Monday, October 08, 2007

Proper 22C Live as an Immortal - David M. Dubay+

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As I child, I was a space flight fanatic. My father, who was a jet pilot, also knew the Astronaut, Charlie Duke. I had many pictures of astronauts and space craft plastered to my walls. I remember the first trip to the moon with great clarity. Especially because at the moment of lift off from the moon, I jump in front of the TV and blocked my mother’s view. She has never let me forget that, I’m not 43..

In 1972, however, I was 8 and still in love with space flight. I remember reading in the newspaper that NASA had launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph it and its moons, and beam data to earth about the planet's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere.

Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, because up until then no satellite had gone beyond Mars.

There were fears the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.

But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more.

It swung past Jupiter in November 1973, andwas hurled at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system by that planet's immense gravity.

At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn.

At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; and Neptune, at nearly three billion miles;

And finally past Pluto, at almost four billion miles.

By 1997, 25 years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

And it's still going. Though now nearly 8 billion miles from the sun, the satellite keeps sending signals; some were received as recently as April of 2002. And despite that huge distance, Pioneer 10 continues to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth.

"Perhaps most remarkable, "is the fact that those signals come from an eight-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night-light, and take more than nine hours to reach Earth."
"The Little Satellite That Could" was not qualified to do\n what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of only three years. But it has kept going and going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny eight-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought

Pioneer 10 was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed the Satellite with a useful life of only three years. But it has kept going and going and going. And has accomplished more than anyone thought possible.
Pioneer 10 has surprised us all with a life span that seems almost immortal…well beyond the life what was expected….[1]

But most people are surprised by immortality aren’t’ we?. I think that even though we say the words and repeat the verses about heaven and life everlasting… many of us, even church people will find is surprising that eternal life is actually true…. Which is why we live the way we live… by that I mean we live with a finite mind set. We live until we die.
But Jesus has other plans for us….for we, you and I, are immortals..

The truth is that there are no ordinary people. You have never spoken to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal and their life compared to ours is short, like the life of a gnat; but it is Immortals whom we joke with; work with , marry, snub, and exploit…. immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…This is why Jesus came, this is what spiritual life is about. This is our calling, to become what [C.S.] Lewis calls an “everlasting splendor.”[2]

For we are immortal… We are eternal…

King David understood the eternal soul…he knew that he we are immortal. Just before the death of his son, David mourned and prayed and agonized. But when the boy died, David washed himself and dressed again in his royal robes , he worshipped God in the temple and began ruling his kingdom once more. His servants asked him "What did you just do? While the baby was alive, you fasted and wept, but when he died, you got up and ate food." 22 He answered, "While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let him live.' 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I'll go to him, but he will never return to me." [3](2Samuel ESV)
When Jesus brings up our immortality in the New Testament, you will find that he uses the word Kingdom often. His plans for his disciples, (and consequently for us here today) are not plans to carry us to the edge of our graves just to throw us in, but to sustain us until we reach that kingdom…our final permanent dwelling in the arms of the Father….as immortals…

Well you may ask, “David, if we’re immortals, why do we have to be here on earth…with all its war and famine, and disease, and Osama Bin Laden?

I think the answer is, that this is where we needed Jesus become one of us; to meet us, and live with us and teach us and die for us so that if we believe in him we would have life eternal with Jesus….spend that eternity in paradise and not the alternative.

We are here so He might inspire in us a tiny grain of faith …maybe the size of a mustard seed….and be co-workers with Christ in ushering in the Kingdom of God for everyone.

And so when Jesus teaches lessons like the one we find in today’s Gospel we must remember that He knows 2 things…

1. To do what Jesus asks of us we must have an eternal mindset…that is we must know that everything asked of us by Jesus Christ, even those things that causes us discomfort are of benefit to our immortal souls.
2. We are never asked to do these things alone. All along the way we are connected to him by our tiny grain of mustard seed faith…Jesus, through the Holy Spirit will help us do what He asks us to do…

And those are tough things….aren’t they…? They are things like, pray for our enemies….lead by serving… live by dying….love your neighbor …follow only Jesus…leave what you have and follow me….difficult words….difficult things to do….and…just as a bonus…Jesus commands us to forgive…and forgive and forgive…

And whether we admit it or not…that’s just about the hardest thing of all isn’t it…

Forgive…Jesus says….

