This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on May 10, 2020. It can be views on YouTube at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC channel.
The texts were:
1 Peter 2: 2-10
John 14: 1-14
This has been one of those weeks where I get to the end of each day and think: Why am I exhausted even though I didn’t actually get done what I needed to? I look at my task list teeming with items waiting to be checked off and yet, they just continue to sit on the page, mocking me and reproducing each day exponentially like rabbits. It can make you feel frustrated at best and worthless at worse. This week was one where honestly, I found myself doing the 14 year old angsty couch flop a couple of times because it was all the energy I could muster. Just lie on the couch and suck up oxygen. Then I start to go down the path that maybe that’s all I’m good for. After all, we are what we produce, what work we can show for our efforts. It’s the way of life that we’ve been sold: that the more we produce, the more value we have and the more we matter to people and the world. We euphemistically call this “work ethic” and don’t get me wrong, yes there are simply things that have to get done just for life to toodle along. But somehow, somewhere, we decided that more was more, that what we did was equal to who we are and that who we are needs to be important, the brightest, the best. We must have all the answers or know how to get them at least. This is our purpose; this is our way of life. The entire culture we live in is structured to support this way of life. Some professions pay more income than others, some professions are more esteemed than others, certain groups of people matter more or less than others. It’s topsy turvy who counts in this way of life where the intrinsic value of human life is quantified. In the past few weeks/months, this way of life has been significantly challenged and questioned by the pandemic and the repercussions from it.
This way of life isn’t new and throughout history some lives have mattered more than others. The disciples in our gospel today would be caught in this same way of life under the Roman Empire and the Institutional church. What you could do, your social status, your ability status, your gender status designated your value. The disciples were not people on the upper rungs of society and yet Jesus had chosen them. But it’s clear from all of the questions and confusion the disciples had in our gospel reading, that they clung to the societal structure ingrained in them: the need to produce and prove their worth. Little did the disciples know that they were gathered on the night before the way of life that they had always known would change forever. In the midst of this Jesus says to them “you will do greater works than the ones you saw me do and because I am going to my father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father is glorified in the Son.” You see, it’s not about what you will or can do, it’s not about your social status. It’s about Jesus and the way of life with God that Jesus offers.
Jesus knows that the way of life that the world offers us is unsustainable, not life giving and doesn’t honor our dignity. God sent Jesus to help break the patterns of life as usual and to show us a different way to live: in love and relationship where your value isn’t based on what you do, say, wealth or talents, but you are loved because you are you and you belong to God. Your task list doesn’t have to be impressive or done. Your real job, your real life work is to live in the truth and promise of Jesus that there is more than the striving of this world, that the way of life that we have known, can’t sustain us like Jesus’ love can. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but not to exclude anyone but to open up a different way to live for all people.
The way of life that we had just a few short weeks ago is no more. The way of life where we thought everything was fine, where we thought we had control, where we thought we were making some sort of progress towards financial security, or personal health or whatever, is gone. What we are discovering is that way of life wasn’t good for everyone and maybe it wasn’t good or us or anyone. What’s been revealed is how much our actions impact one another. How certain people, of whom before we never gave a second thought about, are now the most important in our food supply chains, healthcare and cleaning systems, educational systems. Whether we like it or not, the pandemic will change our way of life forever. There will be no going back to what was, in our lives, in our jobs, in our churches, as what was, no longer exists. And that causes us grief, it causes me grief. Jesus sees our grief, our suffering, our pain right now and sits with us in it because it’s real and we can’t diminish it or ignore it. We find ourselves like the disciples that night before their lives changed, on the precipice, in that liminal space of a new way of life opening up to what’s next. We will need to walk through the pain and suffering first, but then new life awaits.
A way of new life that reveals the deep truth about who we are and who’s we are. The way of life that reminds us that all people are created in God’s love and we are to reflect this truth in our actions, words and lives. The way of life where people matter more than money and the way of life where we seek to not harm creation. The way of life where people of color can go for a run safely in their neighborhood, the way of life where mental health is taken seriously, the way of life where all are truly safe and valued. A way of life where God’s love prevails. Jesus is inviting us to open our hearts, minds, souls, imaginations to what living in this way of life might be. It won’t be doing more, it might be doing less or doing everything differently. We may not see it fully now, but maybe we’ve caught glimpses of it in how we’ve cared for each other in this pandemic. By calling people, giving what we have, serving and yes, staying home on the couch. Jesus promises that this new way, life and truth is here, and for us all. Thanks be to God.