Sermon: November 15, 2015


25 Pentecost—Proper 28-B

November 15, 2015

William Bradbury

1 Samuel 1:4-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8

Jesus says, “Beware that no one leads you astray.”

Friday night our opening liturgy for diocesan convention took place in our newly renovated cathedral in Boston on Tremont Street across from the common. The cathedral is now bright, open, and every seat is taken, but before the main procession Bishop Gayle announces that there have been terrorist attacks in Paris, affecting hundreds of people. She asks that we keep the people of France in our prayers.

The tenor of the evening goes from relaxed to serious. Our worship goes from an enjoyable well-oiled performance to a heartfelt plea for the healing presence of God. Once again our ordered, prosperous lives are invaded by the Powers of Heartless Violence creating an atmosphere of fear and outrage.

A similar atmosphere pervades Jerusalem in this morning’s gospel.

Three days earlier Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem embodying the prophecy in Zechariah that proclaims: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

On the next day Jesus goes to the Temple and drives out the moneychangers and the animals, acting out the coming destruction of the Temple. His prophetic action pushes the Powers over the edge and they plot his death.

After all what do you do with someone who says: “Do you see these great buildings of the Temple? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

You can’t have a famous rabbi threatening the central symbol of the order and identity of your nation, even if it has become corrupt.

Hindu fundamentalists can’t stand Mahatma Gandhi preaching non-violence and making peace with Muslims, so he is murdered on January 30, 1948. Christian Segregationists can’t stand to have Martin Luther King, Jr. leading a non-violent movement demanding that Blacks be included in the Pledge of Allegiance’s phrase, “with liberty and justice for all”, so they killed him on April 4, 1968.

Two days after Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple Judas agrees to betray him to the Powers. Jesus knows his time is short so on Thursday night he performs his last supper and our first Holy Eucharist, so week by week the church can remember we are those baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the light, salt, and yeast of God’s New Creation.

But Jesus knows we are dust and easily shaken by those who hate, so he warns us: “Beware that no one leads you astray?” Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”

He warns us not to follow false Messiahs who say they have the roadmap to victory over all who trouble us.

False Messiahs will say, “Follow me and I’ll arm you with swords to overthrow the Romans!” “Follow me and I’ll arm you with tanks and bombers to overthrow Europe and kill all the Jews.

Follow us and we’ll kill everybody we don’t like and make the world safe again for our kind.

Who are these false messiahs promising that the way of blind violence is the way of victory? In Ephesians 6 Paul says, “…our[b] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

But the way of Jesus the Messiah is different. He does not resist the Powers, because God’s way is not to fight evil with evil, but to take the evil into God’s self on the cross and metabolize it with a fierce love that is stronger than sin and death.

It is God’s way to form an all-inclusive community that is animated by the Spirit of the Crucified and Risen Messiah. God’s way of doing kingdom is not more tanks and bombs, but the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for covenant faithfulness.

Jesus goes on in this chapter to say these times will be hard for his followers: he says “As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten…, and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news[a] must first be proclaimed to all nations.”

Here’s the deal: Do we want a Messiah that locks up or everyone who is different or strange thus making our lives simple and easy, costing us nothing? Some people will offer us that: vote for me and it will be eternal sunshine in America.

But the Cross of Christ casts a shadow over every life in every century and he calls us to take up our cross and follow him.

In the ancient church it was said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Gandhi and King were willing to offer their lives for a vision of God’s Justice, God’s Peace. The Powers of Violence killed them but their vision of justice and peace grew stronger.

In Greek the word “martereo” means one who bears witness. How do you and I bear witness to Christ in Chelmsford and beyond in these times of great distress?

The short answer is that we act out who we are: the people of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrated the “new” cathedral we learned that a hundred years ago Bishop Lawrence proclaimed, quoting Isaiah and Jesus, that our cathedral was to be “a house of prayer for all people”, so he removed the doors to the boxed pews. Now anybody could sit in the cathedral without having to pay rent for a pew.

Today those boxed pews are gone, replaced by chairs which are now available to people Bishop Lawrence could not have imagined.

+On Sundays at 12:30 PM the Boston Chinese Ministry of over 100 mainly young people worship in that space.

+On Monday the Manna Ministry leads those without housing in the worship of the Triune God.

Their priest, Tina Rathbone, told me that she always makes sure that she does not have everything she need as they prepare for worship. This means someone in the homeless community must step up to help. For example, she never brings matches, so one of the homeless always has to light the candles.

+On Thursday night the Crossing meets—The Crossing is a large group of mostly 20 and 30 year olds who worship the Triune God in forms outside the Book of Common Prayer. There is contemplative chanting and a sermon by a member of the community.

+Then on Friday at 12:30 PM, 500 Muslims gather in Sproat Hall, beneath the church, for Friday prayers. They have been doing this for fifteen years, starting the year before 9-11. In the renovation the cathedral added several washing stations, so those attending the prayers could perform the necessary ritual washing of their feet.

Yesterday we heard from a leader of each of these diverse worship communities. The Muslim leader spoke movingly about how in these violent days he is so grateful to be in this relationship with us. We were so moved by his words that we stood and applauded.

This is an example of the Realm of God breaking into our world. This is the vision we are called to embody everyday as followers of Jesus Christ, not in our own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, “Beware that no one leads you astray.”

In John’s gospel at one point many are abandoning Jesus’ ministry, so Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answers him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6: 67-69