Lectionary 29C + Sunday, October 20, 2019
Texts: Genesis 32:22-31; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
I suspect Cantor Mark and our large Green Bay Packers fan club, will moan and sigh when I tell you what really impresses me about the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
No, it’s not the 6 Super Bowl Championships, 9 AFC Championships, and 16 Divisional Championships in the last 19 seasons. It’s not the number of victories accumulated or amount of yards passed.
What impresses me, is that year after year, they keep showing up. Win or lose, coming off the best or worst game of the season, starting a season after a huge Super Bowl win or a crushing Super Bowl loss, they just go back to work. They show up, day after day, to the routine, the mundane, the daily grind that leads to success.
My theory, is that as much as they love winning Super Bowls, they love the process of winning, they love the daily grind. Think about it, after all the success they’ve had, all the millions of dollars they’ve made, and all of the accolades and fame they’ve earned, why would they continued to put themselves through 14-16 hour days, watching film, preparing game plans, Brady eating his careful and restrictive diet …
Why would they be doing that at this point in their lives, if they didn’t love the process? If they didn’t love the daily grind of showing up for work day after day, committed to improvement and success?
I share this, because our scriptures readings today, are about showing up. They are about the daily grind of discipleship that is putting one foot in front of the other day after day.
Our scriptures today invite us to consider the grind of discipleship that is the wrestling, the enduring, the persisting regardless of circumstances.
- In our first reading, Jacob wrestled with a stranger all night long. At the end of the wrestling match, and with a limp, Jacob (now named Israel – one who wrestles with God) believes he has wrestled with God’s very self.
- In our second reading, Paul admonished Timothy to proclaim the message whether the time was favorable or unfavorable. Whether people listen or not, Timothy was admonished to speak the gospel, to speak out, to speak up, about Jesus Christ whether the people responded or not.
- And the gospel reading today, the parable about a widow who persistently showed up day after day after day after day after day after day, who finally wore down the judge through her daily persistence and insistence on justice. The reading itself described the parable this way: the need to pray always and not to lose heart.
Earlier in my sermons this fall, I asked the question: Disciples of Jesus (blank). The scriptures today lead us to answer the question in this way: disciples of Jesus show up.
Disciples of Jesus show up on Sunday mornings week after week. Disciples of Jesus prioritize weekly worship attendance, showing up for worship as a primary way in which to hear the proclamation, endure in prayer, carry out the ministry fully, and not lose heart.
In homiletical consideration of the Stewardship Campaign … disciples of Jesus show up financially when the offering plate passes by, or show up financially by setting their bank accounts to make regular deposits. Disciples of Jesus show up with financial generosity, again and again, when the needs of the ministry, and the needs of our neighbors, press against us.
Disciples of Jesus reliably and dependably show up again and again for their families, their friends, their co-workers or employees. In the holy vocations of daily lives, Christian disciples grind out love, care,concern, and healing and offer ceaseless prayers for those in need. I’m grateful for my parents, who in their vocations of parenthood, didn’t showed up in big one-time gestures, but day after day, got out of bed over the course of thousands of mornings to go to work, to get my brothers and me off to school, and who continue to show up for us in phone calls, and emails, and encouraging words, and love, and support.
Disciples of Jesus show up in the world, not with the illusion we are going to change human nature and set all things right with a big program or public action once and for all, disciples of Jesus wrestling like Jacob with issues of sin and brokenness mindful of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Like the persistent widow, disciples of Jesus show up speaking love, providing compassion, seeking understanding, offering respect, committed to dialogue.
Disciples of Jesus show up believing that in the daily wrestling and in the daily persistence of discipleship, God’s blessing of healing and grace is found.
That being said, let me be clear, I’m NOT talking about perfect attendance. I’m not introducing a process by which we are perfected.
Back to the Patriots for a moment, remember the 2007 season when they had a chance to be perfect, 18-0 going into the Super Bowl? They experienced the most crushing and devastating loss in their 20 year run. The Patriots can’t win play-off games in Denver … they’ve taken chances on players and whiffed … both Belichick and Brady have been accused of having a loose relationship with the rules …
I’m not suggesting today that our hope is found in our persistence, and in our prefect attendance. Yesterday in our Small Catechism Retreat, it was suggested by one of the scholars we read, that the Ten Commandments themselves, the heart of the Law, don’t lead us into morality and piety. An “ought” does not imply a “can.” Rather, the Law/the Ten Commandments show us just how far we’ve fallen, some call the law “a mirror,” lifted before us so we can see their reflected the brokenness we’ve created in our lives, in our church, and in our world.
Yes, the scriptures today do call us to wrestle with God’s Word, wrestling all night and even if it leaves us limping; to proclaim Christ in conditions both favorable and unfavorable; and to pray unceasingly never losing heart, but yet, these commands are lifted before us and in them as mirror we see our lives …
we see our own inability to wrestle with God’s Word as we should;
when the going gets tough, we see ourselves slinking away;
when we receive an initial no we see ourselves giving up.
But, to us, who fail to wrestle, who fail to proclaim, and who fail to persist, the Good News is proclaimed. The Good News we celebrate today, is the persistent faithfulness, and perfect attendance of God who does show up for us again and again and again.
In water, word, bread and cup, here at the corner of Lancaster and Salisbury Streets in Worcester, and in communities of faith around the globe, God shows up leading God’s people from death to life. Here, again and again, God shows up in the Holy Spirit announcing the life, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Here, in the faithfulness of imperfect men and women persistently showing up through the generations… here in broken men and women and children showing up faithfully week after week sharing time, talents, and money … here in countless ways through the generations … God speaks God’s love and grace to the world in the risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Good News we celebrate today is that God is willing to wrestle with us as long as it takes to bless us with knowledge of the grace of Christ. The Good News we celebrate today is that in Jesus Christ, God proclaims God’s love to us whether we in our lives have made conditions favorable or unfavorable to hear God’s message of life. The Good News we celebrate today, is that it is God herself who is the persistent widow coming to us, judges we are sitting in judgment of each other, God in the widow persistently coming to us with grace, mercy, and healing, to lead us into renewed relationship with God and renewed relationship with one another.
The Patriots play the Jets tomorrow on Monday Night Football. Win or lose, I already know what they’ll be doing on Tuesday morning. They’ll be back at work reviewing what went right and what went wrong, and getting ready for their next game.
I don’t know what comes next for you as individuals, or for us as a congregation, perhaps a big win or a crushing loss, and most likely some combination of successes and set-backs … Regardless, the promise we celebrate today is that God in Christ will continue to show up … our hope is found in God who will continue to announce victory over sin and death and who will continue to lead the faithful, and even the faithless, to new life.
Alive in faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, believing this good news, may we continue to show up for one another and for the world.
Indeed may it be so. AMEN.