Here is the text of my sermon today.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
My buddy Fr. Jenkins who is coming next I like Mel Brooks films. We are constantly texting lines from his movies back and forth—it will seriously go on for 30 minutes straight as we each try to bust the other up. And when we are in person, it is fun trying to work the quotes into the conversation. This stems back from when we were in high school and he would drive me back to my house after school and we would watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights over and over again.
Over the years we reflect back on that time and randomly text each other quotes. We do this so often that we don’t need to specify which Mel Brooks movie the quote comes from, we just throw one out and then riff on that movie for a while until the next one comes up and so on.
But if one doesn’t know these movies then it would look as if we were simply quoting random and often somewhat vulgar non-sequiturs to each other and laughing. (In fact I was trying to think of a line or two that I could use today, and there are very few that I could use. Funny movies though.) If you don’t know the movies then you can’t play our game, because it’s all in shorthand and we don’t pause to fill in the context. It is all about our knowledge of the movies and how fast we can think of the quotes.
It seems that in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist has a similar relationship with some of his disciples. John gives a couple clues, but if we didn’t already know, we couldn’t easily tell that John baptized Jesus or his relationship to him. We just randomly see John spouting off about the Lamb of God when he spies Jesus off in the distance. If you notice though, the first time this happens, no one really takes this message to heart. No one had truly taken John’s message to heart—he had no one with whom to riff—to be able to understand what he was actually saying about Jesus.
The next day, however, Andrew and his buddy were with John the Baptist. They must have been his top students, because rather than having to explain himself, John merely says to them, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and they know the significance of what he was saying. They didn’t need the context because they were steeped in the background. They were up to speed, and knew that John was pointing the way to Jesus who was to come and take away the sins of the world. So they don’t even say bye to their mentor John as they change allegiance and follow Jesus. But that is exactly what John wanted for them, to see the Lamb of God and follow him.
Lucky for them, they get to hang out with Jesus all night. He doesn’t have all the crowds around him at this point since he just started out, so he could really get some work done with these two. In fact, Andrew is so impressed with Jesus that he tells his brother: “We have found the Messiah.”
God sends little shorthand messages to us as well. But we have to know the shorthand first in order to recognize it as a message from God. If not the message blends in with the normal cacophony of life and we miss it. In order to learn the shorthand we have to immerse ourselves in him and his ways. Only then can we become accustomed to the way in which he speaks to us and learn that actually God has plenty of work for us to do.
The messages come in feelings and still small voices. “Him. Go.” Or maybe it is just a feeling that this person needs special attention. But just like with Fr. Jenkins and I, if you don’t know, you can’t play. And if you can’t play, you are left out. Look at the rest of John the Baptist’s disciples, it only mentions these two hearing and following, the rest, I’m sure we wondering what in the world Andrew and other guy were doing—but John knew.
The same is true in this game with us and God. If you are not listening then you can’t participate. I know lots of people who feel like God doesn’t speak to them anymore and they feel left out, when, in reality, they began at some point to go through the motions, and what you give is what you get. If these people want to participate, they have to reengage—to rekindle the fire that was in them when they felt God speaking to them. Excitement comes through playing the game.
This is true here at St. Paul’s as well. There is plenty of excitement here—in fact, I am super fired up about what God has in store for us this year. And if we want to play in the game that God has set up for us, we have to play by immersion. It is only through immersion that we can hear that shorthand that comes with the game. Once we become attuned to the call, the game is on and the game is infectious and all-consuming. Playing the game is the fire that turns waking up on Sunday mornings (not normally a desirous task), into waking up to play a game and that is fun.
In order to play the game, the work first needs to be done. We need to read, learn mark and inwardly digest the ways of God. We need to ask question, and really interact with the text and teachings. This is how we fine-tune our ear to hear the calls. Now that we can hear the calls and know the rules it is time to go play. The way to play is to clue others into the game as well.
It’s like a game I used to play in grade school called “Infection.” One person starts out being “it,” and then they tag someone, but instead of the title of “it” transferring to the person tagged, now both people are “it.” The object of the game is to tag everyone. We are playing the same game. If we clue someone into the game, then the flame glows twice as brightly and now it’s more fun. The game gets exponentially more fun as more and more people are added.
And so Beloved, game on. As we go through our Annual Parish Meeting, think of it in this manner—as a game. All we have to do as individuals is add our light to the fire that we may increase the excitement and infect more people.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.