Sunday, October 27, 2019

One of these things is not like the other


Today we are hearing more about prayer. Last week we learned of the widow and her persistence and how that maybe more about God’s relationship to us than the Judges’ action to the widow.  Today, as the cover suggests, is about how things in God’s Kindom can be reverse from how they appear. Well maybe

“It begins with two comments about the addressees. Jesus tells this parable to some who (1) trust in themselves that they are righteous and (2) regard others with contempt. The first verb is used elsewhere in Luke at 11:22 with reference to the armor of the strong man, in which he trusts but which is taken away from him by the stronger man; to trust in one’s own righteousness is to rely on a flimsy defense”[1]

One commentator points out that this parable is deceptively simple. I find myself in strong agreement with that statement after reading several commentaries that stand in opposition to each other.

So, let’s see who are the players in this story? First, we have the pharisee

“The Pharisees of the first century were not “legalists” who were trying to earn God’s favor. They were a Jewish movement that emphasized the importance of obedience to the law of Moses. Living in accordance with Torah was a way of making God’s benefits visible and accessible in all aspects of life for all who were Jewish.

The Pharisees’ attention to things like rituals for cleansing one’s body or one’s cookware was part of a larger effort to encounter God’s holiness in everyday life. Pharisaic priorities aligned with the notion of Israel as a holy (“set apart”) nation, even while in the first century Jews lived in subjection to Roman rule and were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world.

Pharisees’ emphasis on interpreting the law and developing “oral torah” as practical guidelines for law observance helps explain why Jesus has so much interaction with Pharisees in the gospels. The similarities he shared with them led to dialogue, which made some Pharisees sympathetic to Jesus’ movement (Luke 13:33; 19:39; Acts 15:5; 23:6). The similarities also exacerbated the differences, as Jesus and the Pharisees participated in critical intra-Jewish debates about how exactly Jewish values should express themselves in a changing cultural landscape.”[2]

Then we have the tax Collector

“The Roman Empire’s taxation system repeatedly offended many residents of first-century Galilee. It is difficult to determine how severe the taxation demands were on individuals and their families, but the tax-gathering system was notoriously corrupt. To collect taxes in places like neighborhoods, highways, markets, and docks, Roman officials enlisted members of the population to bid for contracts. Tax collectors could line their own pockets with whatever they could collect over and above their contractual obligations.

The gospels operate with an understanding that tax collectors were generally viewed as dishonest and greedy. The reasons are obvious. They were slimy opportunists and collaborators, willing to victimize their own neighbors while assisting the occupiers. They upheld Roman interests at the expense of the people of God. It would have been dangerous to oppose such men who appeared to have traded their social consciences and religious self-worth for financial gain.

Jesus’ willingness to associate with tax collectors compounds the scandal of his ministry in the eyes of others (Luke 5:27-32; 7:33-35; 15:1-2). Why would someone so interested in holiness and liberation spend his time in the company of mobsters? Why would he extend mercy to those who made a living off of denying mercy to others? Jesus deliberately reaches out to scoundrels. He does not cast off those who enrich themselves by enabling the empire.”[3]

So, the scene is set and the drama is about to play out

Both men head up to pray” The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”

 All I can think is wow he said that out loud!

I mean we all have thoughts and maybe even prayers sometime that go something along those lines…I am glad I am not him, thank you for all you given me, I am happy to be a contemporary Christian and not like those who preach hate and division…

At the same time The tax collector “standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”.

Broken, humbled, knowing that tomorrow he must go back to tax collecting otherwise Rome would come looking for him, he would lose his income, his family would end up destitute.  Feeling he has no control over anything he throws his life on the mercy of God.

The contrast between the two seem clear and easy and is summarized nice and neat “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

“It all seems rather straightforward really. The addressees hear what we expect them to hear; the Pharisee and tax collector play their parts.

One challenge for us, perhaps, is to notice that we rather like being exalted. We might think of it as the satisfaction of a job well done or a duty fulfilled. And we might begin to believe that things we do (giving money to the church, doing religious or charitable activities, being upstanding members of society, making a well-deserved salary) or don’t do (being thieves, rogues, or adulterers) really might justify us, at least a little, might make us a bit better than those who fail where we succeed.”[4]

Paul Tillich, commenting on the Apostle Paul's assertion that the gospel is a stumbling block, once said that the danger is stumbling over the wrong thing.

