What a beautiful day! The sun came out after days of rain (I almost typed “the son came out” which I suppose would work too!) and we had a wonderful World Communion Sunday celebration. Honestly, World Communion Sunday kind of snuck up on me – October in general has snuck up on me. Things have been so crazy around here lately! But we had an altar full of bread and I got to talk to the kids about World Communion Sunday before we gathered around the table and grace abounded in mysterious ways!
Here is my sermon. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 4, 2015
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
But We Do See Jesus
Do you ever wish that life came with an instruction manual?
Think about it: In a world constantly full of questions and the unknown, do you not appreciate those fleeting moments when the lessons you need to learn are black and white; when there are clear-cut answers about what is right and what is wrong, what to do and what not to do?
For example: I learned a valuable lesson in chemistry this week. I had to take off my gel nail polish so I was at home one night soaking my nails (this is completely irrelevant to the scripture, but in order to remove the gel and acrylic nail polishes that last longer, you have to soak your nails in pure acetone for about 30 minutes). I poured the acetone into a glass bowl and when I was done decided that I wanted to try to save it so I could use it again.
So – without really thinking it through – I poured the acetone into a plastic cup so I could funnel back into the container.
This did not end well.
But you see, this was one of those instances in life where – even though I had to learn the hard way – there was a very clear-cut delineation between right and wrong; cause and effect. If you were to stand up right now and ask me what happens when you pour acetone into a plastic cup, I could give you a definitive answer.
(Plastic – MELTED. Acetone – EVERYWHERE. Cooking utensils – RUINED.)
But if you were to ask me why a gunman killed ten people and wounded seven others at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday afternoon – well, I would not have a clue how to answer that question. If you were to ask me why you or your loved ones were in pain or facing a scary medical diagnosis – I would be at a loss for words. If you were to ask me why bad things happen to good people or why people experience pain and suffering – I would probably say, “I have no idea.” If you were to ask me how we are supposed to live our lives and find balance in this crazy and imperfect world – I might just change the subject.
There are far more unanswered questions in this world than there are answered ones. And the unanswered ones are so often the really personal ones. They are the questions that create pain in our lives. They are the questions that threaten our families; that cause us to experience loss and grief; and that make us wonder what we are supposed to believe in.
We all have these questions in our lives.
In this morning’s scripture reading, the Hebrew people were asking very similar questions. They were Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem during the first century, exploring their bourgeoning faith in the risen Christ. They were facing persecution because of this faith. Their lives were in danger, their families were threatened and their communities were falling apart. They, too, were asking where God was and what God was doing in the midst of all of this chaos.
This was how the author of this letter responded to these questions:
As it is, we do not yet see everything … but we do see Jesus. (Hebrews 2:8-9)
We do not see everything, but we do see Jesus.
Think about this: We may never be able to fully understand this world that we are living in. We may never find the key to unlocking the great mystery of our faith. We may experience suffering and heartache and not understand why. We may not know how to help people in their times of need or be able to take away their pain.
But in the midst of all of this, we can still see Jesus. We can read the stories in the gospel; we can learn about Jesus’ life. We can try to live our lives as a reflection of the light that Jesus brought into this very dark world. We can believe in the resurrection – not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but also in resurrection in our own lives.
We do not know what God looks like or what, exactly, God is doing or what the big plan is for all of us. So often we are stumbling around in the darkness of our lives trying to navigate a very uneven path. We cannot see any clear-cut answers about why things are happening and what we are supposed to do next.
But in those moments, we can still see Jesus.
In the third verse of the first chapter of this book, the author refers to Jesus as the “exact imprint of God’s very being” (Hebrews 1:3) and I think that this is a really valuable piece of scripture for us to hold onto. Because there are certainly moments in our lives where we have a hard time seeing God. It is okay to admit that.
We live in an imperfect world; we all have moments of pain, fear, doubt and anguish. We cannot always find God in the midst of the chaos that is ensuing around us. We cry out to God and scream to him, “Why me?” and start to wonder if anyone is listening.
But in those moments, we can still see Jesus. We can still see the exact imprint of God’s very being, born into the flesh of a child, who lived as a human being just like us and who stumbled through life in this imperfect world. We can still see the exact imprint of God’s love for us, which was so strong that God came into being in the form of a life that we could see and understand and mirror in our own actions. We can still see the exact imprint of God’s mercy and redemption, who – in human form – resisted oppression, showed compassion and believed reconciliation was possible. We can still see the exact imprint of God’s grace that is still very much alive and at work in our lives today. We can still see Jesus.
This is what we need to hold onto in our own lives. This is what we need to cling to in those moments when all else seems lost and when we do not know where to turn.
There are so many questions in this world (and in our lives!) that we do not have answers to. But in those moments of utter confusion, we need to peer into the gospel stories and realize that the truth of this pandemonium lies somewhere within this paradox of our faith: That sometimes resurrection must come from death and that through Jesus, we have tangible proof that God’s love always wins.
So – in a world full of chaos and confusion, where the unknown often far outweighs the known, I think that we are called to look deep into our faith and remember that – despite all of our questions – we can still always see Jesus. We can remember what he did, the lessons that he taught and they way that he called others to stop what they were doing to follow him. We can remember that he used the imperfections of this earthly world to foster hope and healing. We can read the words that Jesus spoke as recorded in scripture and then say them in our own lives; using them as battle cry in the fight against all the things that are not fair in this world. We can emulate Christ because we live in a world that is so often filled with darkness and we can shine Christ’s light into that darkness; a light that can never be extinguished. We can never give up, because Jesus never gave up.
So, hard to believe, but I think that the chemical reaction of acetone and plastic might actually have been the easiest lesson of my week.
Look, we may spend our lives searching for answers to those really difficult and heartbreaking questions; but I want you all to know that God’s grace is always found in the midst of that search.
And I am certain of this – I am absolutely certain of this – because of who Jesus was; who Jesus was in life, in death and in resurrection.
There are things in this world and in our lives that may always remain a mystery, but in the midst of all of them, we can still see Jesus.
So believe in who Jesus was. Share the stories of Jesus’ life with the people around you and emulate him in your own life. Seek comfort in the Gospel when things are falling apart around you. Shine a light into this world that can never be extinguished. Let love win. And live your life so that when others look at you they can see Jesus reflecting right back at them.
Always believe that, through it all, we can still see Jesus.
Thanks be to God!