, like God sees people’s hearts, broken and full, like I think we saw as we joined with them in the theatre that evening.

Jesus tells simple little agricultural stories of seeds that grow beneath the earth unseen and unknown to the farmer as she sleeps and wakes, until the growth emerges, from tiny sprout to full grain for harvesting. The realm of God is like that Jesus says. Or like David’s anointing, the tiniest of seeds that grows into, not a huge tree, but an equally amazing annual shrub, big enough for birds to find nesting places and shade. The realm of God is like that, Jesus says. The dominion of God is near.

God is present and involved, we hear and begin to see. God is involved and even involves us in the growing and intended harvest of God’s making. And it’s for good, for plenty, for food and to shelter a hungry, hurting world. Jesus’ good parable words open our eyes to the extraordinary in the ordinary, to see a world of parables of what the dominion of God is like, here and near to our lives, to the people we meet and this good earth. God is involved and involves us, the good words tell us, for good, for all.

Good words, for our rational and scientific minds, in our need to understand toward controlling something in our lives and this world, engaging us and helping us remember, with stories that persuade us as much as confront us, unmasking the failings of dominant cultures and authorities, surprising us in the characters where we find ourselves and our ordinary lives, but stories that hold more, even extraordinary glimpses of the dominion of God; showing us that our lives and the lives of everyone are parables of the dominion of God, before and after, above and beneath, in, with and under all of life, if only we have eyes to see, not so much what’s on the outside, but to the heart, the heart of the matter, beyond the material, seeing the realm of God, involved, involving us, for life and good, in all creation.

Good words, giving us this parable way of seeing so we can’t any longer look on another person, or anything in all creation from simply a human point of view, but instead see Jesus, and the realm of God that Jesus communicates to us, and seeing all others as co-workers in sharing God’s dominion hear and near, for the good of the world.

Good words. Good words that God blesses all people to live, to life everlasting even here and now. We will, and we ask God to help and guide us. …in all our relations and Amen.