This is one of those parables you see we all too easily make the assumptions that I have laid out for you.  It is easy to Judge the Pharisee.  We know who they are and how they are viewed…
But if you heard my fopah earlier you would see how easy it is to become the pharisee even in reflection of the gospel.

“’Lord, we thank you that we are not like other people: hypocrites, overly pious, self-righteous, or even like that Pharisee. We come to church each week, listen attentively to Scripture, and we have learned that we should always be humble.’

In order to avoid the kind of self-congratulatory reading of the parable that the parable itself would seem to condemn, it may help to note that, in fact, everything the Pharisee says is true.

He has set himself apart from others by his faithful adherence to the law. He is, by the standards both Luke and Jesus seem to employ, righteous (see Luke 15:7). So, before we judge him too quickly, we might reframe his prayer slightly and wonder if we have uttered it ourselves.

Maybe we haven't said, "Lord, I thank you that I am not like other people...", but what about, on seeing someone down on his luck, "There but for the grace of God go I"? It isn't that the Pharisee is speaking falsely, but rather that the Pharisee misses the true nature of his blessing.”[5]

The issue is the pharisee is trusting in his own actions he is self-justifying his own righteousness and his prayer, his conversation with God, is all about, well himself.

“The tax collector, on the other hand, knows that he possesses no means by which to claim righteousness. He has done nothing of merit; indeed, he has done much to offend the law of Israel. For this reason, he stands back, hardly daring to approach the Temple, and throws himself on the mercy of the Lord.”[6]

The tax collector is relying on God.  One commentator says he is not so much as humble but desperate…” He is too overwhelmed by his plight to take time to divide humanity into sides. All he recognizes as he stands near the Temple is his own great need. He therefore stakes his hopes and claims not on anything he has done or deserved but entirely on the mercy of God.

I don't think it's an accident that this exchange takes place at the Temple. On the grounds of the Temple, you were always intimately aware of who you were, of what status you had, of what you could expect from God. There were, at the Temple, "insiders" and "outsiders," and according to these rules there was no question of where the Pharisee and tax collector stood. But when Jesus dies all this changes. As the gospels report, the curtain in the Temple is torn in two (Luke 23:45), symbolically erasing all divisions of humanity before God. That act is prefigured here, as God justifies not the one favored by Temple law, but rather the one standing outside the Temple gate, and aware only of his utter need.”[7]

This parable is a tricky one for as soon as we feel contempt for the Pharisee in his truthful prayer we divide.  As soon as we are confused by the tax collector who goes home, justified, to go on with his life. We divide! And as soon as we fall into the trap of dividing humanity into any kind of groups, we have aligned with the pharisee.

“Whether our division is between righteous and sinners, as with the Pharisee, or even between the self-righteous and the humble, as with Luke, we are doomed. Anytime you draw a line between who's "in" and who's "out," this parable asserts, you will find God on the other side.”[8]

Once we read the parable this way the parable breaks forth from its traditional interpretation…This is not about being self righteous, this is not about being humble, this is not about a tax collector nor a pharisee.  This is about God.

Wait a parable about God? God who alone can Judge, God alone who knows what lies upon the human heart, God alone who is loving and forgiving. God who can grant justice even unto the unjust.  In the end “the Pharisee will leave the Temple and return to his home righteous. This hasn't changed; he was righteous when he came up and righteous as he goes back down. The tax collector, however, will leave the Temple and go back down to his home justified, that is, accounted righteous by the Holy One of Israel. How has this happened? The tax collector makes neither sacrifice nor restitution. On what basis, then, is he named as righteous? On the basis of God's divine fiat and ordinance!”[9]

In biblical terms because God has deemed it so.  Just because.  In theological terms as we proclaim an all loving God so stands a lowly tax collector Righteous in God’s sight.

