Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Be still; Christ the King" Sermon 25 November 2007

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2007
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Richmond

Being Still
Knowing that God is God
Knowing God
Knowing God is God
Breathing in
Breathing Out
Knowing God
Knowing God is God

“there is a God, and you’re not him!”

I like to think of Jesus as a wandering holy man, who will come to us, and teach us, and enlighten us, teach us, and heal us from all our ills. I get a little uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus as King. Jesus as KING! This isn’t to say that I don’t like putting people on pedestals. I remember clearly when I got to see Chuck Berry (the real King of Rock and Roll!) playing in a small venue – and even at 65 years old he got down and did his signature move ….wow! I also love to play the “six degrees of separation”game, thinking how close I might be to various celebrities and so-called powerful people. I realized that I am a two-degree of separation from three nobel peace prize winners as well as Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Cool., but what does it really mean? It means I am captivated by celebrity, by royalty. So, I wonder why I have trouble seeing Jesus elevated?

We sometimes like to think that we are so enlightened, especially here in the United States, that we have moved beyond the fascination with royalty, the honor that we afford people when they are kings and queens and such. I remember as a young adolescent in youth group at my church that our rector worked to have interesting people come to speak with us from time to time. Well, he announced one Sunday afternoon that we’d be having a visit from a student at Middlebury College who was from England, and who was a duke, and the grandson of Earl Mountbatten – (who had ruled India until the time of her independence). Our rector said that this student was something like 14th in line to be King of England. Well, you should have seen the reaction of people (especially girls) in the group – it might as well have been the Beatles in 1964. We are still fascinated with royalty (especially when they are cute).

Being Still
Knowing God

We have a tendency to get ourselves swirling; to get into the swirl of all that has to be done. Take out your to do list, how long is it? Or, do you have it on your palm pilot or your blackberry….can you even fit all your to do items on it?

“It’s the end of the world as we know it” And I feel fine. Time I had some time alone.

And, our lives are full of stress, challenges, anxieties. Our health, our wealth, (or lack of it), our time, our careers, our children, our families, our mental well-being, our addictions… We all hit some steep stretches along the way. Sometimes, all we can do is put one foot in front of another, be conscious of our breathing and just hope that the steep stretch will, indeed, be over soon. At other times, even in the steepest part of our lives, we can find a rhythm, perhaps we are reminded of a happy moment, perhaps our faith gives us strength in our legs and heart and soul, and often there are others who minister to us and give us a sense of rest, even in our most trying times. Sometimes another will just walk along with us for a stretch of time, share their time with us, share their own experience, and we realize that we will make it after all!

Even in these moments of stress and challenge, (and perhaps especially in these moments), God is there. Even, and especially, in these moments of stress, God is there. “Be still, then and know that I am God.” The psalmist knows that life is full of motion, of busy-ness, of action. The psalmist does not live in a fantasy-land. No, the psalmist calls out the words of God, “Be still and know that I am God.” Well, we all know how hard it is to be still, especially in the spinning top that is our life. And, then we are about to begin the season of the holidays, and our “to do” lists look like they’ve taken steroids.

We all know how the schedule starts spinning and all we can do is jump on and try to enjoy the ride. However, the physicist and the dancer among us might remind us that there is also a place where we can go where the spinning is not so treacherous. “At the still point of the turning world….there the dance is.” ~ from T.S. Eliot’s the Four Quartets… Or, as Augustine would reminds us, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

Augustine knew that we are in some major way restless, anxious, and stressed with all the changes and chances of our lives, and can know true rest only in God’s embrace. The hope is that God is with us, that God loves us, and does not wait to care for us, to offer us rest, but is immanent and holding us in the palms of God’s hands! The prayer in the Compline service is based on Augustine’s notion of our restlessness until we find rest in God. And then the psalmist reminds us, “Be still, then, and know that I am God.”

And the psalms, these prayers and hymns are rich and deep. Their words are on the lips of monks and nuns today, and have been for 2 thousand years. Their words were on the lips of Jews in the time of Jesus, and also they were on his lips, even to the end of his time here on earth. They were his prayer book.

And, what does Jesus say to us when we stop?
What does Jesus say to us when we are still?
Are we anxious about what will be said?
Is this why we stay busy, so we don’t have to risk the judgement and the love being poured out on us?
Do we stay busy so we can avoid the moment of contact?

What does Jesus say to us when we stop; when we are still?
What does Jesus say to us when we are still, and know that God is God?

“There is a God, and you’re not him!”

Sit still.
Know God.
Know God is God.

Jesus turns to us in those moments of doubt, of darkness, moments when we think we are far far away from God. Jesus turns to us, and says, “you are forgiven!”, “I have put away all your sins,”“you will be with me in paradise”…are we ready to hear this good news? Be still. Can we sit long enough to calm our inner swirling – can we sit long enough to recognize the still point in the turning world? Sitting there, in fear and trembling ~ awaiting a judgment, and the judgment is given – you are forgiven, I have put away all your sins, you will be with me in paradise.

Be Still
And know God
And know that God is God

For there is a God, and you’re not him!

But God loves us and forgives us, and we have no need to put off this knowing until our last moment.

So take a moment to be still, and know that God is God,…
…and that God loves you….
…and that God forgives you…

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