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Sermons

November 6, 2005 | November 13, 2005
November 13, 2005

LIVING THE RESURRECTION

Since we're creatures of Day, let's act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.

His Name was Wavoka.
He was a member of the Paiute nation.
He claimed he had been to heaven.
He came to give his people hope.
What he gave them was called the Ghost Dance.

In 1899, Wavoka taught the people how to dance this Ghost Dance.
He told them that the dance would reunite them with those who had died before them.
After awhile… the dance began to take up other meanings.
It came to be a protest against their white POW guards.
When they sang and danced… they were free for the moment from their oppressors.
Desperate Indians began dancing and singing the songs that would cause the world to open up and swallow all other people while the Indians and their friends would remain on this land, which would return to its beautiful and natural state.
They sang:
PEACE AND TRUTH WILL RETURN
My son, let me grasp your hand,
My son, let me grasp your hand,
Says the father,
Says the father.
You shall live,
You shall live,
Says the father,
Says the father.
I bring you a pipe,
I bring you a pipe,
Says the father,
Says the father.
By means of it you shall live,
By means of It you shall live,
Says the father,
Says the father.
They began to believe that their dance would change everything.
They created Ghost shirts that they believed would stop the bullets of the Long Knives’ guns.

The Ghost Dance gave them hope.
The Ghost Dance gave them power.
The Ghost dance gave them a future.

Many of the whites who witnessed the Ghost Dancers were terrified.
Terrified that the beaten danced with joy.
Terrified that the prisoners danced as if they were free.

I don’t think Paul would have been terrified.
In fact…I think Paul would have dropped his rabbinic robes… donned a Ghost shirt… and joined in the dance.
He understood how a people needed to dance and sing in the midst of a hostile culture.
He understood how identity and hope are tied irrevocably together.
When you lose hope… you lose who you are.

Paul was writing to the new church in Thessalonica.
In the first century CE, Thessalonica was a cosmopolitan city.
Romans, Greeks, Jews, Pagans, and all sorts of people populated this city.
In Paul’s time, the presence of Imperial Rome was everywhere…

In such an environment… the message that Jesus Christ had overcome death and ushered in a new Kingdom could be a very lonely and risky proposition.
Because they set themselves apart… they were viewed with suspicion.
These “Christians…” these people of the “Way” did not fit in… they chose not to fit in.
Such an alternative way of living took a lot of courage and a lot of strength.

These people… these Christians… believed that God’s acting in Jesus had changed everything.
They were emboldened by there belief that Jesus Christ had been crucified… raised from the dead… had ascended into heaven… and would come again.
Paul’s theology was echoed in the Ghost Dancers and their Ghost Shirts.
They were invincible… the spears and prisons and legions of the Romans could not and would not hurt them.
They looked to the Day when Jesus would return and inaugurate the Kingdom.

But when would it happen?
When would Jesus return and bring the long promised Kingdom?
When would the New Age dawn and the current age of imperialism and paganism be overthrown?
The people wanted to know.

Paul was not much help.
2You know as well as I that the day of the Master's coming can't be posted on our calendars. He won't call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would.
Paul didn’t know.
Paul believed it might come in his lifetime.
Paul hoped Jesus would come at any moment.
But Paul didn’t know.

Such ignorance did not deter Paul.
Paul decided that it didn’t matter when Jesus come.
4But friends, you're not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? 5You're sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand.
The timing of Jesus return was not critical to know.
The belief that Jesus would return.
The belief that God had… and would continue change history…
Those beliefs sustained Paul and led him to preach the Good News and challenge people to live as Christians… as members of the Kingdom of God… live as followers of Jesus Christ.

Paul actually took it a step further.
8But not us! Since we're creatures of Day, let's act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.

Creatures of Day.
Paul is drawing a distinction between Christians and pagans… believers and non-believers.
We are not of the dark… we are of the day.
Children of the Light.
Children of the Day.
We are
Children of the Day.
What Day…you ask.
The Day.
The Day when Jesus will return.
The Day when the Kingdom of God will be inaugurated and reign on the earth.
The Day.
Paul does not look up the Day in his date book and announce it so everyone can clear their schedules and get ready.
Paul says we should start living the Day now.
Here and now.
Since we're creatures of Day, let's act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
For Paul… the Day had already begun.
God’s reign… God’s Kingdom had already begun.
In the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead… God had already shattered the bounds of time and history and ushered in a new age.
What Paul was saying to the Thessalonians was that we should celebrate the new reality… the new age… the Day… by living in the sunlight

dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.

