Dec. 4, 2016 – sounds of trumpet or shofar or other horn blasts were played during sermon.
Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
28 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.29 Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
Good news people. I have good election news for us. On NPR, I heard that is Trump’s election will bring people streaming back to church—that in this time of uncertainty, grief, and division. People will be looking for meaning, constancy and dependency and all of that can be found right here in the rituals of the church.
Rituals like, comftibility time. You don’t know that one? Comftibility time. To be fair, it is not an ecclesiastical ritual, but it is practiced religiously. Every morning, after breakfast but before getting dressed and ready for school, Micah crawls back into bed, under the covers, with all his stuffed animals. It is only after this comftibility time that my 9yr old can face the rest of the day.
And evidently, that is why we should be expecting people of all ages to come flocking back to church, as that Public Radio commentator promised. Evidently, it is here in church that people will find comfort in stability, the meaning, the rituals. Ancient words, oft repeated and well worn.
Of course, here at Village the constant isn’t the words we say or sing. Those change almost every week, but we do have tradition. We’ve formed ourselves our worship around a from—gather, word, giving, table. In this ancient ordo, we have found our own comftibility time. Our time to step away from the stress, our time to be comforted by the hope of the next. to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of candles, to surround ourselves in sacred song, and sacred silence.
Blow the trumpet. Or the shofar. That’s how the passage that we just read from Joel begins. Blow the trumpet right in the middle of all that’s going on. Blow that trumpet—disrupt, unsettle, and shake us up. Joel does not let us, even and especially in times of distress, allow us to keep up our religious/sacred/holy business as usual.
The Lor says, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning”; Don’t just put on sack cloth and ashes. Don’t just stick a safety pin in your sweater. Rend your hearts.
I don’t know about you, but rending my heart doesn’t fit well with comftibility time. It sounds painful, picturing it looks bloody, medically I’m pretty sure rending hearts is deadly.
And that’s as it should be. Repentance, returning to God, isn’t always about some zen-like peacefulness. This is more than hand-wringing. Rending our hearts, just isn’t pretty. Returning to God means death—to our sin, death to our selfishness, death to our excuses, death to our judgements, death to addictions, and yes even relationships. Returning to God is not about our comftibility.
We turn to the God who is burning, a fire in a bush, thunder in the mountain, waves of water flooding the every creek, nook, and cranny of the earth. But not only that. We return to the God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing—even the ones, even the things we deserve. I don’t know about you, but that’s a special kind of death.
I can deal with getting what I deserve. I can especially deal with others getting what they deserve. To be brutally honest (which is what rending hearts is all about). I don’t mind white supremecists, rapists, corporate ceo’s, etc. and so forth getting their comeupance. I’m pretty damn comfortable with that.
But blow the trumpet.
God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. So liturgically we sit here together most Sundays and confess our sin, not to avoid punishment, but because God’s forgives. Because God is just so God awfully merciful, we get to stop what we are doing just about every week. Quit reading the Sunday paper or listening to Wait, Wait, don’t tell me. or sleep, or play, or cook or clean, or read a good book, and we interrupt the world’s regularly scheduled programming, and we intentionally interrupt our comftibiity time because God’s got something else in mind for us. Blowing this trumpet, isn’t like blowing our car horns so that we can just keep going down the same road.
Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
This is every pastor’s dream. The day when we are out of a job, because everyone’s acting on their full spiritual potential. While we’re working on that day, Village church, do you know you’re already practicing this. We know that I as our resident cleric am not the keeper of ritual, not the keeper of faith, I am not the professional pray-er. Blow the trumpet because God doesn’t allow us to keep our rituals right and tidy within these four walls. Joel doesn’t promise the spirit just for our liturgy committee. Because, you know when we rend our hearts, something has got to fill that space, something has got to bring the pieces and fragments together. Let me tell you, this is where it really gets messy, where it really can get uncomfortable, as we acknowledge, as we see, as we listen to God’s spirit bubbling within each and every single one of us, and not just here where it’s safe, in our place of comftibity, but out there.
Now you don’t have to blow a horn everywhere you go, but let me tell you God is in you and through you God is bringing inspiritiblity, to this world, to your world God is in you hopiblity, truthibility, dreamibilibyt, actibility, We may not see hordes of people checking in at congregations, but as we live as disciples of Jesus, we offer our people, our world, the opportunity for some repentibilty time. Return to the Lord, and ultimately even in this world we are promised that with our God we will share the gift of true comftibility time. Amen.