“For you who have loved Jesus—perhaps with great passion and protectiveness—do you recognize that any God worthy of the name must transcend creeds and denominations, time and place, nations and ethnicities, and all the vagaries of gender and sexual orientation, extending to the limits of all we can see, suffer, and enjoy? You are not your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, your skin color, or your social class. These are not the qualities of your True Self in God!  Why, oh why, do Christians allow temporary costumes, or what Thomas Merton called the “false self,” to pass for the substantial self, which is always “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3)? It seems that we really do not know our own Gospel.
You are a child of God, and always will be, even when you don’t believe it.
And so is everyone else! God created us all. We are all God’s children.”[10]

As we stand in this revelation of our true selves and the extravagant love of God “we forget if only for a moment our human-constructed divisions and stand before God aware only of our need, then we, too, are justified by the God of Jesus and invited to return to our homes in mercy, grace, and gratitude”[11]

[3] Ditto
[6] Ditto
[7] Ditto
[8] Ditto
[9] ditto
[10] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation: true self false self, 10/24/19
[11] ditto

Sunday, October 20, 2019

She Persisted

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 isn’t that 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]

Today Jesus begins by telling his disciples that the parable he is about to tell is about praying “always” and not losing heart. Oh, How often I have heard but I pray and I pray to no result. Or worse I hear a prosperity preacher tell people that if they are not succeeding in the world, they must be bearing some sin or praying wrong…ugh! 
The parable focuses on a widow dealing with a judge in a corrupt justice system. Luke twice tells us that the judge in this tale is someone who neither fears God nor respects people, and Jesus himself characterizes the judge as “unjust.”
An Unjust judge who doesn’t fear God sounds about right, well maybe for this day and age but, think of Jesus’ time who were the Judges for the Jewish community? “The Sanhedrin was to be recruited from the following sources: Priests (Kohanim), Levites (Levi'im), and ordinary Jews who were members of those families having a pure lineage such that their daughters were allowed to marry priests.”[3] Even in this simple parable Jesus is getting a little political  political.
 Is the widow deterred by this unjust judge? Not at all…the widow comes to the judge again and again in pursuit of justice. The verb used here is ercheto: “she kept on coming.” This isn’t a gentle plea, she is aggressive. She tells him, tells him “grant me justice against my opponent,” which can be literally translated as “against the one who has treated me unjustly”. Though her demands are strong and just, the judge does nothing. He refuses to act because he simply cannot be bothered, and so he does not respond at first.
Knowing who the judge is, his assumed role and lineage in the community, makes judge’s lack of action especially appalling. Specifically, when it is compounded with the fact that this is a widow making the demand. “Widows are counted among the most destitute of society, alongside other vulnerable groups such as the poor, orphans, and resident aliens. Because of the precarious social and economic position of such groups, biblical texts also make provision for them, helping to ensure that they do not fall victim to exploitation”[4]
Though widows are assumed to be the downtrodden, the broken and meek, the widow in this parable resists the exploitation to which she is being subjected. Yes, She resisted. She resisted and Persisted! “Like other widows before her, such as Tamar in Genesis 38 and Ruth and Naomi, the widow in Luke 18 takes matters into her own hands. Her persistence and call for justice are such that the judge characterizes her actions as those of a boxer. It is difficult to discern this boxing image in the NRSV, which translates the judge’s words as follows: “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming” (verse 5). In the original Greek, though, the judge says: “because this widow causes trouble for me, I will give her justice, so that she may not, in the end, give me a black eye by her coming”[5].  Don’t mess with this widow…she’ll take you to the ring till you are down for the count!

English translations and time have obscured the humor that Luke infuses into this scene. We are supposed to laugh at this topsy-turvy picture of a meek and demure widow taking on and boxing the ears of this unfair judge. “But as New Testament scholar F. Scott Spencer rightly recognizes, the humor in this scene is not one of comic relief. The humor in this scene instead pokes fun at the powers-that-be, “lampooning and upending the unjust system stacked against widows, orphans, immigrants, and the like.”1 Like our political cartoons today, Jesus’ parable encourages us to laugh at those who wield their power unethically. We laugh, though, in order to challenge such figures, and ultimately, to offer a different way.”[6]
A different way, an alternative way of being and acting in this world…
Jesus offers a few concluding comments that touch on the character of God and the nature of faith. He uses the judge’s words as a jumping off point Jesus says listen to the unjust judge Judge…what does the unjust judge say? “yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”  Most importantly The Judge says…I will grant her justice.
Through her persistence and through her own faith, knowing if she keeps coming at him, he will break down?
“while Jesus compares God to the judge with this transition, the real point of comparison is one of contrast.2 God is in fact not like this reluctantly responsive judge.3 God does not need to be badgered into listening, and when God does respond, God does so willingly. If anything, God is more like the widow in her own relentless commitment to justice.”[7]
The widow also shows how we are to be oriented toward God. How we are to be praying in relationship to God.
Now I did mention prosperity preachers and people who say I pray and pray and pray and many interpret this passage about really being persistent in our requests to God. I can see where some may hear this…but…but
What is the widow's pursuing here?  What is she relentless in? How can we change the perspective of this text often simply interpreted as pray, and pray often?  Which isn’t a bad thing but hear what she is after?

