Where do we go from here?
Interestingly, I did not preach on what I had prepared. I have done my best to provide the sermon I gave. As in most congregations on this particular weekend, we stressed that it is okay to rejoice in the election and also okay to feel sorrow. I endorsed no particular candidate, but lean on the understanding of God...
Where do we go from Here?
Jeremiah 23: 1- 6
Colossians 1: 11-20
Luke 23: 33-43
I am not sure if you all saw this on the news this week, but did you know there was an election? Yeah, apparently this has been going on for quite some time, and surprisingly, the two candidates did not care much for each other, or so it seems. All kidding aside, I think many churches across the nation are having to open with the acknowledgement of what is going on around them. This election wore on folks for so many reasons, probably even too numerous to name.
I have a confession to make to you all. I felt a very strong urge to speak about the direction of the campaigns and the controversy surrounding the candidates several weeks ago. The urge was not to promote or disparage any particular candidate, but to discuss what all of this rhetoric meant to us as Christians and how we should prepare ourselves to continue with some discord amongst us. But, I chickened out. I knew that the line I would have to walk would be narrow and it would be rough to maintain steady forward progress. But, guess what. I waited, the line got narrower, and God still wants me to mention a thing or two.
I figure a pastor has two main methods of communicating with a congregation. The pastor can use words, which, hopefully, is a skill they possess; or the pastor can use actions to demonstrate the message he or she wishes to convey. I learned quickly this week that finding the correct words can be tricky and action can be misinterpreted. I also learned that the methods of words and actions are but a small part of overall communication and there are many more methods to be considered. Because, to be honest, my mission and my goal is to help each one of you develop a strong personal relationship with Christ. My hope is to connect your heart with the one who can guide it; the one who can heal it; and the one who can fill it with peace and with balance.
But, today folks have come from different backgrounds with different political views to sit in the pews of a church to find an answer to a common question no matter who you voted for, where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here? That is a great question and we are probably not the first ones to ask it.
Today’s first reading came from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah has the distinction of sharing the news with Israel and Judah that they will be punished by the Lord. This is really not the type of news anyone would want to deliver. But, out of obedience to God, Jeremiah accepts his role and shares the news with the people. Much like the role of Elijah that we discussed last week, Jeremiah is now in conflict with the rulers and the people. The text refers to the “shepherds who have destroyed and scattered God’s sheep”. The indication here is that the shepherds; the kings, the rulers, the religious leaders, they have not been caring or “tending” for God’s sheep as true shepherds would. They have let them wander, they have let them go astray, and only bring them back when it is convenient.
To understand this sentiment. Think about the covenant with Abraham that God made. His name, the name of Israel, will be great among nations and his descendents will be many. Obedience to God and a commitment to demonstrate that allegiance through circumcision was all that was required. But, something happened along the way. Something changed the way the people considered the covenant they were in with God. It became a covenant of convenience. The people have latched on to the promise of God to David that his house and kingdom will endure forever. (2 Samuel 7:16) They tend to forget about the original agreement that preceded this promise from God to David.
Living in the false understanding that Israel’s land and kingdom is secured forever, the people tend to forget about praising and obeying the one who is watching over the land and them. The people mock God by worshipping idols than coming to worship Him. The Shepherds offer no correction and are guilty of the same behavior themselves.
Jeremiah, says, “Look a new Shepherd is coming. A new King is on the way and this way of life will no longer be okay. For this new King, in the line of David, will be a King of Righteousness.” Then he drops the boom on them, he tells them they are going to be in for a rough time. So rough in fact that, the saving of Israel from Egypt...remember that whole thing with Moses and Pharaoh...well, that will no longer be the description of God’s power and might. It will be when God rescues the current people from their captivity. The people have willfully sinned against God and will be reprimanded by God like a parent reprimands a child. Israel is being punished and now must wait for this new King of Righteousness. In the meantime, they likely ask themselves, “Where do we go from here?”
Pressing the Pause Button
Let’s stop right here for a second. Let’s reflect on what we have learned together. In every story we have shared from the Old Testament in the past weeks, I hope you see a theme. If not, let me help. I tend to see that God reaches out to His people and desires connection with them. Why wouldn’t God want that? God has created the human in God’s image and walked and talked with that creation daily until the humans directly disobeyed God. God has no choice but to punish the humans for their disobedience, so He does. But, from the very moment the punishment is levied, God is working to restore the relationship to its original place.
God does not want to force the human return, he wants them to desire that return. He wants it to be their choice. In every narrative we have explored the theme seems to be that God reaches out, we fall away, God reprimands us for the disobedience, and then comes back with a stronger and more outward act of love to attempt another reconciliation.
So Israel waited for their reconciliation. They waited for this new King. They waited for this new deliverer. They waited for the new demonstration of power and might. What they received was a simple man who ate with sinners and touched the unclean. What they received was a man who cared nothing for the material world around Him, but cared everything for the people that comprised it. What they received was a man who cared more for Godly righteousness than humanly justice. What they received was a man, who wore a crown of thorns while nailed to a cross between two thieves. The King was innocent, but His subjects were guilty. He gave Himself up, so they would not perish. This shepherd was no sham. This shepherd took the flock and pointed them directly to the path they were to take and held them there by deed and spirit.
The Kingdom is Here and the Reign is Now
We, as a church, have been learning who we are in relation to our identity in God. We have discussed our purpose in creation to rule as the beloved keepers of creation for God, we have discussed our constant revolt against God’s authority in the desires of the self, and we have seen how God continuously comes back for us. God makes promises and entered a covenant with us that God kept and we broke. But, God never gave up. God’s love is relentless! God wanted the relationship for us that we were created to have with God to return to its created being and for us to see its worth. We became so separated, so despondent, in our relationship with God that we nearly forgot about God. God, however, never forgot about us. As we fell deeper and deeper into sin, God sought more and more for our hearts. God did the only thing God could do to remind us what it was like to walk with Him daily. To touch Him and to feel His presence. To hear his Word and to see His miracles and experience His righteousness. God showed that the human is truly created in the image of God. How?
Because God became one of us. God met us where we were and took on our burdens, because we could not do it for ourselves. God did this, so the barrier of our sin would be removed and we could walk with God again. Today, I tell you, today I share with you, the good news that God became fully one of us in Jesus Christ to offer our salvation and that Jesus Christ is King over all.
Where do we go from here? We simply go to God.
Let us pray...