Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon by Bill Fortier for November 25, 2012


 copyright Bill Fortier 2012

Jesus: While I'm blabbing on-and-on up here, sneak into the hearts of Redeemer Folk and all who wander in. Even when my words fall flat, twist them into special love songs just for your beloved people, right here today. Amen. 

So, I'm ashamed to admit this: My Barbara watches Bridezillas. I have her explicit permission to confess this trailer-park-entertainment. It's pure crap. Brutal to watch. If you haven't had the pleasure, let me give you my brief assessment.
 Very sick men from the entertainment industry, aiming for the big forehead and knuckle dragging audience, troll the country to find troubled young women who turn their weddings into spectacular displays of jaw dropping bad behavior. There's, of course, lots of crying and tantrums, drunken bachelorette parties, with F-bombs and shouting, stomping in and out.

So too with the Festal Day in which every glitch leads to a meltdown, similar to the ones enacted in psych ER's everyday. Now, my wife sits glued to the TV, watching the Jerry Springer Show-In-Drag. My eyes switch back and forth between these scenes from the human zoo and my wife, wondering, incredulous, how she is so clearly entertained by this. I have no insights to report into her behavior and she repeats it unabashedly; even records it for later, somewhere in the Great Verizon Colostomy Bag.

With Bridezillas as our launching pad, let's get this party started: Christ the King. Yeah Baby! Preaching involves performing regular CPR on the Church Calendar, realizing that I use Feast in the churchy kind-of-way; so by 'feast', I mean, we don't care one bit about it. Not a bit. When I went through my mental roll-a-dex, searching for 'king words', the only one that caught my eye was king of beers. Bud's not bad. Really. Its not a bad beer. I'm aiming for a field goal only: Our job, at the end of this sermon, is to be closer to Jesus. Whether or not royalty still tickles the pallet, I make no promises. So now we walk into the biblical kitchen and take a look at this little snippet from John's Gospel.

Pontus Pilate is intimately interrogating Jesus in our mini-vignette. Its just the two of them. The Temple Dudes wont go in because Pilate's got cooties all over him. Remember cooties?

The governor wants to know if Jesus is a king. Jesus dodges. Pilate draws Jesus' attention to the fact that there's no troops behind him. So, what kind of king might he be? Jesus serenely glides over Pilate's slamming observation and informs Pontius that he is the King of Truth, from a distant world of Truth and that his minions are warriors for Truth. Wow.
But Jesus goes further in this dense little passage. Jesus gets personal with Pilate and he gets personal twice: First, he responds to Pilate's question with a question. I love a good dodge but Jesus isn't merely dodging here. He wants to know where, in Pilate's heart, is this question coming from? Pilate pushes back: Your countrymen fed me this question and, by the way, I don't see any troops behind you, Mr. Jesus. Major slam. Two points Pilate. But Jesus comes back. You say I'm a king. And then he squeezes Pilate with truth. Again, Jesus wants Pontius to personally face the truth.

This sounds kind of kooky and deep and mysterious. And its so up close and personal. So, I think the way into this gem of a passage from John, is to turn off the sound. Pick up the remote, with me here, and turn off the volume. Let the actions speak here. Just watch the screen. I know I've mixed metaphors here from the kitchen and the screen. Remember mixing is good. It's TV dinner here at Redeemer.

It's a fiasco: a round of bad behavior on the house for everybody here. Jesus' school is crashing and splintering into a bazzillion ugly little pieces. Judas has stabbed him in the back, Peter and the inner circle have abandoned ship: Every girly man for himself! Deny everything and save your skin. Best of luck, Jesus. We're behind you all the way. Miles behind you. And very, very quickly, there will be no more you at all. Whoops!

Jesus School makes its contribution, I think, right here, in its ridiculous first few plays:
It contributes to us and the world in this opening number: This Catastrophic Hootenanny catapults us into the truth of our human lives together.  This is how folks behave. This is  what we do to each other. But let's get intimate with this Truth, cheek-to-cheek, New York Subway intimate. Clowns smashed inside a Volkswagen close. Get your finder out my ear and your butt out of my face squished together and investigate this religious race to the bottom-of-the-barrel together.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not sniffing at tidal waves, earth quakes, gas line explosions, cancers and diseases of all kinds. There's plenty of suffering to highlight on other feasts and upcoming sermons though. Lets not get too greedy here. Theirs plenty of bumming out to do in church guys. The fun never stops here at Bill-central.

Just like chocolate on Valentines Day, I'm highlighting today's specialty: Our particular penchant for torturing and killing each other in every color of the religious rainbow! And, as the hand fits the glove - white of course - we chicken out, jump ship, enter our private witness protection programs, which means lie and deny, and live to fight - or run - another day. So we're in the middle of this group exercise and freeze the frame, highlighting the truth of our behavior. We've been caught on the hidden security camera and, smile, the opening score of Jesus' School: Ta Da! Now get up close, like frog dissection and poke around. We're supposed to put our nose into it here.

Now if we left the camera running silently, we'd see even more truth: Torture, ritual mocking and naked death on a suspension devise in front of everyone.

No Hallmark Cards on the Feast of Truth. No woozy sentimentality, butterflies and fairy tales....I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect, it's jaw slacking atrocity.