The widow is relentless in her pursuit of Justice…Justice! You see we are called to a life of prayer and we should be praying often if not always.  We should be making our daily living into a prayer and an act of worship.  I pray when I write, I pray as I weave, I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters of the way, I pray for this congregation and I pray I do not fail you.  Those are constant prayers woven throughout my day.
Yet with a prayer on my heart I am called, we are called to the pursuit of Justice. Then the question becomes what does Justice look like? What is this justice we are pursuing?  
Let me tell you exactly what we are perusing these are some ministries that we support
Immigration and Refugee Support (IRSG): 
Provides information, education and general consciousness-raising within our NH denominational family (and the broader community where possible) about immigrant and refugee/asylum-seeker personal plight in our state as well as broader immigration and immigrant-focused policy concerns at both the state and national level 
Environmental Stewardship: 
Environmental Stewardship Mission Group (ESMG) is developing a brochure, “Green Congregation Challenge.” It provides information and education about becoming a green congregation. They are also planning for the next New England Youth Environmental Justice Summit over the fall and winter months. A tentative date is March of 2020. 
The Economic Justice Mission Group of the NHCUCC Justice and Witness Ministry (JWM) is focused on heeding the call of our faith to be a voice for economic justice and to serve as a catalyst for others in UCC congregations statewide (as well as those in other faith communities) to join together as faith witnesses for economic justice. 
The Peace with Justice Advocates of the NHCUCC is committed to growing into the peace of Christ by: 
·  Being inwardly contemplative so as to allow God to disarm our hearts and transform us into people of peace and nonviolence. 
·  Being outwardly active in publicly witnessing/ evangelizing/ teaching peace, love, and nonviolence in our churches and in the greater society. 
·  Being in community with and acting in solidarity with other individuals and groups rooted in peace and nonviolence. 
Focus Issues include: Challenging Islamophobia; Challenging Militarism; Challenging US Relationship with Israel and Palestine. 
Opioid Crisis Mission Group: 
The mission statement of our group is: “Helping churches to become healing communities for all of us who are affected by the opioid crisis.” Our goal is to provide local churches with resources to engage their congregations in programing that works to reduce stigma and expand its potential for healing. 
Open and Affirming (ONA): 
Our mission is to bring awareness to churches and educate them on acceptance and making a safe place for all of God’s children. We hope that we can increase participation in our mission group so that we might reach a wider range of churches. We are hoping that more congregations will become Open and Affirming. We are making good progress. 
Racial Justice Mission Group (RJMG): 
Awakening to Racial Justice in 2019, our goals have been to: Develop a process for churches in NHCUCC to become a Racial Justice Church; provide PTS workshops and Annual Meeting connecting sessions; be available to churches for programs on racial justice; offer educational programs open to the NHCUCC; 
All these programs and initiatives are from eh annual report of the NHUCC This is what we are a part of…This is why I mentioned the don’t panic button in the beginning.  When we see all the injustice and the work to be done, we become overwhelmed and just want to curl up and stay on the couch and say I can’t do that!
Well you can’t not alone and that is why I mentioned the towel 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.” Our towel is prayer That persistent prayer.  That constant connection with God and with God all these things get done.
Take a moment out of each day to just pause and pray…then, if you can, try to make a conscious effort that whatever you are engaged in be it work or play make it a prayer offer it to God…this becomes a habit  it will be woven into your lives.
Jesus, “By ending on a question of whether he will find faith at his return, Jesus raises a number of additional questions for us. How do followers not lose heart and maintain the faith in light of the fact that Jesus is not returning as soon as many would like? How are we to act if God’s justice is not delivered according to our own timetable? How do we go on in the face of injustice if God’s ultimate justice only arrives “suddenly” at Jesus’ return? In response to such questions, Luke maintains that we are to act like the widow. We are not to wait quietly for Jesus’ return and accept our fates in an oppression-ridden world. We are instead to resist injustice with the resolve and constancy of the widow. As Jesus explains elsewhere (Luke 11:1-13), prayer is not a passive activity but one that actively seeks God and pursues God’s will. Like the widow, we are to persevere in the faith, crying out to God day and night. This is what persistent prayer looks like.”[8]

[2] Ditto
[5] Ditto
[7] On this point, see Barbara E. Reid, Choosing the Better Part? Women in the Gospel of Luke (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996), 190-94.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Installation Sunday

This is the complete installation..Thanks to our congregation, the search committee, Rev. Stacey Kullgren Moderator of the Southwest association, members of the southwest association, Rev. Gordin Rankin Conference Minister, members of the New Hampshire conference of the UCC. Rev. Joe Amico for the Pastors' Charge, Kathleen Oliver for the Congregations' charge , and Rev. Carlos Jauhola-Straight for the sermon. 

