God Is Dead! Long Live God! – a sermon for Homecoming Sunday

Readings: Genesis 15:1-6; Acts 17:27-28; John 10:22-31  

Listen to the sermon here

John 10:22-31
The time came for Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the Temple area, in Solomon’s Porch, when the Temple authorities surrounded him and said, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you really are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus replied, “I did tell you, but you don’t believe. The work I do in my Abba’s name gives witness in my favour, but you don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never be lost. No one will ever snatch them from my hand. Abba God, who gave them to me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal them from Abba God. For Abba and I are One.” With that, the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him.

time-is-god-deadWith that, the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone Jesus. Welcome home. On this Homecoming Sunday, we are reminded that home is not always a safe place. The buffalo have ceased their roaming, the deer and the antelope no longer play, and all too often is heard a discouraging word. Welcome home. As many of us know all too well, home may be where the heart is, but home is also a place where the most cutting of family arguments can wound even those of us who’s strength of character has lead us far from home.
Jesus never faired well at home. Whether it was his home in Nazareth where his neighbours wanted to toss him off a cliff, or his spiritual home in Jerusalem, where the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him, Jesus words, his teaching, his way of being in the world made the people at home so angry they could kill him. There was something about this fellow Jesus that got on people’s nerves. I mean the nerve of the fella, imagine insisting that he, Jesus, and Abba are ONE. Bad enough that Jesus had the audacity to call God Abba, “daddy” as if he and the Creator are on intimate terms, but then to suggest that God, the Creator of all that IS, and all that ever shall be, to insist that he and God are ONE, well is it any wonder that the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him. After all the Temple authorities are charged with the solemn responsibility of preserving good order.
Every home needs rules and when it comes to the rules the Temple authorities know the rules backwards and forwards, and this guy Jesus seems incapable of sticking to the rules. Everyone knows that according to the rules God is up there and out there, beyond us and from time to time God comes down here and the best place to find God is in God’s house, and in God’s house we have rules about who, how, and when people can approach the ONE who IS the source of all life. God’s house has rules for a reason. Without rules there is chaos and chaos is the very thing that the Creator established creation for. In our earliest myths we imagined that in the beginning there was chaos and God’s Spirit hovered over the chaos and said, “Let there be light!” and so began the slow and steady evolution out of the muck and the mire of chaos and into the natural order of things, with God up there in the heavens and we earth creatures down here, going about our business, and remembering to pay homage from time to time to the ONE who makes it possible for us all to feel at home here in creation. Then along comes Jesus, suggesting that God is not safely out of reach but that indeed God is ONE with him, why the next thing you know people will be imagining all sorts of things, and some one will suggest that we are all ONE with God. Quick find some rocks so we can stone this guy before things get out of control. After all our home is our castle, and we need to stay in control of the castle lest our carefully held ways of doing things devolves into chaos. We’ve got to keep God safe from such ideas.Ideas are far too dangerous to be allowed to infect the masses, pardon the pun. If ideas are allowed to fester, the next thing you know we won’t recognize our homes anymore and we’ll have to find new ways of living together.Get me a rock, will you? I can’t stand it when my home is threatened by an idea; especially an idea that is so dangerous that it threatens my image of who I am by suggesting that the god I worship and adore might be something other than who or how I want god to be. If you don’t believe me, just look at our neighbours in the United Church of Canada. If only they’d reached for their stones a little sooner, then that Greta Vosper woman would never have gotten all the attention she’s getting now and she’d never have been able to infect their house with ideas about God being dead.
JEEZUS H CHRIST! Just imagine what might happen if people are allowed to suggest that God is dead!
