Celebrating 139 Years of God’s Faithfulness 11/22

Today is the last Sunday of the church calendar, and our reading from Revelation refers briefly to the expected second coming. Next week, we begin the season of Advent similarly expectant. Sometimes I think we need to begin Advent a little early, since we push Christmas early, so let’s think of this text as an Advent text, as begin our wait for the coming of Jesus, who has been with us since the beginning. Listen for the word of God.

 Revelation1:4b-8 Grace and peace to you, from the One who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits before the throne and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the Firstborn from the dead, sovereign of the rulers of the earth. To Christ—who loves us, and who has freed us from our sins by the shedding of blood, and who has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God and Creator—to Jesus Christ be glory and power forever and ever!  Amen. Look!  Christ is coming on the clouds for every eye to see, even those who pierced Jesus, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn over Christ.  So be it!  Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says our God, “who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

November 22, 2015

Celebrating 139 Years of God’s Faithfulness

When God is present, you can accept, – even embrace – disaster or failure. This is only a slightly different message than I had last week, but I want to explore it some more. Last week, we talked about giving thanks in all circumstances, including the hardest circumstances, the times when we fail, the times when things are really hard. Today’s message is similar – God is present with us at all times. God in Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty – so we don’t have to be afraid of anything.

It might take more than a week or two to get our heads around audacious claims like these. So work with me on this, ok?

Stephen Colbert is the comedian who took over the Late Show from David Letterman. Have you seen his show? I may have only seen the first night, when Lizzy Marmon, daughter of Betty Marmon, who was confirmed in this church, helped Colbert sing the National Anthem. I think Colbert is very funny and I hope the show is good, but I don’t stay up late enough to watch it.

I did read an interview with him, however, highlighted in Good News magazine. The original interview was in GQ and it was fascinating. The focus of the article was to help readers understand how Colbert dealt with the gut-wrenching tragedy of losing both his father and his two brothers in a plane crash when he was 10 years old.

He said he spent the next 8-10 years – through high school, reacting and dealing, naturally, with this tragedy in his life. He went to college and got into theater and ended up at Second City, a comedy troupe in Chicago. Now, he says the first night he went on stage professionally as a comedian, the Second City director Jeff Michalski gave him this advice, “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”

… He said he trained himself, not just onstage but every day in life, even in his dream states, to steer toward fear rather than away from it. “I like to do things that are publicly embarrassing,” he said, “to feel the embarrassment touch me and sink into me and then be gone. I like getting on elevators and singing too loudly in that small space. The feeling you feel is almost like a vapor. The discomfort and the wishing that it would end that comes around you. I would do things like that and just breathe it in.” He stopped and took in a deep yogic breath, then slowly shook his head. “Nope, can’t kill me. This thing can’t kill me.”

 

I find this example really healthy. I don’t know. I hate making mistakes. I hate being embarrassed. I can remember things that I did 10, 20 years ago, and kick myself, yelling at myself – “Idiot!” Why did you do that?” I heard someone on a radio show the other day talking about how unhealthy it is to talk to ourselves that way, to allow ourselves an inner voice to ourselves that we would never use with someone else. I would never yell, “Idiot!” at anybody – except maybe that guy on City Ave. who swerved in front of me last week.

We are giving an the Jim McDermott Award for Congregational Service today to brother Roy Schollenberger. I want to say a word of appreciation about him. He is a truly humble guy. He would rather not be upfront receiving an award. In fact things like this are difficult from him. He likes things to be ordered and set. He doesn’t like change. Change is painful to him. And there’s been a lot of change around here. But St. Luke has been a gift to him, and he has been a gift to St. Luke. His faithfulness has been a constant here through a lot of changes. He has made faithfulness trump fear as he for 20 years has made sure the candles were refreshed and lit. He’s always been ready to serve communion and to make sure that everything was in place for the service. He’s been a gift to this church.

 

Our passage for this morning from Revelation says “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says our God, “who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” When I was growing up we sang the Gloria Patri in church every week that went “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.” I notice that our passage to day is different than that.

Instead of God who was, is and ever shall be, the passage says, God who is, who was, and who is to come. The emphasis is God in the present, always in the present. God who is with us when we are laughing or crying, who is with us when we are kicking ourselves or when we are full of ourselves. God who is with us now, and who was with us when we founded the church, and God who is coming as as we experiment with what the church can be for future generations.

Let me make one more note here before I close. Revelations is addressed to the seven angels of seven churches. Walter Wink taught us that angels actually exist. They are the corporate personalities of any institution, the church or a club or a team. They all have a personality that is bigger than any of the individuals.

St. Luke has a wonderful corporate personality. I think of the angel of St. Luke as being resilient, giving, and  growing. I’d be interested to think together about how we would characterize our angel – what she looks like, how she acts.

 

One thing is clear, the angel of St. Luke trusts God. We proclaim the One who is with us now, who has always been with us, and who is coming in new ways every day, the God of Creation who calls us even when we are yelling at ourselves, the Living God in Christ who turns disaster into creativity and the Holy Spirit who transforms our errors into opportunities.

This is God’s good news.

Responsive Hymn 140 Great is thy Faithfulness