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, October 28, 2018

October 28 -- Reformation Sunday

I’ve never been there, but I understand that the road to and from Jericho was fraught with peril.  You dare not travel it alone.  And always, in the nooks and crannies of dangerous places, are the poor, those who can’t afford to get out.  Not everyone is wielding a weapon.  And those who can’t buy better places, better means of travel, better ways through, are stuck along the Jericho way.

Our text on this Reformation Sunday begins from a place of fear and sorrow — the Jericho road.  Dry, dumpy, and dangerous.  No real joy and hope to be found there.  No beauty.  Only a blind beggar, and outcast.  No life, only death, terror, fear and sorrow.

This is where the man in Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable got jumped too, remember.  Everyone knew that when you’re talking about the road to/from Jericho, you were talking about trouble.  Pain, sorrow, danger and death.  That’s where our text begins.

Which is fitting given our state of things.  With another shooting this week in a Pittsburgh sanctuary, and so many lives thrown again into chaos, terror, fear and indescribable sorrow.  With trouble in our own lives — loneliness, fear about the future, a barrage medical/health issues, with struggles at work and struggles at home, struggles in the family and struggles in the neighborhood — friends, we are no strangers to the Jericho road.
This week, downtown at First Trinity Lutheran, was the bi-annual Bishop’s Convocation.  Pastors and rostered leaders around the synod were invited to gather for a day of fellowship, networking, education and prayer.  (We are part of a really cool synod!)
Our guest lecture was The Rev. Dr. Francisco Padilla who now works with the ELCA Churchwide Offices in Chicago, but is originally and truly a pastor in Puerto Rico.  He came to share with us a word about preaching...before, during, and after a hurricane.  Hope — real hope — abides even with destruction all around.  “We danced through it all,” he said.

...Which doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer the greatest suffering and destruction of their lifetimes.  It doesn’t mean they didn’t lament.  In fact, their dancing came directly out of their tears.

Dr. Padilla told us about a flower that grows in Puerto Rico:  morivivi.  “Death life.”  It’s a tiny leafy plant that grows just about anywhere, like on gravel and dust, and trash.  
It’s blossoming along the Jericho road.  Life out of death.

This is the setting for Jesus’ healing blind Bartimeaus on this Re-formation Sunday.  This is our story!
Martin Luther too: how he suffered!  Terrorized by a God who was angry always.  Punishing any who stepped out of line, demanding the sacrifices of the faithful, keeping tally of good words, actions, thoughts — like the children’s Santa Claus song, which frankly is terrible (and wrong): “Better watch out, better not cry, better not pout...he knows if you’ve been bad or good.”  Apparently, Luther knew more about Santa Claus than he did about God!  He too “once was blind”!

...as we all can be:  I don’t know about you, but so easily I can wander out onto that Jericho road [pause] where death and despair, and fear and anger and sorrow rule the day.  [pause]

But our text on this Reformation Sunday, begins with Jesus heading out onto that road as well!
Only Jesus doesn’t fall victim to it.  Jesus doesn’t get carried away by the Jericho road.  Jesus stands over and against all that the “Jericho road” represents.  Like a mamma grizzly standing in the rapids, protecting her little ones.

Everyone else tries to get off that road, out of that current, as soon as possible.  But I’m struck, in this passage, how Jesus again stops and stays.  Verse 49: upon hearing the blind man’s plea for mercy, Jesus stops.  It says Jesus “stood still.”

There’s this image of the Jericho road as this rapid flowing, uncaring, reckless, and self-centered  highway, where you either move with it, or get run over, even killed...a real eat-or-be-eaten kind of existence (can you think of any places like that around here?)

And that’s exactly where Jesus not only shows up, but stops!  Christ is no victim of the Jericho road.  Christ stands over and against it, right in the middle of it, and in that powerful pause, there comes healing.  In that defiance of fear and anger and anxiety and sorrow, a blind beggar is freed.   Not even death itself can has a place now.  And the blind man is raised to new life!  Re-formed to be a follower of Jesus!   Mori...vivi!

This is our God.

This is the God who Luther discovered in the pages of Romans.  Not a God who is vengeful and violent, but a God who is grace and peace.  That grace and peace rests, it stops and stays, with us today.  It stands still here, [pause] amid all the terror and troubles that rush all around.  Christ takes hold of us and heals us.  And we too hear Jesus’ voice:  “Go, your faith — not your works, not your words, not your thoughts, not your resumés — your faith has saved you.”
In the pause of Jesus, in the pause of our Sunday morning worship, in the pause of the Divine break-in — nothing we ever gave permission for; God breaks into our world — in the pause that is here, in the words of Jesus, we are healed.

We too regain our sight — that somehow got lost in the race, washed away in the fury, blocked and blurred by the Jericho way — but we too regain our sight and now can’t help, like the man who was once blind, “follow Jesus on the way.”  Jesus stays the course, Jesus “stays the Jericho road” — the places of violence and sorrow, Jesus is there.  He goes there and stays.  But we now — having been restored to sight — stand with him, no longer victims of fear, but rather “here we stand” as witnesses to God’s mighty works, reflections of this one Jesus Christ, who healed the sick and raised the dead.

We reflect that power in all we do and say...we can’t help it, having been healed ourselves!

It is in Christ, that we live and move, and pray, and have our being...and hold our ground for the sake of the poor, it is in Christ, that we journey down this Jericho way, it is in Christ that we live, it is in Christ that we die, it is in Christ that we are raised up...on this day, this RE-formation Day and always.  Thanks be to God.  AMEN.

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