Hope from a Garden

November 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

Here is the sermon I preached last Sunday in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Gospel reading was disturbingly fitting, I knew I was going to be preaching about hope in a broken world for a couple of weeks… but none of us knew how close to home that would really feel.

Here is the Gospel reading, Mark 13:1-8, that the sermon is based on.
The audio of the sermon can be found here on my SoundCloud.

May your find hope in God’s word today.

Amen

 


Hope from a Garden

May only truth be spoken and only truth received. Amen

I’d like to repeat a little bit of today’s Gospel reading”

“But the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” The word of the Lord

And then we answered, “thanks be to God” Thanks be to God. Who here flinched a little at our answer of “Thanks be to God” responding to a reading telling us that war is only the beginning of the pangs that we can expect.

I have been thinking about this sermon for a few weeks now, and the two words that continue to draw me to them are not actually in the bulletin, what is written is from the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) and says “but the end is still to come” in the bible that I use, the RSV, (Revised Standard Version) it has been translated as “but the end is not yet.” I really like both of these because even though they are saying the same thing, there is a power in the ‘not yet’ that really moves us to understand that not yet actually means, but soon. And the still to come eases us in the moment, it not so immediate and so encourages us to realize that, even through the deep brokenness that we are living through, there is still hope to be found.

And yet, This is only the beginning of Jesus’ warning to his disciples, he warns them that the road they are about to travel will persecute them for the good news that they bring. To take up where our reading left off… “But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mk 2:9-13 [RSV])

What could possibly be worth it to these disciples, after hearing of all of these extraordinary, and the are extraordinary, after hearing of all of these extraordinary hostilities and struggles that have been all but guaranteed to them.

It is precisely because the end is not yet, and yet, and yet they know that the end is coming. They know that the end to all war, all sickness, all death, is coming because Jesus, the one who raised from the dead said the end of all of those this is indeed coming.

But wait, if they know everything will be alright in the end, what’s the point of all this spreading the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God where everything will be sunshine and roses and carrots? Because it is not yet.

The disciples knew, by the very words of the man who rose from the dead, that there is hope. And it is that hope that made them do it.

Where do we find hope? I know of a place nearby. We here at Epiphany and Saint Mark find hope in our community garden. This year our gardening volunteers went out to the plot across the street, loosened the soil, planted seeds, and seedlings knowing that by the end of the year many of the hungry here in Parkdale

will have been fed by their efforts.

Imagine for one moment if they didn’t have hope that the tomatoes would grow, the beans would climb, and the squash would sprawl. Would they have gone to loosen the soil and plant the seeds?

Of course not, if they had no hope, what would be the point?

So back to our disciples, who have just been told they would surely be beaten for the Good News they wanted to share. What hope did they have that animated them, in the same way that feeding the hungry animates our community gardeners? They knew peace. They knew peace in a world where there is no peace. They knew that the end, the end of war and hunger and death, is coming. This is their hope.

Now the same way that we could not imagine our gardeners planting if they had no hope. Could we imagine them NOT planting, and working tirelessly, if they had the smallest bit of hope that their work could bring food to the hungry? Of course not! Even the smallest shred of hope animates them to move.

You see, it’s not the will of our gardeners or the disciples that drive them to go out. Because it if were our wills we would most certainly fail. No, it’s not our will, it’s Father’s will aligned with the life of Jesus that gives the gift of hope that has He won for us on the cross; The defeating of last enemy, death.

Here, a quote from the Reverend Mrs. Fleming Rutledge to help us illuminate what happened on the cross.

“It is important to understand that we do not see in the cross a wrathful Father doing something terrible to an innocent son. Nothing could be further from the truth of what is going on in the garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary. What we see is that Jesus, the representative of man, our substitute, not only shows us how human will aligns its will with God’s will, but also makes it happen, in his own person; and then, in the greatest act of love that has ever taken place, he gives his own person to us.The death of Jesus on the Cross is the Father and the Son acting together, with one will, for one purpose — to deliver you and me from the condemnation that the Son of God bore away from us ”

{Here is my favourite part} Jesus, God, the one who won our freedom from sin on the Cross, has said to us, the end of the reign of sin and death is coming. All things will be made new, hope will be fulfilled, there will be, there is peace. It is our gardeners, as disciples, that show us that the Kingdom of God is here now. The enveloping peace that we knew in the Garden of Eden, and will know in the culmination of time, we can, we do know right now. With each fulfilling bowl of soup brought to the hungry, through the hope that tended the garden, we experience a flash of the peace of the Kingdom not yet fully arrived.

It is by the real moments of peace brought to others, through the hope that could have only been won on the cross, that we can go out into a world where nation rising against nation is only beginning of the birth pangs of the all-consuming peace that is to come, and see the point in planting a garden.

And so, our “Thanks be to God” is not for the beginnings of birth pangs, it is for the not yet and the still to come, and for that we just can’t help but give thanks

Amen

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