Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesus Alone, Is That Enough?

John 6:25-35 (The Message)
When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered,

“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.

Thursday is Thanksgiving
Without a doubt one of the biggest days sanctioned to overindulge in food on America's calendar.

It seems fitting that in our scripture today Jesus turns a necessary food staple into a metaphor about our spiritual journey.

Do you remember what he said?
          "I am the Bread of Life."

Usually when we talk about Bread in the church it is in relationship to the Eucharist --- Holy Communion.
          The bread represents to us Jesus body broken for us --- His life given for us

Or we talk about bread in relationship to the prayer that Jesus taught us in which we pray to have our "daily bread"
          bread to sustain us each and every day

But on this Sunday before Thanksgiving we have this selection from John's Gospel.

It takes place shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water (on the Sea of Galilee).

That gives some context to how this passage begins when Jesus says:
“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions {feeding the 5000 or walking on the water} but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free."

It would seem from the passage that the crowds are looking for deliverance from physical difficulties --- things like hunger or disease --- but Jesus wants them to see beyond their physical need to their spiritual needs.

"I am the Bread of Life" Jesus says"
          What does he mean?

Is he saying that bread is the most basic, and perhaps only sustenance that a person needs?

Or does he understand that bread is not the only food that a person requires but is the necessary foundation for a nutritious healthy meal plan.

But you know --- bread has gotten a bad rap recently.

About 3 million American's suffer from Celiac disease (1 in 133 people)
It is estimated that 5-10% of all people suffer with gluten sensitivity or intolerance in some form.

Having a daughter who is gluten intolerant, I have come to understand the danger and the difficulties of living with this.

At the base of the traditional food pyramid is grains --- Bread
          Bread many would argue is the foundation of a healthy diet.

But whether we are looking at the traditional food pyramid, or the new food plate, grains are only one part of a healthy diet. 
Much more is needed in one's diet if you are to be healthy.

Even Jesus seems to suggest this when he famously exclaimed to his tempter:
          "Man shall not live on bread alone."

Jesus says: "I am the bread of life",
          do we need more in our lives besides Jesus?

I believe Jesus is telling us that while faith in him is the vital foundation for the spiritual life, a healthy spiritual journey needs other ingredients as well.

I doubt any of us are going to gather around the thanksgiving table on Thursday and just give thanks for bread and water.
          We need more and Jesus seems to be saying the same thing.

When we start believing that Jesus is all that I need, I think we hurt our spiritual growth.

There was a prayer chorus I learned once:

He’s all I need, he’s all I need,
Jesus is all I need.
He’s all I need, he’s all I need,
All I will ever need.

I think I learned that when I was in Jr High
          That was about the same time I began to notice girls

I realized that no matter how close Jesus and I grew together --- I doubted that he would be able to replace that of a girl

Actually, no matter what our age,
          no matter how deep and vital our relationship with Jesus
                   and no matter how committed we are to following his example
                             and trusting his teaching,
it’s pretty rare finding one of us who really finds that faith in Jesus alone is enough for spiritual health.

And I really believe --- if we pay attention to what Jesus was saying about being the Bread of Life --- I think it is safe to say that he never intended to be all that we ever need!

In the first century, of course, all the actual bread was whole grain.
The refining process that yields white bread had not yet been invented, but neither had the capacity to enrich bread either, so the whole-grain bread of Jesus’ day was even less nutritionally complete than our bread today.

So we can assume Jesus’ bread-of-life statement meant that faith in him is the essential foundation of a spiritual life, but is not everything we need for spiritual health.

I think that is one of the reasons, from the time of the early church on that Christians have found it essential to meet together for worship and fellowship.

The author of the book of Hebrews wrote:  (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another

The simple fact is ---- Jesus is not all that we need!

Jesus is the Bread of Life ---- but not the whole meal!

But on the flip side of all of this there is another issue we need to address:
Our lives can become stunted if we try to live without eating any of the Bread of Life

The last few years we have seen the rise of low and no-carb diets that make it almost possible to live without any actual bread.

