Martin Luther described the Holy Bible as the "cradle of Christ"...in other words: The Manger.
Not only at the Christmas stable, but all year-round,
God's people are fed at this Holy Cradle.
We are nourished at this Holy Table.
We are watered at this Holy Font.

This blog is a virtual gathering space where sermons from Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) and conversation around those weekly Scripture texts may be shared.

We use the Revised Common Lectionary so you can see what readings will be coming up, and know that we are joining with Christians around the globe "eating" the same texts each Sunday.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

August 19 -- Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Friends, today the Christian community continues to worship together and sing.  That’s something to give us pause and ponder. 

After everything that’s happened! 

One of the more pressing concerns on our congregation's mind, I imagine, is that we had yet another vandalism this week.  If you hadn’t heard, a window in the basement was broken.  What is going on?!  I don’t know about you, but this has re-triggered my feelings of anger and fear and frustration and sadness.  “Why haven’t the police caught anyone?  Are they doing anything?  What about our safety and that of our children?  Are these events all related?  What are we going to do about it?!”  That’s a big, troubling thing that’s happened.  Lots of activity here at church, with LSS, new members, Living Room Faith series, Sunday School planning, continued orientation for me…  After everything that’s happened: So many traveling this month.  Some of you too.  I’m learning, Washington clears out in August.  So that means lots of us are jet-lagged, road weary.  Filled with new adventures, or skeletons in the closet.  Travel brings up all kinds of things, good and bad.  We’ve got this hot, humid weather.  More rain coming.  (“August, you are a garbage month”) Our lead headlines show us all-too-often how divided and cruel we can be as a nation, as the human species.  Family issues at home, healthy issues, work issues.  Busy-ness always, the drive to produce and succeed, or just the drive to stay afloat!  Revving up for the new school year.  A lot has happened! 

And yet we continue — the Christian community even today continues  — to gather, to worship, to sing.  Profound really.

I want to reflect a bit on Ephesians today--

Ephesians instructs us to be wise and not foolish, making the most of our time, for the days are evil.  (Sure can be evil...) 

And then Ephesians says “so don’t get drunk,” and I want to stop right there…

This is obviously good literal advice — for all sorts of reasons.  But this is more than a finger wag for temperance.  

I’d like to invite us to look at getting drunk as a metaphor this morning.  What happens when a person gets drunk? 

They stumble, say things they don’t want to say, they slur.  A person who’s drunk misses the details.  They miss the expressions and emotions of others (which aren’t too hard to see otherwise) because they’re too caught up with saying or doing what they want to say or do.  A drunk person is reckless, God forbid, driving off the road, causing accidents and terrible consequences.  Blacking out.  And waking up later not even knowing what all they’ve done.

Consider of all these disturbing images as metaphors.

A person may never even touch alcohol, but live his/her life in a way that is reckless, self-centered and loud.  Slurring their actions and interactions, only interested in themselves, not realizing what they’ve done, missing the details, how others are hurting, and causing all kinds of accidents in the process.  

(Now, there’s a tendency to point fingers right now in our minds eye...but consider your own actions too.   What are ways that you’ve perhaps acted drunkenly?  And if you haven’t, you’re better and way holier than the rest of us ;) 

Ephesians warns us all against drunkenness, calls it “debauchery” in this translation. Other words that are derived from that Greek word are “wasteful”, “reckless abandon”. When we get drunk, metaphorically, we’re not just wasted, we’re wasteful.

So, all those images help instruct us and call us into images for how we are to be in the world.  Basically the opposite -- 

But...Ephesians envisions that as singing, being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Fascinating!  It’s not the image to which one might oppose drunkenness.  One might think drunkenness would be opposed with solemn sobriety, right?  Imagine that in metaphorical terms.  Sitting proper, quiet, stoic, studious...

That’s really the interesting part of this Ephesians text: the opposite of drunkenness is singing together — hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs...a whole variety of singing that’s very intentionally listed here.  Sing all kinds of things, but sing together in praise.  That’s the opposite of drunk.
We finally made it to a Nats game this week!  And one of the many reasons I love going to baseball games is because we sing together -- it’s one of the only public places where that happens anymore.  And I was nearly moved to tears during the National Anthem.  Nats fans sing, they don’t just let the voice on the mic do it for them!  I loved it -- singing together the National Anthem, and of course the 7th inning stretch.

Something happens when people sing together -- not one person with an awesome voice on the microphone, but everyone singing together.  We do this all the time, and it’s what you’re supposed to do in church.  And it can be very powerful…and when it happens out of the normal context, it’s incredibly moving.
(Story of the Metro train, back in 2012, visiting Tim.)  

We are filled with something when we lift our voices in song.  We transcend barriers and boundaries, and you really have to just experience it to understand it.  We become aware of being part of something larger, and part of something hopeful.    

Sisters and brothers in Christ, even after all that’s happened, we continue to come together to sing.  To worship God with a grateful heart.  Even after all that’s happened in our churches, in our lives, and in our world, we continue to sing God’s praises, with old songs and new songs.   

At the Pentecost event when God’s people were singing they were accused of being drunk.  Remember that line?  But they weren’t drunk, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  And they were deeply aware of what was going on around them.  They were deeply aware of the pain and the suffering that needed their attention and care.  They were deeply aware of each other, and interested and concerned about the other -- the stranger, the widow, the immigrant and the orphan.  They were not stumbling around, slurring their words and actions, blacking out.  They were walking and singing together in unison, deeply aware.  Noticing the world.  Lifting one another up, holding one another in their pain.  God made us and calls us to be like that too -- not drunk but singing. 

After everything that has happened, the Christian community continues to gather, to break bread together, to trust in God, and to sing.  And this is Christ abiding in us and we in him.  

Will you pray with me:
“Gracious and loving God, transform us again this day...from drunks...to singers.  Thank you for giving us the stamina, the faith, the voices, and the hope to keep gathering and singing even today.  Thank you for giving us new life now.  AMEN.”

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