Sunday, November 18, 2018

Anyone here ever read the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy series…Let me just say this after this Gospel…
Don’t panic…

“In the series, Don't Panic is a phrase on the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The novel explains that this was partly because the device "looked insanely complicated" to operate, and partly to keep intergalactic travelers from panicking. "It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words 'DON'T PANIC' in large, friendly letters on the cover."
Arthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams' use of "don't panic" was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.
On February 6, 2018 SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster which had "DON'T PANIC!" written on the screen on the dashboard.”[1] 

Now that’s reassuring
It is also recommended that as one travels through life to always know where one’s towel is…
“Somebody who can stay in control of virtually any situation is somebody who is said to know where his or her towel is. The logic behind this statement is presented in chapter 3 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy thus:
... a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”[2]
Okay I have my towel…none of us are panicking. Yet ok then
Well here we are in a time of transition.  The more things stay the same the more they change. As we last saw our savior, he was making a comment about the scribes and how they devour widows.  We listen to how Jesus observed the rich casually give out of their abundance and the poorest of poor give out of her need.  Give out of her faith in God, and perhaps, her faith in the community of God as opposed to the leaders and the practices of the hierarchy of the temple.
In fact, her giving and Jesus teachings stand in sharp contrast to the temple and its practices.
So, after all these wonderful lessons to ponder, as they are just casually walking out of the temple one of his disciples turns and says to Jesus; “Teacher look what stones, and what buildings!”  Now we have the final moment when Jesus does the head to palm thing.
Was no one listening? Fine let me spell it out for you…This building, this place that you have put so much faith in… “there will not be left here a stone upon a stone that will not be destroyed!”  Come on guys its about the people not the building.
A Bit later Jesus is sitting on the mount of olives, about a 30-minute walk from the temple mount, this is the view as it looks today 

 and a few of his disciples ask him to go into detail about the end times.  Exactly when will this happen? 
Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I am the one.’ They will deceive a lot of people.  When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history, and no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines, but these things are nothing compared to what’s coming.”[3] – The message
Chapter 13 is full of apocalyptic language. It is similar in ways to many other Jewish writings using similar images and language. “yet it is helpful to read the passage not so much as a predictive message about the future, but as a word addressing the issues pressing the Markan community at the time of writing. The events depicted in the chapter do not come out of a crystal ball of a divine soothsayer, but are the stuff of the community’s everyday life. The violence of war, the impending ( if not already completed) destruction of the temple, the perilous existence of the church under persecution, the enticing voices of false prophets and false messiahs were urgent concerns for the Christians community, and Mark 13 speaks directly to them”[4]
Mark here is incorporating actual events and telling his followers Don’t panic. “The warnings about false Christs are thought by some scholars to be warnings against others claiming to be the messiah or Christian teachers who claimed to actually be the reincarnation of Jesus. Acts of the Apostles 5:36-37 contains a description given by Gamaliel about Theudas and Judas the Galilean, both also mentioned by Josephus, who also claimed to be leaders of new movements.”[5]
These things were happening then and are happening now.  I mean we can all think of the great doomsday men standing on the street corner holding a sign the end is near…Jesus is coming…look busy!

Yes, we can find humor in it but imagine believing the messiah was coming at any moment.  That Jesus could appear in a minute and anticipating that… then how do you know which one is true when 5 or six show up? It must have been confusing and hard for the early believers. The romans were desecrating the temple before it was destroyed and they community had witnessed all of that.
So, Jesus is saying Don’t panic all these things will be…what will be will present to the here and now. Be present to each other and stay spiritually focused.
Well isn’t that our Challenge today? How do we stay spiritually focused in the face of disaster?  How do we pause and put this all in God’s hands?
Our very nature as humans is, we want to be in control.  For example, we like to design our environments to suit us. At any given time on TV we can find a home make over show. We always are looking towards the next cooler gadget that will make our life easier.  Ok Google turn down the lights.
How many here thought the lights might actually dim?
There is nothing wrong with making our lives better, our homes more comfortable, our environment, well, ours! But then something happens.  Suddenly we do not have control and our response becomes panic, confusion, dismay, anger, pain, fear, isolation.
Now I am not talking about loosing a key or even having a cold.  How do we respond in the face of trauma?  Friends and families are being affected by fires allover our state. One friend of mine who was evacuated in Ventura county commentated “come one California either you are shooting at us or burning us out?” he could hear the gunfire at the borderline from his yard.
People in Santa Rosa hearts started racing as soon as they smelled the smoke. Anytime I smell smoke I ask is that a fire or a fireplace? I catch myself stopping.
Trauma is a hard thing and it stays with us. It will lie buried deep inside our selves till something like the smell of smoke triggers it.  Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11.  The shock was something awful.
“The immediate psychological effects were not limited to Ground Zero, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Penn. Elevated emotions reverberated throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. Many of us experienced what could be called sub-threshold symptoms—not enough distress to diagnose clinical disorder but sufficient to temporarily interfere with functioning. We felt angry, jittery, afraid and sad. We had difficulties concentrating and sleeping.”[6]
This is the immediate response of many people in the area to the fires.  This is the immediate response some have to a shooting no matter where it is.  This is the response some have when we here rhetoric of hate and condemnation.
Don’t panic, or more appropriately, try not to.
Breathe into your inner sacred space.  Find refuge with a friend, a loved one a confidant you can talk to.  Seek out counselors, or support groups. If you are in the midst of anything that is causing you to experience some level of trauma pray.
There is refuge in the stillness of Gods loving spirit.  There is comfort to be found in God’s loving community. I had a discussion recently on what to do when someone says I do not want your thoughts and prayers.  In the midst of tragedy and trauma a woman who lost her son was crying out.
Sandy Orfanos son had survived the shooting in Las Vegas only to die at the shooting at the borderline bar.
 “‘I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control,’ Susan Orfanos said on local TV.