BUT ---- as Nancy can attest, avoiding carbs has its own problems!

A number of years ago I decided that I needed to go on a diet --- if you have seen pictures of me following the flood in 2008 you know what I mean

After talking with a bunch of friends I decided to go on the South Beach Diet which required you to avoid all carbs for the first two weeks and then have only some back in the diet.

I loved the diet --- and I lost almost 20 pounds in a couple of months.

Nancy, however had a different experience.

When we went on this diet I was not into exercise --- while Nancy was training for a marathon.
A couple days into the diet, Nancy headed out for her long run.

One thing you have to understand about my wife --- is she almost never complains (unless it is about me . . .)

She is tough and can endure almost anything
To run a sub four hour marathon ---- heck to run any marathon --- you have to be pretty tough and have a strong tolerance for pain and discomfort.

I remember her coming back from her run and I knew something was wrong.

Without the carbohydrates, she found that she ran out of energy quicker and could not sustain the run.
          It was like running in quicksand

Maybe the best comparison would be if your car was not running on all of its cylinders.           Sure, it is running --- but it has no power or energy.

I think that it is possible to be a spiritual person without eating the Bread of Life --- but it comes at a price.
Without the Bread of Life such spirituality tends to be unfocused and unproductive

One thing Jesus did mean when he said he was the Bread of Life is that our most basic and important human longings are met in him.
          Jesus is the foundation for a healthy spiritual diet.

To be a Christian, we need Jesus.

Sounds ridiculous --- I know, but you’d be surprised at how many people would love to be Christians without having to deal with Jesus
Many in today's "conservative church" struggle with the message of Jesus to the poor and disenfranchised.
          and would rather ignore his challenge to us

Another problem is that sometimes we fill up on so much junk food that the Bread of Life stops being the foundation of our spiritual life.

We are not ignoring Jesus --- but we fill up on so many empty things that we leave no room for the truly nutritional things.

While appearing to have eaten too much, we actually are starving for the nutrients we need.

In terms of our spiritual life, we do the same thing when we give lip service to our faith, but don’t bother with filling ourselves with the Bread of Life doing things like
·         praying
·         Bible reading
·         intentionally doing good deeds
·         giving to the church and to those in need
·         participating in the Lord’s Supper
·         and partaking of the other means of sustenance that God provides through Jesus.

It is through practicing our faith in ways like these that God has made it possible for us to be continually nourished by the Bread of Life

Thursday --- most of us will sit down at a feast filled with all sorts of delicious food.

We will pause and give thanks for it

But we are not going to eat Turkey every day for the rest of our lives
          Maybe for the next couple of weeks
          but not the rest of our lives!

Most of us are not going to be eating cranberries again until Christmas --- or maybe not until next thanksgiving.

But we are thankful for these things

But we’re thankful most of all that we have daily bread, both in a real sense, and in a spiritual sense.

We get blessed in so many ways — necessary ways — but the one constant we can count on is Jesus, our daily bread.

Jesus may not be all that we need, but we’d better not try doing without Jesus all the time.

If we do, we will become stunted, if not malnourished in our spiritual journey!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Catching Fire

 Romans 12:9-13    (NRSV)
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

In 2008, Suzanne Collins released the first book in a trilogy that has sold well over 50 million copies and has surpassed HARRY POTTER as the best selling series on Amazon.

Next Thursday night, people all over America will line up at theaters to be the first to see the newest installment of the series: CATCHING FIRE.

Last year saw the first film in the trilogy released called: THE HUNGER GAMES and it has taken in over 1 billion dollars in sales.

For the few of you who have never heard of The Hunger Games, let me give you a brief synopsis. 

It is set in post-apocalyptic North America.
A country called Panem now exists where the government is corrupt, and 12 poor states, or districts, are oppressed by a wealthy, ruling class who live with indulgence in the nation's capital city.

