Saturday, August 17, 2019

Year C, Pentecost 10, Luke 12.49-56, The times they are a-changin

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“Come gather 'round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
And you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin'
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'
“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'
“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'”
(Songwriters: Bob Dylan  (Witmark Demo - 1963))
That was 1963.
When you think of the late fifties and early sixties, what do you remember?  What images come to mind?
The first images that come to my mind are from the television shows that I watched as I grew up.
Leave it to Beaver.
Father knows best.
I Dream of Jeannie.
Mayberry, RFD.
And one episode after another of “The Wonderful World of Disney”.
Those times, in hindsight, are often referred to as the Golden Age of the American experience.
The Baby Boom was underway.
Suburbs were sprawling out all across America.
Life was good!

And yet, even as we entertained ourselves with the wonderful images of the good life, there was a restless wind of change in the air.
A black lady, Rosa Parks, refused to move to the back of the bus.
Americans first heard about a small nation in Southeast Asia, called Vietnam.
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Later, his brother Bobby, and Dr. Martin Luther King would also fall to assassin’s bullets.
The times, they were a changing.
If ever there were a time that exemplified the verses in today’s Gospel lesson it was that time.
From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
While we watched the “Wonderful World of Disney”, the Watts Riots raged.
Jesus said “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
Those are probably not the most comforting words of Jesus, and they are difficult for us to hear.
There have been a lot more sermons preached on “love your neighbor as you love yourself” than on these verses.
And yet, with Jesus comes change, and with changes comes conflict.
At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, we hear the Magnificat, or Mary’s Song.
It begins nice enough.
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.”
If Mary had stopped singing there, perhaps we would have been more comfortable.  But Mary doesn’t stop singing there.  She goes on to say:
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
Those are words about change, and the transformative power of Jesus.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'
Mary’s Song is not Good News for the proud, the powerful, and the rich.
She sings of the changes that God promises in a world redeemed by love.
And whenever the winds of change blow, conflict ensues.
My Mother-in-Law used to say “Whenever God is at work, Satan is not far behind.”
That’s one way to look at the conflicts and divisions we experience in life.
God is doing a good thing but the Devil is actively opposing God’s will, and conflict is the result.
Then, as we wrestle with our divisions, we can debate who is on God’s side and who is on the Devil’s.  And of course, that debate itself will cause conflict.
One of the things I learned when I was studying philosophy in my undergraduate work, was called the Hegelian dialectic. 
What that means is that in every situation there is a thesis, and an antithesis, opposing viewpoints that are in tension with each other.
Transformation takes place as these opposing viewpoints, the thesis and antithesis, merge into a synthesis.
What I find myself longing for is that amid all the polarization that we experience in society and the Church, we might see these differences, not as a source of division, but rather as a creative tension that will resolve in a faithful and Godly way.
That may be wishful thinking on my part.
The struggle for us is that we agree in principle, but struggle when it gets down to specifics.
I continue to return to our purpose statement as a congregation:
“God’s purpose for our congregation is to welcome, love, and serve all in our local and global community.”
That’s the principle we agree on.
The conflict occurs, though, when we get specific.
If we were to say that our purpose is to welcome, love, and serve specific groups of people, conflict would follow.
On example of that occurred in the last couple of weeks.
The ELCA Assembly, reaffirmed its long standing commitment to minister to immigrants and refugees through such organizations as “the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services”.  As I reported to you, following our Synod Assembly, our commitment to this ministry is such that the Federal Government has requested our assistance in dealing with the influx of immigrants at our southern border.
But, in reaffirming this commitment, the Churchwide Assembly chose to use the word “Sanctuary”.
This resulted in some people being convinced we were advocating doing something illegal, which we’ve been assured was not the intent.
We will see how this all works out.
But the point is simply this:
It is easier to say we will “welcome, love, and serve ALL” in our local and global community,
Than it is to say we will “welcome, love, and serve the immigrant and refugee” in our midst.
What I will say is this:  That whenever we try to faithfully do the work of Jesus, there will be a tension, a struggle, a wrestling with each other over what is faithful and what is not.
But what I also will say is that I believe, that as painful as this conflict can be, God will work through that to bring about a greater good.
What we are called to do amid all the changes and conflicts of this world, is to trust that indeed, ‘the Father knows best’.

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