November 17, 2019

The Church’s “One Thing”
Pentecost 23, Proper 28, Year C

Becky Robbins-Penniman

What’s real? What’s the most real thing we have in our life? We typically start with the things we can sense with our amazing bodies. What we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell and feel: measurable stuff, what we usually label reality. Then there’s the stuff that is difficult to measure, but are essential to life; at least, I don’t want to live without them: beauty, love, friendship, meaning, and a sense of purpose – what we might label as ideals.

At its most basic, religion – all religion – indeed, all belief systems – are about the connection between these two aspects of life: reality and ideals. These two things intersect in our readings today. Isaiah lays out the ideal of God in glorious detail: life, joy, abundance, peace. In the Canticle we sang, called the First Song of Isaiah, we proclaim our trust in God’s ideal as the very definition of salvation. Paul, who has just been chased from another Greek city for proclaiming Christ, boldly stands up to tell the pagan Greeks in Athens – in full view of the massive Temple to Athena that dominates the skyline – that they, too, are creations of the living God. Yes, this is the God worshiped by the Jews, but Greeks, too, are included. No one is left out! All are invited to be part of the community that shares the living God’s ideal. This is all pretty great, isn’t it?

Then Jesus gets, well, real. The huge Temple in Jerusalem, as big as 10 football fields and 10 stories tall, 1 was a marvel of engineering and construction, made of massive stone blocks and full of intricate symbols. The Temple took 46 years to build, but Jesus said it would soon be a pile of rubble. Why? The Jews had a history of rallying behind a steady stream of heroes and saviors claiming to act in God’s name and preaching violent resistance to the mighty Roman Empire. In less than 40 years, the Empire would tire of Jewish rebelliousness, crush them, and level their mighty Temple until only a part of a foundation wall was left.

Then Jesus gets even more real (again, today’s headlines in a 2,000-year-old book). He tells those around him that NOTHING humans make is permanent. For one thing, the earth itself is still in a state of becoming: it’s a burgeoning, changing planet of shifting land masses that rumble and roll, and it gazes out into a wild universe that isn’t finished being created. Not only that, but people who share this island home keep doing things to each other: building stuff, destroying other folks’ stuff, fighting each other, doing their level best to force everyone else to do what they want. It’s kind of a mess.

Jesus’ bottom line? Don’t worry about it. God has this. All our fussing and fighting for dominance is utterly futile – because we’re not in charge! Wide-scale food shortages and epidemics are not what God wants for us; disaster is not God’s plan for us. What God does want for us is for us to be saved by GOD’s plan; in fact, if God is God, then God’s plan is our destiny. What’s that plan?…

To read the full sermon text, click HERE.