This is a transcript from the April 26, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.
The Christian story has a beginning and an end, a beginning and a conclusion, at least what we know from scripture. Our scripture shows us that the creation story, God created all the earth, all the cosmos, Adam and Eve, all the animals. He said it was good. Then in revelation, we have an image of what it's like that one day there's going to be a heaven on earth or that the two come together and it is a new creation. We have an idea now of what is happening at the beginning and what is going to happen in things to come, but what happens in the meantime?
Many of us have tried to explain this. We've tried to say maybe God just created everything. He wound it up like a wound-up toy and let it go. Maybe for some of us, the in-between is just us waiting for God to come again, for Christ to come again and rescue those who believe in Jesus. Maybe you're feeling like this during this pandemic, during this time of waiting and not knowing what is going on and what will look like at the end of this, or even when it's going to end. We don't even have that luxury of knowing when it's going to end. We are in the meantime right now. We are in that in-between time where we are just not quite sure of where this is going. We know how it started, where it started, when it started, but when is it going to end? What do we do in between the beginning and the end of it?
Maybe sometimes the waiting feels pointless. Maybe the meantime feels like it's a waste of time, that we're just not getting things done, that we're just on pause. I know personally for me, I have gone through many different emotions during this whole thing. I have gone through frustration, fear, anger. I get a little more aggravated easier and maybe you are all feeling some of those things also. Then in the midst of all of it, there's also that feeling of joy and happiness on some days and you can't quite explain why that's happening.
Somehow in our waiting, we think that waiting is inaction, that we are not participating in anything, that it is just simply sitting in a waiting room for it to be over. For some in Christianity, our faith, our whole religion is based off of the idea that we are punching our ticket to heaven and then we're going to wait until the end of life because none of this really matters anymore because I'm going to go to heaven. I am just passing through is a popular phrase by many Christians. I am just passing through this world. I am not of this world. This is not my home, referring to that heaven is their home.
This sets up a game that life is now just a waiting room that you need to make sure you just don't do the things to mess up. You say the right things, you nod at the right time, and you don't do anything that might possibly interfere with your salvation. Now, your faith is almost based off of fear. I have to do the right things in order to get to heaven, that my ticket that I've punched and believing in Christ is valid and I have to make sure it is always valid. In a way, it's like when you buy a ticket to a sporting event. You buy the ticket and then you're ready to go to the game and you wait until that day, then you show up and the game is there. Guess what? There's a lot more that goes into that than simply buying the ticket and then showing up.
There's also things in between that has to happen. Now, you have to figure out how do I do parking? Do I want to pay for parking? What kind of money do I need for concessions? Am I going to buy a souvenir? Am I going to have money for food? There's all these different choices. Even if it's not in your hometown or you can't go home, you have to get a hotel room, so then you have to book that. There's all kinds of things in between that moment you buy the tickets and the moment you show up for the sporting event.
It's also like vacation. You don't just buy a plane ticket to somewhere and show up there, and you're just like, "Now, we're on vacation." No, you buy the plane ticket, then you have to book the hotel. You have to figure out, what are you going to do on the vacation? Are there certain things you want to see? Do you want to travel to somewhere? Is there a car you have to rent? Between buying your tickets to someplace and actually arriving, there's things happening in between that need to happen.
Maybe it goes another way for you. Maybe it seems like God just isn't present. Maybe that God is still real, but God isn't present in your waiting. God isn't present in the meantime that he just doesn't feel near. Maybe you just don't feel God. Maybe God isn't real to you. Maybe you have decided that God is not real. This whole life that we live doesn't have any particular meaning because we have created this life that we live now as a meantime, especially as Christians. We have created it as the meantime of what is happening between the two posts, between the two trees, between the two gardens, but there is a creation garden and there's an end garden, and now, we are just in the meantime. What do you do in the meantime? You wait. How do we wait well? What does waiting mean in the meantime?
For some, it has turned into, it's about who is in and who is out, that now you have to punch a ticket. You have to have a ticket in order to get on the train to go to heaven. Now, we can start saying, "If you haven't said the prayer, you're out." Now, we could figure out who is truly in the church and who isn't. Maybe it's about garnering more attention, the fame and fortune that people seek. Maybe life is about that. Maybe it's about accumulating things. Maybe the more things you have means that you are more successful in life. The more money you have to spend on things, the more important you are, and that is the meaning of life.
Maybe that's why we're all exhausted all the time because we have made life into this competition about who wins. As we think about our culture and how we have set it up, now that it's all about me or I. I would even include that Christianity believes that who's in and who's out, the ticket, the ticket to heaven, that is a way of saying it is about me because now I'm going to tell you about Jesus and you're going to punch your ticket to heaven, look at what I did. In some ways, when it's attached to our ego and what we are doing ourselves, it can be exhausting because now we are never enough, and we can never live up to what we think God wants of us.
As we look towards, as we look post-resurrection, Russ read Luke 24 last week. We're going to continue to jump off of Luke 24 today. There's a story in Luke 24 of Simon and another disciple walking to a mass and a stranger shows up. Simon and the other disciple are questioning this person. He doesn't know what is going on because he asked them, "Why are you so down?" They described that Jesus had died, and they ask him, "Where have you been? Have you been under a rock?" We all know that this person is Jesus, but they don't know. The stranger questions their faith about the prophets and what they said, and now they invite him over to dinner.
For me, being so frustrated and caught up in news, politics, economics, and the urgency of the time we live in, and the pandemic, I have somehow blinded myself in ways from seeing what Christ is doing in my midst. Just as the disciples didn't recognize the stranger for the resurrected Christ, I have done the same. Maybe you have too. Maybe you've gotten so caught up. Parents are exhausted because their kids are home all the time. They have to do homeschooling now, and you have to work in the midst of that, and you have to provide for your family every which way that you did before.