The heroine of the series, Katniss Everdeen, has become the hope of a hurting people after winning the country's prized "Hunger Games". 

The Hunger Games is a horrific reality TV show in which members of the districts fight to the death, with the sole survivor winning a path to prosperity and fame.

However, in this second installment, Katniss learns that she's not only won the hearts of her fellow citizens but has inspired a national attitude of revolt against the powers of oppression.

Katniss now finds that her country is on the verge of a civil war ignited by the frustrations of an oppressed people scraping against the anger of an evil government.

One of the genius of author Suzanne Collins is she forces us to decide, along with Katniss, just how one can navigate such a volatile landscape.

The other thing that the Hunger Games has done, is helped a new generation to begin to think about apocalyptic themes --- a theme that is prevalent in our Bible.

The Gospels were written, for the most part, following the tragedy of 70 CE in which the Roman's had utterly destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. 

They lived in a time, not much unlike that of Katniss Everdeen --- wondering if there was any future, any hope for themselves or their people.

Jesus seems to warn of this time when he says:
Mark 13:1-8   (The Message)
As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!”

Jesus said, “You’re impressed by this grandiose architecture? There’s not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble.”

Later, as he was sitting on Mount Olives in full view of the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got him off by himself and asked, “Tell us, when is this going to happen? What sign will we get that things are coming to a head?”

Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m 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.

When one reads this, and the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke, it has to pull you up short! 

Doesn't it sound just like today?

It's almost as if the world today is groaning as it awaits the end --- the return of Jesus.

We wait amid:
·         typhoons in the Philippians
·         hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico,
·         embassy raids in Benghazi,
·         shootings in schools and suburban malls
·         and bombs at the Boston Marathon.

We find ourselves in a world where we have much in common, at times, with Katniss Everdeen.

How are we, as followers of Christ, to navigate such a volatile landscape?
          We wonder how we are to live in a world that seems to be on fire at times.

Jesus, it seems, gives us pretty clear instructions on how one is to live in a world much like our own.

And the most interesting part of Jesus recommendations to us is that NOWHERE in his instructions is the suggestion that we live in constant fear

He doesn't recommend that we
·         stockpile food
·         or weapons
·         or build a bunker in the back yard

Jesus approach is really all about us!
Dealing with our head and our heart and not about digging holes and stockpiling nonperishable food.

What Jesus does first, by outlining in broad strokes what is going to happen, is to encourage us to live with a sense of awareness and readiness.

One of the ways that many of us deal with unpleasant things is through the coping mechanism known as denial.

As you read the newspaper in the morning, or scan the headlines on twitter --- it is pretty common for us to think to ourselves:
          "Nope -- that's not going to happen here."

As followers of Jesus are to realize that ---- the tragedy, the evil, the persecution --- can happen here.

But while I say that --- let me state emphatically again, Jesus is not calling us into a state of paranoia, fear or hyper-vigilance.

Jesus is calling us to be honest
to recognize that this world is groaning and churning under the weight of sin and despair,

and that such groans will only get louder until Christ returns to quiet them.

I believe that Jesus is not, with these words, giving us permission to spend our days wringing our hands and wondering when the next apocalyptic shoe will drop.
          If anything, he's telling us the opposite.

He seems to be saying to us that we need to live with our eyes wide open but our heart at peace, confident that God will give us what we need to tackle the troubles of a deteriorating world when it comes knocking at our door.

The second lesson for us --- which coincidentally is found in both the movie and in the Gospel is that Jesus reminds us that adversity often creates a platform for us.

A platform in which we (as disciples of Jesus) can stand as a force for good.

One of the attractions of The Hunger Games series is that the heroine --- Katniss --- is so unlike a hero --- and yet the perfect heroine!
          Katniss transforms from a whiny awkward girl --- with an amazing talent for hunting into a woman of incredible skill and character --- and one who uses those talents to bless her oppressed people ---- even at great cost to herself.

