Sunday, November 13, 2022

23 Pentecost, 2022-C: The new creation

Lectionary: Isaiah 65:17-25, Canticle 9, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19 

En el nombre del Dios, que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen. 

One of the greatest mysteries of our faith – to me – is us. We who are bound up in skin, so marvelously made that the intricacies of our physicality are still being discovered by science… we who are also temples of God’s own Spirit, dwelling places of the Eternal One. We are walking, talking miracles: embodied spirits - form and formlessness, time and timelessness dwelling in our humble, complicated, beloved selves.

Our mortal nature allows us to kiss a loved one, walk on a grassy field, swim in the ocean, and nap under a tree. The Immortal One dwelling in us enables us to know love that transcends time, space, and persons; and to connect to all creation and our Creator in mystical union.

Our Collect today addresses the wholeness of our natures: our mortal selves that hear and see and learn, and our spiritual selves that open to holy Scripture and find it a doorway to hope, and eternity. Most of us know what this feels like – that moment you’re reading something in Scripture you’ve read 100 times before, but suddenly, it breaks you wide open and you are flooded with joy, insight, and truth – the whole thing leaving you breathless and amazed.

This is the moment we recognize how corporeal God’s presence is in us and at the same time, how transcendent we and all creation are in God. Like I said, it’s a mystery.

In our Old Testament reading today, the Prophet Isaiah speaks to this mystery. God is promising a new thing, a new Jerusalem a new place where God’s people will live in joy and the things of the earth that bring sadness or distress will be transformed by the love of God. This transformation will be corporeal, such that “ the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…” It will also be transcendent: “Before they call, I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

That is the new creation: the symbiotic dance of earth and heaven, God and creation, time and eternity. That is what we sing out in our moments of tranquility and what we cling to in faith when the world is crashing around us.

In the conversation between Jesus and his disciples in the gospel from Luke, we see Jesus guiding his students into this understanding ahead of their own trials. The plot to destroy Jesus is underway and Jesus knows what’s coming – for him and for them. The world is about to crash down around his disciples, so they need to learn how to look beyond the present moment on earth and embrace and ever hold fast to the eternal plan of God. 

So do we.

Has there ever been a time in earth’s history when there weren’t wars and insurrections? Nations rising against nations? Earthquakes, hurricanes, famines, and plagues?

Those aren’t the things to dread, Jesus tells his disciples because, before all of that, the powerful on earth will seize you and throw you in prison. You will be brought before kings and governors who will accuse you on account of me. This isn’t something to dread either, Jesus says, because it will be an opportunity for you to witness to the truth you know, the truth of the new creation prophesied by Isaiah fulfilled now in me.

Let’s pause here for a minute to notice something in this part of the story. Jesus says to his disciples: “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”

Jesus is promising his disciples that he will give them wisdom and the words they should use after he has been killed - which he also told them was going to happen. Did they wonder how he would do that? Do we? 

Do we remember that we are walking, talking miracles: embodied spirits - form and formlessness, time and timelessness dwelling in our humble, complicated, beloved selves because Jesus’ eternal Spirit lives in our mortal bodies, speaking for us, and acting through us in every moment of our earthly lives?

Corrie ten Boom was a perfect example of this. She was a Christian who put her own life at risk hiding Jews from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Her resistance resulted in her being sent to a concentration camp which she survived but most of her family didn’t. Corrie once said, “I know that the experiences of our lives when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work [God] will give us to do.” (Source)

When we surrender our need to judge, to escape suffering, or even to survive, and choose instead to embrace and ever hold fast to the redeeming love of God, we find life, hope, and true super-hero style strength. I think of saints like Corrie ten Boom, Catherine of Sienna, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – to name just a few.

As Christians, the end of anything is not something we dread or avoid or prepare to survive. It is for us, the revelation of a path to new life. Our reading from Isaiah shows us that God has been bringing new life from death for a very long time.

At the conclusion of this gospel reading, Jesus says, “By your endurance, you will gain your souls." This is often taken to mean that when we suffer, we “earn” our salvation, but that isn’t what Jesus is saying. Jesus never said stuff like that.

Jesus is saying that when we are suffering if we wait in the discomfort, we will awaken to the fact of the presence of God within us. When that happens, we become fully ourselves: human bodies housing the Divine Spirit. Then there is no circumstance, not a pandemic, not even death, that has power over us for we live and breathe in communion with God, according to the will and plan of God.

We can, therefore, let go of our desired outcomes, be undistracted by fear, and choose instead to be awake, aware, and alive in this present moment which is a gift from God. Embracing the hope of eternal life in Christ and holding fast to it no matter what we see or experience in the world is our faithful response.

I close with a poem about hope: 

“Hope is a state of mind not 
 dictated by what appears 
to be, but a promise 
built on faith. 

We look beyond 
fear. And begin to trust 
 what we do not yet see.

We listen 
for though we prepare
and plan
and strive to organize, Love 
will take us in
a new direction, a re-birth
beyond our comprehension. 

 In prayerful surrender
we discover who we are.
By faith we continue
to become
truly ourselves.”                                        Poem and photo: © Valori M. Sherer, 2009. All rights reserved. 


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