Thanks to our Musicians; The Choir, Sue Bemis, Roland and Dustin, and our Organist Cathy Harvey

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Mustard seeds...What if?

The Mustard Seed – Luke 17:1-10 
We are all familiar with the mustard seed in the gospels. Jesus used the mustard seed as a parable for the Kin-dom of God (Matt 13:31-32; Mk 4:30-32; Luke 13:18- 19). In these contexts, we learn that signs of the Kin-dom of God can be small, miniscule, tiny and be sown into something wonderful and broad like mustard shrub. We learn that sometimes the Kin-dom is hidden, like a seed in the ground, and that it takes time for it to take root and grow into something meaningful. And we learn that God often exceeds our expectations about what he can do with only very little. 
Jesus also used the mustard seed as a metaphor of  faith. When the disciples ask that Jesus increase their faith (Luke 17:5), Jesus tells them that if they had faith as a tiny little mustard seed, they would be able to do the impossible: uproot a mulberry tree and have it take root in the sea. In Mathew Jesus tells the disciples that even faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. 
In Luke’s gospel, the saying of the mustard seed and faith is placed within a short series of teachings about discipleship: don’t be the cause of another person’s fall (17:1-2), forgive – again and again even if he fails you 7 times a day and seven times asks for forgiveness, you should forgive, this is Luke’s version of the 70x7 which is the line right before today’s reading. (17:4), even small faith is sufficient (17:5-6), and discipleship isn’t about reward (17:7-10). 
I’m sure you have all heard many sermons on the mustard seed – of how God can do a lot with just a little, or of how God’s Kin-dom appears to be tiny but actually has tremendous potential. I really don’t have anything new to add to the metaphor.  But I think it was last year, while in Petaluma, I had a picture of a mustard shrub.  Have you ever seen one? They can get taller than me. However, because of their familiarity, it might be easy for us to read quickly over the passages about mustard seeds, thereby missing what God might want to be saying to us today about faith and the kin-dom. So, Inspired by a sermon By d Benson,what I would like to do this morning is propose a series of ‘what ifs’, to re-set the scene of the mustard seed and perhaps help us think freshly about what the saying might mean for us today. 
What If... Jesus was implying that the faith of the disciples was even less than that of the size of a mustard seed? And still, God could do something with that. …The reality of a mulberry bush being uprooted and planted in the sea is assumed to be untrue for the sake of the argument. Mulberry bushes simply don’t behave that way. The suggestion that is perhaps being made to the disciples is that if faith the size of a mustard seed could accomplish the utterly improbable (moving mountains, or uprooting a mulberry tree and replanting it in the sea), imagine what God could do with even less? It is unclear as to whether Jesus was chastising the disciples for their lack of faith or if he was just trying to reassure them, the point isn’t about how much faith we have (a little or a lot), but about what God does according to his own will, his own purposes, and his own Kin-dom rule. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in the face of the utter doubt of the disciples. What if 
the mustard seed is really about the power of God in the face of something so small it might as well not exist? Such as 12 men some strong women standing against an empire?
What If... the faith that Jesus is talking about with respect to the mustard seed isn’t necessarily about something we believe God can do but about being faithful in the small things? In many instances when the bible talks about faith, it is talking about faithfulness: active participation in and obedience to God’s covenant with his people that is modeled after Christ’s own faithfulness to the Creator. Faithfulness is about faithful, loving obedience. I find it curious that the saying that follows the disciples’ request for Jesus to increase their faith is about a servant/slave who is doing his job as a servant and shouldn’t expect any special treatment for doing what he was supposed to be doing anyway. The servant/slave was actively doing his job according to the will of his master. He was being faithful. That in itself shouldn’t be remarkable or extraordinary. That’s just what you do. That’s just what is expected of each of us. 
I wonder how often we feel disappointed or overlooked when we go about our daily lives being as faithfully obedient as we can be, and no one seems to notice, much less God. And because we feel undervalued, we start to get resentful because we aren’t getting the acknowledgment (or the break) we believe we are entitled to. And then we start getting judgmental about all the other people out there who aren’t doing as much as we are to be faithful, loving disciples. And then we end up being frustrated and bitter and self-righteous. All because we were doing what we were supposed to be doing in the first place – being faithful, obedient servants of Jesus. If you think about it… it the issue of being a prodigal brother.