Isn't that what it is to be a Disciple of Jesus?

Jesus challenges us to remember that our struggles in this broken world are platforms.

Jesus says to us:  (Luke 21:13)
"This will be your opportunity to bear witness"

When we understand this --- we can better navigate a world that's on fire when we realize that each time we have been singed by its fires that we have an opportunity to show those without hope that despite our circumstances there is always a reason to hope.

I really believe that we can find a mission and a purpose behind every evil we experience in this world.
Not that God causes that evil or bad to happen, but that we can transform it into something good.

People are watching how we --- as followers of Jesus --- navigate the tragedies and difficulites that confront us on our journey.
          Do we do it in God glorifying ways?
                   That is the platform that we all have as followers of Jesus
                             Because we cannot escape the difficulties of a world on fire.

Jesus also urges us to live with a focus on the end of the story.

As followers of Jesus we know how the story ends
          Not in tragedy or destruction
                   But with the coming of the Kingdom of God

Jesus wants us to live with our hearts and heads anchored in that fact!

Sure, the world may seem scary at times, but we, as followers of Jesus know the Good News --- that in the end --- GOD WINS.
          Which means we all win too!

So let me ask you a seemingly simple question.
          What would you do if you know you couldn't fail?
·         What would you be willing to try --- if you knew with certainty that it would turn out just fine?
·         How would you walk through life if you had assurance, a deep, abiding assurance, that when all's said and done you'll be safe and satisfied?

What a powerful question!

Sure, the world around us is insane, but in the middle of it all, Jesus is inviting us to ask this question:
          "How should you live in light of the fact that I've guaranteed your survival?"

One way to stay sane is to keep flipping back to the "end of the book," so to speak.  To see how it is all going to turn out.

And what do we find at "the end of the book"
·         An empty tomb
·         God's promise in Revelation
“Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.

We need to keep those promises in mind as we try to navigate some of the scarier more challenging parts of our lives.

If you go see this movie --- and get all worked up as Katniss is fighting for her life, just remember this: she lives in the end.
          And so will you.

When Catching Fire (the second book in the series and upon which the latest movie is based) was released, it was praised by many critics.

They argued that a good middle story leaves one satisfied with how the characters are developing, but ultimately clamoring for how the whole thing will be resolved in the final installment.

Catching Fire does just that.

The same could be said of how we are to view our own lives.

Sure, the world is on fire.

But through it all God is utilizing and developing us.

God is transforming us into Disciples.

And while the world seems to be on fire all around us ---
May we be ready and aware, but not obsessed and afraid.

May we make the most of our platform when our time of trouble comes.

And may we keep our hearts tied to the promises of tomorrow so that we are not overwhelmed with the temporary troubles of today.

That's how we live when the world catches fire. Amen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Could We Start Again Please!

Galatians 6:15-16    (The Voice)
Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything. May peace and mercy come to all of you who live by this rule and to the Israel of God.

I don't know about you . . .
But I would love to have the opportunity to go back and correct some of the mistakes that I have made along the way.
·         Start that job interview over
·         start the relationship over
·         start the sermon over

Remember the movie Groundhog Day --- in which a weatherman named Phil (played by Bill Murray) gets to repeat the day over and over again until he is finally able to create the start of a healthy relationship with Rita his producer.

While it would be nice to be able to fix the past
the sad reality is --- we can't --- there is no do over machine --- you can't be transported back in time and redo what you did in a new way

Now I have been accused of many things in my life, but I would like to make something very clear
I really am! ---- at least about those things that I want to be traditional about!

