16 Nov 2014
Fr. Randolph Calvo 2014
“You accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Thess. 2:13) In the name …
In 1909 a twelve year old church declared a new sacrament for herself. Now that’s gumption. I love that church. She was a church confident in the power of the Holy Spirit still among us. She was a church that believed the promise of the resurrected Christ when He said, “‘I am with you always.’” She was a church that believed in Pentecost, that the Spirit is never silenced. She was a church that reflected the enthusiasm of Paul who kept telling the earliest church that everything she did was, in his words, “in Christ.” That kind of church felt the nearness of God, and found her confidence and inspiration in His presence. This was not a God of the past or of the future, what once was or what could be, but a God who was just as much in the present as He ever had been in the past or would be in the future. And that’s the God behind the Sacrament of the Word of God Heard and Preached, a God who is still conversing with us, a God who still has new things to say to us.
Now this is no endorsement for the movie. I’ve never seen Part One and I’m never going to see Part Two, but the trailers are out for Dumb and Dumber To. That I have seen on television. I don’t know which actor plays Dumb and which one plays Dumber, but one of the guys has been visiting the other guy in a psych hospital for 20 years. For two decades that guy has been vegetative. He hasn’t spoken or responded to anyone or anything. Then one day as Dumb comes to visit Dumber or Dumber comes to visit Dumb, the one who is vegetative first mumbles and then blurts-out to his buddy, “Got ya!” The buddy responds, “You’ve been faking for 20 years? And it’s all for a gag? That’s awesome!” And then I guess the movie starts. If you’re bragging about being dumb and even dumber this is a pretty good intro. The idea of pretending to have nothing to say for 20 years as part of joke is so ridiculous that it sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
But that’s the intro to Dumb and Dumber To. Why would we think that Jesus has had nothing new to say to us not for 20 years, not for 200 years, but for 2,000 years? That wouldn’t be funny; that would be sad. That’s why our church felt called to create the Sacrament of the Word of God Heard and Preached. We were a reforming church. We felt inspired to change things. We felt we could not only remember the Word of God; we had to listen for it. How could Jesus, why would Jesus, not still be speaking to His church? That twelve year old church of 1909 was still energized by so much that was new and possible. She was open to surprise and embraced possibility. She didn’t look upon surprise as chaos, but as creation. And again, I love that church. The Bible begins with the image of God speaking His word and creation begins. He says, “‘Let there be light’” and there’s light. John begins his Gospel by calling Jesus the Word and a new creation begins. That’s an exciting image. As Christians we see Jesus as our re-birth. That’s the point of John’s Nicodemus story about being born anew. The Word of God is alive and active and creative. It’s growing and changing. It’s leading us somewhere. It’s transforming us into something more than what we are now. This is why the Word of God is always being spoken.
But the sacrament isn’t only called the Word of God. Immediately following this phrase is the word “Heard.” I’m a parent, a pastor, and a teacher of children and teenagers. I can talk all I want, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m being heard – just sit in on my Confirmation class tonight. The sacrament, however, fails if the Word of God falls on deaf ears. And isn’t that what Jesus is worried about in this morning’s Gospel, that the word will not be heard. The Parable of the Sower is a parable about parables. Its message is diligence, but to get to that point of yielding thirty, sixty or a hundred-fold Jesus warns that for some the Word never registers, and for others the Word is so superficial that it is ignored quickly because of almost any kind of distraction.
But from the positive perspective, there is Paul’s acclamation of the Thessalonian Christians when he says, “You accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” The Thessalonians heard the Word of God and because of this the Word of God was able to work in them and through them. Hearing completes the circuit. Hearing is what gives us the energy to continue the work of Christ. In other words, the Word of God did not grow silent after the time of Jesus. It did not grow silent even after the time of the apostles. The Word of God, says the Bible, “is also at work in you believers.” This is why we have our unique sacrament. We believe the revelation of God’s continuing conversation with us. This is why I believe that church has to always be listening. This is why the stranglehold of only looking to the past bothers me so much. Jesus is still speaking to us. We can’t only remember; we still have to listen.
We’re the descendents of that 1909 church. Four generations have tamed us down terribly, but that enthusiasm can still be found in our spiritual DNA. I know it’s there somewhere. We need to coax it out again, but that takes diligence. If you have an interest, read First Kings 19 in the Old Testament. It’s the story of the prophet Elijah at Mount Horeb. God’s Word wasn’t in the powerful anything. It was in the still, small voice. But it was a voice that urged Elijah to quit hiding and to go back and do the work of God. God isn’t like George Burns talking to John Denver in that old movie Oh God. God’s Word is going to be that still, small voice. That takes diligence and commitment to hear, but that’s also what leads to a yield of thirty, sixty or even one hundredfold. May the Sacrament of the Word of God Heard and Preached, which we celebrate this morning, inspire us to work, to make a difference and to find that old courage and gumption once again. For this we pray in the name of Jesus who is still speaking to us today. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo