Sermon Proper 28 (33) Year C 2007
Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
November 8, 2007
Rev. Tripp Hudgins, preacher
The Call Remains the Same
You will hear rumors.
You will hear rumors of things coming to an end.
They are not lies. Wars and rumors of wars...
The ending you see before you is real. Make no mistake.
But it might not be what you think it is.
It might not be the ending you fear.
What we are encountering tonight is the fulfillment of God's blessing. It's that kind of ending.
Endings and Blessings...Sometimes the fulfillment of a blessing such as an ending begs our endurance. A blessing may be difficult to receive.
Once, early in our tenure here at Immanuel, I stood in the pulpit and preached as if the place were full. We had been worshiping in the front part of the chapel. We would leave the tables for Bible Study set up thinking that there was no point to taking them down. There were only three of four of us worshiping together...seven or so if all clergy and the congregation were present. It was cozy and comforting to be gathered together up front.
But then it occurred to us that this was not hopeful....cozy and comforting, but not hopeful. Somehow we were not evoking hope in the way we used the space. We needed to open our minds, our imaginations and hearts. It wasn't easy. We had to open up the space. And that's a recipe for vulnerability. Vulnerability can be frightening.
Well, that's what I remember. All history is revisionist after all, right? Ask someone else who was here then for their version of the story. It's a good idea.
I remember that I stood in the pulpit and gave voice to the thoughts of the Pastoral Team and shared a vision of the space filled, of children playing in the back of the space, of the preacher needing to stand in the pulpit because it was the best way to be seen and heard by everyone. It was a lovely vision to share...a lovely vision to imagine.
Within weeks, it seems to me, people came. We were hopeful. We made room for people who we did not know would even come...people we had not met. And it was a wise thing to do. It was a hopeful thing to do. God works through our hopefulness. It's not magic. It's not easy. It takes endurance...tremendous endurance. But I learned something important during that time in our history.
Our own acts of hopefulness are preparation for God's acts of Grace.
Now, look at us. There are nights when we fill this space. We are constantly seeking ways to be open to visitors, to seek new people, to share God's Gospel. We want to provide a safe place to be challenged and upheld by it. We proclaim hope. We proclaim God's enduring presence.
Tonight, however, we also mark a change. Maybe it's more significant than I imagine.
Maybe it's less. Only time will tell.
I'm leaving. It is the hardest thing I've had to do in quite some time. And it does break my heart. But I want you to know...as difficult as this is, as saddened as I am...my leaving is an act of hope, an act of trust in God, and a way perhaps to make room for someone we have not yet met.
I want you all to know that I am as hopeful tonight about the future of Reconciler as I was the night we set up all the chairs for the very first time for people who had not yet arrived...for many of you. We opened up the space and we opened up our hearts. This is Christian hope. This is a way to offer the Kingdom of God.
Offering the Kingdom of God is tricky business. Isaiah struggles with it. Jesus, too, wrestles with those around him. It is as if the Kingdom were somehow ephemeral or slippery. Has there ever been so powerful a thing as the Kingdom of Heaven? And yet...and yet...It is hard to see, hard to imagine, and hard to share. But share it we must.
We have a vocation here at Reconciler, a call. The call upon Reconciler is the same tonight as it was that night almost two years ago.
We are called to have enduring hope. You shall proclaim to all:
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy...for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Yes, things are different now. I am always shocked at how mercurial a church like this can be. One day it's a project. The next day it's a congregation. One day there are four of us. The next day there are 25 of us and some of them are from the Salvation Army. Astounding! God bless the Salvation Army and their children.
The community will shift and grow. No church is static. Every church is organic. It shifts and moves, grows and shrinks. But the vision, the basic call upon us does not change.
The call remains.
Proclaim the Kingdom of God, the Peaceable Kingdom. It is always new...it is always becoming. It is never static. It is always organic, free and uncontrollable. Show it to people in how you live together...how you welcome the stranger and how you send out disciples.
Proclaim Christ...crucified, died and resurrected. Proclaim him when you encounter him in the world. Proclaim him in the persecuted and abandoned. Love Christ. Clothe, feed and heal.
Proclaim the end that Isaiah and Jesus proclaim in all that you do.
Proclaim God's loving judgment to all the world.
Praise God with the Psalmist.
Hold one another accountable with Paul.
Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
It takes time. You'll have to pace yourself. It's a marathon and not a sprint....Life in Christ is an endurance event. It will seldom be easy. But it will bring blessing upon blessing into your own lives and into the lives of others. You will be a blessing to those whom you have not yet met, to numbers you have not yet imagined.
You have blessed my life. My time with you has been a blessing. It now comes to an end...a blessing fulfilled that will, I pray, continue to bear fruit for all of us.
And for this I thank you. I praise God for you.
May God's peace and all good things be yours.