Series B                                              Pentecost VII                      July 15, 2012

Amos 7:7-15      Ephesians 1:3-14      Mark 6:14-29

“RISING UP WITH JESUS”

Last Sunday, Jesus sent the disciples out into the world, two by two to make known that all people are God’s, and that God loves them, as that love is estab­lished in the one, Jesus of Nazareth.

Our lesson from Ephesians says it quite well:

“[God] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that before Him we should be holy and blameless.  God destined us in love for adoption through Jesus Christ…”

 

In Shakespeare’s play, “Henry V”, on the field of Agincourt, the French outnumbered the English 5-1.  Just before battle, the Earl of Westmoreland wonders at the odds, saying:

     “O that we now had here

     But one ten thousand of those men in England

     That do no work today!

 

     King Henry, overhearing him, rouses the English army to overcome the odds:

     If we are mark’d to die, we are enough

     To do our country loss; and if to live,

     The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

     …….

     For he today that sheds his blood with me

     Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

     This day shall gentle his condition:

     And gentlemen in England now a-bed

     Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

     And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

     That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

 

The English rose up to vanquished the French with a victory that has never been rivalled.  Henry’s motives were politi­cal, but he summons his troops with promises of honor and brotherhood.  Those who fight with him – no matter how base, low or foul – will be his brothers.  They will share in the king’s nobility and respect.

If good King Henry would offer a share in his own estate and status to his troops to unite England and France under his crown, how much more does God offer us in His call?  Paul reminds us of the immeasurable generosity of God’s choice.  King Henry raised the common class to aris­tocracy, but God gives a prodigal and prodigious bestowal on us of every spiritual blessing in heaven.  We are called to a triumphant victory, which has nothing in common with Agincourt.  It is a vic­tory that has redeemed the world.  We are summoned to participate in the victory of the crucified and risen Lord, and sent like the disciples to preach the message and share the triumph.

Karl Barth, the famous theologian’s, most familiar line is:

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of this world.” 

 

Our scriptures call for an uprising today.  It was popular thought that the great prophets arose from the dead and continued their ministry. As Jesus’ name became known it was no surprise that people, even Herod himself, thought that he was John the Baptist risen and returned.

John stood up against the King and called him to account for his sins.  Herodias held a grudge against him for his daring to speak out.  The Old Testament has several such stories.  The domination of King Ahab by his queen, Jezebel; Esther in getting the King to give up half his kingdom, Amaziah in prophesying only what the king wanted to hear in opposition to Amos in our first lesson.  But the real key here in the gospel is Herod’s recognition that the ministry of Jesus is the continuation of the work of John the Baptist who prepared his way.  Just as John had to suffer and die for his bold and courageous criticism of the King, so Jesus will have to suffer and die for what he is saying and doing.  The powers that be in both the secular and religious realms cannot afford to ignore a threat like this.  Jesus calls us to be such a threat to the world.

Our uprising against the sins and evils of this world is marked first by our stand to be present here in worship despite all the other temptations that exist to lure us to be anywhere else than here.  Our uprising is voiced by our standing up to join in the creed following this sermon.  Our uprising continues every time we come forward to the altar rail to receive communion.  And our uprising will be taken to the rest of the world as we stand up to go our separate ways at the end of worship.

God’s will for His people and His creation must be proclaimed.  God’s plan for us does not free us from responsibility for what goes on in the world.  We are called to act, to advocate, to give, to share, to care, to challenge, and if necessary, to die.  We do it because we believe that no matter how fierce the opposition, God will have the last word.   Like Amos, like John the Baptist, like Paul and Jesus, then, we must speak out.  The uprising we participate in proclaims Jesus as Savior, proclaims the earth as the Lord’s so its ecology can be salvaged, and calls society to work so that all evil and injustice can be overcome.  As we join God in this uprising, we unite with him as his children, heirs of his kingdom, and partakers with him of eternal life.  No matter how low and debased our lives have been, when we join God in this struggle, he raises us up and shares His perfection and kingdom with us.

For this uprising is not found in politics, it is found in love.  It starts with God’s love for us, (“He destined us for adoption as his children”), and our love for him.  And it continues in how we love one another, as the church.

In one Peanuts cartoon, Shroeder, the intellectual pianist is shown intensely at practice over his keyboard.  Lucy is certainly one of his greatest admirers and she often interrupts him with curious questions intent on getting him to notice her.  In this cartoon she asks: “Shroeder, do you know what love is?”

Shroeder stops his practicing, stands to attention, and in very somber, straight forward tones says, “Love: Noun, to be fond of, a strong affection for or attachment or devotion to a person or persons.”  Then without further distraction he reassumes his position over the keyboard.  Lucy gazes off into space and in deep reflection says: “On paper, he’s great.”

Her sentiments capture the weakness of so many in the world who don’t know the love Christ calls us as Christians to share.  For them love is abstract, cold and calculated, well-worded, but lacking warmth and authenticity.  Shroeder said all the right words, but had no authentic action behind them.  Christ calls us to know him and his love that goes to a cross for us.  Christ doesn’t just spout the right words, he puts them into action for us, and calls us to do the same.

Philip Schaff wrote in his book, The Person of Christ,

How, in the name of logic, common sense, and experience could an impostor – that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man – have invented, and consistently maintained from the beginning to the end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality?  How could he have conceived and successfully carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence, moral magnitude, and sublimity, and sacrificed his own life for it, in the face of the strongest prejudices of his people and ages?

 This is the Christ we worship and praise here today and take a stand with!  He is no imposter, but the embodiment of true love!

 The world stands against us.  Those who are not us, will do everything they can to hurt us, to stop us, to divide us.  We can not be seen standing with them, for they stand against Christ and what he stands for.  And since love is the most powerful force in the universe, noth­ing can prevail against this uprising that Christ is leading for the power resides in him.  It may sometimes seem like the world, and those who stand against us are winning, but that is an illusion.  Paul tells us in Ephesians why we can stand assured that this uprising will succeed when he writes:

“With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, ac­cording to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Let us now join this uprising in the confession of the Apostle’s creed.                                                                                   AMEN