‘And I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers,’ she said, vigorously shaking her head. She emphasized each word, demanding: ‘No more guns.’”[7] I can’t blame her for her anger. Yet I was asked what do oyu do in response to her statement. I pray. I do not have to tell her I am praying.  I do not have to send a message of thought and prayers. But I pray.  I believe in lifting prayers and it helps me not feel so helpless but then…
I have said this before in the face of trauma beyond our comprehension go with that first Christian response lift prayers but then… as things shift back to daily life seek out action.  What can we do? It is hard it seems meaningless or insignificant, but anything can help.  Donate blood, donate food, see if you can volunteer at a local shelter. I recently read comment on the Good Samaritan it is actually a quote from Margaret Thatcher; “no one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had Good intentions” now she goes on to say he had money as well, but we all have currency. It does not need to be cash.
First, we pray and then we are called to act upon our intentions.
John Dorhauer wrote two years ago;
“At the end of a full year of open dialogue that engaged covenant partners across the full life of the denomination, the United Church of Christ Board affirmed a Purpose, Vision, and Mission statement for the denomination.
If you haven’t seen them yet, here they are:
To love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves.
United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.
United in Spirit, inspired by God’s grace we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.
How beautiful is this? Love and justice are clearly seen by us as our missional imperatives. These commitments of offering a redeeming, transformative love to all, and in that love working to establish a just peace for all: this fully expresses why it is we were called into being…
The United Church of Christ Board would like to invite every setting of the denomination to begin prayerfully discerning this: in your setting for ministry, how do you and your worship family live out their call to build a just world for all?
I have the privilege of witnessing week in and week out how our local churches fulfill this mission. Even before we had the language that captured our mission impulse, we were bearing witness to the power of love to change the world.

In recent weeks, I have seen this love in action…
·         In a communion service held at the wall separating the US from Mexico where over 85 UCC members gathered from all across the country;
·         On the Dakota lands where tribal leaders and pastors led young activists to the front lines at the Standing Rock reservation on horseback and gave them a sense of pride, purpose, and identity;
·         In a 400 year old church in Barnstable MA where the worship space also serves as the town hall gathering place and a long time relationship with a sister church in Sri Lanka calls them to service a half a globe away;
·         At Holy Covenant UCC in Charlotte NC where I met one of the couples that successfully challenged the state’s laws criminalizing clergy for performing same gender weddings;
·         At the Samoan Church of Hawaii on the west shore of Oahu where every Sunday the faithful gather to sing their praises to the Creator;
·         With a group of clergy in Vermont who spent three days in the early fall processing the manifestation and impact of white privilege and making deeper commitments to becoming allies for racial equity.
What an honor to serve in this way and to bear witness to our ongoing commitment to build a just world for all. We are truly united in spirit and inspired by grace, and therefore welcome all, love all and seek justice for all.
We are the United Church of Christ.”[8]
I have seen this Church step up with food, with baskets for the fire victims, with a drive for habitat, with scarves and hats for the homeless.
There will be famine and war and rumor of war…don’t panic. There will be traumatic events…Don’t panic!
There will be people in shock and terror or suffering from trauma and it may be you.
Pause, Pray and then act…act to be Jesus’ hands and feet in this world and work to see the vision fulfilled of a Just World for all.

[2] Ditto
[3] Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003. Mark 13:5-8
[4] Brueggemann, Walter, and Charles B. Cousar. Texts for Preaching. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993. Pg. 593

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