Now I could color this out in the children's hour but we'll save the fun facts for the adult blog version of this sermon: (Fun facts for this feast: Did you know that blood pools downward when we die and we become grossly disfigured. Pilate thought that was a stitch and, as part of his routine, strung Jews up like scarecrows all across Judea. Another fun fact: Scavenger birds can pick a corpse white-clean in 5 hours. Five hours between a living guy and crystal clear wishbone. Look up the death farm research on the web or PBS, like a holiday special, on this Feast of Truth).

Just let me say: Not pretty. And Jesus is grabbing you and me by our squirmy lapels and asking us to comb this brutal crime scene like CSI geeks looking for very personal life lessons while we converse. Theological dodging won't work. The church has tried for twenty centuries and I try nearly twenty four hours of each-and-every-day but Jesus is 'What about Bob?' He keeps coming-in-person and asking us to meet him person-to-person right in the middle of this religious plane crash.

So that's the personal truth we huddle around every Sunday around that nasty-little-table down there, another piece of truth for another day folks (I sigh with resignation here). And we look at each other and maybe we really take it up, heart-to-heart, with Jesus.

Now let's tell some more truth: We've decorated this meal-turned-deadly-and-criminal-and-cowardly-and-traumatic and we've turned it into Ronald McDonald's Play Land.

And I thin that's a very cool thing because we've pitched our tent in the grave yard and planted flowers and populated the charred soil with youth and life. Really, really good stuff. And I would just about kill for a Big Mac. I would. But peel back layer-after-layer and we're back to the bone yard, where all the shadows fall again. The truth is we're all Jesus-zillas behaving terribly and we're called to talk this out with him, King Jesus, while our train wreck mixes with his plane crash.

Our starting-line, check-point and finish-line is these deeply personal series of conversations with Jesus while he douses himself with gasoline and sets himself socially on fire. This truth-turned-so-personal is the Great Gift of Jesus School. Deeply personal - first personal - truth, heart-to-heart-truths-between-and-about-you-and-me-and-Jesus. See its always dinner-for-two in this deadly dining car: This is Our Throne, Our Crown. Our National Treasure. This is our ageless gift to the world for all times: Personal, unplugged sessions with Jesus while our sets crash and crash into each other. Hey! You've got your miserable peanut butter in my chocolate! Whoa! You've put your failed peanut butter in my pathetic chocolate! Let's keep talking.

And its also a gargantuan job, way bigger than the Big Dig. Much more corrupt too and astronomically costly. Worse than the Panama Canal. Malaria is easier and quicker too. This Crown Jewel, Talking-Truth-With-Jesus, has been the twisted backbone of the Christian West for twenty centuries:

This searing battle for truth, around us and in us, has produced science, the Free Press,  history, biography, medicine, psychology, even psychoanalysis: The search for the extreme truths of each and every corner of our secret hearts.

This slog into truth is the distant goal of our legal procedures: The Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God. It's deeper and deeper truth while in deeper and deeper conversation with Jesus. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth twists and turns with heart-to-heart pillow talk in this intimate odyssey with Jesus as our guide and partner.

Then science becomes science, Jesus and me in dialogue. The free press, and it's startling revelations becomes journalism, Jesus and us, once again in conversation. History is no longer sterile facts and events memorized numbly to Ben Stein's voice. Instead, history becomes bridging the past, with Jesus and our present stories. The truth becomes a conversation between these disciplines, their results, Jesus and us, you and me. The whole world becomes a deeply personal spirituality when placed inside the intimate story of Jesus. This is where we meet and learn from Jesus: Everywhere.

Let me get even more personal: I want you to think of the worst thing you think you've ever done, ever, and then I want you to know that Jesus squeezes into this awful place, twisting and turning, to meet you right there, while you're holding the smoking gun, for an intimate dialogue. Jesus shows how to meet broken-heart-to-broken-heart right in the middle of the losing side of the battlefield. Jesus shows us how precisely by taking us with him, over-and-over-again, while he falls apart. Terrible truth, commentary and intimate dialogue are his signature.

The truth with Jesus is not an existential punch in the mouth, beating us senseless with brutal-fact-upon-fact. You know, the nightmare version of This Is Your Life. No, Jesus moves into the truth-of-him-and-us and He uses the staggering stationary of his spectacular demise. He makes pulp from the suspension rack which he hangs from; he picks up this stinking stationary and writes a personal love note to you and me. Then he follows the note with a visit. And he brings bread and wine dip, to talk of course. Then he moves in and never leaves.

Let me repeat myself one more time here before we eat: Intimate and King and Truth get all glued together with Jesus. Jesus is the king who shows up, moves in and never leaves. He sets up court in our hearts. I think the power comes from the combo: Tearful-eyes-to-tearful-eyes and broken-hearts-to-broken-hearts, strung together with the truths we stand in and the truths we think we can't stand. This combo forms the crown that rests on King Jesus.  Jesus, King of Hearts.

Jesus: Every time I walk through the collapse of your school and watch the Zapruder Film of your terrible end, I have to admit, I don't feel so bad about my failures and flops. You make me look good. Strangely though, I see mirrors everywhere in this crash sight, glimpses of me everywhere I look and everywhere I look bad. I hope your not keeping count. You meet me every time and we talk about you and me, over and over - really, don't you get tired of it- and, over time, the lines blur. I can't put my finger on how you've done it but you've tenderized the meathead that is me. Amen.

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