Ok, I know, I am grossly over-simplifying things here.But we are at home here aren’t we. We’re family and we don’t have to spell everything out do we.We know who we are and whose we are. Whether we say it out loud in here, where we all know what we mean, our whisper it out there where people might not understand, we know that God being dead is precisely the foundation upon which many of our homes have been built for generations. Jesus said, “I and Abba are ONE.” and we all know how that worked out. Jesus was executed by the state, aided and abetted by the Temple authorities, Jesus died at the hands of those who firmly believed that he was a troublemaker capable of creating chaos. Jesus died believing that he was ONE with God.
We have been taught to believe that JESUS and God are ONE, so dear friends and family, here in this house we can safely say that God did indeed die. God died and was buried. The good news is that we also believe that death does not have the final word. God is dead. Long live God! For we in this house know the sweet beauty of resurrection. We know that God dies over and over again, precisely because we know that when Jesus said, “I and Abba are ONE.” Jesus pulled God out of the heavens and the faraway God of our ancestors was reborn as the Abba whose intimacy with us is so palpable that we can say that Abba and I are ONE. We are ONE with God.
The community of people who followed Jesus after his death understood this. The Apostle Paul understood that God was no longer up, there, far away, distant, beyond our reach, or tucked away in the Holy of Holies. The Apostle Paul, knew that that particular God died upon the cross with Jesus, but death did not have the final word. The power of the resurrection empowers us to know that God is the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being. We are ONE with God and this dear family means chaos. For if we are ONE with God, then those people out there, those other humans, indeed all those other beings, in fact creation itself, is ONE with God. That means that every life is precious, including the life of this planet. That means that all the walls in the world won’t be able to separate us from the ONE in whom live and move and have our being. It means that even the biggest, baddest, most scary ones out there, are ONE with God. How will we know how to be in the world when each and everyone we meet is kin?
God is Dead! Our lovely, God, the one we created in our image, the one who we safely tucked away up in heaven, the one we allowed to come into our sanctuaries only if he behaved and followed our rules, that god, the image formed by the art and thought of mortals, is dead. Long live God. Long live the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being. Long live the ONE with whom we are ONE. We can throw all the stones we want at the Gretas of this world, who dare to point out that our images of the ONE are for all intents and purposes dead, but our rocks won’t help us preserve the order that we are counting on to save us from chaos.
Life is chaotic. Our rules, regulations, and houses can offer us sanctuary from time to time from the chaos, but the rules and regulations, the carefully held beliefs, the doctrines and the dogma, even the images we hold dear cannot save us. We can toss all the rocks we want, but alas, the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, lives and dies over and over and over again, in, with, through, and beyond us, that’s the beauty of the chaos that the light brings into view.
The ONE in whom we live and move and have our being is more than we can idea-of-the-holybegin to imagine. The “Idea of the Holy” is in and of ITSELF, “Mysterium, Tremendum, et Facinans” (Rudolf Otto) Mysterious, Tremendous, and Fascinating. Take and eat. Taste and see for LIFE in the ONE is Mysterious, Tremendous and Fascinating.
Chaotic, always transforming, ever changing, awe-inspiring, terrifying, delicious, pungent, devastating, jaw-droopingly real, compelling, exhausting, dangerous, sublime, enchanting, revolting, magnificent, challenging, refreshing, frightening, unimaginable, surprising, beyond our ability to express, and yet this Chaos of which we are ONE, is home.
So, welcome home. Take and eat. Taste and see. For it is, in the words of our ancestors, good, very good. And be prepared, because the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, lives and dies, over and over again. For we dear family are the people of the resurrection. We are the ones who proclaim, “God has died. God is risen. God will come again and again, and again.” Welcome home: Taste and see. For God is God. Can I get an Amen?

2 thoughts on “God Is Dead! Long Live God! – a sermon for Homecoming Sunday

  1. Pastor dawn, here’s my amen. Your comments on John 10:22-31 were refreshing, insightful, and uplifting. I’ve recently read Bishop Spong’s commentary on John’s gospel. I found your sermon consistent with all I learned in that book. Your sermon provided solas for one starving soul. Thank you for your gift.

  2. It is always a fulfilling experience to worship at Holy Cross and hear Pastor Dawn Hutchings. She is one of the most gifted speakers among us. This sermon spoke to me personally as do many of her sermons. Her sermons are some of the best in North America. Pastor Jon Fogleman

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