““It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over"
The Sanctuary Sermon for
The Sermon at The Sanctuary for 7/11/21
“It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over” Matthew 28:16-20
Yogi Berra was an American professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Yet the thing he is most remembered for are his euphemisms and redundant sayings, such as:
“There are some people who, if they already don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em.”
“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
“Little League baseball is a good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up some place else.”
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Here’s one more, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”
It would have been easy for the disciples to assume that everything was over. The call, the commitment, the commission could have all ended on that fateful Friday, when the One to whom they had committed their lives to was put to death. Even in the face of the resurrection, there didn’t have to be an understanding that what began three years earlier would continue. The trauma of the crucifixion of their teacher, friend, and messiah had sent them scattering in fear and grief. And as much as Jesus had tried to prepare them, they really weren’t ready for life and work without him. It could have been over.
But something happened after they received the testimony of the women. “He’s not dead. He’s alive!” they said. “Go and meet him in Galilee.” And when the disciples gathered at the Mountain of Galilee, the resurrected Christ, the living Lord, Jesus, met them there.
It ain’t over until It’s over.
Let’s look at our text, Matthew 28:16-20
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Then Luke records for us in Acts 1 this account… he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
One unique characteristic of the God of the Scriptures is that he has a way of showing up and showing out in mountains. God met Moses at the back side of a mountain; Mt. Horeb, where God gave Moses the message and mission of liberation for his people. God met Moses there, where God revealed Himself and His purpose for Moses’ life. God met Elijah at Mt. Carmel, where God declared once again that God was God, and God’s people believed, because God showed up and God showed out. It ain’t over until it’s over.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration where once again they were given an epiphany, a glimpse of the eternity and glory of Jesus. Yes, there’s something special about God and mountains. The Galilean mountain signified that something new and powerful was to be initiated. Say it with me; It ain’t over until it’s over.
One minute Jesus was standing with and talking to the apostles. The apostles can see him. They can hear his voice. And if they had reached out they could’ve touched him. The next minute, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. It’s as if they were watching a gap open between him and them, between the seen and the unseen, between their life as it was and as it is now.
I don’t know why the apostles stood looking up toward heaven – they don’t answer the two men in white robes – but I can tell you about the times I’ve stood looking up toward heaven. And I have a hunch it might be why the apostles were.
The times I’ve stood looking up toward heaven were times when a gap was opening in my life. When I feel the tension of the gap I look up toward heaven. When I feel pulled between this and that I look up toward heaven. Sometimes the gap feels like an ever-widening chasm that I will never be able to bridge or cross. Other times it feels like an abyss into which I’m falling and will never get out of. Sometimes that gap is about a longing and desire for something new, something different, something more. Other times that gap is about pain, loss, and heartbreak.
Does any of that sound familiar? When have you stood looking up toward heaven? And what was going on?
I remember the gap between being single and wanting a deep and meaningful relationship. I felt the gap open the night my father passed away knowing that life would never be like it once was. I remember the afternoon I dropped Andrew off at the airport as he was moving out to Denver and feeling the gap between wanting to hold on to my boy and my joy and pride in the young man he was becoming in his great adventure called life. Now he’s a married man with a family and a mortgage living the American dream. Whatever that is.
It seems there’s always a gap between the pain and hurt in people’s lives and my prayers for healing and peace. Last year, the gap was between the pandemic and how to navigate in person worship. Now it’s the gap and divide being widened in our nation through lawlessness, senseless violence, political wokeness, and critical race theory. How does the Church find the way through that?
I experience the gap between my life as it is and as I want it to be. I see the gap between the man I am and the man I want to be.
Those are a few of the gaps in my life. Tell me about yours. What gaps are in your life today? In what ways do you feel pulled or torn between two realities? What chasm or abyss are you dealing with today?
At some point we all come to a gap in our life. It takes us to the edge of what we know, to the border of what we believe, to the horizon of what we can see, to the limit of our self-sufficiency. The gap is paradoxical. It looks like two opposing edges and feels like we are being pulled in two different directions, but paradoxes remind us that there is more there than what we can see.
And it’s in that moment that I look up toward heaven. I pray. I wait for God to act on my behalf. Make it better, Lord. Do something. Be with me. Give me a word.
I want God to fill and close the gap. Don’t you?
Maybe that’s why the apostles were looking up toward heaven. Maybe they too wanted a God of the gaps, a God who would fill and close the gap they are experiencing.
But what if, for the time being, God doesn’t fill or close the gaps in our life? What if, instead, God calls us to stand in the gap? What if we are the ones to fill the gap with God’s presence through our faith, hope, and love; through our mercy, compassion, and generosity; through our forgiveness, hospitality, and fairness?
What would that mean for the gaps in your life today? How might you stand in the gap?
More and more I am coming to see that Jesus’ physical withdrawal from this world is less about his absence and more about the Holy Spirit at work in our attendance. I think of it like a parent teaching a child to walk. At first the parent stands over the child holding his or her hands. Then the parent faces the child and shuffles backwards while holding the child’s hands. But at some point, mom or dad lets go of the child’s hands and backs up, withdraws from the child. To the child it looks like distance or absence but to the parent it’s a calling, an invitation, for the child to step forward and fill the gap between them.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” That’s not a question to be answered. It’s a call to fill the gap.
Stepping into the gap will not resolve the tensions we feel. It lets us hold those tensions. That’s what Jesus did with the gaps in his life.
Remember when he was twelve years old and Mary and Joseph thought he was lost but he had stayed behind in Jerusalem? He was holding the tension of the gap between his life in their house and his life in his Father’s house. When the Syrophoneican woman asked him to heal her daughter he confronted a gap in his identity and mission. He held the tension between the children of Israel and the one he called a dog. The Garden of Gethsemane was a gap experience in which he held the tension between his will and his Father’s will. And maybe the most graphic image of the gap in Jesus’ life is the crucifixion: Jesus pulled between heaven and earth, his arms stretched apart embracing the world, praying to the Father by whom he felt forsaken. Jesus never sidestepped the gaps of his life. He always held the tension.
To stand in the gap and hold the tension won’t fix anything, but it changes everything.
Whether it’s the sweet ache of longing and desire for what we most want or the bitterness of a heartache we never wanted or asked for, gaps are not just openings in our lives. They open us to something new and they open something new within us. Gaps offer possibilities of transformation and change – for ourselves, for others, for the world.
Whatever the gaps of your life and my life might be today, we have a choice to make. We can keep looking up toward heaven, toward that which is unseen and intangible, or we can turn our eyes to the neighbor who is visible, reach out our hands to the circumstances that are tangible, ‘go’ and step into the gap through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I want to make a difference and I want The Sanctuary to make a difference. Don’t you? I want us to stand in the gap and be a public face of Christ to the world.
What will you do with the gaps in your life?
It ain’t over until it’s over.
This is the Word of the Lord for today.