Wednesday, November 09, 2016

God Gets Us Unstuck

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 9, 2016

Titus 3:1-7
Psalm 91:9-16
Luke 17:11-19

God Gets Us Unstuck
            I admit that I’m exhausted and still trying to absorb the election results and the new political reality in which we are now living.
            The truth is that a few of us of us here at St. Paul’s are pleased by how things worked out, while many more are shocked, angry, and frightened.
            And, based on what we saw and heard during this campaign, people of color, women, immigrants, the disabled, gay and lesbian people, all have especially good reason to be concerned about what is yet to come.
            I know for many of us it feels like we’re stuck in a frightening place with no way to get unstuck.
            But, I also know that God specializes in making a way out of no way.
            God specializes in turning death into new life.
            God specializes in getting us unstuck.
            At one point during last night’s ordeal of watching the election results slowly come in, I thought I’d better take a look at the lessons appointed for this morning’s healing service.
            Now, when I was ordained I declared that I believe that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and contain everything necessary for salvation.
            And, I still believe that.
            But during the time I’ve been ordained I’ve become convinced that God also works through the lectionary – the schedule of readings that we hear in church.
            So often, the appointed lessons have somehow seemed just perfect for the day, for that particular moment.
            And, sure enough, that’s true for today.
            Last night when I looked at today’s lessons I both chuckled and groaned as I read the passage from a New Testament text we don’t often hear in church, the Letter to Titus:
            “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…”
            And then the author of the letter continues about how we Christians are to behave: we are “…to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show courtesy to everyone.”
            We have a long way to go, right?
            And, as I thought about that passage I thought about how for the last eight years a whole lot of people in our country, including lots of Bible-believing Christians, have consistently disrespected President Obama's authority as our president, most recently with the Senate flat-out refusing to hold hearings for his Supreme Court nominee – and there are many, many other examples.
            I have no doubt these years of disrespect have had a corrosive effect on our politics, have done a lot of damage to our country – all of this disrespect has helped to get us stuck.
            And now it would be tempting for those on the other side to return the favor and disrespect our next president.
            But, as sorely tempting as that is, we know that kind of behavior will just leave us even more stuck - and the author of the Letter to Titus reminds us that we Christians are meant to be ready for every good work, we are meant to resist speaking evil of anyone, we are meant to be gentle and to show courtesy to everyone.
            Though, most of us are probably not ready for that just yet.
            But, as hard as all of that is, if we give it a shot, I believe God will use our good efforts to help get us unstuck.
            I know that many of us are still just beginning to wrap our minds around what has happened, still grieving, so what I’m talking about may seem nearly impossible. But, if we doubt that God can really get us unstuck tonight we heard a portion of Psalm 91 – a psalm of confidence – confidence that God is with us no matter what dangers we face – confidence that God is with us even as we face the lions and snakes of our lives.
            And, I know that most, if not all, of us have faced our own lions and snakes, and have felt God’s presence and support – and that’s definitely not going to change now!
            Finally, we heard the gospel lesson that I read for us: the familiar story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, but only one, a despised Samaritan, returns to say thank you.
            You know, it’s hard to imagine being more stuck than being a leper in ancient Israel.
            People were understandably afraid of leprosy so lepers were forced to live on the outskirts of towns begging from people in order to survive.
            Yet, these oh so very stuck lepers have enough faith and hope to call out to Jesus for mercy – and Jesus does the seemingly impossible, making a way out of no way, creating new life, getting ten lepers unstuck out of their miserable lives.
            And then there’s that one grateful leper.
            Most of all, I think God uses gratitude to really get us unstuck.
            We’re never more stuck than we focus on the half-empty glass, when we dwell on all that we’ve lost, when we’re paralyzed by fear of the future.
            But, when we’re grateful, when we focus on the half-full glass, when we dwell on all we have, when we step into the future confidently holding each other’s hands, then we begin to get unstuck.
            So, in my better moments today I’ve been trying to be grateful – trying to give thanks that I’m right here with all of you, that I’m loved and I love, that together we have so many opportunities to serve and to learn and to feast and to sing.
            And, though I’m still exhausted and still very worried, I’m feeling a little better.
            We certainly have our work cut out for us and there are plenty of dangers ahead, but through God’s Word and through our own experience we know that God specializes in making a way out of no way.
            God specializes in turning death into new life.
            God specializes in getting us unstuck.