Friday, August 24, 2007

Sunday's Gospel

Nothing is more fun than procrastinating, so I'm going to write a blog post instead of doing my sermon. Actually, I thought of two sermons for this weeks' readings (or one really looooong one), so I'm posting the seeds of the one I'm not preaching here. Someday I'll flesh it out. But contextually, the other is better for the people I'm preaching to, this time. I'll post it after Sunday. Meantime, here is my reinterpretation of this Sunday's gospel lesson - lemme know what you think (it's rather "out there" - but come on, did you expect less from me?). In case you don't know, it's Luke 13:22-30.

Jesus is asked will only a few be saved? And his answer, we immediately think, is the next sentence from his mouth: strive to enter through narrow door, because yes, only a few can get through that door. But what if he's doing his usual thing, telling them what he thinks they want to hear, before explaining that actually no, that won't work as well as you think! There is a whole speech there, not just the first sentence. So let's see what the whole of his answer says...

Will only a few be saved? Well, you guys, you are my followers, and you should try as hard as you can to follow God’s way. But don’t be surprised if you try to get through that door and it’s locked, and you can’t get in. You see, all your striving may not open the door for you. In fact, you may call out to God that you did everything you thought you were supposed to – you came to church, you took Eucharist, you listened to a lot of sermons, good and bad – you clocked your time and now you want your harp and halo. Yet the Father will respond that not only does he now know you, he’ll call you evil! Evil! Doesn’t the Father have any gratitude?

But wait, who is in the kingdom? It’s Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – who were, to put it mildly, pretty big screwups. But they kept their faith in God. They kept doing what God asked of them, even when it didn’t make any sense, and it completely uprooted their lives. They were doing anything but clocking time – they rode a rollercoaster of emotion and confusion and trials that, in the end, created the people of God. And the prophets – these are the very ones that Jesus goes on in the next section to say Jerusalem rejects. Nobody listens to these guys. They come with a word from the Lord, and as we heard in Jeremiah last week, they are unpopular. They are despised. They are often killed. All for stepping out on a limb and preaching faithfully the word from God. Not the word people want to hear, the false prophets’ dreams they attribute to God. The prophets speak the hard truth. And they suffer for it.

So the Kingdom isn’t made up of the people who just clocked their time at temple or in daily prayer, the people who thought they had a good relationship with God, those who rejected bad influences, who obeyed a long list of dos and don’ts. In short, the people who lived a comfortable life with a comfortable God. The people who were first – who ran the churches, who sat in the seat of power, who maybe even wore these robes or fancier ones.

Those people are on the outside looking in at the ones whose lives were turned upside down by God. The ones who were weird and loud and harsh and maybe a little smelly. Who didn’t go to church. Who didn’t say the right prayers. Who didn’t jump through hoops and weren’t interested in church leadership. In there, enjoying the feast, are the ones nobody expected to see there.

And you will weep, because it makes you sad, and you will gnash your teeth, because it makes you mad. You belong in there, not these riff raff. Not these people from far away who never knew your God – not the way you knew Him. (exactly!)

And it may irritate you because you worked so hard. There is nothing wrong with working hard. Jesus says “Strive.” A couple chapters earlier he says to persistently knock on that closed door until the person inside gets so annoyed that they open up for whatever you want. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, they all went through a lot that tested their faith. They all had to be very persistent.

So, Jesus, will only a few be saved? Not at all. More than you can imagine will be saved. You may want it to be a few – the select few who’ve done everything “right”. But Jesus answers the question by saying, “people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.” Those that you never in a million years could have expected – the very last on your list – they will be there.

Wanna come?


Brenda said...


I have been reading your blog for some time. I wish you were my pastor...

Keep it up!


Anonymous said...

Yes! Absolutely! I don't think your take on the text is "out there" at all. So uniquely grace-oriented. If it is out there, it is probably because the smug self-satisfaction of us "church people" has pushed it out there. Anyway, your insights helped fill in the gaps in my own thinking, so thank you! I can use some ofthis, if you don't mind. :)

Stasi said...

Be my guest: I am honored that you want to use my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Who is "you" ??

Is that how you preach in real life, referring to your congregation as "you?"

I agree with the critics of Catholic homiletics who claim that the state of (Roman) Catholic preaching is abysmal, but even we learned to minimize the priest-on-high-in-the-pulpit (I/royal we) / great unwashed in the pews (you) language.

I also think that you didn't fully explain why the outcasts would be going to Heaven while the smug pew sitters were hellbound. It sounds like you are advocating missing Sunday services and living a dissolute life, which surely isn't your point.

So this sermon needed to be a bit longer to fully flesh out your point. Which you kind of admitted in your opening paragraph.


Stasi said...

Oops - I'm sorry if that was confusing. This was definitely NOT a sermon - just the very initial seeds of a thought! I will post my real sermon later. The seeds are saved for another year - next time this reading comes up, I guess!

Stasi said...

Sometimes I find it helpful to write in Jesus' voice, that's why I said "you." Obviously I would never preach this way - not without making it very clear that I was in character, of course!