Can you be a Warm Road to a Cold Snake?
celebrating: we ARE God's harvest when we are flayed and thrown asunder!
Can you be like a warm road to a cold snake??
As we experience these cool nights and warmer days, how many of you have noticed snakes on the side of the road (or the more unfortunate ones that have got run over)? They come out usually early in the day, because they have figured out that the uncomfortable cool of the night will be dispelled by the warmth which the black of the asphalt gathers …. They come out to bask, to warm up again, to get their blood flowing so they can proceed about their snakely duties. We do not know what they might be hoping for as they bask. We do not know if they bask in anything other than the simple warmth of the sun … but they come out to bask … and so do we …
Something particularly miraculous happens all up and down the peninsula on a summer’s Sunday morning. From Sauble Beach to Howdenvale, from Wiarton to Christ Church and Tobermory, all of us – God’s people, ready ourselves to do two things:
- To bask in the peace of God, which we are able to do through the grace God has extended to us in Jesus.
- To hope for glory in the future – not a Hollywood kind of glory, but the unspoken manifestation of God with us.
Maybe we have had a challenging week, a week when burdens have gotten the best of us. Myself, I got news of a dear friend from high school and university years, whose battle with the demons of depression was surrendered this week. I know my dear friend, Richard, basks in the grace of God – passing through the very needle’s eye of suffering, Richard has entered into the hoped for presence with God. My heart is broken to hear of his death. And my heart is lifted because I know God receives him.
So I am here to bask with you this morning, like that snake come out to sun after a week that has cooled my soul in the still, dark waters of grief, of loss, of sorrow.
No doubt your week also held ups and downs. Maybe you called out to God during the week – maybe you made, like the Psalmist made, supplications before God. Requests for your needs or the needs of your family and loved ones. Maybe your request was for healing, or maybe your request was for discernment … maybe your request was for God to help you to be a more kind and gentle human being. As people of faith, whether we are suffering or not, we call out to God, we are in conversation with God … and God hears us … God responds to us … we receive the goodness or favour or grace of God in abundance.
We are like Abraham from today’s Genesis reading … in the heat of our present suffering or struggles, whatever that suffering or struggle may look like, God appears to us. Abraham responds to the appearance of God in the form of three men who show up, standing near him. Abraham responds by saying to them:
If I find grace (or favour) with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.”
- Foot washing
- Replenishment with food … the way Abaham suggests these interventions it sounds simple enough but in fact as he scurries off he requests:
- Cakes be made of the best flour – and not just a cake or two, but three measures worth.
- A calf is slaughtered – not an old, tough muscled cow, but a tender, healthy young calf – and prepared for the visitors.
We might think that Abraham is doing these things do gain God’s grace, but if we read again his words, he basically says – allow me to extend my hospitality to you if I have favour (Hebrew chen: favor, grace חֵן. khane) with you.
Having found that grace, the hospitality of Abraham proceeds. In the present moment, having found that grace, this glorious hospitality proceeds.
When we encounter grace, when we feel the warmth of God’s Son/Sun upon us, refreshing us from the harsh cold of night, we experience God’s favour … we feel heard and attended to by God. Like Abraham, like the Psalmist, we might consider responses that are responses of witness – witness to our faith, witness to the peace we have with God. The Psalmist says essentially “I feel heard, I have received good, I will fulfill my vows to God in the presence of his people” – why in the presence of his people?
Because our faith is not only an internally experienced characteristic … rather it is an externally visible characteristic … our thankfulness for God’s peace and grace might be visible to the world, so that this world full of people who are experiencing life as harassed and helpless, as ἐσκυλμένοι (eskylmenoi) and ἐρριμμένοι (errimmenoi), like creatures without a caregiver to gather them in … our witness of thankfulness and hope in God is a light to the people of this current, present world.
The Matthew reading tells us that Jesus, in his encounter with people in crowds from cities and villages experiences them as ἐσκυλμένοι (eskylmenoi) and ἐρριμμένοι (errimmenoi)– the people are suffering in a way that is like they are being skinned alive, mangled, flayed … the people are cast aside, thrown asunder, scattered – perhaps even by the modern fake gospels that glorify individual mores over love and mercy and justice, over compassion and generosity and the shared life together.
Jesus encounters humanity – in droves – suffering, helpless and he describes those who suffer not as a burden, but as a plentiful harvest. When you suffer, when I suffer, we are a plentiful harvest to God. And God sends God’s labourers – God’s disciples – you and I out into the harvest fields of suffering to proclaim the good news, to cure the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons.
“What are we to hold onto while we do this work with God? What are we to be paid?” you may ask.
Payment? Did you pay for Jesus to go to the cross? Did you pay for the blood that he shed?
You received without payment.
All that you have as blessing from God came because, as for Abraham, God favoured YOU. God blessed YOU with God’s grace – undeserving, unearned, but abundantly given.
What are the choice measures of flour you will make into cakes?
Which is the choice calf you will prepare for the helpless and harassed?
By God’s grace and power, we receive the baton in partnership with God – to bring the healing of God to the helpless and the suffering.
Hear the invitation to witness (to) God’s grace. Amen.
The message is a dialogue with the community who gather. What you just read is the “script” but the “living word” including the community interactions are included in the youtube link below - filmed at Christ Church, Lion’s Head - one of the churches in my care. There was also a lovely joke which was not included in the video recording …
Why did the cold snake not come out to sun on the warm road?
It suffered from erreptile dysfunction :)
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