Power and Truth, WORSHIP and GO

Sermon preached November 25, 2018 – Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King
By The Rev. Dr. Nina R. Pooley
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Yarmouth, ME

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 132:1-13
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Power and Truth, WORSHIP and GO

The readings for this week invite us to reflect on themes of Power and Truth, even as we finish our introduction to the practices of the Way of Love, Practices for Jesus-Centered Life, a rule of life to which we’ve been invited by our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The seven practices of the Way of Love are: Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest. The final two for us to consider are Worship and Go.

But first we have to deal with Power and Truth. From the Roman Empire to 21st century America, issues of Power and Truth loom large. We just lived through elections in which billions were spent to obtain or keep Power, with all kinds of bending of Truth in the process. And on the heels of Black Friday, we are at the height (or is it the depth?) of the allure to flex our economic Power. In the most consumer frenzied nation in the world, what is projected to be a record shopping season has officially begun, as both Power and Wealth beckon, meant to entice, and unsettle us, power idols begging for our veneration.¹

In our text from the book of Daniel, Daniel is speaking to a people without power or wealth. People who have been persecuted and oppressed by one foreign king after another. After Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah in 587 BCE, Judah no longer had its own earthly king. For the next four hundred years Judeans are subject to the whims of kings who neither respected their autonomy as a people nor recognized the power and authority of their God.

Duke Divinity School Old Testament Professor Anathea Portier-Young writes:
This vision of the one like a human being [coming with the clouds of heaven]                      offered hope to Jews who had been subject to foreign rule for over four centuries                and now were victims of state terror and persecution. Even as they saw their                      houses burned, their loved ones tortured and slaughtered, and their temple                          profaned,…Daniel’s vision allowed them to see something else: the end of                              empires, the sovereign power of God, and their own future kingdom. The king                    who persecuted them would soon pass away. His kingdom … would perish just as                the kingdoms before it had done. In its place God would establish a new and                        everlasting kingdom that would not pass away. … The other kingdoms were                          characterized by violence, destruction, exploitation, and oppression. The final,                    eternal kingdom would be oriented toward justice. It has its origin at the very                      throne of God.²

The Book of Daniel shows us the truth: the powers of this world are limited and passing away, and Daniel invites us to look beyond them, to glimpse God’s eternal Kingdom.

Power and Truth – Daniel lays the foundation for this morning’s show down between Pilate and Jesus in John’s Gospel. To Pilate’s question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here… For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To which, in the next verse, Pilate says dismissively, “What is truth?”

I loved this response from Lutheran Pastor Ronald Jensen:
Pilate could not understand Jesus–a kind of reign that was not “from” this                            world, a kind   of reign that lived with us, suffered with us, would be reborn with                us–a kind of reign that binds sisters and brothers together in love and brings                      forth a new world. God’s will, God’s yes, God’s reign— walking the earth in Jesus,                and in the Spirit living in [us]. This is Truth.³

A true story about Power and Truth, happening right now: Rev. Gavin Rogers, associate pastor of Travis Park United Methodist Church, in San Antonio Texas, traveled to Mexico City a week ago, to join the migrant caravan. He wanted to better understand why those in the caravan want to reach the US.

Rogers, who follows in the tradition of white evangelicals and characterizes his church in that way, said he wanted to hear directly those stories of rampant violence, corruption and poverty “that are often untold and misunderstood.”⁴ On his blog and Facebook post, he writes about long days of traveling with 6,000 refugees via a wide variety of methods. Reaching Guadalajara, for example, involved covering 400 kilometers in “23 hours of walking, hitchhiking and police escorts. Walking. Car, semi-trailer, truck, police truck, dump truck, bus, [to] shelter.” Hoping to dispel fear and falsehoods about caravan members, Rogers is sharing photos of what the migrants and the people helping them really look like.⁵ “Kindness is all over the place,” he writes next to his posts of “real images of Mexican police officers and refugees.” Rogers is hoping that by sharing his journey, he can help change minds and hearts. He said, “You can learn [about the] love that these people have for each other and for their families.” “I do know what acts of solidarity and love look like. That’s what I’ve been learning on this trip,” he said.⁶

