Sacred Soil

The joys of ministry
August 4, 2015, 5:26 pm
Filed under: Sermons

I love church. I love being a minister. You probably knew that, since I’m up here in this fancy robe. But I do. I love the weird rhythm of my days, always unpredictable. I love to gather in worship, and sing these old and new songs—I love coming to this place apart, a time that is so different than anything else that we do in life. But most of all, I love that it’s my job to tell how this ancient story of God’s loving creation undermines everything that is sick and wrong about the world—though I must tell you, sometimes that’s also the hardest part of my job.

This church thing really is an odd thing we do together. Yes, I just called you odd. Because, to be honest, you are all just a touch unusual. Which makes me feel welcome and at home… But, just look at us, we’re all here, gathered in a church on a beautiful Sunday morning, in August. We are here in church at that point in summer when we begin to realize that it will end, and the call to sleep in seems overwhelming.

Yet here we are.  Reminding each other, that God’s love overwhelms all the evil in the world.

But it’s not always easy. And sometimes it’s awfully hard.

I suppose that’s also part of why we’re here.

It all goes back to the beginning– So it turns out that our creation story in the Bible, the one where the narrator says over and over again, “and God saw that it was good.” It turns out that this is one of the most radical bits of literature in the world at the time. Because, God created it good?

It’s radical, because at the time there were also a lot of other creation stories floating around, most notably the creation story that the Babylonians told–A story that has remarkable parallels to our own. But that story is marked by a conviction that the world was created by evil and violence. Indeed, according to the Babylonians, the universe was created as the by-product of a war between a God and a Goddess. We are the debris.

But the Hebrew people knew a God that created the world good and called humanity to goodness. God created the world fundamentally good, calling us back to that goodness and wholeness, calling us back to a relationship with God.

In Babylonian thinking—that would make no sense. None. In Babylonian thinking there is no wholeness, no relationship. No goodness. Only evil, and our meager attempts to make that bearable.

That kind of thinking didn’t stop when Babylon fell. We see traces of Babylonian thinking creeping into our world over and over again.

  • This is what the Israelites were doing in our passage from Exodus today—they complain against Moses, angry and hostile that he had the gall to free them. They say, we would rather have stayed in Egypt, where at least we had food.
  • And I see it in myself too. This past week, I was sitting with someone having one of those conversations about the news—you know that conversation. It begins with this lament about all the terrible things that are happening, and ends with the utter conviction that the world is falling apart and there is nothing we can do about it because everyone is so messed up. My usual tactic in these situations is to also remind the person about the good things that are happening—things like Awake! and the ways we show kindness, and how proud I am of the ways people are living their calling. But, I too had just read the news, and Babylonian thinking had crept into me—and I couldn’t do it. All I could muster was a thin reminder that God promises to bring all things together for good. The statement seemed a bit hollow in the moment.

But the story of the Israelite’s complaining does not end there—they do not wither and starve.  God rains down bread upon them, bringing quail in the evening, and they are heartened. And they remember that God created the world good. And they keep going.

And then I remember that these passages were written by a people who were in exile, a people who were actively defying the Roman government. They were cherished by the martyrs. These are texts that have sustained prisoners, refugees, people bound by slavery. Over and over again, through out all of history, these are texts that brought hope to people for whom the news was not good. A people for whom Babylonian thinking may have been far more logical.

But the stories remind us, God brought bread. The bread of life that will sustain us even when the powers of the world try to declare that Babylon wins.

There’s another thing I love about church. I love that we are here, gathered together as the body of Christ. I love that I’m not the only minister in the room. I love that we are called to ministry—each and every one of us. Yes, we all do it different—but that’s the beauty of it. We each have different gifts, but they are all important. Very important.

That’s right—you all are ministers, ministers of the good news. The Good news. The good news that God created the world good, and that God promises to bring all things together for good. You all are ministers, sharing in this work of revealing that love, revealing that goodness and hope. You and I are both are called to tell how this ancient story of God’s loving creation undermines everything that is sick and wrong about the world. We are all called to that, using the good gifts that God has given us.

You don’t need to be a pastor to do that. No need for seminary, or an ordination, or even for anyone to give you permission. That permission was given to you in your baptism.

And that’s a big part of why we come here—to remind ourselves of that, to hold onto those stories that reveal God’s loving creation. To receive that bread of life, and never be hungry. We come to remind ourselves that our calling is not to make Babylon happy, but to reshape ourselves into the body of Christ.

We come, each of us with our own gifts. Some of us teachers, artists, 2nd graders, 3rd graders, middle schoolers. Some of us organizers, some of us singers. Some of us prayers, some doers. Each of us extraordinarily gifted, by the God who created us for good.

So my beloved ministers of the Good news, where is Christ calling you? And how can we, the body of Christ with you, help?