When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
My friend Kara is a Presbyterian pastor at a little church in Minneapolis. They have been practicing sabbath intentionally for 8 years. Sabbath retreats, cultivating sabbath practices, writing about it, talking about it, reflecting about sabbath.
This week in the wake of the election, Kara said to me: Jodi, worry is practicing fear. Worry is practicing fear. Sabbath is practicing trust. Practice trust.
When she said it, I felt my shoulders release a bit. My hands unclench a little. My heart rate go down a few beats. I want to practice trust.
Sabbath is resistance.
It’s resisting the illusion that we are in control. That the world is in our hands. That the mess we are in is all on our shoulders. If this is entirely on us—if the world is in our hands—if this mess is all on our shoulders—than what of God? Sabbath reminds us that we are not God. HW-you are not God. I am definitely not God. Thinking that everything is on your shoulders—that you are in charge—that it’s up to you to fix everyone and everything (and believe me, our list of things to fix just seems to be getting longer)—is a lie. It’s making yourself God.
When we begin working on behalf of the world and our neighbor, it seems that there are two ditches we could fall into. 1. Do nothing/ignore your neighbor 2. Work so hard on their behalf that you don’t come up for air and eventually begin to believe that the whole world is riding on your shoulders. Although well intentioned, this is another reiteration of works righteousness—of putting your salvation in your own hands.
Which is counter-intuitive to a gathering of HW folks. Because I know your hearts. I know how hard to work to make this world better. I know how intentional you are—I know how deeply you care. I see all of that.
I also know your fear and your worry. I know two who have been in the ER this week because of stress.
The Gospel from Luke today Jesus’ followers are admiring their nice temple. “Hey Jesus-look at this gorgeous building! Look what we made! Didn’t we do good for the glory of God?”
And Jesus responds with absolutely no mincing of words— it can and will be torn down in a heartbeat. Poof. All the projects you pour yourself into. All the monuments. All the systems. All the retirement funds. All the people. All the political candidates. All the pastors and wisdom speakers and Rumi quoters. Poof. In a heartbeat, it can and ultimately will be torn down. It’s not permanent. None of these places are where our ultimate hope lies. None of these things or people or places deserve our ultimate trust.
Our trust and our hope remain in Jesus.
As long as we are tearing things down—perhaps we might want to throw in some of the most problematic and damaging human projects. Bigotry. Idolatry. Racism. Patriarchy. Let them burn.
In today’s gospel, Jesus also names the worst possible things that could happen:
following false prophets
nation against nation
Into the midst of this terrifying list of possibilities comes the illogical, “Do not fear.”
That feels irrational given the list. But that’s the word from God—that’s Jesus coming to us. Do not fear. Because the very worst thing is never, ever the last thing. This is the promise given to us in baptism. We come from love and will return to love. Do not fear.
Fear is not our orientation. God is.
Danger doesn’t go away with faith. Faith isn’t the removal of danger—it’s love, belonging, warmth. Faith creates a storm home—a shelter in the midst of danger.
Where does that leave us this week?
I have never ever said this before—or this directly. But I want you to come to worship. Usually I say things like: “Well, when you need it—we are here. When it’s time—we are here.” Honey-you need it and it’s time. Because this time together is where we remind one another that we not God. This is where we remind one another what we are—and that is God’s beloved. In this space—we are going to practice trust together. We are not going to practice fear here. We are going to practice trust.
I saw some other places where we have practiced trust this week. On Wed AM, I put out a call that I would be hanging around Brake Bread for an hour if anyone needs to be with another human. I sort of thought—maybe one or two of you would show up and we’d have coffee. Instead, six people from all the ends of the social media world emerged. Everyone cried. Everyone said how scared they felt. Everyone learned one another’s name. Someone said, “Well, it’s only 4 years. That’s not that long.” And someone else responded, “Actually, I’m in recovery. And can only truly think about today. We only have today.” These strangers trusted one another enough to say all the hard and true things. They trusted a random social media pastor to convene. And Jesus was with us in our fear and worry—creating shelter.
Then throughout the day, I sat with people-both in groups and individually who said how very scared and worried they felt. And we trusted one another with the terror and concerns and lament. And Jesus was with us in our terror—creating safety.
Then we gathered at Shamrock’s Pub for Beer and Hymns Post Election Edition. And it was standing room only. My boss showed up with his son. Our bishop showed up because she needed to be there. You did, too. And there was space to cry and sing and to feel held by our shared humanity. We trusted one another with public grief. And Jesus was with us-creating warmth.
Do you feel stuck? Too afraid to move from the fetal position? Rest up. God is at work whether we see it or not. God is at work whether we are able to participate or not. The world is indeed turning—God is arriving in 1000 quiet ways every single day—and God in Christ’s arrival is trustworthy.
How do I know this? Because you are in the world doing your thing. God is working through you. Ever single time you act in love-that is God. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Could there be more fertile ground than right now? Last week, I read a blessing to you that included, “Blessed are the kids who step between the bully and the weak.”
When you are ready—rise up, HW. Rise up in love. Step between the bullies and the vulnerable. The list of vulnerable includes: people of color, women, those who identify as GLBTQ, immigrants, the weird kids.
Would you like this in Harry Potter terms? I know many of you speak Harry Potter. I basically stay on Twitter for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets—and the occasional, once a month brilliance from some other human. I found this one today and it made me think of you.
Ravenclaw: get ready. It’s time to be smart, to be resourceful, to be prepared. Remember ravens untangle the worst knots.
Gryffindor: get ready. It’s time to be brave, to be stalwart, to protect what’s yours. Remember that lions roar for those whose voice hasn’t been given a chance.
Slytherin: get ready. It’s time to be ruthless, to be cunning, to be loyal. Remember that snakes protect who’s ours.
Hufflepuffs: get ready. It’s time to be kind, to be industrious, to get your hands dirty. Remind everyone that badgers dig in.
Jesus is with us in our rising.
Love will always and forever be the most trustworthy thing. Amen.