Monday, September 26, 2011

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

When I first get to the church, it’s very frustrating not to be able to open the doors. Or move the communion table.  I feel helpless. I think of trying to open the doors then realize that I just can’t.  So I go doen to the Bengldeshi copy store to pick up the bulletins. 
Deacon James is the first to arrive and opens the doors and moves the table. I’m feeling better. Andre arrives. then Amy, too. At least we’ll have music. I’m starting to feel better.
Lots on my mind today. It’s been an interesting week.  There was, of course, the execution of Troy Davis,with the  Supreme Court refusing to review the appeal.  It was the 8th straight day of protestors occupying Wall Street with virtually no mention of this occupation  in the news.  Palestine applied for official membership as a state in the United Nations. And yes, US soldiers are still in Afghanistan and Iraq. Young people continue to die. 
A number of themes emerge today. There are issues around faith and authority. In Exodus 17: 1-7, the people are grumbling again. The last time it was because of no food, this time, it’s  no water.  They are frustrated. They want to go back to Egypt. And of course, they blame Moses. And Moses has that classic pastor’s lament, "What shall I do with this people? They are ready to stone me" (Exodus 17:4.) Actually, the people are not so much whiners. With no water in the desert, they are actually desperate. 
God’s response is somewhat strange. God says to Moses, I will be standing there on the rock, strike the rock...Was God on the rock? How do you strike the rock without striking God?
I suppose it also raises for us the questiom of what is success? By earthly standards, Moses was a failure as a leader. He and the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Why? Was it just because the men didn’t want to stop to ask for directions?
We expect, we want, but don’t always get,immediate success. But maybe it took that long to get the pharoah out of the people. Like they say, it is easier to get the people out of Egypt than Egypt out of the people......what pharoah do we need to get rid of?  Nancy Sehested has said that true liberation delivers us from ALL that binds us, diminshes us, enslaves us.  We have to revisit what we call success or ourselves from any internal pharoah, any internalized Egypt. 
In the gospel, Matthew 21: 23-32, we are faced with the issue of  authority...By what authority does Jesus do what he does? He answers in terms of our seeing what it is that he does. The holy people miss it, but the tax collectors and prostitutes get it. Who are the  tax collectors and prostitutes?  They are moral outsiders. The unclean. Steroypical outsiders. (Who are ours? The people on our steps?) Is this  name calling on Jesus’ part or the expression of a preferential option? Jesus’ actions are their own authority. 
Then we have the two sons. The one who says says he’ll work is a no-show. The one who says no at first shows up, gets the job done.  Tax collectors and prostitutes again.   I’m remembering Chuck Mac Donald, my snow shoveling buddy from last winter. Who asked if I was the minister or just someone paid by the minister to be there. When I convinced him that I was indeed the minister he said, Well, then I suppose I have to help you. I don’t want to, but I’m going to. And for the next hour he and his son shovelled their way down 86th Street. ( ) That’s what this is about.  
1 billion of us live in richest nations, 5 billion  in the poorest. How do we think of ourselves? How do we relate? And where are we in these stories? Who are we in these stories?
The answer, I believe is  that passage we read thismorning from Phillipians (2:13)  now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
Yes, we must work out our own salvation in fear and trembling, living with passion, being willing to take risks, putting a stake in the ground, claiming our ground  and making our stand, but when we go to bed at night, be willing to  consider that we just might be wrong. 
Having the faith to step out, granting authority only to God, seeing the authority of Jesus in his life, not looking, waiting for miracles but working it out on our own in fear and trembling.
May this be our commitment, may we stand with one another on the journey.
Andre sings Come thou font of every blessing, take up our offering, sing a final hymn and gather in our circle for a blessing.  
Later today will be the last perfomance of the Dark Lady Players and the first concert in a new series. 
John (fistbump) closes the doors for us. Our worship has ended. Our service will continue. 

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