05/17/15 Sermon (May 17, 2015)

posted Jun 24, 2015, 11:42 AM by David Hawkins

“Where Do We Belong?”

Scripture Reading: John 17:6-19

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.

“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Sermon: "Where Do We Belong?"             Rev. David Hawkins

First of all, I’d like to thank Dr. Richard Morgan for filling the pulpit last Sunday. I think it is wonderful that we have the chance to hear from other voices from time to time, to get other perspectives. When I was a choir director in Grand Junction, I would invite other choir directors to teach my choir for a day or so, and it was always helpful to hear many of the same things being said, but in a different way, in a different accent, so to say. The Gospel Message is big, it is overwhelmingly big, and we need to see it from as many different angles as possible to get the whole picture.

I especially think it is a good thing for members of our own church to preach from time to time, rather than relying on outside experts to fill the pulpit. Everybody here has a story, everybody here has a sermon inside them, at least one. In fact, I’ve heard it said that even preachers have a least one sermon inside them. The problem is, they  keep preaching that same sermon over and over again.

Anyway, it’s good for me to take some time off, and it is good for you all to hear  a different voice. And I can report that my mother and father have been successfully married for 50 years. They may have even been happily married for that long as well, I didn’t ask, but, regardless, they have made it 50 years together, and I think that qualifies as a success in anybody’s book.

In fact, I would say that it’s more than just a success. It is downright saintly.

As you recall from the children’s message, being a saint, being sanctified has the meaning of being ‘set apart’ for a specific purpose, and after 50 years, I can say without a doubt that my parents were set apart for one another. This doesn’t mean that they were cut off from the world, or that they were somehow superior to everyone else. I don’t even want to say that I know the purpose for which they were set aside, except to suggest that me being here today probably had something to do with it, for which I am, of course, very grateful.

But the truth is, only God knows the full purpose for which my mother and father were set aside for each other. We can say, however, that their intentional decision to be together, to set themselves apart as a couple is a holy one, and I think it helps me understand a little bit more about what being a saint is all about.

 It is this being set-apart that Jesus is talking about today, this question of saintliness, the question of where we belong, to whom we belong. Jesus is getting ready to face the hardest test of his life, a test that completely eclipses his 40 days of starvation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. He knows that he will not survive this test. He knows that there are no angels waiting for him, there is no climbing down from the cross he is about to mount.

And yet, his final prayers are for his disciples. His final thoughts are about their well-being, about their fellowship, about their continued ministry together. He knows that what is about to happen to him will shake their confidence. He knows that the horrible torture and crucifixion that he is about to experience will make them question everything he has taught them, will make them doubt everything they have witnessed for the last three years.

And so, as he contemplates the approaching reality of the last few hours of his own life, Jesus prays for his disciples. Not to remove them from the world, not to take them from all possibility of danger, of risk, but to give them the strength and the courage to take the risks that come with speaking and living the truth, especially when that truth is uncomfortable for to a world used to getting its own way.

It would be easier, of course, to hide, to sequester ourselves away from this world. It is a great temptation to surround ourselves with walls, gated communities, to separate ourselves from the dangers of a hostile world.

Christian communities have tried to do this for literally thousands of years, tried to form perfect communities, utopian fellowships with stout walls, strict codes of behavior, and very visible and distinct signs of unity. There is a tremendous desire for us to retreat, to withdraw, to circle the wagons -- and let’s tell the truth, it would be easier for us to do so. It would be easier for us to physically separate ourselves from the world, to cut ourselves off from those with whom we disagree, those who make us uncomfortable. It would be easier if we didn’t try to find ways to get along with people with whom we don’t share the same values, to work toward harmony with those with whom we seem to have nothing in common.

In other words, it would be easier for us to spiritually and physically and emotionally go off the grid. To leave modern society altogether, pack up our bug-out kits,  grab a stout hunting knife, and go set up a secure compound somewhere out there in the woods.  Or mesquite. Or whatever. Maybe find some tall cotton to hide it.

And we’ve seen a lot of that lately, haven’t we? There seems to be an increasing suspicion these days of everything, a sort of general paranoia for many folks that is driving more and more of us to find ways to distance ourselves from each other.

