May 14 Sermon: God don’t make junk

May 14, 2017

Acts 7:55–60; 1 Peter 2:2–10; John 14:1–14

 

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

God don't make no junk

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we need is here,

What we need is here.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjOrh9naWIc

 

 

At 17th and Tioga Streets in North Philadelphia there stood an impressive stone structure that punctuated the corner.  It was called Nativity Lutheran Church, where I served for one year as vicar.  The neighborhood, Tioga, was deeply stressed.  Rowhouses lined the blocks of the parish, most of them groaning from disrepair.  Little bodegas and “clubs” also peppered the landscape. Ms. Juanita Brown and I regularly had to shout out the window to Sunday School children not to spend their offering on candy beckoning to them from the shop across from the Parish House, where we held forth in the one-room classroom.

 

The church next door to the Parish House had definitely seen better days. There was a chapel on that looked nothing like Bethesda’s airy little space.  This chapel was thickly carpeted, and the dark wooden beams contributed to the diminished light.  Except that there was a hole in the window, where pigeons were known to roost.  And when it rained, the pastor and I would have to run to the church from our homes to set up buckets to catch the drips in the entryway.  You could say the church was challenged, just as the community around Tioga neighborhood had the unfortunately label “inner city.”

 

But it was where I lived.  And it is where people I grew to love lived, with skin varied in color from bronze to ebony—the children Mayesha, Tutubu, Katonya, Damon, the ladies Henrietta, Marion, Denise, and a few quiet men whose names are buried somewhere in my memory banks.

 

While the stress of the decaying neighborhood saw cops roll on through in their cruisers, and the old-timers told stories wistful about better days, I remember was this poster on the wall in the church basement where we held chicken and chitlin’ fundraisers and out of which we distributed government surplus butter and cheese.  It was a photograph of a child secure in a high chair, with a serene look about him even though on his head he wore an upside-down bowl of spaghetti, the spaghetti which spilled over every inch of his face, and shirt.  The caption on this poster seemed to inform the faith stance of this congregation, which read: God made me. And God don’t make junk.

 

Crumbling stones, holes in the windows, leaky roof be damned.

 

Absentee landlords, rejection by the city, white flight, unknown futures, neglectful parents, disenfranchisement—foo on you.

 

We will stand firm.  We will sing leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms and mean it as a matter of life or death.

 

The biblical texts read today provide pylons to grab onto as the very earth underneath seems to shake and like Dr. Who says is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff.

Wibbly Wobbly

Increasingly, those who had their eyes set on Jesus, who are building this movement of a new community on Jesus’ teachings, and his march to Jerusalem to die, and on the third day rise are being persecuted, questioned, threatened, and marginalized.

 

They are moving from the center of Jerusalem out, and are laboring to carry on the movement after a period of waiting for Christ to return, for certainty to be ratified, for leadership on which to rely. 

 

No more temple worship.  No more intrinsic connections to the Judaism of the past. Change is inevitable, if the movement is to survive.

 

So Stephen, not one of the apostles, newly recruited with other Greek-speaking Jewish followers of Jesus to serve as deacons, finds his voice, is filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks the good news that claimed him while against the establishment, and pays for it with his life.

 

So Peter, leader of the apostles, no longer hiding in the bushes, says to the dispersed Hellenists that you are the stones of the church, with Christ as the foundation.  If you find yourselves caught up in change over which you cannot control, if the world you thought you could rely on was being ripped away, if you think that you no longer are the welcome in the land where you live, hear this:

 

God made you. And God don’t make junk. Actually,

 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into marvelous light.

 

You are! You are in the company of the baptized, clothed in Christ, wearing mercy, claiming God as the rock you stick your bottom on. 

 

Jesus is John can be scary.  Chapter 14 today is known benignly as The Farewell Discourse, like it’s some kind of farewell tour for Big Papi or Derek Jeter, pick your celebrity.  But he is telling his friends that he will suffer and die, and on the third day rise, which in John is what he means when he says he is headed to his glory. 

 

Hear it like this. Jesus say: Friends, I’m leaving you. I’m going to die.  And you know where I’m going. What? Excuse me?  Thomas and Philip provide the foil.  They are representative of those of us who don’t know how to manage transitions well, who don’t know how to say goodbye effectively, who wonder what’s next and who can we rely on now that it is the end of the world as we know it.

 

But the scriptures provide a window into the realm of God enveloping God’s people with comfort and hope.  Jesus is as close to God as a child is to a parent. Jesus with his friends is like God with friends.  Jesus uses words that are close to the word to stay or remain in describing those dwelling places.  It’s not a physical structure or a building, it is the relationship that provides room for God to be present, that opens up the window to new life. 

 

With Jesus, we see the very heart of God.  As our path and our lot cast with and his way, we are privileged and empowered to continue the work of Jesus, and even greater work than Jesus!

 

Though we are in the midst of what Dr. Who calls wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff,

we are keepers and stewards of a great treasure.  What we need is here.

 

The community of the baptized, from all times and places, are nourished like babies on the milk of the Gospel and the very life of Jesus in the sacraments. 