And where does he say that…? He says that in the Bit of the gospel that we don’t hear today…the bit that for some reason is left out of the lectionary…but it gives us the context for the excitement and pleading of the disciples….Here’s the whole Gospel again…with the first 5 verses included…

1And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin 3Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents,) forgive him, 4and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

Jesus doesn’t just say….try hard to forgive…or be in the process of forgiving…he says…forgive…do it… and do it every time someone offends you and they repent…or hurts you …or worse and …….forgive them….

No matter your feelings…no matter the counseling you may need…no matter the outcome…Jesus says…right here…forgive….

And he says it for the health of our immortal souls….

Forgiveness so important, in fact that Jesus put it in his special prayer lesson for us…

You remember:
“Forgive us our trespasses…as we forgive those who……”

In other words…God in heaven! forgive us…the same way we forgive others….well if he meant that I better commence forgiving people…because I usually have a list…of people who have

He doesn’t say be their best buddy. He doesn’t say allow further abuse. He doesn’t say….your relationship will be mended…he just says do it. Release them of their debt to you….pay the soul fine…..forgive….forgive and see a glimpse of the kingdom on earth…

Forgiveness is so important that it was the central mission of Jesus’ time on earth to die and rise again and take on our burden of sin…to forgive and forgive….if we believe.

IN the gospel lesson we see that this teaching sends to poor disciples into a tizzy. They are worried…they know their human limits…. And they have been raised in an honor based society where forgiveness is not given so freely……..they beg Jesus for more faith….more faith to do this difficult thing…
"Increase our faith!" 6And the Lord said, (K) and Jesus says… "If you had faith like(L) a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this(M) mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. you have enough. Even a tiny mustard seed sized belief that I am who I say I am will get you through.

I hear Jesus telling us, “Believe in me…forgive others and you will get a glimpse of the kingdom to come. You will live Kingdom life,, eternal life…right here on this finite planet….if even for just a few minutes….”

And then Jesus goes on to warn us that there will be no fanfare…no parade for doing the Godly thing…

Jesus knew as we know that the truth about life is that doing the right thing –even the Jesus thing - does not always lead to a sparkling life and a pain free existence….

Good people lose loved ones, faithful Christians get cancer….innocents get abused….wouldn’t it be wonderful if when we did the right thing that we could get a big God sized pat on the back and some heavenly affirmation….

But Jesus has words of loving discipline for us instead of affirmation… He says that we are to do what we are called to do…without parades, without pats on the back…like a servant to a master we are to do what we are called to do because God commands it…

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "[4]

And so what are we to do with this….? How are we to bear this calling to forgive and to live with an eternal mindset…

First we are to believe….even mustard seed belief will work. Then we are to gather our mustard seeds together and believe as a church family…remembering that God calls us not to follow him as free lance independents, but as one body with many parts….holding each other up in love as well as accountable in love.

We are to submit to God’s will as we understand it through scripture. So we must read and Study our Bibles…
We are to live our kingdom, eternal immortal lives in a way that the Light of Christ would shine on others…so that all might be blessed by Jesus….

Not get bogged down in causes and ambitions…Just know Jesus…the rest will follow…

We are to remember that in all Jesus asks us to do that He never leaves us to do any of it alone.

With Jesus beside us we are to persevere through famine and plague until we reach milk and honey.

We are to forgive….and forgive…and forgive as God forgives us through His Son our Lord….

And like that little satellite…so far out in space….we will go beyond earthly limits….we will exceed earthly standards and expectations and we immortals will see Jesus face to face because of mustard seed faith and nothing more.
And for that I say… thanks be to God.

[1] Preaching Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: The Strength to Stand and to Stay (Bethany House, 1998); submitted by Kevin Miller, vice president, Christianity Today International
[2]“ The Life You’ve Always Wanted” Copyright 1997, 2002 by John Ortberg
[3] Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
[4] New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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