11/10/2019: “A Matter of Perspective”
Exodus 3: 1-11
Luke 20: 27-38
November 10, 2019
Sermon by Reverend Gretchen J. Switzer
When I read the gospel passage for this Sunday from the Proscribed Lectionary Readings, I groaned!! While it is true that the Hebrew Tradition called upon a dead man’s brother to marry his wife and raise his dead brother’s children, the degree to which Jesus takes this seems absurd.
I’m not convinced that Jesus meant for this to be taken literally. I think the point he was really trying to get across is that the Rules of Heaven and the Rules of Earth are very, very different. Too often you and I get stuck in the ways and the thinking of humanity and we forget that God’s expectations of us are that we will live, insofar as possible, by the Rules of Heaven, with the knowledge that there is far more to our lives than just what we see around us.
However, that is both good news and bad news, isn’t it? I mean, many of us feel as if we need to “see” things in order to understand them. If we could just have met Jesus, face to face, human being to human being, maybe having faith would not be such a challenge.
As it is, you and I look around the world and watch the news, and hear devastating stories. And it would be easy to allow ourselves to sink into the sadness and the fear that human reality produces within us. It would be simple to become angry all the time, sad every moment, discouraged beyond comforting, and we all know people who feel exactly that way all the time, but there is a difference when you are a person of faith.
When you believe in God, in Jesus Christ, your vision becomes wider and broader, we don’t just see what we see and then we’re done. We know that there is something beyond what we see. It may be difficult to describe, but somehow, we can feel it in our bones that there is more to life than what we see with our physical eyes. There is a whole spiritual aspect of our lives that help us know that what we experience on earth is not all there is.
Moses provides us with a great example of understanding more than what we see in this life. It turns out that in that part of the world, it was not unusual for the dry weedy bushes to ignite into flames in the intensely hot sun. So, the burning of the bush was not a miracle, the miracle was that the bush was not consumed by the flames, as they always were otherwise. Moses might never have noticed that the bush was not dissolving into ashes if he hadn’t looked very, very closely; if he hadn’t heard a voice calling his name form inside of the burning bush. “Moses! Moses!
The voice came as the bush continued to burn…but no harm was coming to it. These were not flames as we typically understand them on earth. They were flames from Heaven to get Moses’ attention, and that they did. Then as God often does in the Bible: Once God has Moses’ attention, God gives him instructions on what he is to do.
Moses is told to go to Egypt, where the Israelites are being held hostage as slave laborers. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and get him to release the Israelites out of Egypt, and lead them back home to Israel. Which is all well and good, except Moses still doesn’t know where they are or if he can even get to the, much less convince their captors to release them! So, God tells Moses that he will not be alone. God will be with him every minute.
So, his was not a regular human endeavor. It was a mission for God. He wasn’t alone for one moment. There was always the broader, deeper, presence of God with him, even and especially when he was fearful and unsure!
What you and I sometimes fail to understand is that even though we feel as if we live our lives o our own, we are never without God’s presence and guidance unless we turn God away. If we ask God for help, we will always have help, if we ask God to use us for a larger purpose, God will give us a purpose and divine assistance. We do not have to be any more alone than we choose to be. (2x)
What Jesus wants us to understand is that there is so much more to our lives than just what is obvious and visible. God has instilled in us the everlasting life Christ provides and a connection to earth and heaven which in some ways is beyond our human comprehension.
There is a story old about an American tourist in 19th century Poland. He had occasion to visit a rabbi named Hofetz Chaim. He didn’t know what to expect when he was invited into the Rabbi’s home, but was astonished to discover that the home was one small, simple room filled with books, a table and a bench. “Where is your furniture?” the tourist asked. “Where is yours?” Replied the Rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I am only a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” “So am I,” replied Chaim.
I think where you and I get into trouble is that we let ourselves believe that this life is the be all and end all of our existence, but what Jesus teaches us is, that God has created the Earth and the Heavens, we are visitors here. Our roots are in a larger, more expansive existence called life everlasting. Author C.S. Lewis wrote: “If you read your history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world, were those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the world beyond, that they have become so ineffective in the present.”
Believing that our true home is in a larger existence with God, changes the way we look at the world and at our own lives. It frees us to take risks to make this world the best it can be, while we are here it spurs us on to know that the good, we can do here and now is vital, and it is part of a larger, more universal purpose designed by God. This life what we can see with our physical eyes and understand with our tiny minds, is not all there is. Life itself has a deeper meaning and a broader purpose than you and I imagine.
So, we choose which lens we see things through, don’t we? We can decipher that which we can see and experience in the here and now is all there is.
Or, we can choose to believe what Jesus taught – that what we see and experience here in this existence is only a fraction of al that awaits us beyond. Here is the difference:
A Man fell into a pit and could not get himself out.
• A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
• An objective person came along and said, “Well it is logical that someone would fall down there.”
• A Christian Scientist came along and said, “You only think you’re in that pit.”
• A pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”
• A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit.
• A news reporter wrote a story on this pit.
• A Calvinist said, “If you had been saved, you never would have fallen into that pit.”
• An Armenian said, “You were saved and you still fell into that pit.”
• A Charismatic said, “Just confess that you’re not in that pit.”
• A realist came along and said, “Wow! Now that’s a pit!”
• A geologist told him to enjoy the rock strata in his pit.
• An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on his pit.
• The county inspector asked if he had a permit to dig the pit.
• The evasive person came along and avoided the subject all together.
• A self-pitying person said, ‘You haven’t seen anything until you have seen MY pit!”
• An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”
• A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.”
• Jesus, seeing the man, reached down, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.
It’s all a matter of perspective!