We are sure the US Army is about to invade Texas. We are sure that Big Pharmaceutical companies are lying about the autism caused by smallpox vaccines in order to line their own pockets. We are sure that the UN is about to enact Agenda 21, the Bilderberg Conspiracy has given the Trilateral Commission the green light to begin implanting RFID Chips in our Children while they are being indoctrinated in Communism in our public schools. And don’t even get me started on chemtrails and the apocalypse. It’s all there, if you know where and how to look for it. There’s  lot of fear out there, and there’s a lot of money that can be made from fear. Fear makes us stupid. Fear makes us distrustful. And fear makes us want to crawl into a cave and wish that it would all just go away.

But Jesus doesn’t let us do that. He knows our tendency is to hole up when things get tough, and instead of giving his blessing to our desire to run away and hide, he calls us out of our bunkers, to face the bright lights of a harsh and confusing world, and to engage it.

Not to join it. Not to agree with it. Not to fear it. Not to lose ourselves in it, but to speak truth to it. To work with it. And above all, to minister to it, to see and heal its wounds, to listen to its story, to hear its pain.

Because that’s where we belong. We belong out there in the world. Not huddled in secret bunkers eating our emergency rations. We belong in the world, this world, not some other world that doesn’t exist, not some other perfect community that we create ourselves, not even the world to come after this one. We belong in the world in which we find ourselves right now, at least, until we are called to the next one, and that decision is not left up to us. Until then, our place, our job, our world is this one, right in front of us, all around us.

This is where we belong. We don’t belong to the world. But we do belong in it.

But this is a frightening thought, this call to be in the world, yet at the same to time, to speak truth to it. Changing the status quo, calling on the powers and principalities of this world to do things differently, to act fairly, to govern carefully, to listen to the voiceless, to look for the invisible, is a dangerous thing. The world has its own set of rules, after all. It’s better to go along to get along. I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine. Power is everything. Money talks. Winning is the name of the game.

Because the world already knows a certain kind of truth, and the truth is, we live in a hard place, during hard times, and you have to kick, bite, punch, cheat and scramble your way to the top. There is no room for love, forgiveness, compassion, weakness, or vulnerability in the social Darwinism of the world’s truth. It is tough out there, and you have to be tough to survive. And if you aren’t strong enough, then maybe you’re just not cut out for it, and we’ll have to kick you to the curb.

This is the world’s truth, and it is a convincing one. It’s hard to push against this truth with the kinder, gentler truth of the Gospel. It’s even harder to live it. And Jesus knows this. Jesus knows that we’re going to get beat up sometimes. Jesus knows that we’re going to be called names sometimes. Jesus knows that it will be hard for us sometimes, and yet he still sends us out into the world, not to belong to it, but to speak truth to it.

But he doesn’t send out out there there alone.

He sends us out there together.

“Father, make them one.” he says. “Like we are one, make them one.” In the same way that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are one, Jesus calls us to be one with each other. Not the same. But one.  

This is the gift of fellowship. Not that we are called to cloister ourselves together in order that we might hide ourselves from the world, but rather we are called to be together to offer each other strength and encouragement, we are called together to be a part of each other’s lives, we are called together to help each other and built each other up, and remind each other that we are in this thing together, and that we will never be alone, and that we don’t have to carry our burdens by ourselves anymore.

This is the prayer Jesus prays for us when he is getting ready to die. Not that we might find ways to hide behind our walls of theology, but to go out and find ways to live with each other, so that me might be one in our love and concern for one another. Not that we might separate ourselves from those around us with whom we disagree, but that we might work to find common goals and share our common needs.

At the beginning the sermon today, I said that I didn’t ask my parents if all fifty years of their marriage were happy ones. The reality is, I don’t have to ask that. I know that they weren’t all happy. Let’s be honest. Any couple who lives that long together will experience tragedy, grief, worry, and doubt. The point is not that being set apart for one another will make us  happy. The point is that being set apart for one another completes us, and it makes living all those years together possible. It’s the living together that makes us whole.

Jesus calls us, not only to be set apart, to be sanctified, in the world, but he calls us to be set apart for one another. This doesn’t mean that everything will be wonderful all the time. It doesn’t guarantee that there will never be any conflict, or that we will always get along with each other.

But Jesus does promise that as long we are together, we are stronger than when we are alone. He promises that when we are together we need not fear the world. And he promises that in our fellowship, in the intentional efforts that we make to be set apart for each other, to belong to each other, our lives are made complete, and he is there with us every step of the way.

To the Lord who speaks to us,

and strengthens us,

and blesses us with peace,

be all glory and honor forever. Amen.