A Glimpse of Glory - Sam Buehrer - SylvaniaUCC - Nov252018
November 25, 2018
Sermon “A Glimpse of Glory” November 25, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
7In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being; and a human mind was given to it. 5Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, “Arise, devour many bodies!” 6After this, as I watched, another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns. 8I was considering the horns, when another horn appeared, a little one coming up among them; to make room for it, three of the earlier horns were plucked up by the roots. There were eyes like human eyes in this horn, and a mouth speaking arrogantly.
9As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. 10A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. 14To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
4John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. 8“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Sermon “A Glimpse of Glory” November 25, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
A man was struggling to get his washing machine through the front door of his home as his neighbor was walking past. The neighbor, being a good neighbor, stopped and asked if he could help. The man breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That would be great. I’ll get it from the inside and you get it from the outside. We should be able to handle this quickly.”
But after five minutes of continual struggle, they were both exhausted. Wiping the sweat from his brow, the neighbor said, “This thing is bigger than it looks. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get it into your house.”
“Into my house? I’m trying to get this thing out of my house!”1
The neighbor was operating from one perspective and the home owner from another. Today I want to set before you two ways to see and to live into this world. One is to live by fear and the other by its opposite, which is love.
Much of the world today operates on the basis of fear. Many powerful leaders have learned that fear is a great motivator. But the problem with fear is that it always divides, pitting people against people, whereas love unites people. The world that Jesus envisioned was a world where not fear but love was the guiding principal. It is his vision of a kingdom or “kindom” founded on love that became the basis for the Sunday that we now know as ‘Christ the King Sunday.’
Christ the King Sunday is a relatively new holy day, founded by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was created as a response to the increasing threat of the rise of fascism and its corresponding nationalism following the end of World War I. At that time, using fear as their motivating factor, authoritarian leaders of fascist regimes were being lifted up as all powerful demigods. This was the pope’s response to challenge what he saw as a threat to world peace. This was an attempt by the pope to challenge world leaders who were using nationalistic statements to scapegoat whole populations. It was his challenge to those leaders who were using fear as a motivator to pit one race against another. Sadly many are suggesting that it seems that we are living in a similar time when the message of anti-fascism and anti-nationalism continues to be more and more needed as fascist leaders gain power in many countries around the world. Here in the U.S. as white nationalism is on the rise, and the number hate crimes against Jews and people of color continue to rise as well, it seems that we are now living in a similar time to that of Pope Pius the XI. The need for the church to take a stand and proclaim the Good News that there is no earthly leader or empire that is higher than Jesus Christ, is needed now as much as ever. The time is as ripe as ever for the church to proclaim that ‘The God who was, and is, and is to come’ and this God’s teachings based on love are what is needed most at this time.
Walter Brueggemann, a great Old Testament scholar, suggests that we are living in a time that he calls “a seduced world.” Many have become seduced by fear. Others have become seduced by a false sense of security. Others still have been seduced by the powers of fame and fortune. Living in the time of “a seduced world,” it behooves followers of Christ to find the right words--and actions--to express the truth of our lives and the truth of who Jesus Christ is in our lives. Brueggemann suggests a prayer that is a fitting way to end one year, and to begin a new one: "Give us courage to depart the pretend world of euphemism, to call things by their right name, to use things for their right use, to love our neighbor as you love us"1
It is this love of neighbor that is the basis for the vision of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. It has been suggested that the parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best if not the best stories that helps us to get a glimpse of the kingdom that Jesus was moving us towards. In that parable, Jesus tells the story of a man who fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him and left him half dead. After the mugging, first a priest comes by and seeing the half dead man moves to the other side of the road and passes him by. Those hearing the parable would have known that in the book of Numbers it is written, “He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean for seven days.” If the priest had touched the man to roll him over only to find that he was dead, he would not have been able to perform his temple duties for a week. How many of us, by doing a kindly deed, would jeopardize our job for a week?2
It is comforting to think that the priest was a nice guy who probably felt sorry for the man and a little guilty about doing nothing, “guilt being a wonderful substitute for responsibility. Clearly his need to be able to lead the liturgy was greater than that of doing charity. Instead of going to the inn, he went to church.”3
A Levite comes along and like the priest before him he too crosses on the opposite side out of fear. But then a Samaritan comes along. Rather than being driven by fear, extends compassion to the man and binds his wounds. He then places the man on his own donkey and delivers him to the safety of an inn where he arranges for the man’s needs to be attended to. Jesus goes on to suggest that it is this type of love of neighbor that is the basis for the kingdom that he is ushering in.
William Sloane Coffin, a renowned pastor of Riverside Church in New York City in the 1980’s, builds on this story and suggests that in reaching out and caring for the man the Samaritan received something in return. He received his identity. He suggests that the other two men never found out who they were. But it was the Good Samaritan who was called into being and accepted the invitation. When he accepted the invitation, the Kingdom of God came into being in that moment. Coffin goes on to challenge us to think, then, what we receive when we accept the invitation to become Good Samaritans. We receive our identity. We receive our life, because we do not live to love, but love in order to live…(repeat)…Indeed, as St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.” It is in caring for the neighbor that we receive our essential status in God’s world, which is to be a neighbor in a neighborhood as wide as God’s heart.4
God’s heart is wide enough, so much so, that it holds all the people of the world and all creation. There is no room in God’s heart for things to divide. There is no room for the fear that drives the negative aspects of nationalism. God’s heart is full of a love that breaks down division and crosses all man-made divisions. It is this love that causes a Samaritan to give aid to one from another country. It is this love that gives us our identity whenever we spread the love with which Jesus loved us. Whenever we love in this way, we catch a glimpse of the glory of the kingdom that Jesus ushered in long ago and is ushering in today.
1Sermon Seeds November 25, 2018 by Kathryn Matthews ("Ours is a seduced world" in Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth).
2William Sloane Coffin, The Riverside Years, Volume 2, A Neighborhood as Wide as God’s Heart. p. 465.