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Ordinary Things Drenched in Divine Possibility

Sermon - 3/24/13
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

 

Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,38saying,

‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’ 

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ 40He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Is special on multiple levels. 

This is the week is Passover and Psalms 113-118 will be recited in worship, at the Seder table, for some in daily prayers.  As we are telling the story of our own transformation from the pain and suffering of this life to the blessing of experiencing God with us in this life, Jews are retelling their story of freedom, celebrating God in their deliverance from slavery and suffering too. 

I feel blessed as I reflect upon two very different yet deeply connected and deeply personal rituals of our faiths.  v. 1 of Psalm 118:  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love lasts forever.” 

But there are more blessings in this story from Luke!

Anyone still have their Bible open?  What happens at the end of the section I read? Verses 39 & 40?  

39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!”

40 But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”

What is that about? I’ve been looking at rocks this week, people. 

Yesterday the Mission to Mexico caravan, of about 130 persons, rolled into the town of Francisco Murgilla.  What an entrance they make.  With them comes truckloads of supplies for building 4 homes.  It’s quite an appearance.  We are loud!  130 are loud.  But it’s not just 130.  Families are waiting in anticipation of a new home.  Children have been counting down the days – possibly 365 (don’t forget 2012 was a leap year) days, since the group departed for home LAST year, because they know there are dozens of old friends and new friends to play with, to learn English, to teach Spanish, to share food.  And that’s not even all the children in the surrounding neighborhoods, that’s just the orphanage children.  The word spreads, there is energy, hope, excitement, possibility. They come to welcome us.  [side story:  There worksites were really far apart last year.  There was a kid last year that came all the way from Site #2’s neighborhood, he hitched a ride and got over to Site #4, near the orphanage, played all night, had a blast.  And then Dan Hertel had to drive him home at like 10:00 at night cause he didn’t have a ride and it was too far to walk. ]

The hospitality does not end at the entry into the city.  These families cook delicious meals to feed the entire everyone on a worksite.  Every piece of wood is precious cargo.  Everyday the worksite grows in volunteers because others want to watch, then return the next day to help, and come back a third day because we’ve brought extra PB&J’s. 

Last year the grandmother who could not contribute to the workload or the cooking sat under a shady tree and painted on the tiny scraps of wood that would later that week be thrown out.  She painted messages of blessings and handed them out to everyone.  I can’t throw mine away.  It’s not much.  Block of wood.  Off white paint.  It’s blessed. She’s beautiful.   I’ll never forget her. 

The stones will cry out means to me that all things are of God and therefore all things are blessed and blessing. 

Those homes speak of God’s love, the scraps, the red dirt we bring home in everything.  All blessed all blessing. 

I have mentioned before the book An Altar in the World  by Barbara Brown Taylor.  In the last chapter, about pronouncing blessings, she tells the story of leading ritual blessings for houses.  It’s a party, we know the housewarming party, but you seriously go room to room as a group and bless it.  I haven’t done that for anyone here but I’m willing to, it sounds like a great time.

So they make their way into all the rooms and end in the dining room.  “We blessed the ordinary bread and the ordinary wine, passing them between our ordinary hands to place in our ordinary mouths, as we did so we were fed – by God, I should say, but also by one another.  God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake no prayers but the ones we make, whether we know what we are doing or not.  When Christians speak of the mystery of the incarnation, this is what they mean:  for reasons beyond anyone’s understanding, God has decided to be made known in flesh. 

Matter matters to God.  The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility.  Pronouncing blessings upon them is the least we can do.”

Those cloaks and palms, the feet of the donkey.  The droppings of the donkey.  All are blessed. And blessings. 

(side note: Did anyone catch the story on NPR of the house purchased across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church?  Used for the purpose of spreading the message of love and inclusivity and the God’s welcome to all.  Painted in a rainbow.)

Pronouncing blessings is the least we can do.  But it can do a lot.  BBT speaks a little later of blessing prayers in Judaism, like Psalm 118.  (There are so many others). 

Many of the prayers of blessing begin with this phrase:

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe.

Baruch atah, Adonai, Elohenu, Melech Ha-Olam and from there it continues. 

There is a tradition in Judaism to say 100 blessings a day , based on a verse from Duet.  It ain’t easy, folks. 

But it’s good practice!

The Hebrew word barukh is not a verb describing what we do to God.  (like we are blessing you, God) it is an adjective, describing God as the source of all blessings.  Barukh is an expression of wonder at how amazing God is.  The stones are holy, shouting the praise of God because they are God.  (side note:  I think just saying the first phrase of the prayer in Hebrew is so beautiful I must have said it 40 times yesterday).  Baruch atah, adonai, elohenu, melech haolam.

You should try blessing the ordinary things in life and see what happens to your state of mind – to your perspective on the world. 

There is a blessing in each living thing and in each story.  There is a blessing within each action and reaction.   And the barukh is not reserved only for the good stuff.  Prayers are said when times are tough too and all that also comes from God.  And this Easter story we have waiting for us this week is both good and bad.  It’s just awful.  And it’s inspiring.   Ordinary and divine.  Bless the hard stuff too – bless the cynical and angry folks you meet.  Bless the anger inside of you for it can teach you.  Think of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 – all those blessings for the powerless, the hopeless, the hurt. 

Blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord. 

When those disciples came running to see Jesus on the Mount of Olives they saw in him a great blessing from God.  They felt seen and heard for the first time.  They felt as though they had a purpose and that purpose was blessed. Because that’s what he did! 

And Jesus – when he says the stones would cry out if the people were silent – that is not arrogance speaking –I don’t think he means “the people know what they like, and I have to give it to them!”  He saw the blessing inherent in each of them.  He saw god pouring out from their souls, and he thanked God for their welcome.  He too had found recognition, he felt fulfilled in his own purpose. 

Our youth are going to have a teaching moment or two this week.  They have all this stuff and they think they can’t live without it.  But then they see how having nothing to offer but a welcoming heart, two giving hands can change lives, can fill the time, the boredom – can sustain you for longer than an iPad battery lasts.  And they come home with new eyes and bigger hearts and more God shining through. 

To be seen and heard and recognized for the blessing you are is a powerful thing! 

How many in this world today would give up everything they have for a kind word and a warm welcome? How many souls have been hurt by another, claiming to speak for God?  How many have been rebuked for nothing more than who they are, how they dress, who they love? 

The sign of the street person on the side of the road that says “Any kindness helps” – that is the truth.  It means more than do you have some change to spare, do you have a snack to share.  It means Do you see me?  Does God see me? 

The closed hearts of so many who once believed they knew God is more than a protest of religion – the closed heart is a sign of pain and suffering that can be relieved when someone blesses them.  Those folks need to know that God loves them and need to know that they are holy, blessed, beautiful.  We And then in return they might live to bless someone else, trust again, hope again. 

That is the beauty of Easter -- once we find our own way in to the story.  There are a million ways in.  And the way out is hope.  I found my way to hope through the blessings.  I pray that you will take time this week to find your own connection to God through the Easter story and all the ordinary things in your life.

 


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