This Week’s Sermon Transcript


Turn, Turn, Turn                       Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21: 23-32  (Psalm 25:1-9)            9-27-2020 

Right now we are experiencing much change: leaves turning color and some already falling, a hint of cooler times ahead and school in a different and difficult place as well as all our lives having to stay apart, mask, and find new ways to live being who we are in safe ways for each other. So much we were used to is gone and so much is lost in lives and caring connections. There is beauty and deep sadness, grief and no usual healing ways to turn loss into remembrance that sustains. Our faith is in a new place of seeing and hearing, finding what we need to be whole amid so much suffering.

For me, the words of faith come to me in a deeper way held in what we cannot plan or experience as we have before. It is, in a way, an emptying of what we found of meaning and nurture into a place to be filled in God’s time by what will come as it does. There are questions and worries, but also memory deepened of what has brought us to where we are today in our faith.   

Jesus turns questions back with questions. He is the teacher -in the rabbi way, answering questions with more questions. And John is the one who did the honors in the Jordan saying to Jesus, “You are the one who should be baptizing me.” He knew something deep within, which informed what he saw when he first met Jesus as if from before time.

John was different than Jesus. Frederick Buechner says, “Where John said people had better save their skins before it was too late, Jesus said it was God who saved their skins, and even if you blew your whole bankroll on liquor and sex like the prodigal son, it still was never too late. Where John baptized, Jesus healed.” (Peculiar Treasures p.79)

John prepared in a unique way the entry of Jesus into his difficult times of aloneness and even temptation before his time of teaching and being the Word among us all on earth, then in person and now in Spirit. Gift given to work in our faith over time as we are given faith to grow and learn and be made new.

What the chief priests and elders saw and heard they did not believe and others did. Others who society places on the margins. The very ones Jesus ate with and talked with: ever including.

What did Jesus see in those on the edges that others did not see or care about? Jesus turns things upside down and moves in different ways, as did John. John cried out for turning, repentance, ever turning and changing, turning and changing. Seeing differently, growing in a needed new way to life. He must have wondered much and he suffered much. And he asked questions of Jesus disciples.

Jesus walked a different way that turned much aside and around in others’ lives as they came to faith, healing, and wholeness. Paul was one who turned and changed into new seeing and compassion. He speaks to the Philippians strongly about coming together, being of one mind, the same mind as in Christ.

And for us today as his Body the church, we are emptied by loss and having to let go and turn away from what kept us close before, But that makes room for what fills with new life- giving ways of love, love that expands as it is works out of God’s love given in Christ for all to know hope and promise as did Christ. And all is ever for the purposes of God. God’s purposes and knowing God at work in one another is for the glory of God ever and always.  

We are given gifts all along the way in our journey of faith in a church. I remember a teacher in Sunday School who one Sunday, as I am, sure it pertained to something in the lesson, folded her hands and told us, a class of probably six or so, the story of her son who died on an aircraft carrier. What I remember is her hands folded together as she spoke her loss and her faith. I do not remember the lesson, but I remember her faith. She had become empty enough to share her gift of faith to someone else and in that sharing, she was, I believe, filled in a new way.  

God is at work in us through what we experience allowing God to find an opening, an empty place to fill with love and then sharing of that love and loss sometime when it is needed. We have so many differences of opinions and ways of believing what we do and what we want, and that is what the Transition Team works through to bring together in Christ, as we are called to be of one mind even in our differences. And that unity is the sharing of the love of God in the gift of faith needed by all people, The beauty of diversity comes together into a church profile and a called like- minded minister with his or her own gifts to share.   

Maybe John, says Buechner, like us all in deep and dark times had some questions, and yet remembered how he felt that day when he had first seen Jesus heading toward him through the tall grass along the river-bank and how his heart had skipped a beat when he heard himself say, “Behold the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) And maybe after he remembered all that and put it together with what he had learned about Jesus’ healing and turning of people’s live to wholeness and God, he knew his first seeing of Jesus in the river was true.

Would his seeing not then turn once again to what touched his heart and his mind as he saw and as he humbly baptized Jesus. Truth deep within to believe and turn away any doubts. We are given faith ever by God in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways as we let go and turn our eyes upon Jesus and know God at work in so many ways for us that help us turn and change over and over.

I am reminded of the song by Pete Seger, whose lyrics came out of the old words of Ecclesiastes. The song is Turn! Turn! Turn!
To everything (turn, turn, turn,)
There is a season( turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven
  a few of the lyrics are so today…
… A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
…A time to gain, a time to lose
…A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

It is never too late as Paul said, “for every knee to bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Amen.