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The Rev. Joseph Winston April 17, 2011
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Without a handhold, it is difﬁcult if not impossible to grasp the meaning of something. Consider a knife, an object that you use nearly every day. A knife can ruin a life. The blade slashed in anger rips into a person’s face and their future is lost forever. Here the knife is a weapon. It is a device for inﬂicting bodily harm. A knife can also transform a life. A carefully planned surgery to ﬁx a fatal birth defect removes a deformity. This time around, the knife is a tool that brings hope where once there was none. Now turn to paint, an item that you use less frequently. Paint can terrorize a neighborhood. Take a house that everyone can see and clearly mark it with signs of hate for all to read. In this example, paint causes the whole community fear as they wait to see if the ugly marks play out the threatened horror in their lives.
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.
Paint can also change a neighborhood for the better. A home glistens in the sun as the new coat of paint slowly dries. The fresh coat of paint welcomes in this illustration. It is not long until a new family moves in and calls this old house a home. No matter how much you might want to deﬁne an object by dragging out a dictionary and pointing to what the professionals say a word actually means, the deﬁnition of an object or a thing depends almost entirely on its use.2 It is true for knives that either hurt or heal and paint that can repulse or attract. The way we look at God is exactly the same. First for the Greeks and then for the Romans, gods live and then they die.3 Just like us, a lifeless god is completely powerless. They cannot help their followers in any way. They cannot protect their former disciples from the unwanted advances of other gods. In short, they cannot help their acolytes at all. There is a way for the followers of a dead god to bring the god back to life. They know a secret. Sometimes it takes an offering of food to bring life again. At other times, it requires the dedication of children to the deceased deity before life
According to Craig Van Gelder in Reading Postmodern Culture through the Medium of Movies, the main characteristics of this this period would include the realization of the existence of fundamental differences which means that one can no longer appeal to external sources for decision making. Willard Van Orman Quine in 1951 described this type of world we live in today. In Quine’s paper, he asserts that every truth depends on both the languages that describe the truths and the external facts about the truths. Willard Van Orman Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, (http:// www.ditext.com/quine/quine.html, 1953), p. 13. In other words, at least one language must exist so that the truth may be described. Otherwise, no one could know that the truth existed. 3 This would include the Ελευσίνια Μυστήρια that began around 1600 BC and continued until the closing by Emperor Theodosius I in 293 AD. This group worshiped η ήτηρ and her daughter Περσεφόνη. Another example is the Mithraic mysteries practised during the Roman Empire.
comes. It might even be necessary to sacriﬁce humans to bring the dead god back to life. Once revived, the formerly dead god richly rewarded all its disciples who brought it back to life while harshly punishing all who did not help. Fear is always a great motivator. So, slaves stood ready to move the god from death to life. Fertility rites gave the gods food, drink, and the children needed to make the trip from one world to the next. We are not very different today. We all know the gods that we cannot live without so we keep them alive at all costs. Their names are the large companies that are too big to fail. Our government has plainly told us this and backed up their word with trillions of our dollars. They live and give us the illusions we crave. Their names are the governments of the nation, states, and cities. They only exist through our sacriﬁce. They live and bring us stability, peace, and prosperity. Their names power today’s economy. They stay alive as we continue to buy like there is no tomorrow. They live and grant us a beautiful life. Imagine then the surprise both two thousand years ago and every other time this letter to the church in Philippi is read, when Jesus turns the tables upside down and tells everyone that He, the Son of God, has come to serve and then die for ordinary people like you and I. These actions by Jesus ﬂy in the face of all we hold dear. We actually believe we can do something about our miserable situation here on earth. How else would you explain what we do every day of our lives? We let 3
companies live forever no matter the cost to you and I. We allow the government to continue on even if it costs us everything we hold dear. We spend all that we have and even more on the promise of a better tomorrow. Jesus tells you all of this is absolutely and completely worthless in the end. The corporations of this world cannot give you anything besides a false hope that it all gets better. The government at all levels is not looking out for you. The movers and the shakers of the economy will not even notice when you are gone. But Jesus is concerned about you. Uninvited though he may be by the entire world, He came and while here, He set out the basics of what it means to be God. A God, no, the God, does not need what we have. Jesus does not require sacriﬁces of any type. He demands no offerings from you. Instead, being God means giving until it hurts. That is why Jesus came to serve. He completely gave up His rank, power, and prestige to be with you, the one He loves. You see that throughout His life and death. You experience it even today as He comes to feed you at His table. Can you imagine this happening with the companies that are too big to fail, the government, or powerhouses of this economy? Of course not. They take everything from you and give you nothing of real value in return. Jesus takes nothing from you and gives you life in return. Use deﬁnes a word. Knives can either injure or repair injuries. Paint can either show us terrible anger or bring us a bright new future. Everyone and a while, you are blessed with the gift of seeing the deﬁnition of service. God has given Zion Lutheran this privilege. For the past three and one4
half years, we have listened to Clayton Roberts play during worship. His mastery of the music, his leadership at the keyboard, and his attitude around others have been an inspiration to us all. We thank God for the gift of Clayton and we give Clayton God’s blessings as he moves to a full-time position. Today’s lessons bring the point home that actions give us a word’s meaning. A deﬁant parade through the former capital city with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” tells you that many people believed that a savior is the one who frees his people from the empire’s oppression.4 Christ’s death on the cross says something completely different. Jesus gives it all up for you. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”5
Harrington, S.J., Daniel J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991). Quine, Willard Van Orman, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, (http://www. ditext.com/quine/quine.html, 1953), Originally published in The Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 20-43. Reprinted in W.V.O. Quine,
The literal meaning of the transliterated Hebrew into the Greek word σανν is “save please.” Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 294. The impact of the crowd heard in Matthew 21:10 shakes (σείω) the city just like an earthquake. ibid.. 5 Philippians 4:7.
From a Logical Point of View (Harvard University Press, 1953; second, revised, edition 1961. Last checked on April, 17, 2011.).
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