Sunday, April 06, 2008

Almost a Preacher's Worst Nightmare

I say "almost" because the worst nightmare is to get to the church and not have anything written for a sermon. Today I got to church and realized that I had written a sermon for the wrong gospel reading!

I was looking for something from Easter 3 Year A and grabbed (and even edited) something from Easter 3 Year B. The Year B reading is the part right AFTER the Year A reading. Most of the stuff in the Year B reading is not in the Year A reading! I had to rewrite the sermon on the fly. I had just finished reading the gospel to the congregation and then looked at the opening line of my sermon. My immediate thought was , "oh shit."

I was able to muddle through the first service without sounding like too much of an idiot. I was able to regroup and plan between services and actually did a pretty good job on the second service. In fact, I received complements on my sermon and how much people liked it.

I guess I am a better extemporaneous speaker than I thought or the Holy Spirit planted good things in the ears of the congregation. I tend to believe the Spirit was at work, OVERTIME, today.

Here is what was written:

Easter 3 Year A Luke 24:36-48 April 6, 2008 Rev. Benton Quest

Can you really blame the disciples? In the same situation, how many of us would believe that Jesus was actually sitting there eating with us? The disciples had seen the dead body. They had put Jesus in the tomb themselves. And yes, there he was, sitting with them, claiming to be alive. That would be pretty hard to believe if you asked me. I know I would want proof.
A few years ago, I had seen David Copperfield at the Wharton Center. That show was quite impressive! Things like Lincoln Town Cars were appearing out of nowhere. And once the car appeared, David got into the care to start it, just to prove it was real. In many ways, David was doing something similar to what Jesus did; he was trying to prove that something that was incomprehensible was in fact real.
Now I am not saying that what Jesus did was some kind of magic trick, far from it. But what I am saying is that Jesus was trying to prove, not only to the disciples, but also to us that would follow, that this was no ghost sitting in their presence; this was a real flesh and blood person. Jesus was trying to show that he was not some kind of reanimated corpse or zombie. He was not a figment of their imagination. He was real and he was really present. In permitting the disciples to touch him and see him eat, Jesus was helping to remove any doubt or excuse for belief.
Unfortunately, today we do not have Jesus present with us to touch. We do not have Jesus here to eat with us. We do not have Jesus walking down the aisle and sitting in the pew beside us. We do have Jesus bodily here, but I think we would all love an opportunity to actually meet Jesus face-to-face.
Well, I’m here to tell ya! Today I will give you the opportunity to see Jesus and to touch Jesus. Today I will give you the opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus!
We know that Jesus comes to us when we gather around the altar for communion. Jesus become the bread, Jesus becomes the wine. Jesus strengthens us and nourishes us through the gifts of his body and blood. But eating the body and the blood is not the same as sitting at the table and with Jesus and watching the body and blood eat! It would be great to have that opportunity to sit down with Jesus and share a meal.
We are touched by Jesus in our baptism. The water that washes us is the touch of Jesus. This touch takes us through Christ’s death and gives us the promise of life through his resurrection.
And although we understand through faith that Christ is present in these various ways, our senses keep telling us something different. Our senses are not satisfied. We are creatures of our senses and we need to have our senses fulfilled.
An example of our senses needing to be fulfilled would be liquid diets. If all eating was was just a way of getting nutrition, then we should be able to drink all of our nutrients and be done with it. But what happens is even when people drink a complete diet, all the nutrients and everything, they still have this need to chew things. Even though they are getting all their bodies need, the people on these diets still need to have that physical sensation of eating and chewing.
A similar thing applies to us; even though we may know that Jesus is present in Holy Communion and in Baptism, it still is not what we would want. We want what the disciples got that night in the upper room. We want the experience they had. We want to see Jesus. We want to touch Jesus. We want to talk with Jesus and eat with Jesus.
We are kind of selfish I this desire. We should be happy to have had Jesus come as one of us, even if it was two thousand years ago. We should be happy to have had Jesus die for our sins. We should be happy just to have had the opportunity to be named children of God. But being the people we are, we want to have our senses satisfied. Even though we know that we already have more than we deserve, because of who we are, we want more.
And God in God’s wisdom has taken care of this! God sent Jesus to be among us. And in breaking the bonds of death, Jesus returned to us. But in Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, we are left again. Yet we are not left alone. Although it is not in today’s reading we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus remains with us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are empowered to carry out Christ’s mandate into the world. It is through the Holy Spirit working through us that Jesus is still present in the world.
So, now we have come to the moment you all have been waiting for. You will now meet Jesus face-to-face! Ready? Ok, please turn to the person sitting next to you and say, “Jesus! It is so good to have you here!” That is right! The person sitting next to you is how Jesus is at work in the world. Even those who may not be present here are still part of the body of Christ. If you help the person next to you, you are helping Jesus! If you invite the person next to you out for breakfast, you can even watch Jesus eat! We can see Jesus in the hands of those who lift up the poor. We see Jesus in the feet of those who walk to help the ones in need. When those hands that lift the poor are our own, we see Jesus in our own hands. When we are the ones who walk, we can see Jesus in out own feet. Yes, we see Jesus in the people around us, but we can even see Jesus when we look into the bathroom mirror.
In our baptism, we have become one with Christ. We are the tools Christ uses to work in the world. When Christ needs hands, we are his hands. When Christ needs words, we are his mouth. When Christ needs to make an appearance in the world, we are his way of appearing. When a stranger walks into our midst, we become Christ’s way of greeting that person.
Although I had been talking about magic, Christ’s presence is not magic trick. Christ eating with the disciples was no magic trick. Christ’s presence with us now is no magic trick. Christ is present with us! Christ is present in us! Christ is the person sitting next to us! Christ is the person in the car driving past. In returning from the dead, Christ broke the bonds of death. In returning from the dead, Christ broke the bonds of place.
It really was Jesus at the meal in the upper room, and it really is Jesus here at the altar with us today! We may have trouble believing, but when we look at those around us and we look at ourselves, we are seeing Jesus alive! He really is here!

What the second service heard, was similar to this, but there was a whole lot more added!


Vic Mansfield said...

Good job. I always think of the song from My fair Lady, "Don't talk of love, show me." And God does: water, wine, bread, one another.

Shalom & Cheers

Ur-spo said...

i've always wondered if parons merely made things up as they went along
or just let the holy spirit take over.