Sermon Text for 6th Week in Easter – We bring strange words to the ears of the world


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Easter 6A – We bring strange words to the ears of the world

  1. Imagine yourself being thrust into a culture that is not your own and you have to find a way to communicate in order to be understood
    1. Obviously, that’s the story of our country, somewhere in all of our pasts our ancestors set out for a world they didn’t know to make a new life.
      1. Our literary history is also full of allusions to the hero of the story waking up as a stranger in a strange land, having to find a way to navigate in a new world.
      1. Alice falls through the rabbit hole to find herself in Wonderland interacting in a nonsensical world
      1. Gulliver’s Travels chronicles the adventures of Gulliver as he sails to several exotic places most famously Lilliput where he encounters a race of tiny people
      1. The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy’s famous statement to her dog, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” or the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Matrix
    1. For those who don’t know, the Scriptural narrative uses the same trope regarding believers – we are sojourners and exiles in a strange land
      1. When Jacob spoke to Pharaoh in Genesis after his son Joseph brought the whole family to live with him Egypt, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130…and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.
      1. Speaking of the OT faithful the author of Hebrews writes, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar…having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
      1. And Peter begins his first letter, from which our epistle lesson comes, with “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…”
      1. Over and over God’s faithful are described in similar terms because our true home, our inheritance to use Peter’s words again, is kept for us in heaven, not earth and how we act, what we value and how we speak are foreign to the world
  2. Nowhere do we see that more clearly than in our first reading from the book of Acts where Paul goes to Athens to preach the Gospel.
    1. Luke writes, Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
      1. Paul knew their curiosity also included a healthy dose of religion because, while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
      1. The Athenians were “religious”, but they didn’t know the true God so Paul took the opportunity to preach in the marketplace.
      1. But like Alice and Gulliver and all of the others who found themselves in a strange new world, Paul wasn’t understood, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears.”
    1. Many in the church are waking up to the new reality that we “aren’t in Kansas anymore,” we are aliens in our world and we bring strange things to their ears.
      1. Until 20-30 years ago the western world was pretty familiar to Christians
      1. Workplaces had Christmas parties, not holiday parties; many places still had Easter Monday off (in the current culture who even knows there’s an Easter Monday…it’s a memory only to people in the church)
      1. Our value system was broadly Judeo-Christian, marriage was exclusively between a man and a woman, gender wasn’t confusing, and children were born into married households.
      1. All of that has changed and when we speak about the way things were (should be) we get a reaction like the Athenians’, You bring strange things to our ears
  3. But rather than grieve about the past or get angry at people for their “ignorance” Paul presents an example of how to speak to a world that doesn’t know “Christianeze”.
    1. He starts by establishing common ground taking people where they’re at rather than chastising them for not like him, I perceive that in every way you are very religious
      1. Many people don’t know the first thing about Christianity, like the Athenians, we can’t expect their lifestyle, value system, or language to be like ours
      1. Then through conversation that doesn’t belittle he opens the door, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”
      1. Will those conversations be uncomfortable as we hear things that might offend our Christian sensibilities? Of course, but we are strangers in a strange land the people with whom we speak find our values as foreign as we find theirs’.
      1. Our Lord didn’t hang out with the religious people of His day, in fact He criticized them for their inability to accept people unlike themselves. He made a way for the “sinners and tax collectors,” those who didn’t know God.
    1. And we now have an opportunity to speak to the world in a way that we haven’t for many years because of coronavirus.
      1. Google Trends measures what people are searching for by the words they use and since Coronavirus the search word “prayer” is at an all-time high – the world, like Athens, is religious they just don’t know for Who.
      1. We have the opportunity to say like Paul, What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
      1. The world is hungry, it may be ignorant of what we say, but they are hungry for hope – and we have that hope as Peter tells us in our Epistle, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
    1. Dearly beloved in the Lord what Satan would use for evil through this virus God uses for good – to open hearts and minds searching for hope during crisis.
      1. We have the message of the free forgiveness of sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that has opened the doors of heaven to all who believe.
      1. Let us use this as an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to people like our neighbors, friends and family who have never heard it that they may also receive an inheritance in heaven that doesn’t perish, spoil or fade!