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Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's All God--A Sermon

It’s All God
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

August 12, 2012

Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I’m there. Lift up the stone, and you’ll find me there.
--Jesus, Gospel of Thomas 77

When I created the themes for summer worship I chose the larger theme of happiness. As I look back over the summer worship guide, it seems like it came from a long time ago. Now as I am seeking to get back into a rhythm of life which includes worship and ministry with you and I look over these themes, I wonder what the old me was thinking. My mood was playful when I put this together. Playful and oblivious. In some ways, I was like a child, really, without a care in the world. That isn’t true, of course. I had many cares. They just seem so distant now.

I am no longer oblivious. I have seen something. I have seen the excruciating fragility of this precious life. You don’t come away from that unchanged. I hope and I trust and actually I know that that old playfulness will peek around the corner at me now and again. Thankfully, as we have been surrounded by the light that as Jesus says “is over all things” that  playfulness hasn’t abandoned me. It isn’t the playfulness of a puppy but of an older dog who for a moment forgets her aches and pains and remembers the old, familiar games.

Scripture is not written for the young. The guardians of scripture try to force it on the young. “Read this, it is good for you.” But you have to have experienced some fragility before its light reveals the places within you that were formerly hidden in darkness.

This text for example. Jesus says,
“Split a piece of wood; I’m there. Lift up a stone, and you’ll find me there.”

As you know I spent my childhood on a farm in Whitehall, Montana. I split a fair share of wood in the Summer and Fall to use for the wood furnace during the Montana winters. In Spring, after the field was plowed, disked, and harrowed we would hitch an old hay trailer to the tractor and pull it through the field. We would pick the stones that had been turned up and pile them on the trailer. Then we unloaded those stones in a pile on the edge of the field. As I split wood and lifted up stones, I really can’t say that I saw Jesus.
Split a piece of wood; I’m there. Lift up the stone, and you’ll find me there.

What is he talking about?

I know there are people who have seen the face of Jesus in the clouds, or on a tree or in their oatmeal. I found this article that was written just this week in the Christian Post:
An elderly man at an adult daycare in Texas says when he was having his bacon and egg breakfast taco, he noticed the face of Jesus on the flour tortilla staring back at him. He showed it to others to confirm, and the news of the "miracle" spread.

Ernesto Garza, 80, has now tucked away a half-eaten breakfast taco with an image of Jesus Christ, carefully wrapped in foil, in the refrigerator at La Amistad Adult Daycare in Beeville, Texas, and intends to preserve it for as long as he can.

Like any other morning, Garza sat down with his taco at the daycare's cafeteria and unwrapped it. But that morning, he decided to eat only the inside of the taco. As he was poking around, he noticed a face on the charred flour tortilla staring back at him.

"I looked at it for five minutes," Garza was quoted as saying. Then he showed it to a friend sitting next to him and asked what she thought the face on the tortilla looked like. Garza's friend looked at it and jumped from her seat. "Jesus," she said.

Soon, everyone at the daycare was in the cafeteria to have a look at the face of Jesus, followed by a pouring of phone calls by media outlets.

"Here's the eyes, nose, mouth, mustache," he told KRIS-TV.

"I consider it a blessing because it's unique," Angie Rodriguez, the daycare's director, stated. She also said she had prayed the previous night for a sign from God to reassure her in the midst of a crisis in her life. The "miracle," she said, touched her life. "We believe God works in mysterious ways."

For Garza, it was "a blessing from God."

Jesus said,
“Split a piece of wood; I’m there.
Lift up the stone, and you’ll find me there.
Unwrap your breakfast taco and you’ll see me there.”

I am not an expert on the Gospel of Thomas or on the philosophies that shaped its texts. Nor am I an expert in the authenticity of Jesus sightings. I don’t know what Jesus or the author of Thomas was thinking, but Taco Jesus probably wasn't it.

But you know, people do experience the holy and the sacred in ways that are open for them. There is a sense of longing for the sacred amidst our ordinary lives.  Consider life day in and day out in La Amistad Adult Daycare Center in Beeville, Texas.  For most of the residents, this is the last stop before exit.  I'll bet they could use a little divine intervention. Good for the director of the center to call in the media, make a miracle out of this, and brighten up these lives. Why not? It is holy playfulness.

Good for those of you who each day, make and celebrate miracles and make a big fuss over others in a playful and joyful way.

Last night I was at the Johnson City Cardinals ball game. In between innings they have games for the kids. One of the games is to be the first to put on jersey and a helmet and run to slap the hand of the guy with the microphone. In this contest, there were two boys. One of the kids was able-bodied and the other was in a wheelchair. The able bodied kid took his time, purposely fumbled with the jersey and helmet so the boy in the wheelchair would win.

Those little miracles of kindness happen all the time. Peter Mayer in his song, “Holy Now” writes:
…the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn't one

We long for the sacred and the holy. We long for the story of Moses confronted by God in the bush that burns but is not consumed to be true. We long for the miracle of Jesus turning the boy's lunch of bread and fish into a feast for 5,000 to happen today. We want to see Jesus in his glory on the mountaintop as did Peter, James, and John. In a similar story from the Hindu tradition, Krishna gives Arjuna eyes to see as God sees and he is transported to view the cosmos in a way he has never seen before. He is confronted by the holy and his life is transformed.  We want that.

Those are the stories of scripture. They are not repeated literally in our lives, but they speak to the experience of the holy that we glimpse when we are open and vulnerable to it.  Now we might see it in acts of kindness when this ordinary world with its excruciating fragility is embraced by the light of love and human compassion. In that light, wood, stones, and even breakfast tacos become experiences of the holy.

Amen.
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