Click here for mp3 of the sermon "Do You Hear It?"
As little more than infant, I first set foot on the battlefields that cover the eastern region of the United States for the first time. It was the tradition of our family to combine home and heritage. I went from tossing tea boxes into Boston Harbor to being on the Battlefield of Shiloh. Williamsburg and Valley Forge as well as Gettysburg and Appomatax were part of those times. Whether through family or friends, most of us are connected to our military. In my time at Seminary at Asbury, I served as a Chaplain in the VA Hospital and heard the stories of those who landed on Iwo Jima and those who knew the icy winds of the Battle of the Bulge. July fourth always brings to mind these connections.
During the times that Thomas Paine wrote “that tried men's souls,” a generation of men and women asked of themselves what kind of generation they were going to be? And who were those patriots? What kind of people were those who stood fast against English tyranny? What set them apart? On the eve of December 25th on the banks of the Delaware, General Washington described them this way, “It will be a terrible night for the soldiers who have no shoes. Some of them have old rags tied around their feet, but I have not heard a man complain.”
I'm just a bit humbled by those words. Do you hear it? How many times have I complained about a slight inconvenience? Too long in traffic? Too long at the fast food window? Too hard with the hammer on my thumb? Too many boxes that should have been thrown away rather than packed?
In his own day, Jesus asked a similar question of a generation. Do you hear it? Matthew's history of Jesus has Jesus answering questions from John the baptist's disciples. John is sitting in prison and beginning to wonder about this cousin of his. Jesus answers those question and then turns on those who run their mouths...maybe you know a person like that, maybe two?
Jesus addresses the crowds who had followed John the Baptist for a time and his unique blend of living and lecturing but then the flavor of the month grew stale. They turned to Jesus, this traveling rabbi, a teacher and found someone altogether different. Here he was going about spending time with the riff-raff, the outcasts, the party people of his day...and what do you know? These people didn't seem to like this either, maybe you can hear that in Jesus' tone of voice.
What kind of generation does Jesus describe? One that had grown to love convenience and complacency. But the call is a call to a life filled with experiences and an abandonment of the rigid observance of religiosity. Do you hear it?
Like other young people, myself included, one young boy misunderstood something said in church. He was terrified to go into his church alone. His mother asked him about it and he said he was terrified by the 'zeal' who who wanted to eat him. He wasn't sure what it looked like but knew it was big enough to eat a man whole because the preacher had read it from the Bible.
Going through the Bible, she came across a verse where the young man told her to stop reading: Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE HAS EATEN ME UP." (John 2:17 NKJV). She told young Theodore that there was nothing to fear but that zeal meant a zest and passion for God. And that was how Theodore would live. He would become known as Teddie, and this future president would later write that fearing God in the truest since meant to love God...”and all of this can only be done by loving our neighbor, treating him justly and mercifully (from Fear God and Take Your Part).”
Do you hear it? Do you hear the call of those who have gone before us? Not for liberty of a nation alone but for all people? They were simple men who tread the ground with bare feet taking little with them but a sense of destiny, a promise. Not of victory alone but of a rest, a burden removed. They weren't soldiers crossing the Delaware but crossing the line between a comfortable religion and the opportunity to follow Jesus, the hope of us all. Jesus promises a safe port not a quiet passage.
Do you hear it? These were not people of some special talent or birthright and today in this day they are not either. They are people who, like John, live holy and they are people who, like Jesus, party heartily. Do you hear it? It is the call to feed the hungry and it is the call to hunger to be fed.
We’re like Winnie the Pooh. We always hear the rumbly in our tumbly but do you hear the one in your soul? For today, you are invited to have that hunger filled – and it happens here, at this table – Do you hear it? Jesus is inviting you and me today, do you hear it? We welcome you to this meal that fills more than our stomachs but fills our hungry soul…(as this is first Sunday, communion is celebrated).