6th Sunday of Easter—Year C—May 5, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen.
When I was in elementary school the rule was “be home for dinner when the street lights come on.” So as the sun started to set, the my brother and I would keep playing, but keep an eye on those lights, and as soon as we saw the first one flicker on, we would run home.
As soon as I would walk in, I would hear my mom call from the kitchen as I opened the door, “wash your hands.”
Next would come the command “silverware.” I placed a fork, knife, and spoon at each place, while my brother filled drinks.
While we ate, there was usually some kind of conversation, some kind of story telling, some kind of attempt at relationship building.
And then eventually there was the request for permission to leave the table. In 1st grade I went through a phase where this erquest always came at 6:58pm, even if we had only sat down at 6:45pm after a late soccer practice, because Full House came on at 7pm, and I was slightly obsessed with Uncle Jesse. But that is beside the point.
Now do not get me wrong, this was not a perfect routine. There were periods of time when my dad was absent from the table as he was deployed or on duty. There also came the time when I was ten when the routine was altered by my parents’ divorce. We rarely prayed before eating. I did not always finish my vegetables, and there were even some times that I was late for Full House. But again I am getting away from my point.
Even though the dinner routine of my childhood was not perfect or all that long-lived, I found myself this week noticing some similarities between the ordo of our weekly services and the dinner routine.
Thinking back to the street light rule made me think of how we light candles at the beginning of worship.
Thinking back to my command to wash my hands, presumably with water, made me think of how we tend to gather with Confession and Forgiveness or Thanksgiving for Baptism—reminders of God washes us clean.
Thinking back to dinner conversations made me think of how we share the story of God’s people and the history of salvation, through the Word read, preached, sung, and prayed.
I bet you can guess what eating dinner made me think of—the Eucharist.
And thinking back on my requests to leave the table, whether to get to the TV or otherwise, made me think of how we are sent from the communion table with the Benediction and Dismissal.
This is of course not a perfect comparison. My childhood dinner routine is no more holy than any of yours or than the nights when I start eating, leaning over the kitchen sink, as the rest of the food finishes cooking.
My purpose in sharing all of this with you this morning is to explain how I came around to thinking about how we both dwell in God’s house and how God also dwells in us. How we can be the ordinary in the presence of the holy, and how the holy comes to be in the presence of the ordinary.
In the reading from Revelation, John’s vision of the New Jerusalem says that there was “no temple in the city.” Since the time of Moses, God was believed to live in the Tabernacle, and later when the tribes of Israel entered the promised the land and Solomon built the temple, God lived there, in the permanent tabernacle, the temple. Everyone went to the temple in order to be in the presence of God, to offer sacrifices and worship. But in the New Jerusalem, God is not centrally located in the temple, but instead shines throughout the city.
We as Christians believe that this part of John’s vision has already come to pass. With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to humankind, God shines throughout creation. God is no longer confined to a single place, but moves in and around each and every one of us.
We can still come to the house of God, as we sometimes refer to the church building, and we can encounter the holy here. We can dwell in the presence of God as we gather together to praise, pray, sing, eat, and worship.
But we also can go out from this place and continue to encounter the divine, because God promises also to dwells with, inside, and among us.
As Jesus says, he and the father come to us and makes their home with us (John 14:23). For as Jesus tells his disciples, in this morning’s reading from the Gospel of John, we are sent the Holy Spirit. This is why both at Baptism and at Communion, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come, to enter the elements, the water, bread, and wine, and dwell among us.
And this changes us!
As Luther put it as he explained what happens when we partake of the sacrament of communion, “it is as if a wolf devoured a sheep and the sheep were so powerful a food that it transformed the wolf and turned him into a sheep. So, when we eat Christ’s flesh physically and spiritually, the food is so powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, sinful mortal[s] makes spiritual, holy, living [persons]” (Martin Luther’s 1527 treatise “This Is My Body”).
God is not confined to one place or one person. God dwells in us as much as God dwells in this or any other building. The holy dwells in us as much as we can dwell in the midst of the holy.
As God’s kingdom breaks into this world that we live in, the lines between holy and ordinary blur. We no longer remain one or the other; we simultaneously are both. We remain sinners, but we have also been made saints.
As we get ready to celebrate Jesus’ Ascension this week, let his words be of some reassurance. He does not leave us alone on earth to live out our lives. Fro we have been promised the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
So whether you are here in church, in the house of God, or out in the world (eating dinner with family, rushing to the tv, or eating by yourself over the sink), “do not let your hearts be troubled,” (John 14:27) do not be afraid! For no matter how holy or ordinary you and your life may feel, God’s promises apply all the same. Christ forgives your sins, redeems you to new life, sends the Holy Spirit upon you, transforms you here on earth, and gives you the peace that only God can provide. Amen.