 

Let us eat and drink it up and grow into salvation. Taste and see that God is good.

 

God don’t make junk.

 

 

Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

What we need is here,

What we need is here.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjOrh9naWIc

 

 At 17th and Tioga Streets in North Philadelphia there stood an impressive stone structure that punctuated the corner.  It was called Nativity Lutheran Church, where I served for one year as vicar.  The neighborhood, Tioga, was deeply stressed.  Rowhouses lined the blocks of the parish, most of them groaning from disrepair.  Little bodegas and “clubs” also peppered the landscape. Ms. Juanita Brown and I regularly had to shout out the window to Sunday School children not to spend their offering on candy beckoning to them from the shop across from the Parish House, where we held forth in the one-room classroom.

 

The church next door to the Parish House had definitely seen better days. There was a chapel on that looked nothing like Bethesda’s airy little space.  This chapel was thickly carpeted, and the dark wooden beams contributed to the diminished light.  Except that there was a hole in the window, where pigeons were known to roost.  And when it rained, the pastor and I would have to run to the church from our homes to set up buckets to catch the drips in the entryway.  You could say the church was challenged, just as the community around Tioga neighborhood had the unfortunately label “inner city.”

 

But it was where I lived.  And it is where people I grew to love lived, with skin varied in color from bronze to ebony—the children Mayesha, Tutubu, Katonya, Damon, the ladies Henrietta, Marion, Denise, and a few quiet men whose names are buried somewhere in my memory banks.

 

While the stress of the decaying neighborhood saw cops roll on through in their cruisers, and the old-timers told stories wistful about better days, I remember was this poster on the wall in the church basement where we held chicken and chitlin’ fundraisers and out of which we distributed government surplus butter and cheese.  It was a photograph of a child secure in a high chair, with a serene look about him even though on his head he wore an upside-down bowl of spaghetti, the spaghetti which spilled over every inch of his face, and shirt.  The caption on this poster seemed to inform the faith stance of this congregation, which read: God made me. And God don’t make junk.

 

Crumbling stones, holes in the windows, leaky roof be damned.

 

Absentee landlords, rejection by the city, white flight, unknown futures, neglectful parents, disenfranchisement—foo on you.

 

We will stand firm.  We will sing leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms and mean it as a matter of life or death.

 

The biblical texts read today provide pylons to grab onto as the very earth underneath seems to shake and like Dr. Who says is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff.

 

Increasingly, those who had their eyes set on Jesus, who are building this movement of a new community on Jesus’ teachings, and his march to Jerusalem to die, and on the third day rise are being persecuted, questioned, threatened, and marginalized.

 

They are moving from the center of Jerusalem out, and are laboring to carry on the movement after a period of waiting for Christ to return, for certainty to be ratified, for leadership on which to rely. 

 

No more temple worship.  No more intrinsic connections to the Judaism of the past. Change is inevitable, if the movement is to survive.

 

So Stephen, not one of the apostles, newly recruited with other Greek-speaking Jewish followers of Jesus to serve as deacons, finds his voice, is filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks the good news that claimed him while against the establishment, and pays for it with his life.

 

So Peter, leader of the apostles, no longer hiding in the bushes, says to the dispersed Hellenists that you are the stones of the church, with Christ as the foundation.  If you find yourselves caught up in change over which you cannot control, if the world you thought you could rely on was being ripped away, if you think that you no longer are the welcome in the land where you live, hear this:

 

God made you. And God don’t make junk. Actually,

 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into marvelous light.

 

You are! You are in the company of the baptized, clothed in Christ, wearing mercy, claiming God as the rock you stick your bottom on. 

 

Jesus is John can be scary.  Chapter 14 today is known benignly as The Farewell Discourse, like it’s some kind of farewell tour for Big Papi or Derek Jeter, pick your celebrity.  But he is telling his friends that he will suffer and die, and on the third day rise, which in John is what he means when he says he is headed to his glory. 

 

Hear it like this. Jesus say: Friends, I’m leaving you. I’m going to die.  And you know where I’m going. What? Excuse me?  Thomas and Philip provide the foil.  They are representative of those of us who don’t know how to manage transitions well, who don’t know how to say goodbye effectively, who wonder what’s next and who can we rely on now that it is the end of the world as we know it.

 

But the scriptures provide a window into the realm of God enveloping God’s people with comfort and hope.  Jesus is as close to God as a child is to a parent. Jesus with his friends is like God with friends.  Jesus uses words that are close to the word to stay or remain in describing those dwelling places.  It’s not a physical structure or a building, it is the relationship that provides room for God to be present, that opens up the window to new life. 

 

With Jesus, we see the very heart of God.  As our path and our lot cast with and his way, we are privileged and empowered to continue the work of Jesus, and even greater work than Jesus!

 

Though we are in the midst of what Dr. Who calls wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff,

we are keepers and stewards of a great treasure.  What we need is here.

 

The community of the baptized, from all times and places, are nourished like babies on the milk of the Gospel and the very life of Jesus in the sacraments. 

 

Let us eat and drink it up and grow into salvation. Taste and see that God is good.

 

God don’t make junk.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

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