the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

17 February 2019

Luke 6. 17-26
The gospel is a tsunami of love!

I think it’s, probably, safe to say, we love a good disaster! Not necessarily the real life kind. But certainly, the ones on the silver screen! The bigger the disaster, the better! Sure, we’ll watch smaller ones. Limited. Confined. We’ll slow down and gawk at a car wreck, if there isn’t anything else. Twister. Titanic. Towering Inferno. But there’s nothing like a good old, end-of-the-world thriller! Independence Day, Armageddon, 2012! I came across an article, the other day, in USA Today. “A Dozen Ways Life on Earth Could End” was the title. Nuclear War, Giant Asteroid, Climate Change! Overpopulation, Black Hole, Supernova! Global Pandemic, Biological Weapons, Alien Invasion! Super Volcano, the Sun, Robots! Going down the list was like surfing a catalog of Hollywood blockbusters! We’re fixated on, fascinated by, each and every one.

And it’s, really, no different here in the church. End times. Last days. Those are the things that capture imaginations, that hold interest. And just like the movies, the scarier, the more terrifying, the better. Nation against nation! Kingdom against kingdom! Earthquakes! Famines! Plagues! And floods! We love the days of vengeance! The great distress! The wrath and retribution! Here in the church – at least, in the “Left Behind” part of it – it’s all the disaster movies ever made rolled into one. Here in the church, just like out there, fear sells!

Now, I’m not sure what, exactly, it was, that sparked my imagination, this week. That conjured up all those images. Maybe all the ‘blessed are’s.” The ‘woe to’s. Whatever the reason, I re-read the Passage. But this time, I never got beyond the first three verses. Jesus comes down the mountain where he’d spent the night praying and he stands on a level place, surrounded by a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people. They came to hear him and to be healed. Healed and cured. All in the crowd were trying to touch him for all power came out from him and healed all of them! Those words stopped me cold. For all power came out from him and healed all of them! I read those words, sat back, and listened as the words echoed through my thoughts! For all power came out from him and healed all of them!

It isn’t Armageddon! Not the tribulation! The rapture! The antiChrist! Not anything we’ve been taught to expect. Trained, to look for in the last days. But these words, this image, is what makes us who, makes us what, we are! Everyone, anyone, can have a disaster! They’re a dime a dozen. And anyone, everyone, can imagine the world coming to an end! But this! THIS is believing! Believing in the resurrection of the body! Believing in the life everlasting! For all power came out from him and healed all of them! That’s not the disaster; it’s the BLESSING! Disaster is the world coming to an end. Sometimes with a bang. More often, with a whimper. Woe is you. Is me. But grace and mercy? Forgiveness and love? That’s only the beginning! It’s only just the start! Yes, Jesus suffered. And yes, he was crucified and died and was buried. He descended to the dead. But that wasn’t the end of it. Life had the last word! Live and Love! For all power came out from him and healed all of them! That power lifted him up! That power drew him out of the grave, so that he could go on and do it, all over again!

We read the words – I read them – so matter-of-factly. We make them sound run-of-the-mill. Ordinary. Unexceptional. Blessed are. Woe to. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. We cross-stitch they and hand them on a wall. And after a week or two, we never see them, again. But that last dozen! For all power came out from him and healed all of them! They are words to live by! Words to love by! A tsunami of faith! A tidal wave of believing! Irresistible! Overwhelming! Sweeping us up! Carrying us away! Flooding our world! Inundating creation! Not with death and destruction, but with grace and mercy and love! For all power came out from him and healed all of them! Not some. Not many. Not, even, most. But EVERY! ALL!

This is what we believe! We don’t look ahead to the gloom, despair, and agony of what lies ahead. We, already, have all that! Right here! Right now! What we look for, instead, is the power, the life, the love, that Jesus brings! The power, the life, the love, that Jesus is! That’s the pandemic we await! The plague we look for! When the dust settles and all the pieces fall back into place! Faith, for us, isn’t leaving people behind. Abandoned. Lost. Forgotten. It’s Jesus with us! Jesus among us! Arms wide open! No axe at the roots. No winnowing fork in hand! No barren trees or chaff or fires that never go out! For all power came out from him and healed all of them!

For all power came out from him and healed all of them! That’s bringing good news to the poor! It’s proclaiming release and recovery and favor! Letting the oppressed, once and for all, go free! And not one syllable, not one letter, is wrath or of rage! For all power came out from him and healed all of them! For us, that’s redemption! For us, that’s being saved! For us, that’s deliverance! God coming down out of heaven and entering into creation! Jesus coming down the mountain onto the plain! Standing with us! Speaking to us! Healing us! Curing us!

But, then, we’re so much like moths. . . drawn to the heat and fire. . . tempted, seduced, by our own end. Entertained, amused, by a vision of our own extinction. And we go from there, recreating god in our own imaginings. Listening for the last trumpet. Looking the stars to fall and the mountains crumble. In the name of Jesus, we shake our heads and wring our hands and pace the floor. But, my friends, that’s not faith! It’s not believing! At least, not faith in the gospel! Or believing in the power! It’s not the threats that change the world! It’s not fear that renews the world! It’s the love! And it’s the life! It’s those last twelve words! Words of promise! And words of hope! Fall all power came out from him and healed everyone! All power came out of him and heals you!