One scholar put it this way:
The past is history, the future is prophecy, but the present is experience. To claim that God had already begun to transform this earth into a place of divine justice and divine peace demands that you show something of that transformative activity here and now. To which Paul would have replied unabashedly: to see God’s transformative process, come and see how we live.
In other words… God’s Kingdom has begun.
If you want to know how it looks… come see how we live.

Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
What kind of Kingdom do we live?
If how we live is to be a signpost… an illustration… an example of how God’s Kingdom will be…
What kind of Kingdom do people see in our lives?
Do we walk in the sunlight?
Do we dress up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation?

Will people looking at how we live see anything radically different then how other people in the world… in the country… in the community live?
If they followed you around… watched what you did… listened what you said… witnessed how you lived out your faith…
Would they see the Kingdom of God?
Would they see God’s transforming justice and peace in your life…
A peace and justice radically different from the world’s peace and justice.

Are we… you and I Children of the Day?
Or do we sleepwalk through life like those others.
Would people examining our lives tell the difference.
Can we tell the difference?
Do we know what is to be Children of the Day?
Or are we just sleepwalking through it… hoping to somehow stagger to the end.

Go back to the Ghost Dancers…
what I think scared the Indian Agents and the US Army was that these people… the Lakota and Cheyenne… these men and women….
Who danced and sang and shouted for their Messiah…
Such Ghost Dancers were no longer so easily controlled… so easily contained… so easily lied to.
In the dance… the dancers lived and sang their freedom… their future… their hope.

Who do you scare by the way you live?
Who fears your hope and faith and love?
Do your ministries and acts of love and hope and faith point beyond the day to day life on a planet and in a community that is stuck in militant consumerism?
Does our congregational life make us stand out from those around us?
Do people look at us and see a new world…
see and believe there is nothing so powerful as living as if that new world is already here?

Paul says…
10He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we're awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we're alive with him! 11So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.
Like the Ghost shirts that were believed to stop bullets that made the Ghost Dancers believe they were invincible from the attacks and bullets of their enemies…
Paul believed that God’s raising Jesus from the dead had made all of us alive eternally…
Alive in Christ.
Alive in the Kingdom of God that had already begun in their midst.

Paul believed that by believing they were alive in Christ made them different… made their community different… made their living dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation in an alien and imperial world courageous and inspiring.
They had their own songs.
They had their own language.
They had their own identity.
All of this drawn not from Rome or Jerusalem...
Drawn from the empty tomb and the risen Lord.

The slave world of the African Americans of the 17th through
19th century is a profound historical and Christian model for what Paul was preaching to the Thessalonians.
Their life was very much dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation was best realized in the music they sang in the fields and slave quarters… on the chopping block and along the Drinking Gorge.
They sang of their troubles and they sang of the hoped for future… a future of freedom

Walk together Children
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Steal to Away Jesus
Were songs of solidarity and also signals and requests for passage on the Underground Railroad.
Been in the Storm too Long and
Soon I will be Done
Told of their troubles and hardships.
The Great Gittin Up Morning
My Lord, What a Morning
Spoke of present heroism and apocalyptic hope for the future.
All together… they were the slave songs about the slaves’ life and slaves’ burdens… slaves’ hopes and slaves’ dreams
Most importantly… they were songs by slaves and understood by slaves.
Their white masters had neither the code to break them… intelligence to fear them… or faith to appreciate them
It was in the singing of those songs the slaves kept their lives
dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
What songs do we sing that separate and distinguish us and your faith?
What hope do we hold onto that confuses the mass of power and empire aligned against us?
Are we
dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation

that only another Christian would understand?
Do we live as

Children of the Day?
Let us pray and live so.

Amen.

A Member of the United Church of Christ