Monday, April 9, 2012

God Speaking: Like the Wave

Peached on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, at the main Sunday service

Scripture readings: Psalm 110; John 20:10-23

I don’t think it’s often you see people “doing the wave” in Washtucna or Kahlotus. I know I have seen it once or twice, and people laughed when they did it. Maybe, here, we should call it “doing the ripple”. It must be impressive to be in a stadium, with a crowd of thousands, where a wall of people rise and sit in harmony, and form a wave.

Then I think of an embarrassing thing. What if you were in such a crowd, and you wanted to start the wave, and you rose, and swayed, and no one else did?

The resurrection of Jesus is like the start of a wave. But what would that look like? Would it require resurrections to start happening all around the empty tomb, and through Jerusalem and the ancient world, and going on, and on through the ages, right up to our own day, with us being the ones in our generation who continue to be resurrected and pass the wave along. But that is what has happened.

For us, the fact is that this wave feels very much like a Kahlotus/Washtucna ripple, and maybe there are times when the whole church has seemed like that. In the first few generations, and the first few centuries of the church, the people who took up the wave of the resurrection of Jesus were just a minority. In those days, the people of Jesus swayed between the poles of being invisible and being in mortal danger. They did not look like a wave.

Today there is a wave of the resurrection sweeping over the earth. We don’t see it, because we live in the backwater. North America and Europe were the heartbeat of the people of Jesus for centuries, but these have become a spiritual backwater. Now your typical Christian lives in India, or China, or Latin America, or Africa. There is a wave cresting, there is a tsunami growing. Even in Muslim countries Muslims are becoming Christian, and they are dying for it.

Still, isn’t it strange to call what we are “The Wave of God or the Wave of the Resurrection of Jesus”? Jesus rose, and what happened to his disciples?

Mary Magdalene, and John, and Peter, and doubting Thomas, and all the rest were changed as they became part of the flow of the wave, but they were never anything like the risen Jesus; not by a long shot. Neither are we. This goes without saying.

We will come back to this. First let us look at the work of the God of the waves.

The Old Testament is the story of a wave. God came into the life of a man name Abraham, along with his wife Sarah. They were a couple who had no children of their own, and they were elderly. So the Lord came into their lives. He called them to cross the wilderness and become people of faith. God gave them a son named Isaac. Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons and he also had daughters. Two individuals of faith grew to become a family of faith. That family of faith became a nation of faith: the nation of Israel. (Not that they were a nation that always exercised faith, but they were always called to faith.)

God built within them a body of faith as he worked and spoke with them. God took care of them in their migrations with their sheep and goats. When they became slaves in Egypt, God led them to freedom. God gave to them laws and prophecies. God gave them survival when they were exiled and scattered. God made them part of a spiritual wave. And that wave created another wave.

This is the wave we read about in the New Testament. The wave began with Jesus, and this became an even more amazing wave than the one before it. God started the first wave by coming into the lives of Abraham and Sarah. God started the second wave by coming himself in Jesus. The first wave captured a nation. The second wave is capturing a planet.

Between the two waves we see expansion. God does not just make waves. God seems to have started a wave of waves. Perhaps it is a wave of waves that join to form an endless wave; the tsunami of God.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul imagines God working in Jesus to make the wave of Israel with its prophets and the wave of the Church with its apostles into a building built of waves; one that grows higher and holier through the years: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22)

Paul also says that the Father intends Jesus to be the head of the wave we call the church. Paul says that this wave “is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

If Jesus is the one who fills everything in every way, then the first few verses of the Gospel of John help us to put this in the light of who God is. John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God who was God from the very beginning. It tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1-2)

Jesus is God expressing himself, revealing who he truly is, and Jesus is the one who fills everything in every way. So this is who God is: the one who fills everything in every way.

In this sense, we can say that God himself is a wave, and Jesus himself is a wave. It is the nature of Jesus, as it is the nature of God, to come and sweep up everything and everyone in his arms, and carry us along with him like a rising tide.

This doesn’t have to be a scary thing. I have called God a wave, and so it shouldn’t be strange to see us a part of the wave of Jesus.

Waves can be scary. They are scary because a wave of the sea and the wave of a flood have no heart. They have no conscience.

God has a heart. His heart is Jesus who died for the sin of the world; and for your sin and mine. The heart of God is Jesus, who broke his heart on the cross in order to give us new hearts of our own. He sweeps into this new heart with a wave of new longings, and new motives; and with a passion to say “yes” to the love and mercy of God, and with a passion to say “yes” to the wave of giving that love and mercy to others.

Jesus sweeps us all into a wave that has a heart. We can see him working like this even in the everyday world around us. Each of our families is a kind of wave that sweeps across generations and blends into other family waves.

