Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Sermon but no notes really and certainly no manuscript

So, Tripp posted on Monday about my sermon on Sunday Unfortunately Tripp I have not posted that sermon because it came to me as I preached. If you were not at Reconciler on Sunday you may want to read Tripp's post first, he gives a good summary of what I think I said. I would like to be able to reproduce the sermon here for you as Tripp requests, or hopes, but I am not able to do so. What I can do is attempt a repetition of my thought process up to and including while I was preaching.

(you may wish to look at the lectionary texts for this past Sunday before continuing.)

Tripp says I preached a sermon about the Sabbath. And I suppose I did. However, I didn't know that was what I was going to preach on when I entered the pulpit (er, well sat in the chair, we preach from a chair under the pulpit in the chapel we rent). A theme of my preaching of late, a focus in my own thoughts as well, has been the connection between our worship life and what we do and how we live between Sundays. I am convinced that our worship grounds (or should if it is true worship) the rest of what we do in the world. The texts seemed to provide an excellent opportunity to talk about our worship life and what it means to be the body of Christ and how that is intimately connected with preaching the Gospel that is good news to the poor, sets captives free, and sight to the blind. Yet I found I was unable to write a manuscript of such a sermon let alone notes that could provide a coherent structure for a sermon. Several days in a row I had sat down and attempted to write and found that what I wrote was interesting ideas but not a sermon.

Sunday morning I was scheduled to give the second part of a two part series for one of the Adult Sunday School Classes at Community Church of Wilmette on Faith and Art, and was taking along two members of the rock band Overhang. So, I did not have the normal recourse to Sunday morning quickly writing up a manuscript. On the way home from Community Church of Wilmette with Kate and Grant and Joel, Joel asked me my thoughts on the Sabbath and keeping the Sabbath for the Christian. We had a wonderful conversation in the car about the Sabbath and Sabbath practices.

At the time I didn't think that conversation had anything really to do with the sermon I was to preach in a few hours, until that afternoon I reviewed one more time the three scripture texts, and as if for the first time I realized that Luke mentions the sabbath quite a bit in this passage and is quite insistent that this was Jesus' practice and would have been the practice of God's people at the time to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Sabbath and being formed by the word of God and under the Spirit suddenly seemed to be connected, but as of yet I did not see quite how. Though now "the year of the Lords favor" or Jubilee, was beginning to also come into view, the year of Jubilee was the 50th year, 7 sabbath years (the seventh year according to the Law was to be a year of sabbath for the land) plus one. The sabbath of Sabbaths in a sense.

The Sermon:
As I sat down several things came together, being formed as a people of God by the Word and Spirit and Sabbath practice, even if that practice is moved early on from Saturday to Sunday. Sunday was understood as the 8th day, the day of the Resurrection, the Lords day. The 8th day is then symbolically connected to the 50th year, "the Year of the Lords favor", that which Jesus proclaims as fulfilled in the hearing of those gathered as the people of God in the Synagogue of Nazareth. The basic form of traditional Christian worship service like what we practice at Reconciler is connected to synagogue worship, which many scholars connect to the exile and return of the Jews to Judea and Jerusalem, that is connected to the event described in the Nehemiah passage. Most commentators I consulted said that it was not unlike in form the form that of the practice of Sabbath gathering described in Luke chapter 4.

For Israel Sabbath practice was tied to two things the act of Creation and God forming a people by rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and giving them the law, Torah, the word of God. the Church extended the rational to an eschatological one, we are now in the year of the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the 8th day the 50th year, the Day of the Lords favor, the sabbath beyond Sabbath. Sunday is always a feast day even in a time of fasting like Lent. Sabbath, the year of Jubilee the 8th day is the bringing about of justice on the earth, we as Christians have a sabbath practice not simply as a looking back, but as being formed into the eschatological community. We do so in between, between the announcement and its ultimate fulfilment. Somewhere there was talk about Ordinary time as a time between when we focus on the meaning of the great acts of God in history of Jesus birth, baptism, death and resurrection and ascension, and how that forms us as a people called out from the world to live and proclaim the year of the Lords Favor.

That isn't the sermon, I know I said some other things. I hoped to convey that we are to be formed as the people of God by Word, Spirit and this sabbath practice of steeping away from our busyness in the world to be transformed by the Word and Spirit of God and formed into the Body of Christ the Church. So that the world can be transformed as well. Justice perhaps can only truly begin in this practice and comprehension that we are in the 8th day, and the year of Jubilee and this has been so from that day that Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

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