Sermon – 05-26-19 – Easter VI – Cycle C
Scriptures – Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10,22 – 22.5; John 14:23-29
Sermon Title: “The Healing of the Nations”
Today we find ourselves approaching Memorial Day tomorrow, Ascension Day on Thursday, and a verse that says “. . . and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” You know how people say “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” I doubt whether anyone could say the the world is not broken. If the world were not broken, why would we be honoring people who died in war. Why indeed would brothers have been fighting brothers in the Civil War if the world was okay? We might say, that was long ago. We have improved. Really! We can tell the ages of our contemporaries when we hear in which war they served their armed services time. These days we are not talking muskets or whatever the equipment for war was in the 1800’s.
Today, approximately 160 years later, one person’s one finger could annihilate the world or so I have heard. What the world needs now is not more animosity. Cory’s sermon last Sunday kept us on the road to love as the secret to a good world. Our present governing personalities could be models for us and for the world. But as we know, if there are models of love in the government, we need to dig below the surface. There is genuine love happening but it is more-or-less hidden underneath the screaming and name calling. So let’s dig!
Is it my imagination or are there more good news stories in the news these days? Every time I read or hear the word bi-partisan my ears perk up and I read. “How is this happening?” I say to myself. Well, people underneath are not giving in to the rhetoric above them and around them. They sincerely wanted to be elected, not for false power, not for money, but because they think they can work with their colleagues to bring more justice, more equity into our existence as a powerful country.
I cling to the words “for the healing of the nations” which we heard in the Revelation scripture. It is impossible for any big nation to sneeze without the rest of the nations catching the cold. We could, at least be sharing the tissues. Better still, is there a way to prevent the sneeze? Is there a way for countries to reach for each other’s hands, not to arm wrestle but to be friends? Could the leaders of countries be indoctrinated in the way of Jesus without using the name Jesus? Or must we announce that we are doing this in the name of Jesus?
Another question: Can the regular citizens of a country transform the philosophy of the nation? Philosophy – the thinking and manner of acting by an individual or by a group of people. Can a movement start at the root level of a civilization and move upward to the leaders? Maybe you appreciate history and know that this has happened. I don’t know if it has, but we say that with Jesus anything is possible. How many Christians would it take to move genuine love from the soil, so to speak, through the stem and the leaves to the tippy, tippy top of a government to produce a bloom and not a closed bud?
Marches, letter-writing campaigns, knocking on doors, writing blogs, teaching, preaching – is this how love moves upward from the grass roots? “No, thank you,” some of us say, “I will be at home praying.” Can we get away with just praying, powerful as prayer is? James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James in the New Testament, insists that action is required to make our faith valid. We are saved by grace through faith but sitting back gloating about the grace bestowed on us is a fast way to lose the grace. We need to go into action, we need to make our feet and hands and mouths act and speak in loving ways. Are we afraid to do this? Of what specifically are we afraid? Are we doing this on our own strength? Does Jesus say we need to go alone? Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
So we have the Holy Spirit! Are we going to place ourselves in the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power and move ahead or are we going to curl in a ball and wait to die?
Wait, don’t die! What about Ascension Day? What is it? Is it just about seeing the toes of Jesus disappear into the clouds? Why is Jesus ascending? He is going home. Only thirty-three years was he on earth. Think – thirty-three years is a tiny speck on the time line between past eternity and future eternity. But long enough to tell us about the Father and the Holy Spirit! Long enough to establish loving rules. Long enough to give us backbone. Backbone to establish “The Church of Jesus Christ.” Backbone to insist on justice in the world. Backbone for us to give our lives for righteousness. Here we are full circle! Is war the only way that we can work for right ways of being God’s people on earth? How can we establish a world of “rightness?”
The healing of the nations. Can it only happen when Jesus comes again, when the New Jerusalem descends from the heavens? Must the whole world groan in agony, as in childbirth, waiting for the end of the world? Waiting for this new earth and this new heaven? Must the world be unjust until then? Is this the plan?
Jesus promises a safe, happy place in heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you,” Jesus says. Not as the world gives; no, this is different. We can be assured of this. Christ died for our salvation, our saving. That is great and we are grateful. But shall we live in this turmoil that is the world without striving to make it safer and happier while we are here?
Thankfully, you as a congregation are doing much to make the world more just, more safe, more pleasant by your actions. We are passing the magic penny jars for four weeks to help the victims of floods of which there is no end. How many magic penny collections have you taken in the past? How many other things have you done for the sake of kindness, goodness, and blessing. In Revelation we have these images of the tree of life with 12 kinds of fruit and the leaves which are there for the healing of the nations. Leaves for healing! Can we think of ourselves as leaves with the purpose of healing relationships? Nations consist of people, each being a leaf. You know how leaves seem to be everywhere in the Fall. Can we picture each of those leaves being a healing leaf. Go away we usually say to leaves. You are in the way. You are causing trouble. But the healing leaves are not a nuisance. We are the healing leaves. We shall not go away. We shall not get lost. We shall be about the healing of the nations, starting with the closest person who is disagreeable.
Oh Lord God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – fill us with the healing power of the Spirit so we may leave your healing fragrance wherever we go. Amen