Sunday November 24, 2019 The Last Sunday in Pentecost
Hope Under Pressure
Jeremiah 23:1-6 / Colossians 1:11-20 / Luke 23:22-43
Isn’t it strange to hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion outside of Holy Week? Kind of a “downer” as we prepare for the Holidays. Yet here we are. Jeremiah foretold a powerful leader, a king like David, would come and save his people and punish their enemies. I imagine even in his time folks, thought: show us. Yet some held hope under the pressure of living very hard lives.
Jesus dying as he did, and still asking God to forgive his enemies, is a hard reminder of what we are to do. Most folks who we need to forgive are not sociopaths; they simply are too selfish to see how deeply they hurt others. We still need to forgive them to let go of the burden of judgment, to be free of their negativity. Even the guilty one next to Jesus realized his place and Jesus’ power, and humbly asked to be remembered. For this Jesus promised him eternity at his side.
We all stray from our intentions to be faithful, to bear with the struggle under pressure of terrible things happening. Pauls’ letter to the Colossians is a pep talk to such people. He does his best to speak the hope that will sustain and lift them up. It’s all about God working in them and through them, just like us.
Whenever I hear “Colossians” I think of galoshes, what we wore in my childhood to protect us as we tramped through all kinds of nasty storms. I think of the Gospel, that Jesus is king of all creation, and a king of love for all, as my spiritual galoshes. What if we put them on when we head into a storm? What if we claim the power of God’s love to give us hope under pressure?
It’s a stormy time in our world. Let’s remember to put on our spiritual galoshes, and go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.
What does resurrection mean? We claim, in the Nicene Creed, that “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
There has been controversy about this central doctrine since before Jesus’ time. The Sadducees of his time rejected the notion of resurrection. They also were looking to pick a fight with Jesus and trap him in heresy.
What was Jesus’ response? He didn’t attack them, accuse them, call them names, or flaunt his authority. He calmly spoke his truth, and made it a teaching moment for those who were open to learn. This is a good example for us when we are challenged or provoked… speak our truth calmly.
Jesus’ truth that day was bigger than what many Jews believed about resurrection. They imagined a time when all of Israel would be restored to its glory. Jesus explained that in the resurrection relationships would not be based on family and marriage, but on a common shared experience of being in the love of God. Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus often told people he himself would be resurrected. They didn’t believe him; not even his closest disciples. The writings about Jesus’ resurrection appearances show us that whatever else they understood or believed, (or didn’t), the resurrection is our greatest mystery and our greatest hope.
What do you believe?
Our faith teaches at least three radical truths about resurrection. One is that God raised Jesus from the dead, demonstrating Divine Love’s power over evil and death. Another is that God has the power to resurrect our earthly losses and suffering into a new life of courage, hope, and joy. Another is that the entire body of Christ will be resurrected, much as Jews think of Israel being resurrected, when Christ comes again in glory.
What do you believe?
What is unique to Christianity is that we believe (or want to believe) that through the Risen Christ we have the power to live into resurrection hope in our own lives, and the power to help God transform and redeem life as we know it. This is what being Church is all about.
How do you and how will you take your place as part of the Church, the body of Christ helping God bring resurrection hope?