Posted by: dacalu | 30 July 2017

The Little Things (aka Time and Eternity)

This morning, I had the pleasure to worship with the people of St. Stephen’s, Laurelhurst. Here is the sermon I shared.

 

Prayer

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Readings

Genesis 29:15-28 (Jacob works for Laban for 14 years to marry his daughter Rachel)

Psalm 105:1-11 (“Continually seek His face.”)

Romans 8:26-39 (Nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”)

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 (parables of the mustard seed and the pearl of great price)

 

Sermon

I want to talk today about the power of little things.
	I want to talk about making eye contact with strangers.
		Yes, I know we’re Seattlites 
and we value the safety of our private worlds,
but think for a moment about what it has meant to you
when someone smiled,
someone you didn’t know and it made the world brighter.
	It seems sometimes that we go out of our way not to make connections.
	I want to talk about being willing to start a conversation
		with someone at the grocery store,
		waiting in line,
		or a homeless person on the street.
	I want to talk about knowing your neighbors,
		the people who live to the right and left of you.
		Raise your hand if you’ve spoken to your neighbors
			in the past months.
These are little things, but they are a beginning.
They are the first steps toward a life of greater connection and meaning.
	I want to talk about feeding people that don’t have food:
		a sandwich or a piece of fruit or a granola bar.
	I want to talk about visiting the sick.
		I’ll bet each one of you has a friend or a neighbor or a family member
			who is in the hospital or housebound.

The little things matter.
They are not the only things;
	there are big things as well.
Big things are special gifts, when we see something that needs to be done
	something significant that we can do.
But goodness, heroism, virtue,
	these come from a lifetime of little things
	day in and day out.
Perhaps they prepare us for the big things,
	 but most of all they have value in themselves.
Jesus spends a great deal of time talking to individuals,
	helping people in small ways,
	with a touch or a word or even just by noticing them.
We have that power as well.

1600 years ago, there was a group of theologians in Cappadocia,
	what is now Southern Turkey:
Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Macrina.
The Cappadocians distinguished between
	things that are everlasting – which lasted throughout time –
	and things that are eternal – which transcend time.
We can speak of a river running from spring to sea.
	A fish might run the whole course of the river,
		but an otter can get out and sun herself on the bank.
We are creatures of time, 
just as fish and otters are creatures of the river,
but it matters whether we are fish or otters,
whether we aim to travel all of time,
or step beyond it.
Eternal life, according to the Cappadocians,
	means more than living on and on after we die.
It means transcending ourselves,
	stepping out of the river of time
	and into the realm of God.
We do not abandon the river.
Transcendence is not about leaving time altogether.
	Time is something to befriend and play in
	instead of a master to be served.

It’s terribly easy to think about Christian ideas of virtue and righteousness
	as a lifelong score-card.
Will I make enough points to get into heaven?
Paul’s goal in Romans is to get us beyond that type of thinking.
	The world is unsatisfactory.
	And we, in ourselves are unsatisfactory.
	We do not live up to our own expectations.
	We cannot imagine surviving until the end of time,
		much less stepping out of it.
	Life seems too hard a game to win.
Paul reminds us that it is not a competition.
Nor are we playing alone.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we ought, 
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 
And God, who searches the heart, 
knows what is the mind of the Spirit, 
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints 
according to the will of God.”

God’s Spirit moves in us.
And God’s Spirit lifts us out of the world we know,
	into something bigger.

I want to talk about the power of little things.
We dream of overcoming violence, hatred, disease, and poverty – 
	and we should dream of conquering the world in this way.
	We should bend out heart and mind and soul and strength,
	to make the world a paradise.
And yet, if this were all that Christianity was about,
	we would have to admit that we are not very good at it.
I do not think that worldly solutions are sufficient to the problem.
Physics and biology, thermodynamics and evolutionary biology,
	suggest to me that there is some unsatisfactoriness built into the world.
	Death and suffering, entropy and chaos
	are ways of describing the fundamental order of the world.
	They are the wetness of the water.
Death cannot destroy death.
Suffering cannot end suffering.
Conquest can never end war.

The promise of Christianity lies in our ability to step outside the world,
	to become “more than conquerors”
	by stitching together eternity and time,
	stepping out of the water,
		but bringing the air and the light back in.
Eternity gives us moments of transcendence,
	when we, who live in time, can reach beyond it.
We think that such mountaintop moments are rare and costly,
	but they are not.
The shore is never far away.
The Christian life involves cultivating the tiny moments of transcendence.

Every time we truly connect with another person,
	we create a link with eternity,
	with the God who transcends time and individuality.
Every time we truly pray, so that we know we are not alone,
	but with God,
	we create a link with eternity.
God is love.

If we love God in hope of some reward, 
then we are, ultimately, loving the reward,
worshipping the reward.
If we love God in fear of losing something, 
then we are, in the end, worshipping that which we might lose.
We love God in the moment and in eternity,
	because we know the God we have found here, and now, 
	in ourselves and in one another,
	is better than life and pleasure for all time.
Love does not guarantee our future,
	it reveals and sanctifies the present.

We hope for what we do not see, but it is not belief, faith, or love that we hope for.
	We have those in our relationship with one another and with Christ.
We hope that all the other things will fall into place, if we love Jesus.
This is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price.
	This is what we are willing to sacrifice all else for –
	the fundamental, primary, existential choice of love for God
		and love, in God, for all of Creation.
Like the mustard seed, it is a very small thing, to choose love.
	There is little power in it, in the earthly sense.
	It guarantees no wealth, no happiness, and no safety.
	It does not even guarantee that those we love
		will love us back.
Like the seed, we can only plant and water
	and hope that God gives growth.
And so, we have the love of God in us.
	We have the pearl of great price in our relationship with God,
	the questioning, trusting, intimate, surprising
		communication that goes on in prayer and sacraments.
And we have a hope for what that love may grow into
	in the context of a community.

I speak of little things, not to discourage you from grand endeavors.
We can and should and must work in the world
	alongside every other faith and non-faith.
It is human nature to try to fix the world.
I speak of little things because while we do that,
	we can invite the Kingdom of God,
	daily.

I speak of little things because the world seems overwhelming.
What can I do to fix the church, the government, the economy?
What can I do to make people love and trust one another?
What can I do in the midst of the maelstrom?
I can love others.
	I can plant seeds.
	I can nudge every soul
		a little closer to the banks of eternity,
		where they can meet the living God.
	
We enter the kingdom of God
	with a smile or a gift,
	whenever we feed the hungry
		or care for the sick,
	because the place between us
	miraculously, is also the place between here and eternity.
It cannot be entered tomorrow.

 

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Responses

  1. Thank you Lucas. A wonderful sermon. I am looking forward to your next sermon.
    Martial artist – which one?
    Greg

    • Dear Greg,
      Thanks for reading. I mostly study Hapkido and Tai Chi. http://ensocenter.org/
      Best wishes.

      God is with you.
      Lucas


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