Home Sermon God is Faithful

Proper 28C
Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

See, God says, I am doing a new thing.

What God doesn’t say, is that we’ll have to look with the curiosity of a three year old, with the wisdom of a centenarian, with the trust of a well loved dog, with the assuredness of a cat.

Because the more things change as they say. How many times have nations risen against nations since Jesus walked the earth? How many famines, earthquakes, and floods?

How often do we furiously debate every facet of theology, split whole religions over a turn of phrase here or there, practice and rehearse our arguments to get things right.

See, God says, I am doing a new thing.

Which implies that God was doing something before, that God is doing something now, that God is always doing something, even if we do not have the 30,000 foot view to see it. But as this old year draws to a tired, aching close we little human beings need this reminder. Jesus often used stories to make things clearer. Here is my story for you.

Long ago, at least six years; and far away, in Waco Texas I had a friend named (he’s still named this) Rabbi Gordon Fuller. Rabbi Gordon is a man full of wisdom, and humor, and a great love of curiosity. So when I asked him to be part of an interreligious Q&A conversation at our church he was excited to come answer questions, and hear others answers.

We had a lovely laughter filled evening, with a lot of deep and thoughtful questions, and equally thoughtful answers.

Finally, for the last question of the night a man from another Christian church (not mine) raised his hand, Rabbi Gordon smiled and pointed at him. The man stood up, clutching his had in his hands, he turned it round and round wringing the brim and his voice wavered with real fear and concern as he asked: “Aren’t you afraid Rabbi? Aren’t you afraid of going to hell when you die, since you haven’t accepted Jesus and been saved?”

And I started to stand up and leap in and save my friend from such a rude question but Gordon took a deep centering breath and leaned forward toward this man, radiating love and calm. “Brother,” he said, “I trust God. I trust God because the one thing Hebrew scripture tells us about God for certain is that God is faithful and trustworthy.” He folded his hands, still and calm. “And because I trust God I don’t need to be afraid. Jews do not know what happens after we die, that is a great mystery. But we know that we can trust God, even to death. Whatever comes next, God will care for us, God does not need our help with that.” Then he looked around the whole room and opened his arms. “What we, as Jews, are called to worry about is this world, to work beside our God to make it as close to God’s dream for it as possible. That is our call. The rest, is up to God.”

It is wise friends and mentors like Rabbi Gordon (and Jesus) who have made me such a practical theologian.

Jesus reminds us of where our priorities are to be. They are not in trying to read everything as a sign of what is to come.

They are not about practicing our arguments until we are note perfect theologically (though you wouldn’t know it if you hang around some circles).

Our priority is living, like my friend Gordon, in the trust that God is building a new heavens and a new Earth. That God is doing a new thing. Yes in the midst of war, and famine, and earthquake. Yes in the midst of our arguing about Advent, and the Creeds, and anything else you’d like to argue about.

The old year is ending. God is making all things new, and we are invited to believe that, to live our lives looking for the newness, planting it, imagining it, tending to it.

Look, God says, we are doing a new thing.

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