The truth that Gavin Rogers has witnessed, and to which he bears witness, is that these people are fleeing for their lives. Those traveling in the caravan shared stories of having their children kidnapped and other relatives killed in Central America. Their journey, Rogers says, is “not about a better life in American terms, it’s just about living.” Their goals, he adds, are to seek an education for their children and “be free from violence and rape and murder.” Rogers admits that claim may sound “extreme,” but says he has firsthand knowledge, obtained by being “willing to talk and learn,” that it’s “exactly what is going on here.”⁷

In terms of Power and Truth: this is the Truth of the situation, and what happens next is up to us. The Power in this particular instance, is ours to wield. Which is not to sweep aside complex issues involved, only to say, as Rogers has said, “The only Christian response to immigration is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” These people are our neighbors. Borders and boundaries and categories like “foreigner” or “alien” or “immigrant” can’t be allowed to have any bearing on Christian ethics or Christian behavior toward these, our neighbors.⁸

Jesus stands before Pilate, testifying to the Truth, embodying the Truth; and pointing us to the Truth. God is faithful to God’s promises; God acts in this world with Power and in the lives of each one of God’s own. When we root ourselves in this Truth – and trust where real Power lies our lives are no longer subject to the whims and devastations of this world. We can respond in love to one another rather than react in fear – as the powers of this world would have us do.

A life of Faith in God’s Power and Truth won’t give us stock answers to life’s complex questions, but it does give us a rootedness in something more than this momentary existence, providing perspective beyond: beyond this, and even beyond ourselves. There is more than this – we can live into more than this. Abundant life is more than this: richer in quality, more intentional and generous of spirit. Trust in God’s Power and Truth and live into a patterned life that allows us to live our faith in such a way that is life-giving for us, and for those around us, and life-giving for our neighbors as well.

Which brings us to our Way of Love material:⁹

WORSHIP and GO WORSHIP: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God When we worship, we gather with others before God. We hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, give thanks, confess, and offer the brokenness of the world to God.  As we break bread, our eyes are opened to the presence of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are made one body, the body of Christ sent forth to live the Way of Love.

The Questions: What communal worship practices move you to encounter God and knit you into the body of Christ? How do you commit to regularly worship? With whom will you share the commitment to worship this week?

GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus As Jesus went to the highways and byways, he sends us beyond our circles and comfort, to witness to the love, justice, and truth of God with our lips and with our lives. We go to listen with humility and to join God in healing a hurting world. We go to become Beloved Community, a people reconciled in love with God and one another.

And the Questions: To what new places or communities is the Spirit sending you to witness to the love, justice, and truth of God? How will you build into your life a commitment to cross boundaries, listen carefully, and take part in healing and reconciling what is broken in this world? With whom will you share in the commitment to go forth as a reconciler and healer?

My Friends, on this day when we celebrate Christ the King, may we worship the ONE true Power who makes us one body and sends us forth to live the way of love; and may we go to the world in witness to the Truth of God’s justice and love. AMEN.

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[1] Drawn from Rev. Ronald Jensen, Retired, Luther Seminary’s God Pause, Monday, November 19, 2018.
[2] Anathea Portier-Young and Working Preacher, November 22, 2015 Associate Professor of Old Testament, Duke Divinity School.
[3] Rev. Ronald Jensen, Retired, Luther Seminary’s God Pause, Friday, November 23, 2018.
[4] Jessie Degollado, Local pastor joins migrant caravan in Mexico, November 12, 2018, 8:06 PM, https://amp.ksat.com.
[5] Fred Clark, Bearing true witness about our neighbors, www.patheos.com, November 21, 2018.
[6] Jessie Degollado, Local pastor joins migrant caravan in Mexico, November 12, 2018, 8:06 PM, https://amp.ksat.com
[7] Fred Clark, Bearing true witness about our neighbors, www.patheos.com, November 21, 2018.
[8] Fred Clark, Bearing true witness about our neighbors, www.patheos.com, November 21, 2018.
[9] https://www.episcopalchurch.org/explore-way-love