Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016.07.17 Wake Up!

A funny thing happened in church today. I was the preacher but I didn’t preach. I identified a stand-out theme in the biblical readings, which I called WAKE UP!  Briefly I outlined it: 
         Old Abraham woke up fast when three strangers with angelic credentials showed up to let          him know he and Sarah would have a new son at age 100++ And Sarah split her sides. They woke up.
    The author of Collisions, (that’s Colossians!) burst onto the scene with an amazing proclamation, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” This was hardly a new idea to this author. He’d heard it all before, yet this idea woke this writer up for the first time.
    And what about the old familiar, tried and true story of Mary and Martha in Bethany with Jesus? Sigh. Nothing gets old or dull save we make it so, yet this one was drying up. Was there a wake-up call in this story? What was new here? I wondered.

You know when you read to a small child you can see God. They love this story and beg you to read it again—and again—and again—until you want to throw up. But you read it over and over, because you love this child, and because you get to share in the wake-up face: eyes lit up, delight spread all over the face—every single time. It's contagious.The child eventually knows the story enough to turn pages at the right places and says all the words even though they can’t read. The story becomes the child’s own story. It’s gospel—incarnate, a scriptural process.

I imagine this is how the Holy Spirit works the biblical texts into our flesh in a way that wakes us up. So what about the Martha/Mary/Jesus story in Luke? Could we wake it up together?

I invited the congregation (about 25 people spread out all over the big sanctuary, Anglican-like,)  re-read the brief clip of story I affectionately call the M& M story, then paused. So? What do you think? Silence. Was anyone awake? I waited and asked again: What wakes you up in this story? There’s no right or wrong here. What do you notice? I gestured. Then slowly, slowly the sermon began to happen.

The women busted out from their containment and found the "preacher" inside them. I didn’t dare imagine how they had held back for so long. Most of them were Marthas who had always held resentment about this story. One of them even received applause for her bold declamation of Jesus’ bad attitude. Men chimed in with their own feelings. One said he “got the spiritual idea.” The place was vibrating with energy. Faces lit up; eyes brightened. Nothing got out of hand. I was not tempted to explain, take back control or defend Jesus—or Luke.

Together we created the most magnificent thing—gave the Holy Spirit a workout and Her own wake-up call.

A man who is nearly deaf and rarely speaks, suddenly offered a prayer of thanksgiving aloud in just the right place, even though he couldn’t hear. “I knew something was going on here. I didn’t hear it but the women were talking. I don’t agree with any sermons but last night a man in my writing group for homeless people at the cathedral rummaged through his collection of street pick-ups, found a window fan and gave it to me. I slept so well last night. Thank you.”

The buzz kept on through coffee hour and outside as people left for their homes. The best news?  No one said, “Good sermon, Lyn.”