Maybe it's for those that have just been isolated from their friends and family all this time, and it just feels so tiring and exhausting that the last thing we want to do is try to train our eyes to see Jesus. You just want to get through this day. As we move into a congregational time, I want you to think and meditate on what is blinding you from seeing Christ and what Christ is doing here and now. One of the ways that we can do that is is to train our eyes to put a new perspective on, to see what God is doing. There are certain habits that help us to do that. One of them is to memorize a verse. This month, we are memorizing Isaiah 40:31 and we have the youth of New Hope reading it to us.
Here's New Hope youth.
Speaker 1: "But those that wait for the Lord
Speaker 2: shall renew their strength.
Speaker 3: They shall mount up with wings like Eagles,
Speaker 4: They shall run and not be weary,
Speaker 5: They shall walk and not faint."
Where do we go from here? After we've decided what are our blinders, what is taking up our time and energy so we are not seeing what God or Christ is doing in our midst. I don't want anybody to feel shame or guilt for this. That's not what we're about. It's not about that. It's not shaming guilt for not recognizing Jesus. For example, there's this new language on the internet. It's called memes. A lot of times, let's say I would show you a meme about something, and I would say this is hilarious.
You would read it and you would be like, "I don't get it." because you actually have to understand a history of memes before it that informed that. It is its own culture and own language. It's not your fault that you would not be able to recognize why it's funny or the purpose of it because you don't have the perspective or the knowledge of the things before.
Likewise, during this time with technology it has tested many of us who aren't tech-savvy. That's not something to be shameful of. It's not something you'd be guilty about, but it's just something you don't have the lens, or the knowledge, or the language to use for it. It feels foreign to you. It feels different. It feels out of your zone of expertise. Sometimes, it's like that with Christ. We are all invited and we all can see what God and Christ is doing in our midst, but sometimes we just aren't trained properly for it. We don't have the lens or perspective to see it. That's why I think Jesus is so important in all of this.
When we think about living between the gardens, when we know the world has been created, but there's this world to come. What do we do? Jesus is the perfect example of what that looks like. Jesus brought together people that the world didn't think were clean, didn't think were worth much, but Jesus saw their worth because they are from God. Jesus served others. Jesus wasn't here to just tell us what to do. Jesus wasn't that type of leader. He wasn't the leader that sat up and said, "You should be doing this or that, and if you don't, you're useless to me." Jesus served us.
Jesus also points us towards the idea of going and telling others about the good news, and not the gospel I talked about earlier of that we're just punching our ticket to heaven. If you believe in Christ that you go to heaven and everything is good, hallelujah. Amen. Instead, it's the good news that, guess what? There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less. You don't have to keep chasing approval from God. You don't have to keep trying to prove that you are worth love and attention from God, but that is already present, that God is already here. God already loves you. God cares for you and God just wants you to show and extend that same love to others so that they may experience that same love that maybe you were missing.
That's what I see in Jesus when Jesus was in his ministry and on earth. Jesus is a good example of what to do in the meantime because Jesus was showing us how we literally help and partake and partner with God in redeeming all things and trying to bring things back to the garden so that we may actually help and participate in the new heaven and new earth. Jesus showed us that we is bigger than I, that it's not just about you, but it's about all of us. Jesus was telling us to change our lives, to change our perspective from just being about me, to being about all of us. We are all the image of God. We all carry the image of God, and we need to reflect that to each other, to remind us that we are not our own body and soul, but we belong to Jesus Christ.
If we go back to our scripture, we see that Jesus was not recognized by the disciples, but once they went to dinner and Jesus raised the cup and was going to partake in the meal, they suddenly recognized him. People recognize Christ when they see the things that Christ does. If you do the things that Christ did, if you go and serve your neighbor, if you show love, if you show grace when it is not required, people see Jesus. When you go and help somebody with a project they have or somebody that isn't able to help themselves, people see Christ through that.
It's not about collecting souls so much as people recognizing their own souls and that Christ is present there, that you are loved, and that others love you, and there is a community bigger than you there, waiting to support one another to show justice and kindness and compassion and love. That's what Jesus is doing. The disciples recognized it once they saw Jesus do the thing that he did. Hopefully for us, for you, for myself, if we continue to act like Jesus, if we continue to do the things that Jesus did, maybe somebody will see Jesus in that, maybe their blinders will be dropped. That's the thing to do in the meantime. That is the thing to do while we wait for the new heaven and new earth.
Then, what do we do in the middle of this pandemic? What do we do in the meantime of waiting for this to be done, or waiting for life to go back to normal? Are we simply just waiting or is Christ calling us to do something more in the midst of this? Not more in the sense of, you're not doing enough, but in the sense of, how do I participate in the redemption and reconciliation of all things? Maybe it's becoming a part of Neighborcare. Maybe it's checking in on your actual neighbor that's next door to you. Maybe it's checking in on your family. Even as we are together 24 hours a day right now, sometimes we don't communicate well with each other.
Maybe it's being there for your family and your kids, a time that they may actually cherish and recognize later in life as that good time of life that they spent every day with their family, and it enriched their souls, and it helped them grow even deeper in their faith and love for their family. In the meantime, may we understand that we are beloved children of God because sometimes, that is the first step into understanding that we are participating in this grand story that God has for us, that we get to participate in the reconciliation of all things, that we get to not just wait in the meantime, but in the waiting, we get to be participating by serving others, by telling the good news that Christ has for us so that we all may stop trying to prove ourselves to God, but instead rest in assurance in the love that God has for us so that we may be able to do the work of letting others know about that same love. Amen.