May God’s everlasting work in the world
reveal a light
and a Truth.
On Friday, we had a guest preacher at Yale Divinity School named Susan Sparks.
Using the powerful imagery of a gravestone,
she posed this question to us:
“What’s your dash going to be?”
The dash, she meant, was that space between our birth and death.
She couldn’t answer the question for us, of course.
And left that task to each individual in the room.
In today’s gospel reading from Luke
we get only a glimpse of Jesus’s dash moment
but in many ways, this teeny section sums up
his entire mission on earth.
And he said to them,
“Go and tell that fox for me,
‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow,
and on the third day I finish my work.”
Despite a death threat, Jesus knew the importance of his “dashed” life.
He knew that work to do.
So he came to earth and did it despite the consequences.
Can you imagine carrying out your daily life
knowing that someone was going to kill you?
When I was a kid I was terrified of the dark
and used to run home from my friends house at lightning speed
because I was sure that someone was going to get me.
I couldn’t function in any other mode but survival mode.
Jesus on the other hand?
I’ll deal with you later. I’m working.
We often complain to one another about all the work we have to do.
Work is, after all, tiring for all aspects of the body, mind, and spirit.
I’m sure many of you can recall hearing a sermon
Where someone told you to set aside your work.
The body and the mind do indeed need rest.
I wonder, though, if we’ve lost track of what our real work
That is, our work in Christ Jesus.
In Luke’s we see Jesus diligently at work–
curing the sick, casting out demons, healing the lame—
answering question after question after question—
He does all of this knowing full well that his other work on earth
called him to die at the hands of his persecutors.
But what does this passage tell us about the work we have to do?
Just before we see Jesus casting off a death threat
in favor of casting out demons
we hear two parables on the kingdom of God.
In the first parable
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed
that someone takes and sows in the garden.
The seed grows and becomes a tree big enough to hold bird nests in its branches.
In the second parable
Jesus says that the kingdom of God
is like yeast that a woman takes
and mixes with flour so that all of the bread gets leavened.
Without getting to buried in the slanted speech of parables,
both of these stories show that the Kingdom of God needs human labor.
After all, a mustard seed cannot plant itself.
And yeast and flour do not naturally combine on their own to make bread.
So this work.
Are we all supposed to be gardeners and bread makers?
Point of order, God:
I don’t have a yard.
And no one really wants to eat that too salty,
oddly shaped bread that I made one time
Perhaps yet one more story can help us better understand
the nature of our work.
While volunteering with AmeriCorps, a national service organization,
I ran 2-week long summer camping programs
in four different native Alaskan communities.
When my co-worker Kyle and I arrived to Ambler, our last assignment,
we met a young boy named Marvin.
Marvin was about ten or eleven years old,
stood about this tall
had bright brown eyes
and a giant smile that was as big as his body.
Soon after Kyle and I settled in,
Marvin came and knocked on the door of the house where we were staying.
With whole body excitement,
Marvin told us that he wanted to take us on a tour of his village.
Eager to learn more about our new surroundings,
Kyle and I agreed to let Marvin shepherd us around Ambler,
And so we said yes.
That afternoon Marvin wound us through the forest and across a small bridge;
he showed us an underground house that no one could live in anymore
since it was starting to sink into the ground;
and then he brought us to an open field
where we could pick fresh blueberries.
We did. And they were delicious.
All in all we had a lovely afternoon thanks to Marvin’s hospitality.
In many ways, Marvin was very hard at work that day.
He guided our footsteps over the decomposing bridge
so we wouldn’t fall into the creek.
He answered our million and one questions.
And, then, he graciously said goodbye when Kyle and I looked at each other with exhaustion and told him that we had to go home and get to bed.
Marvin’s “work” wasn’t a job title or a student label.
His “work” with us was simply being Marvin
and doing all the things that Marvin loved to do in the world with other people.
At the end of our stay in Ambler,
Marvin made two little picture books
and gave one to me and the other to Kyle.
Inside this little book was the story of our tour around Ambler.
He drew the little bridge.
The underground house.
And all the tasty blueberries that we picked together in the field.
Here at Grace Church, we too know that we have work to do.
In our Bible—
our Big book,
Luke shows an image of Jesus hard at work
despite his impending death.
And in choosing to follow Jesus,
we too choose, to heal the sick,
to gather disciples,
to spread the good news of the God’s kingdom
knowing all the while that one day our “dash” will end.
Wherever will we get the strength to say to our own persecutors—
our selfish desires,
our worldly distractions—
No! Tell that fox that I’m busy doing the work that God has called me to do?!
Like Susan Sparks, I can’t tell you what your work is supposed to be.
I’m still figuring out what mine is.
Though to give some hints.
I suspect, that our work is something that’s kind of been there all along
even though we might not have been able to recognize it.
Or name it.
Or label it with some kind of pretty box or package.
Our work doesn’t have a name
other than our very own.
And it is this name that God shouts to each of us
and for all the days to come.
It’s been there all along.
It’s not just that person staring back at you in the mirror, though.
It’s more of a feeling—
That time when Joy came and swept you away.
For Marvin, it was the gift of hospitality and a thirst for adventure
For me, it’s how I feel when I play music or teach the Ancestors program.
Well, it starts with your name.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.