Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator, and from the risen Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Keep Looking Up!
If I told you that is the Good News of Jesus Christ for us today, what would be your response?
Would you think that I was being flip or shortsighted for what the Gospel can speak to our situation? Would this simple phrase not be satisfying as an answer to a seemingly apocalyptic society? Our society which continues to be relentless and complicated. The suffering that overruns our daily experiences can be overwhelming: a typhoon which has annihilated the Philippines causing chaos and confusion for the people; a wave of unending death slinks through the darkness our urban streets trapping our young men and women. People continually stagger through stagnant pools of selfishness refusing to see God in every man, woman or child. There are showers of apathy which blinds humanity from seeing the needs of those who are deemed strangers and remain alongside roads in society broken, sick and alone.
Let’s be honest: it is extremely difficult to find any Good News or symbolic Christian hope in our Gospel text this morning. We gather here just as this ancient anonymous crowd of people were gathered before Jesus Christ not because they already had knowledge, not because they claimed to be saints-but because they were searching for answers, for what was to come. “Teacher when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” These unnamed followers of Jesus, these people were famished waiting for their souls to be filled with an affirmation that their redemption was drawing near. We, who are followers of Jesus are weary, so weary of the chaos in the midst of our lives right now and it seems so simple to just run to Calvary because that’s is where our salvation will come.
It is extremely difficult to find any Good News in our Epistle lesson this morning as well, as Paul warns us against idleness “For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work,” and therefore “anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” But, Paul that’s all we are doing nowadays, working! We are struggling to live as witnesses of the Gospel daily, in the face of those who routinely mock our Christ-like journey; who refuse to receive the grace of God through our passing of peace. We are struggling to continually spread the Good News of Jesus Christ while repairing some of the damage that have come from those seeking to uplift Christianity by suppressing other expressions of how the global community celebrates God. We are struggling to keep a roof over our heads in the midst of economic and financial turmoil and yet, judged by some of our misguided fellow human beings we are not working hard enough!
So how can we be a witness in this day and age when our backs are to the wall? A writer in an article for Christian Century magazine echoes our concern: “Considering the enormity of the world’s problems, all the injustice, callousness and greed and the suffering and pain that follow them, I am tempted to lie down and not get up again.” I am sure many of you feel like that-what is the point of being Christ-like in this world when no one seems to be LISTENING?
How can we stand as footstep followers of Jesus Christ and proclaim that regardless of all of this chaos and confusion in our lives that God remains with us in our suffering?
Keep Looking Up.
Okay, there is Kwame’s flip response again. What do you mean, keep looking up?
Perhaps Fred Craddock, a well known homiletics professor can explain it with a clearer theological lens: “Amid painful and prolonged suffering, when there can be seen on the horizon of predictable history no relief from disaster, faith turns its face toward heaven…”
Let me repeat that: Faith.Turns.Its.Face.Towards.Heaven.
We as brothers and sisters in Christ need to keep looking up, because the Good News of Jesus Christ is that beyond all of the chaos as Creation groans; beyond how we as children of God treat one another with contempt and selfishness; beyond how this world turns in on itself instead of turning its face towards everlasting light and love of God, when we continually keep looking up, we see our risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ standing there.
Jesus Christ is always standing there, on the horizon
Jesus Christ is always there beyond the piercing, blinding glare of this life.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is because of His sacrifice we are never, ever alone in this world.
He will never leave us nor forsake us. We just have to remain still…
…and know God is God.
We have to keep looking up, looking forward, continuing God’s mission and ministry for our lives and for this world. Think about this: where in the Scriptures does God’s Word say that this, proclaiming the Word of God was going to be easy?
Yes, as children of God we will be mocked for bringing the Gospel to the world as we are called to do as Jesus’s disciples because to them if God was real, He would not allow all of this devastation.
Yes, as children of God there are places in this world where Christians are persecuted for simply wearing a cross or holding church services because it goes against the status quo.
Yes, as children of God there are places in this world we are sanctioned for daring to raise our voices and speak for those who are not being heard and speak against those who refuse to hear the injustice.
But the Good News is that Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer “will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”
We must Keep.Looking.Up!
This is the battle cry of a man who had fought in World War II for his country, only to have to fight through oppression and racism here at home. This is an elder who was a witness to many, many things in our modern and current history that even as heartbreaking as they were, he always said keep looking up. This is a pastor who as the church groaned and swelled with humanity getting in the way of what God has laid out for us, always counseled to keep looking up. This is a brother in Christ who shared with his family to always keep focused on God, Our Healer even in the face of hard times, uncertainty and yes even death.
Because beloved, this Good News of Jesus Christ, this Gospel frees us to look beyond all of the man-made agony and see the liberating power that God, Our Creator holds in His hands. That God, Our Deliverer abides here and now within us and that Jesus Christ abides here, at the Table in the bread and wine to fill us with love, mercy and grace.
Keep Looking Up.
These three words are a testimony from a man, who continued to look up even after his sight was gone, his hearing was gone and he was ready. But he still raised his voice and sang God’s praises “I don’t feel no ways tired, I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy, I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me.”
Thanks Be To God.