Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jesus Glasses--a sermon for Easter 5A

Rev. Teri Peterson
Jesus Glasses
John 14.1-14
22 May 2011, Easter 5A

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

I feel like there's some serious irony that this is the lectionary text for the day after the rapture--I mean, wouldn't it be better for the rapture to be tonight, after we've all heard about this?
Jesus said, “I will come and take you to myself”…and even though he also said that even he did not know the day or the hour, we have a long and proud tradition of predicting the date for the return of Jesus, the rapture when the faithful will be caught up with Jesus and transported to heaven or, depending on your tradition, to the newly re-created earth. People predicted the rapture for March or October of 1844, for sometime in 1981, for 2000, for 6pm last night, and for the year 2060. The fact that we’re all here after last night’s rapture is a little surprising, and either means that Presbyterians didn’t make the cut or that our fascination with The End is obscuring the rest of the story.

Looking around at the world, you can kind of see why. I mean, something is obviously not right. In a world where children die of hunger, tornadoes wipe out whole towns, war is seen as a solution, and Justin Timberlake’s Saturday Night Live performance trends on twitter while people riot for food and water, sometimes it seems like the only thing we can do is hope for a way out.

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be offering an emergency exit slide. In fact, he doesn’t seem much interested in exiting at all—he tells Phillip that he’s already seen God, and he tells Thomas that he already knows the way. Is it possible that we can already see God, and that we already know the way, and we’ve all been so busy looking for a way out that we’ve missed the way in? Jesus says that his mission is to bring abundant life, that in God’s house there are many rooms—enough for everyone—that loving God by loving our neighbor, and vice versa, are how we are to go about life. It’s as if he sees something different when he looks at the world. Instead of seeing a hopeless and horrible place that needs to be destroyed and re-made, he sees a place loved and redeemed, a place of wonder and hope.

We need to get ourselves some of those Jesus Glasses. Because it seems like we’ve been looking at the world all wrong…fuzzy, like watching a 3D movie without the cheesy paper glasses. It turns out we really need those glasses, because our vision is in need of some correction.
In the early years of the church, people preparing for baptism were taught that when they were baptized and entered into the community and the community’s sacred space, their eyes would be opened to how God sees the world. They came up out of the water and the first thing they saw were beautiful mosaics evoking the garden of Eden, and their first food was the overflowing bounty of communion from a table filled with bread, fruit, cheese, wine, and all manner of good things. They joined a community that saw differently, a body that believed its mission was to show the rest of the world what God could see—a world beloved, a world created with purpose and called good, a paradise, right here on earth. This paradise was not utopia, with no problems and no work required, but it’s God’s paradise nonetheless. And their job was to share their vision with others, to show what living as a citizen of the kingdom of God looked like.

This is not an easy task, to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God right here and now. It’s much easier to think that’s something we do when we die. But in a world where food rationing was used to control and pacify the masses, Jesus fed people and showed them how to share their resources; in a world where children were property to be used, Jesus said we must all become like a child; in a world where violence is equated with power, Jesus showed the power of love. Living with kingdom vision will mean following in Jesus’ footsteps here, today—did you catch in that reading when he said that those who believe in him will do the works he has done, and even greater works. We’ll feed the hungry, and also create a system where no one goes hungry in our world of plenty. We’ll heal the afflicted, and also stop hurting people. We’ll love our enemies, and work to create a world where hate is no more. It won’t be easy, but with our Jesus Glasses on, it’s possible. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is here…we just need to open our eyes.

I wonder, then, if we might think about the rapture differently. Perhaps the end of the world as we know it is just that—the end of our way of knowing. Maybe it did happen yesterday. Maybe it’s been happening to people all along, for centuries. Maybe it’s happening right now. Because what if being caught up with Jesus is not about people floating up into the sky, but about people seeing with kingdom vision, seeing God here and now, and living in the kingdom of heaven right now, today? We look through the lens of Christ and behold, God is doing a new thing—we can see a new heaven and a new earth, because for us, the old is gone and the new has come. There are glimpses of God’s work all around us, and glimpses of God whenever we look into the face of another person created in God’s image, and glimpses of the kingdom wherever people are living and loving and doing justice. Through the Body of Christ, Jesus comes again to show us the way, the truth, and the life, and they are more beautiful and more difficult than we ever imagined.

The church used to teach that we, the body of Christ, are living in the kingdom of heaven right now, that in baptism the scales fell from our eyes and we could see paradise here on earth, that our citizenship is in God’s kingdom and so we live differently and show the world a glimpse of that wonder.

Over the years that message has often been lost in all the hubbub, but it’s still there—in scripture and even in the good old Presbyterian Book of Order, which lists one of the 6 most important purposes of the church as “the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world.” Our job as the body of Christ is to show God’s kingdom to the world, wherever we go and whatever we do. Once we open our eyes, we’ll see the beauty and hope and love infusing the world. We’ll see that God has not failed to bring the kingdom, we have failed to see the power of God in unexpected ways. We'll have kingdom vision, and there’s no going back. We’ll no longer be willing to settle for the status quo, we won’t be able to step aside and let the way of the world go on as it has been. When we live as kingdom-citizens, we can’t help changing the world—and we’ll be so busy doing justice, loving mercy, and walking with God we won’t have time to look for an escape from the world God so loves. When people look at us as members of the body of Christ, when people look at us as a community, when people look at the church, they should see the kingdom of heaven. If that’s going to happen, we need to see it too—so let’s put our JesusGlasses on and get to work. We know The Way, after all.

May it be so. Amen.

(for the complete experience: hymns today are Christ Be Our Light, Open My Eyes That I May See, and Come Great God of All the Ages. Alternative service music included the sending song Salt and Light. Special music offerings: Ordinary Miracle and He Never Failed Me Yet. awesome.)

No comments:

Post a Comment