Theologian David Lose says that faith (or faithfulness) is like a muscle – it needs to be worked, exercised or it atrophies. It becomes rigid stiff and limited in its movement.
What if... Jesus was reminding us that the reward of God’s Kin-dom reign among us might be good enough? And what if Jesus were telling us that if we were more faithful in the small things (more attentive, intentional servant disciples), God might grow a pretty amazing Kin-dom out of it? 
What if... Jesus was encouraging us to move forward in faithfulness, even when we don’t see any evidence of it or we do not see the Kin-dom in front of us, or when the evidence we do see is so small it might as well be invisible. There is a powerful scene that demonstrates this idea in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. On his journey to discover and protect the Holy Grail, Dr. Jones the younger (Harrison Ford) must literally step out in faith off the side of a cliff, trusting that something will keep him from falling into the abyss below. There is absolutely no sign of a bridge, or of any other way across, but he steals himself for the step, takes a big breath, scrunches up his face, and does it anyway. It’s not so much that the leap of faith was remarkably heroic that I think is important for us today. Instead, I wonder how many times we allow what we can’t see to hold us back from trusting God to be God. Sometimes we look out over that abyss and don’t see any way across. And that abyss can be anything: not enough money to pay the bills or buy groceries, sensing that God is calling you to something wonderful but not seeing how it can be done, repairing a broken relationship, the difficulty to keep forgiving, or to overcome an addiction. But what if there is a way, even if it is so small, we can’t see it, or so extraordinary that we can’t believe it. What if we stopped limiting the outworking of God’s Kin-dom in our midst to our own imaginations and what we can readily see? What if we trusted that God’s power is beyond our imagination? Might we be just as surprised as if we were to see a mulberry tree uprooted and planted in the sea? 
There is a constant call that churches and congregations must struggle with.  That is do we step boldly in faith and trust in God? Or do we over analyze everything, panic about where the money may come from or do we hold our breathe and wait for God to do it?
As we move into communion, this meal is a mustard seed meal. It seems small and insignificant. What goes on here sometimes seems invisible. We don’t understand the miracle of it. We don’t see how God can be doing anything with us or in us in these simple elements of bread and juice. Perhaps this meal seems so meaningless to us that it might as well be invisible – a non-thing? But what if this meal was about God’s power and not what we do? 
This simple meal.  This intentional of taking bread and juice together can be taken for granted.  But being world communion Sunday, we know there are places in the world where on a Sunday the piece of bread one receives may be all they have to eat that day.
Last year in the Congo there was an outbreak of the Ebola virus. There is no cure for Ebola and it is easily spread.  What would you do as a church if this was what you had to face of a Sunday?
“To begin with, hand washing stands were placed outside each church in Mbandaka. When the time for communion came, the elders prayed over the emblems as usual and then brought them down in front of the pulpit. The ushers dismissed each pew to proceed to the front of the church to wash their hands again and receive an application of hand sanitizer. Then they could partake of the bread and the cup, depositing the empty cup into a bucket, and returning to their pew. The process was smooth and was in no way disruptive to the overall worship experience.”[1] But one can see, almost feel, how sacred a crumb of bread can become.
So, what if in this meal something big and extraordinary is happening. People all over the world are taking part in this same sacrament this morning on World Communion Sunday. People all over the world are coming together as Christ’s body to proclaim the power of his resurrection and the breaking in of God’s Kin-dom among us. People all over the world are being empowered by the Spirit of Jesus to point to this great big mustard plant Kin-dom with branches enough for everyone. 
What if in this meal the Kin-dom is sown in us, too tiny to be seen. A planting of grace – of sacrifice and love and new life. Let’s taste and see what the Lord has done. [2]
And so today…to honor the sacred…to honor the Christians all over the world with their multiple understandings, their different dogma, we will lift the one thing that joins us together, the one bread that makes us one body, we will come up to receive comunion…