Homily: November 13, 2016

November 13, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter  

Shortly after 9/11

well known preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson

suggested in a newspaper article

that homosexuals,

abortion-rights supporters

and liberal civil-rights activists

were at least partly to blame for the terrorist attacks

that had toppled the World Trade Center

and destroyed part of the Pentagon,

killing thousands of innocent people.

These two doomsayers

used precisely the same sort of language

as Jesus does in our gospel reading this morning-

“Watch out! Troubles a’comin!”

That sort of thinking is still with us today.

We often hear people blaming all kinds of ills in society

on the immoral behavior of others-

or even the mere presence among us of someone

who is different than the majority.

At first glance Jesus words in today's gospel

might lead us to believe that he felt the same way

about the impending destruction of Jerusalem.

Look out for those Roman heathen gentiles-

Here they come!

Not so fast!

The words which Luke puts in the Savior’s mouth

really do describe the situation faced by the first Christians

who read or heard Luke's gospel.

By the time Luke wrote down Jesus words

In fact Jerusalem had already recently been destroyed.

Many Christian and Jewish believers

also had been swept up and persecuted or killed

by Roman soldiers

in the mayhem that followed that event.

The awful destruction of their beloved Jerusalem temple

Was their own 9/11-

Life changing,

Threatening,

Hard to accept.

Is Jesus really blaming the whole situation on some outside evil

Or some evil present in the victims themselves?

I don't think so.

Here's another way to look at this scripture.

It's not in our reading this morning

but in the verses immediately preceding this passage

Jesus had just moments before been publicly pointing out

and praising the poor widow

Who put her last two coins in the temple offering box.

Jesus is not warning us here

about someone out there who is out to get us.

Jesus is warning us

Instead about becoming too fixated on temporary human institutions.

By pointing to the widow

He implies that we should attend

to the poor in our communities

and other more important things instead.

In Jesus’ eyes

this widow and her offering

and her attitude

are what’s important here-

not some grand religious edifice-

or the even tragic fall of that same Temple.

Christ is asking his friends

Look around-

look past the magnificent stones

Which by the way will all crumble some day-

Really see the enduring face of human need

And human generosity

Which is hidden in this woman’s

simple

Quiet

But life altering gesture.

Let your looming Temple destruction crisis

lead to a new awareness

of how God is present to all of us

in spite of,

the troubles

and disruption

and interruptions in our lives.

Good words for this Election Week.

Despite its language and imagery of destruction,

this passage is ultimately grounded in hope –

in the hope that God remains present

in the world

and in our lives

even when things have gotten bad.

We often can’t change those bad big picture things-

At least not immediately.

but we can change our own viewpoint

And our own attitude.

This is practical advice-

there is great wisdom

In not letting things we cannot change

make our lives miserable.

A good example appeared this past week in the Tuesday Star Tribune.

Tracie Blusie Ward wrote on the op ed page

about how incredibly depressed

and not a little distraught

she had become with this election season.

Then last Sunday-

Remember how beautiful it was outside?

Tracie went for a walk along the Mississippi River with her dog Sydney.

It was not long before the sun and warmth

and pleasant encounters along the trail

lifted her spirits and helped her look past

The doom and gloom of the impending election apocalypse.

What happened to her?

• An ex-Marine on a bike near the North Loop

stopped to pet Sydney.

The man shared that he was celebrating five months of being sober

and that he was starting a new life in Minnesota.

•Then she saw a pair of university students

playing their violins masterfully

on the Stone Arch Bridge for all to enjoy,

with no expectation for tips.

• Then she encountered two senior women leaned into each other

on a bench near the Mill City Ruins.

With a heavy accent from their native country

they were sharing pictures and stories of their grandchildren.

Next, she observed a grandfather holding his grandson’s hand

as they searched for and counted

the cement turtles, frogs and worms

integrated into one particularly fun section of the walking path.

She saw Two young women holding hands

and posed in white dresses for their wedding photos

against a backdrop of fall colors

and the blue-hued walls of the Guthrie Theater.

• A man with his only possessions contained in a rumpled bag

sat on a bench near the bridge

while he hummed a sweet tune

and wished everyone who made eye contact with him a “blessed day!”

By her own admission

When Tracie took a moment to really see

the other people around her,

she realized that most of us

are different from each other,

and no matter what individual challenges we face

we all just want the same basic things in life:

happiness, love, purpose, respect and self-worth.

This elixir she had discovered

is not only available

but is also free of charge to every one of us,

and it is contagious.

Tracie got a new perspective this week-

In the same way that

Jesus spoke to his first hearers,

And Luke’s readers,

And to everyone who has ever faced tough times

Including you and I.

Jesus says:

stop, look and listen to what’s important around you.

Just for a moment

Look at the little things-

Like The widow and her mite-

Her dedication of all she has to self giving.

Focus on what’s around you-

What’s important-

What’s lifegiving here?

In that redirect

Is all our hope-

And it may just be our salvation this Sunday

And four the four long years ahead.

Amen.

 

SermonRev. Phil Boelter