“Getting Past Tilt”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 6/7/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 6/7/20
“Getting Past Tilt” Luke 12:23
“So, don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”
Not that it’s been a concern of yours, but for the last few weeks I’ve kicked around a few thoughts and themes for us to focus on when we finally broke bread again. And well, mostly, I’ve got nothing, that’s why I wanted you to share your Corona courage story! And now, just like that, here we are together. Well, mostly. We’re like the Jews in the Diaspora, some here, some there. Some inside, some outside, some still at home. Worship in company with others brings us the assurance that God is with us ... and it keeps us from shutting down hope. It’s good for us to be home this morning, here together mostly in one place. Free at last, free amen. Don’t be afraid little flock.
There’s no doubt that these past weeks and months have been times to try men’s souls. If the adage is true about how when the going gets tough the tough get going, I commend you for putting one foot in front of the other to get to where you are now, confronting the Covid culture every day. Welcome to the human race.
For months now it’s been a race to stay ahead of a pandemic by staying at home. A race to shelter in place. A race to fear monger and scare the hell out of people, now it’s a race to fundamentally change societal norms; a race to lecture on who’s privileged and who isn’t, a race not only to dismantle bricks and mortar, but a race that continues to tear down a Judeo-Christian culture. And once again, we’ve raced into a racial divide wondering which lives matter without a finish line in sight.
These are tenuous times for sure where fear and uncertainty squeeze the day. We’ve been holed up like Davy Crockett at the Alamo and when the gun smoke has finally cleared, we’re not sure to lift our heads, let alone venture out into the wild, wild west. Every day seems like an, “Oh no, here we go again” kind of day. Here’s a whimsical story by author Julie Russell concerning a, here we go again kind of day:
“A few years ago, at our house our family was going through the typical school morning routine, you know, packing lunches, making breakfast, getting clothes on and hair combed. Our daughter Lucy, who was 7, asked if she might light a candle on the dining room table, just to make breakfast more special. And so, my husband Tim supervised the lighting and then went to check something on his computer while I continued stirring the eggs on the stove. A few minutes later our son Taylor, who was 11, and a little neighbor girl, whom we drove to school every morning, burst into the kitchen, crying and hollering: “Lucy’s on fire!”
Well, it was one of those surreal moments, both Tim and I flew into the dining room and, sure enough, Lucy was running around in circles with the top of her head blazing like a tiki-torch. She’d leaned a little too close to the candle I suspected, her hair had ignited, and apparently it didn’t occur to her to stop, drop and roll. I got there first and immediately smothered her head with my robe. I made sure the fire was out, did a quick examination and saw that her skin hadn’t been burned, only her hair, and so I relaxed a little and held Lucy who by that time was shaking like a leaf. Tim and I breathed a big sigh of relief. She was all right and that was the main thing.
But as you may know, there are few smells in the world more revolting than that of burning hair; and Taylor, who’s always had a keenly sensitive nose, became...well...sick right then and there and promptly projectile vomited all over the floor, which of course served as an invitation to our two Labs who bolted into the room cheerfully to clean up the mess, the sight of which immediately prompted the little neighbor girl to become sick. It was this chain reaction nightmare! So, there I stood at 6:45 in the morning in my scorched bathrobe, on that very messy floor, picking ash out of my daughter’s hair, thinking to myself, “How did things go completely nuclear before seven a.m.?” Truly, a, here we go again kind of day. It seems that’s where we are, in the middle of chain reaction events, going from one calamity to the next. The constant, 24-hour news cycle of dire days leaves us unsettled, uncomfortable and at times fearful of the future. But don’t be afraid, little flock.
A columnist, Daniel Henninger writing in the Wall Street Journal, commented on this incessant drum beat of forecasted bad news. He said that, “It may be that as a nation we’ve reached tilt with tragedy. ‘Tilt’ is the famous metaphor drawn from the old pinball machines, which shut down if one banged on them too hard. Pinballs could survive plenty of random shocks to the system. But there were limits. Of late, we’ve been banged on hard.” But don’t be afraid, little flock.
I love irony, and one ironic thing about today’s gospel lectionary is its focus on The Great Commission. It was Jesus’ words to the disciples about getting past ‘tilt’. About stepping out of their comfort zones and into the uncertainty of unknown tomorrows. At the end of Matthew before Jesus ascends to the Father, his last words to his followers were not, “Stay safe and find a comfortable place while the world goes on a wilding.” His last words weren’t, “Hang out together and sing some songs, you can’t be too careful. No. Jesus said, “Go, go and go. Go make disciples!”
The thing is, as we’re stretched while we leave our comfort zones we don’t do it alone. We have each other. Each other to encourage, lift up, and learn from. In this spiritual community I need you more than you need me. In these stressful times of uncertainty we trust God to be our source, to lead us in our coming and goings. We believe that he works all things together for good in our lives. There have been enough awful tragedies caused by somebody with a grudge, or paranoia or evil in their heart, or a desire to get even or whatever, that we assume similar things will continue to happen from time to time in some city in our society. Evil is real, sin rages in people’s hearts, madness descends, despair begets chaos. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that we or our loved ones might not someday be among the victims. If we dwell on ‘what ifs’, we’re bound to entertain fear in some way, at some level. I had a conversation with a friend who said that whenever she was alone walking home from her friend’s house at night, she would start singing songs out loud, kind of keeping the boogeymen at bay. We all whistle through graveyards.
But standing here among the people of God, in this place of worship, we can sense the truth: that good is stronger than evil, that there is something — something — that cannot be taken from us because God has given it to us. And furthermore, we together know that nothing — nothing — can separate us from the love of God. So, don’t be afraid little flock. It’s that knowledge that helps us not tilt when bad things happen.
Listen. In these days of perplexity, uncertainty and fear mongering, live your life as things open up. Don’t be afraid. No one knows what a day, week or month may bring. But God is faithful to keep every one of his promises. I believe that nothing can happen to us except it first passes through the hands of God. If your way is uncertain, don’t stop believing. At least that’s what I’ve heard from Steve Perry. Never mind.
Seriously though, His eye is on the sparrow, how much more important are you to Him? Go. Live your life, and don’t be afraid little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.