My hunch is ---- if we are honest --- we all are to some extent
traditionalist about the thing we want to be traditional about

·         Tradition was, women and children ate in the kitchen --- with thanksgiving coming up --- who is planning on keeping that tradition?
·         Tradition was, women did not speak in church --- there are probably some of you who long for that tradition
·         Tradition was, women wore hats and gloves to church, and men wore suits and ties ---- I don't see too many traditionalists this morning
·         Tradition was, women sat on one side of the church and men sat on the other ---- should we get up and move? Cause I don't see many people keeping that tradition either
·         Tradition was, the only thing you did on Sunday was read the bible and spend the day at church with your family ---- no shopping, no sports ---- no stores would be open ---- There are many Sundays when I could go for that tradition --- but I know the Bears are on at noon so . . .

          We pick our traditions
                   What are some of the things I am traditional about?
·         I can't stand it when Hollywood decides to "remake" one of the classic movies

For some reason, Hollywood has loved to ruin classic Christmas films

          Miracle on 34th Street

About ten years ago, a movie from the 70's was remade.  It doesn't have the energy or the dynamic power of the original

The original movie probably influenced me and my decision to go into the ministry more than I want to admit.
And if you think about that statement it probably explains a good deal about me.

The movie that I am talking about is Andrew Lloyd Webber's rather loose interpretation of the passion of Jesus called JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

I want to play a short clip from this movie.

In this scene, Jesus has just been tried by Pilate and Peter has just denied knowing Jesus.

The Romans are preparing to execute him and the disciples are wondering that same question that you and I often seem to ask
          Can't we start over --- especially now that we know what we know?


What a powerful song that tells of our longing to go back and start again ---- but we can't and neither could Mary Magdalene or Peter or Judas or any of the other disciples. 

Soon they were watching with horror as Jesus was executed as a common criminal.

The interesting thing about all the Gospel accounts is that all of the writers tell us that the Disciples were CONVINCED that the story of Jesus ended right there.

The men and women who had been following him on his ministry couldn't see past today.

And they longed for a do-over.
          Can't we start again???

But, ultimately, we have come to understand that the story of Jesus didn't end there.

After Good Friday comes Easter.

And as Disciples of Jesus, as followers of his, Jesus says to us that if we are truly willing to commit ourselves to his way he will do something amazing.

While we can't go back --- we can move forward with confidence not allowing the failures of the past to define us.

Because the amazing thing that Jesus does is he transforms us by his unconditional love.

In our scripture last week Jesus promises us:
          "See, I am making all things new."

Isaiah, the great prophet of the Hebrew Bible pointed out:
Isaiah 43:19   (CEV)
I am creating something new.
    There it is! Do you see it?
I have put roads in deserts,
    streams in thirsty lands.

Paul in 2 Corinthians tells us too:
2 Corinthians 5:17   (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And our Scripture this morning also says the same thing:
Galatians 6:15   (NLT)
It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.

The good news of the Gospel is that while we may not be able to go back and have a do-over ---- we can start from here unburdened by the mistakes of the past.

We can be NEW
We can be whole and full of God's love.

There is a powerful story that is told about a Palestinian Priest by the name of Elias Chacour. 

I had the opportunity to meet with Father Chacour on one of my trips to Israel.

The story takes place on a Palm Sunday service at his church in Ibillin Israel (in the Galilee)  -
One of the unique features of his congregation is that it is filled with people who are at odds with each other.

Father Chacour realized that there was, in reality, no peace among his people.

At the end of the service, he made a startling decision.

He walked down the center aisle and at the back of the church locked the only two doors to the church and took the key.

He told the people both that he loved them and that he was saddened to find them so filled with hatred and bitterness for one another.

Then, in the midst of stunned silence, he announced that only one person could work the miracle of reconciliation in their village: Jesus Christ.

Then he told his congregation this --- he said:
"So on Christ's behalf, I say this to you.  The doors of the church are locked. Either you kill each other right here in your hatred, and then I will celebrate your funerals ... or you use this opportunity to be reconciled together before I open the doors of the church. If that reconciliation happens, Christ will truly become your Lord."

Ten minutes passed, and no one said a word. The people sat in silence, locked inside their church.

Finally, one man stood up.

His name was Abu Muhib, a villager serving as an Israeli policeman, who was in his uniform.