I am part of a family wave. You see in me stuff that has been floating on the wave for generations.

Some of it has wept along from as far away as Ireland and Poland. When I am blunt and sarcastic, you are hearing the voice of my dad. I have an exasperated way of saying no that probably comes from Poland. When I stand with my hands on my hips, you are probably seeing the way someone stood in Wales hundreds of years ago.

Communities are waves: Kahlotus, Washtucna, LaCrosse, Hooper, Benge. Each wave is a little bit different. Each wave has some separate energy that probably needs to work together.

A congregation of the church of Jesus is a wavelet in the bigger wave of Jesus. There is what modern people call a special spirituality in that. There is a spirituality that comes from living as part of a wave.

A lot of modern people don’t want that kind of spirituality. Every person wants their own spirituality, as an individual unit, or as a family unit. They want to have a protecting wall around their particular wave. But a wave of one person, or of one home, isn’t the wave of God that wants to sweep through the world and fill everything in every way. They are good waves, nice waves; but not the great wave of the resurrection.

There is something in God that we also see in Jesus. Jesus seems to love a good wave. He started the wave we are in. He is the wave.

We are not a wave of water, we are a wave of “sending”. Sending is a kind of propulsion that is supposed to create momentum. It is the nature of God, in the Trinity, to work like this. They are always sending each other. The Father sends the Son. The Son sends the Spirit. They all send us.

Jesus sent Mary Magdalene to the other disciples. Then Jesus himself went to them to send them. Then, when Thomas couldn’t believe the resurrection, Jesus came to him, and showed him the holes in his hands and side, and got him to ride the wave with all the others.

The four gospels tell us how our wave got started. The Book of Acts tells how our wave started washing over the world. The rest is history.

But there is the problem in being part of the wave of the resurrection. Just look at us. We don’t seem to be very thoroughly resurrected. Jesus walked through walls and locked doors to get hold of the people he wanted to get moving. That would be extremely impressive, but we haven’t been resurrected enough to do that.

But, maybe we do have the power to walk through walls and locked doors. The wave of Jesus’ resurrection seems to be about peace and the forgiveness of sins. (John 20:21-23)

This is why Jesus came: to replace our alienation and our estrangement from God, and from others, and from ourselves, with peace, with wholeness of heart, and with health in our relationships.

Peace comes from forgiveness. If you forgive someone, you are giving them Jesus. You are being Jesus for them. The good news has come to them because someone like you (who is like Jesus) has come to them.

There are so many ways to help people to experience the peace, and the wholeness, and the healing of life and relationships that comes from Christ. This is like walking through walls and locked doors. This is very much bringing the results of the resurrection to others.

This is what it means to be a part of the wave of Jesus. Psalm 110 is about a wave. “My Lord says to My Lord sit at my right hand till I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Here we eavesdrop on the Father speaking to the Son about the wave they want to create.

Their enemies are not people. Their enemies are the things that destroy the joy of the wave: conflict, selfishness, pride, abuse, love of power and control, bitterness, anger.

These things are destructive of human life, and joy, and love. These are the enemies of the life of the wave. These are the enemies that the cross and the resurrection are intended to destroy.

The wave of the resurrection of Jesus is strong enough to make us thankful for the forgiveness and peace that have changed our lives and given us the ability to live more abundantly. When Jesus came to touch us with his peace and his forgiveness we did rise with him. There is much more of the resurrection to come, but Jesus has made a start with us. That start is a foretaste of heaven and all the hopeful things beyond our imagining that God has planned for us.

Peace and forgiveness are about the grace of God, and grace is full of hope, and trust, and expectation. Jonathan Edwards was a Christian minister in colonial America, in the early seventeen hundreds. He was a wonderful thinker and teacher.

He said this about grace and glory, and it relates to the wave of the resurrection. “Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.”

When you have grace, you have glory too. You ride the wave of the resurrection. You ride the wave of God in Christ, and Christ is risen! He is alive, and you can rise and live in him!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, Pastor Dennis: important words that we have to listen to carefully!
    "Jesus is God expressing himself, revealing who he truly is, and Jesus is the one who fills everything in every way. "
    Yes...and we have to be faithful, to be grateful...
    God has a heart. He Loves us their children..." and with a passion to say “yes” to the love and mercy of God, and with a passion to say “yes” to the wave of giving that love and mercy to others" - this is the key...the "Word"!

    My English is nor enough to express my beliefs...I just want you to know that reading you is very important to me: reading I do understand the meaning of the sermon...but I can't express my happiness by having God by my side.
    Thank You pastor.

    Isabel /BlueShell