How Long?

John 1:29-42

”What are you looking for?

Do you remember the Christmas commercial we talked about during our Advent series that advocated spending less on others so that you can spend more on yourself? We all felt so good that that kind of blatant commericalization until some of the post-Christmas ads here advocated buying what you didn’t get for Christmas. When Jesus asked the disciples what they were looking for this is not what he had in mind. A better way of looking at this might be “what do you long for.” May be a better way to look at is like this:

  • what keeps us up at night?
  • what wakes us up in the middle of the night?
  • what gets us out of bed in the morning?

For Dr King it was this ever present cry for all of God’s children to treat each other equally and fairly. His vision for the civil society reflected a more just community was embodied in his “I have a dream” speech that many of us find the words So familiar. Some say that we have achieved that dream, that we live in post-racial society–we have an African-American President is often cited. But its almost as if Dr King knew what we would do. When he was in Memphis, he was attending a protest by sanitation workers. He knew the next step in the civil rights movement was to expand to a poor people’s movement.

We know this, too. As soon as it became illegal to discriminate on the account of race, we looked at class and social economic status. Ever notice the correlation between race and class on one side and what is a desirable school district on the other?

Yes, Doctor King thought about  the day when we would fully live into the dream. But I find something interesting: “Living the dream” has become a sarcastic way of appropriating our lives when our five year plans do not fully work out. Say you meet someone you went to school with. In catching up someone recounts that things aren’t turning out as planned–the job didn’t last or there are health issues. And to turn the conversation away from something awkward there’s a sigh and a smiling face saying “I’m just living the dream.” How sad that we have taken something aspirational and relegated it to something as a symbol of unfulfilled dreams.

Today’s Psalm is “How Long”, like the U2 song 40… how long must we sing this song? How long until God’s kingdom comes into its fullness? How long must we abide injustice?

Some of you know that I am something of a recovering evangelical. For the first years of following Jesus, faith was only about what happens when we die. But the gift of Methodism is that how we live our lives is somehow wrapped up in the process of salvation, both our own and of all creation.

So, given that we are connected, our how long is not “how long until Jesus comes back”  or “how long until we can return home” but “how long until we get to join in”.

One of my core beliefs is that if we greeted this new morning, we are blessed. And, thus, there’s some response. Each of us must decide what our gracious response will be.

Let me give you a few example. Say you think your days of service to the church have passed. Maybe it is true that you are not mobile. But guess what? You can pray for our preschool, teachers & parents. There’s 150 families on our campus during the week. And praying for them is quiet a vocation.

Maybe you say, “my life is too busy”. This is a truism for many. One of the realities of our congregation is that there are several long-serving servant of Jesus and the church who–though they have faithfully responded with their prayers, presence, gifts, and service–they find it increasingly difficult to get to worship. So I would like beginning in February to have folk gather back at the church after lunch on the first Sunday of the month and us take the unused, reserved Communion elements to our home-bound folk to connect the life of this congregation to those who cannot any longer be present physically. That will add an hour to your week, maybe.

Maybe you say that your life is too chaotic, that you cannot commit to anything long-term. That’s fine. There are one-time opportunities. Our trustees have said they want to cut back some shrubs and raise some limbs before spring comes. We’ve also said that we want to beautify the corner of Ponce and Briarcliff as well as our St. Charles entrance. Plans aren’t really in stone, yet. But talk with Andy and he can point you in the right direction for how to get started. Also, the children’s ministry will be repainting our children’s spaces in February. Come for an hour, come for two. Help make our children’s space hospitable. Do you like to cook? Volunteer to cook for our youth group.

This is on top of all the on-going ministry we do like 4th Monday meals at Journey and the food pantry.

Why do we say this? Why is this important?

Roger Nishioka quoted Teresa of Avila this past week in one of the devotions I read. Here he cites Teresa as saying:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

no hands but yours;

no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which to look out

Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men [and women] now.

So, we wonder how long? How long until the dream is fulfilled? How long until injustice is ended and compassion abides?

Well, friends, you tell me.

We are the vehicle for God’s redemptive activity, through the Spirit. We are capable of so much good. All we have to do is say yes and join in what is essentially a parade of life. Its a long parade, one where if Dr. King is the drum major, then Jesus is the director of bands. But we can join that parade of Teresa’s (both of Avila and Mother), Martin’s, Andrew’s, Edwina’s, Dorothy Day’s, Joseph Lowery’s, and Harvey Milk’s of the world. And once we do, then it won’t be long.

How long?