He stretched out his arms and said,
"I ask forgiveness of everybody here, and I forgive everybody. And I ask God to forgive me my sins."

He and Chacour then embraced, with tears streaming down Abu Muhib's cheeks.
Within minutes, everyone in the church was crying, laughing, embracing and sharing Christ's love and peace.

Elias Chacour then announced that
"this is our resurrection! We are a community that has risen from the dead, and we have new life. I propose that we don't wait until Easter to celebrate the Resurrection. I will unlock the doors, and then let us go from home to home all over the village and sing the resurrection hymn to everyone!"

This is the day
          This is the day that the Lord has made ---- the Psalmist declared

Let us make this a day of new beginnings for us as well.

A day of hope,
          a day filled with unconditional love,
                   a day filled with finding the possibilities God has planted in our lives

Robert Benton's Academy Award-winning film Places in the Heart is the story of a young woman, widowed within the first few minutes of the film, struggling against principalities and powers of evil incarnate in everyday life of central Texas during the 1930s.

Forces work to take away the only thing her husband has left her and her two small children --- a small farm in Texas.
Lynchings, brutality, infidelity, racism, greed, duplicity all of these are woven into the lives of those who make up the tapestry of Benton's story.

The film ends with a communion service.

At first the camera shows you a few of the good folk in town.
Next, some of the not-so-good.
Then the banker and others who conspired to take away her farm.

The camera continues to move with the cups of wine.
There is the faithful black farmhand who helped bring in the crop so the widow might pay her mortgage; next to him, the blind boarder.

The plate passes to the children, then to their mother.

She is seated next to her dead husband.

As you are trying to take this in, the plate moves to the young man who shot and killed her husband.

They commune, and each responds: "the peace of God."
All are gathered at table, to share the bread and cup of salvation.

Suddenly this is more than Sunday morning; this is the kingdom, eternity captured in time

This is not a human point of view.

The camera has given us a look at life, the way Jesus said God looks at it.

God has done something to enable everyone to come home.

God lets us start over again.

We can't re-do the past --- we can only go into the future as new creations in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17   (NLT)

anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Tikkun Olam

Revelation 21:1-6    (NRSV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

There is a town in Southwest, Ohio --- it is a pretty small town ---- named for Jeremiah Morrow, one of Ohio’s early governors.

I imagine most of the town's residents probably wish his name had been something like Jeremiah Smith.

As you can imagine, the town's name can provide for some confusion ---- especially when someone wanted to get to Morrow tomorrow

Bob Gibson, realized the possibilities and a funny song was born. 

It was recorded by Gibson and a number of other people --- including The Kingston Trio and my favorite by far is . . .

I love that version!

But as the song points out ---- getting to tomorrow can sometimes be a difficult proposition!

That's always been true!

Especially when we turn tomorrow into a day when all of the problems of today are solved.

But as Annie reminds us --- Tomorrow is ALWAYS a day away!

When we look at "tomorrow" in the Bible, tomorrow --- the future ---- the time that has not yet arrived --- tomorrow is the assurance that the present is never the end of the story.

It reminds us that the darkness of today will not survive into tomorrow.

One of the prophet Jeremiah's favorite phrases was "the days are surely coming . . ."

Jeremiah was proclaiming this during the dark and dismal days of Israel's history.
For the Israelite's at that time --- the future (along with the present) looked pretty bleak!

But by reminding the people of TOMORROW --- Jeremiah and the prophets were able to encourage Israel to keep their faith alive.

The future --- tomorrow is also very important for us as Christians.

For us it means something like this:
When you embrace the way of Christ, you enter the kingdom of God, which is already here in some ways. But you also inherit the hope of the kingdom to come, where God’s love and power will have full sway, where all wrongs will be righted and where there will be neither sorrow nor suffering anymore.

If you listened closely to our reading today from Revelation --- you heard this same idea

The author says: (Revelation 21:1-4 The Message)
I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea.

