Let us Pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Presbyterians are, if anything, Reformed. Born of the Reformation movement over five hundred years ago, Presbyterians in this country trace themselves through the Church of Scotland, which was influenced by a student of Jean Calvin by the name of John Knox. What that means in the ecumenical circle of Christian churches is that, during any given service of the Lord’s Day, the part of a worship service called the sermon – or preaching – is supposed to become the place of encounter with the Majesty of God. Tracing that line of thought back to Jean Calvin, the actual point that encounter takes place is during the Sursum Corda.
Commentator Michael Hegeman writes,
“When the congregation lifts up its collective heart, that the Spirit lifts up the congregation to the place where Christ dwells in heaven. In this heavenly feast all are nourished by the life-giving and sustaining body of Christ.
In the time and space of the liturgy of the Lord’s Day service, we are fed by the life–creating Word of God by whom we are encountered in the faithful attending to that Word. We hear of God’s majesty, of God’s sustaining power, of what God has done in Christ, how Christ is the reflection of God’s glory, and of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. …
In the midst of this hymn of praise we are drawn up not only into the unending Eucharistic praise that resounds in the eternal realms of God. We are also confronted with the very human and inhumane suffering of Christ. We cannot escape the reality that something had gone wrong in the cosmos and that God, and only God, could set things right.”
“In the midst of our own hymns of praise, we cannot escape the story of the cross: how things had gone wrong and still go wrong today; how our lives are caught up in the seemingly unending tale of human subjection to sin; and, how the whole created order is caught in this tension. In our experience we may forget the sufficiency of God, because the planet seems to be in such turmoil. … [Tension] in the midst of this hymn of praise draws us all into the story of God’s redemption. …
God’s salvation is that much more tangible, because we know suffering. Our communal act of thanksgiving has its grounding in knowing from what God has delivered us [continues to deliver us, and, we pray, will continue to deliver us]. This text ultimately speaks of God’s love.”
What that leaves me with, is the question of the crossroads between our action in the world, our reaction to the world, and the story of love interwoven into both the cosmic reality and the common daily reality of the world.
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors…[and] but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…” writes the author of Hebrews. This is nothing less than an invitation to, as Jill Duffield, editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, writes,
“Gather around everyone and hear the story you know so well told again so that none of us forget. Hear it again so that the moral, instruction, encouragement or promise becomes your own and that of the next generation and the next and the next. Once upon a time the prophets spoke and in these days – these last days – God has spoken through the Son, so lean in and listen for the timeless wisdom and will of our Lord.”
The only addition I would add to her words here would be to place Jesus back in the context of his time, the author of the Hebrews back in the context of her time, and then look with discerning eyes out into the context of our time and ask some hard questions.
Namely: Who do we have today who can fill the gaping hole of moral and spiritual leadership needed in a secularized culture fast becoming “semi-Christian,” to use the term coined by Lloyd in last week’s discussion. Is a culture that is journeying down the road of “semi-Christian” fast approaching a different destination than a kingdom of God existence?
Or, can the kingdom of God, the reign of God, actually become stronger under adverse conditions to those who claim to be adherents to it?
Recalling our homework from last week, 1. “In what ways do you enact an “upside-down” kingdom with your life and witness, and 2. How might you/we/us increase our own influence as witnesses to the Way of Christ;” consider for a moment the potential parallels between our context and the passage from Mark’s gospel for today:
“Mark gives us the classic set-up for a showdown between Jesus and those who oppose him,” writes Jill Duffield of the Presbyterian Outlook.
“’Some Pharisees came to test him…’ And we know what’s coming. We know it will be a back-and-forth between the reign of God and the rules and ruler of this world. We know, ultimately, that God’s Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven. But right now, in these days, we lean in and listen for the Word of the Lord for us, right now, in tumultuous and challenging times.”
Both these passages today remind us of, as once again Jill Duffield suggests, the “drama of good versus evil and the anxious hope of knowing the ending while simultaneously living our own unique journey to get there.”
In living our journey to “get there,” do our communities reflect a Christ-light? “Do our words reflect the Word? Do our actions heed the Spirit?” “In these days and in future ones, what will come after “There once was a church…”?
The answer to those questions lies with you, with me, and any who are living and awake in this time, during these days.
As for me and my house, it is my fervent prayer that we will serve the Lord! Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
How do we persist in our integrity when the hard times come? If we receive the good things that God provides for us, what can we do with the bad things that happen in our lives? What is God’s relationship to the difficulties that we encounter?
Create your own prayers for Morning and Evening this week!
 Michael G. Hegeman, “Homiletical Perspective, Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
 Jill Dufield, “Looking into the Lectionary,” Presbyterian Outlook, October 1, 2018 (http://pres-outlook.org/category/ministry-resources/looking-into-the-lectionary/).