This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Rev. Joseph Winston March 6, 2011
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 You can hear it in the music: the pain and agony of living here in this world. You do not sing with passion about the rock that will not move if you have not already felt the world wash away from under your feet. You do not cry out with tears in your eyes for a living savior if you have not ﬁrst experienced the devastation of dashed dreams. You do not want love to heal your heart if you have not already have had it broken into a million different pieces. The music is telling you something you already know. You are broken. You can see it in all of the ﬁghts, the arguments, and the disagreements that we have in the Church. If it is not one thing that divides us into different camps, it is another. Grab a newspaper or turn on a television and watch nothing but the discussions
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
that involve the Church. That alone will take up all of your time. The Defense of Marriage Act is just one example where you see Christians taking one side or the other. The plans for the dramatic readjustment of beneﬁts given to workers is yet one more illustration of people of faith fundamentally disagreeing on what needs to happen. A bit closer to home is all the issues that revolve around immigration. When do we need to care for the foreigner in our own land and when do we need to look out for our own? Votes do nothing more than to outline the preexisting fault lines. Walking out makes it visible to all. The Church is broken. You experience it everyday of your lives. The rotting infrastructure of this state and nation makes it perfectly clear that we cannot ﬁx it. The far too high cost of living tells us we cannot pay for what we need. The wars, either real or imagined, that we do not win mean we are actually powerless. The government of this country is broken. We all live in a broken world, with broken institutions among broken people that include you and I. Even celebrations like Mardi Gras can only distract us from the brokenness for a short while. Sooner or later, the party will be over and everyone of us will return back to the broken world. This is the way it always has been. The disciples faced the same world with all of its problems that you and I share. In their day, Rome rules the world. States and cities rights are no more. Rome has conquered every last one. Now, Rome is in charge and she extracts she wants 2
from the people and the land. Taxes work their way out of your pocket up to the next level of bureaucracy where they take what they need. Whatever is left, Rome deposits in the ofﬁcial coffers. Rome takes property for roads and other public needs through the application of eminent domain. Rome owns it so she can decide the best use for the natural resources. There is nothing new here. The people of faith have divided themselves into three different groups that frankly do not get along. One part has completely divorced themselves from what is happening in Jerusalem and they have all gone somewhere else. Another set of people wants to toss out all of the tradition that has been added over all these years and only keep the written Word of God as it has been given to them. And a third group that allows, dare I say it, for some innovations in the way of faith. Sounds like what is happening here. Mixed in with all of the posturing of Rome and the Temple are the people. What faces them are ordinary problems that you know all too well. Children that do not want to behave. (What a surprise there.) Someone has a relationship that is no longer working. Your parents are getting older everyday and they require more care than before. Add in some other harsh realities of life like children dying way too soon, illnesses that never get any better, and going to bed hungry at night and you soon will see the picture. Life is broken. All of this experience out in the real world appears to add up to one undeniable fact. God has not been able to do much of anything. The great nation of Israel 3
promised to Abraham does not exist today. Whatever was before is now no more. Now Rome is in charge. It is not any better in the Temple. The home of the L ORD no longer holds the ark. That one visible reminder of God and the promises the L ORD made to the people is missing. The best guess that anyone has today is that it was lost in war around six hundred years ago when Babylon completely destroyed the country. The L ORD God could not even protect what was near and dear to His heart. And you will have to agree with this. Following the L ORD’s way does not help you. Your children still get sick. Your friends die just like everyone else. You even do not have any extra money to spend. What difference does it make? Along comes Jesus and it all seems to change. He heals the sick. He feeds the hungry. He raises the dead. He presents a different way of following God. Why, He is even willing to stand up to Rome since He is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is just about here. There on the mountaintop with Jesus, all your dreams come true. His clothes become whiter than anything you have ever seen. That is a sign of purity that only God can bring. It looks like things are going to change for the better. Then come Moses and Elijah. Moses, why he can lead God’s people out of Rome just like He did down in Egypt. Elijah, why if Elijah can stand up King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and all the prophets of Baal, he can certainly clean up the mess we have in the Temple. That leaves Jesus free to do what He does best: healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and forgiving sin. With this powerhouse on earth, nothing will stand in God’s way. 4
You would have to admit we want that same sort of arrangement today. L ORD send us someone to ﬁx Austin and Washington. God bring us a leader to unite the Church here on earth. Jesus come and heal my brokenness. When that does not happen, you know what we do next: apply power to the problem that faces us. You see that when we force people to do what we want. The same song but second verse is played out in churches all over this country. “Disagree with me and I will leave,” is one popular variation. Another one is, “You have to go. You don’t ﬁt in here.” The same theme is heard in the halls of the government, “Our platform cannot be compromised. We will do it our way or not at all.” Before deciding to use power as a way of ﬁxing the broken world, take a close look at what happens in the Gospel lesson. Starting with the voice that speaks, every last bit of power goes away. The One that says, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to Him!”, the One that could be so useful in settling all the arguments that we face, goes silent. Never again in Matthew does this One speak out loud. That is not all that is missing. Even until today, no one has seen Moses or for that matter Elijah. Neither one can be used to ﬁx the problems found in government or the Church. When the lesson ends, even the white robe that Jesus wore is gone. What might serve as a sign of God’s power here on earth is now removed. It too will never appear on the scene. The power of the transformation, yes the power of the L ORD God, is not what we expect it to be. Is does not overthrow the Roman government by drafting the world’s most powerful army or by bringing in a legion of angels to defeat Rome 5
on the battleﬁeld. Rather, Jesus lifts up the women, children, and slaves and makes them ﬁrst class citizens in His kingdom. God’s way of life continues in a manner that is too often foreign to us. God’s strength does not bring unity in the Church or the Temple by forcing people to fall in line. Instead, Jesus comes to serve and by this example shows us what we need to do. God does not act like we do. In our world, living like a king means being isolated from all the troubles and cares of the little people. Jesus redeﬁnes what it means to be a Lord by coming and living with the ordinary people. What happens because of Jesus is simply this. The broken live. While this might not sound like much at all, it really is. We can love others and even ourselves in spite of the hurt that we feel. We also can freely help people just because we can. These two actions of care for God and others along with aid for those in need are what deﬁne authentic life. Everything else we might try falls short and leaves you wanting for more. Songs remind us of the truth that we see and experience. You and I, we, are broken people living in a broken world. Nothing will change that until that last day when Jesus breaks you free from death. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”2