I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

I can't tell you how many times I have said to people:
          "Don't lose hope --- tomorrow will be a better day"

or we say things like
Quoting Paul in Romans"
"Nothing can separate us from the love of God"
“Tomorrow — some distant tomorrow — you will see your loved one again.”
“Tomorrow there will be war no more.”
“Tomorrow all violence will cease, and people will live peaceably with their neighbors.”
And so on.

But that tomorrow is shrouded in mystery
And when we offer consolation or encouragement with words like those --- even though it is the basis of our confidence --- it seems so far off that it might seem like wishful thinking.

I am fascinated with the history of World War II

During those early dark days England was unprepared to defend itself against the German onslaught.

Night after night German planes bombed London.
          Parents sent their children into the countryside hoping to keep them safe
          London was under constant threat and fear
The British air-force --- which was no match to the German Luftwaffe, in personal or equipment --- did their best to defend their island nation.  But the reality is, many did not survive.

One of the most popular songs in England during that time was “The White Cliffs of Dover,” which proclaimed,
“There’ll be joy and laughter
And peace ever after,
when the world is free ... Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.”

The mood of that song sounds a great deal like our reading from Revelation.
The tomorrow that they proclaimed was not an eternal one
It was a tomorrow within the lifetime of that generation.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, is not about "Heaven" but is best understood as envisioning a this-world someday.

At the beginning of the 20th century it was a time of great hope and optimism.

Many believed that our world was making progress toward becoming a more just society.
They believed that being a disciple of Jesus was more than just saving souls but also required that they had to tackle the social problems of their day
·         poverty
·         warfare
·         human injustice

They saw themselves establishing a new social order
          A social order build on peace, justice and well-being

Unfortunately, two World Wars, The Great Depression and the Holocaust put a damper on the optimism and hope of so many!

We began to realize that WHEN the Kingdom of God arrives it will because GOD has acted to make it so and not by our own doing.

And while they did not usher in the Kingdom of God as they had anticipated --- the Social Gospel Movement created some important and significant changes in our world.
Many of their ideals wound up in the New Deal legislation of the 1930's and I imagine most people who are getting a Social Security check is pretty thankful for that.

But it also helped us to recognize that we (as Christians) have a responsibility not only for one's soul but also for their whole being.

While we cannot expect to establish the Kingdom of God (that has to be God's doing).

We must recognize that we have a responsibly to care for God's world and people --- even if it is only temporary.

After Hurricane Katrina, Ridge Church along with church work teams from all over America traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild the homes of people who didn't have enough insurance or other income to rebuild on their own.
It has been slow work, and our youth were down there this summer, 8 years after the hurricane.
But wait! Aren't at least some of those homes being rebuilt in areas that are likely to flood again in a major storm?

What’s the point of rebuilding there?

The point, of course, is that that is where people are.

Some have little option but to stay on property they already own.

We can’t predict their future, but in the meantime, they have to have a place to live, so the church moves to help them where they are.
Even if a storm takes their restored homes next year, the work of God’s people hasn’t been for naught.

In Judaism there is a wonderful phrase for this concept --- it is called tikkun olam and it literally means "repairing the world".

The expression tikkun olam is used in the Mishnah to indicate that a practice should be followed not because it is required by Biblical law, but because it helps avoid social disharmony.

Tikkun olam isn't just about good works or advocacy.

It's about engaging in social justice while also meeting people’s spiritual needs.

We cannot repair the world just by securing economic well-being and equal rights for everyone; we also need to assist people in finding God.

The kingdom of God is the ultimate tomorrow.

It’s the goal of history and the reward of the faithful.

Its coming is up to God.

But between today and that tomorrow are the nearer tomorrows.

We who follow Jesus have the duty to make sure that the doors of justice and society’s benefits are open for all for those tomorrows and that the Discipleship Path to spiritual fulfillment is well marked.

And we shouldn't wait for tomorrow to get started.

Because we can get there from here.