Truth Shatters Belief
Sermon By The Rev. Marcia McRae
May 29, 2011, at St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA
Easter 6 Year A, RCL: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Today’s scriptures challenge us to see with new eyes, to see past what we understand, to love as Jesus commands, to do God’s work, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This challenges us to see beyond what we expect. Expectations can interfere with belief.
Expectations can distort reality.
As we drive, my husband, John, stays alert for LOW gas prices. We are driving along one day and he points to a sign and says, “Gas $3.60. That’s pretty good!” ....I remember when our response would have been horror to see gas so high. Experience changes perspective.
Perspective does not always fit reality.
My mother’s miniature silver sombrero is a souvenir she brought from Mexico to remember her wonderful trip. She cherished that little piece of art, proud to have a genuine Mexican silver item handcrafted by a Mexican artist. Years later she is polishing it and happens to turn it over as she rubs away tarnish from the imprint. It says – in ENGLISH: Made in Japan.
In an instant, truth Shatters Mother’s long-held belief.
The risen Jesus shatters the long-held belief of Peter’s faith tradition that the people of Noah’s day – believed to be the most corrupt ever – were forever imprisoned in death. The risen Jesus shatters death’s power. Death cannot separate even the most corrupt people from Jesus’ proclamation of God’s mercy.
Peter says the flood water of Noah’s day, through which the ark floats, prefigures the water of Baptism that saves us. . . .
Water destroys. . . .Water saves.
We know Noah’s story: he obeys God, builds the ark, loads animals two-by-two, shuts the door, saves humankind. Do we think of the reality Noah and his family faced? This apron – modeled by Deacon Karyl – humorously shows us there are practical realities as we do God’s work.
Peter tells us in today’s Epistle to expect suffering for doing God’s work. Jesus suffers. His followers will suffer. Jesus commands us to love others. Love is willing to risk suffering.
Paul understands suffering for doing God’s work. Paul understands practical realities of how to approach this work. He meets the people of Athens where they are. He speaks to their religious perspective that includes the altar “To an unknown god.”
Remember what Paul says: “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”
Like Paul, we must meet people where they are in their lives and speak in ways they can understand so that God’s Truth shatters false belief. These days many of us put a lot of trust in technology to keep us safe and free from harm. Most of us have experienced our technology crashing.
In all the natural disasters lately our technology failed to keep destruction and death away. People call these “acts of God” and think that God has crashed...
I can hear Paul speaking to people today, like he did to the Athenians: “People of the 21st century, I can see how extremely technological you are. As I surfed the net, I looked carefully at the objects of your worship – your Doppler radar, your advanced warning systems, your droids, twitter, and iphones,– and I found among them a pop-up ad inscribed: ‘Totally integrated Unity! The unknown way to connect.’
“What you worship as the unknown way to connect, this I proclaim to you. I proclaim the Ultimate Way to connect.
“God – NOT things made by humans – is what I proclaim. God IS in charge even in disasters, even in death.”
Technology does not prevent disaster and death in Joplan, in Tuscaloosa, in Japan, in Valdosta. Technology can enhance lives and save lives. It cannot breathe the Holy Spirit into lives.
The Holy Spirit gives the wisdom to create life-saving technology. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to love as Jesus commands us to love – the courage to risk suffering.
What makes a difference in disaster and in the face of death is the same as in Paul’s day and Noah’s: Trust God. Pray. Prayer never fails.
Your prayers at the news of disaster and pending storms are the first responders. Prayer helps the practical “boots on the ground” have courage, strength, and wisdom to do God’s work.
We know God has prepared for us good things that surpass our understanding. We know the Holy Spirit helps us to love as Jesus loves. We know the Holy Spirit helps us see beyond what we expect.
We know the truth of God’s totally integrated Unity: The Triune God we worship IS the ultimate way to connect.
This we proclaim!
Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp., and The Seabury Press. 1979.
Brioadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Lectionary Page. http://www.io.com/~kellywp/. Accessed April 19, 2011.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
...With God’s help we will respect the dignity of every human being.
...Con el auxilio de Dios, respetaremos la dignidad de todo ser humano.
Book of Common Prayer p. 305
El Libro de Oración Común pj. 225.