Sunday, May 28, 2017: "Hang On, God is Trying to Bless You!" Fr. Carey Stone



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 Easter 7A’17

28 May 2017
Luke 24.44-53
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone
 
O divine majesty, you humbled yourself by descending from your heavenly throne to experience the pain and suffering of our human existence: Grant that we may experience your divinity by humbly offering our humanity and to ascend in like manner as you did and reign with you forever. Amen. 
 
As bachelorhood ended up lasting longer than I anticipated I decided that rather than wait until finding a wife to buy a house I would go ahead and buy one so I could start building some equity. After looking at several houses I ran into an old friend who said that they were going to be putting their house on the market and that I might want to check it out, so I did. The size was right, the price was right and I would be putting some money in a friend’s pocket so I thought to myself, “this must be God’s will!”  I made a decision but before I could call them and tell them that I would buy their house they called me. 
 
Upon inspection it was discovered the house was eaten up with termites and that they were going to have to spend thousands of dollars in repair. I was disappointed but also felt like I had dodged a bullet.  I heard in what seemed to be that still and small voice within words to the effect of “Hang on, I’m trying to bless you.” 
 
A few weeks later I ran into a realtor acquaintance that said they had a house for sale in a neighborhood I hadn’t heard of but I told him I would take a look. It turned out to be so much better that the other house that I had had my heart set on. Life was so much better in the house than it had been in the apartment! I was able to live there long enough to build up enough equity that would later enable me to pay a good chunk of the fees for my first year in seminary. God had indeed blessed me but it came from an unexpected source, from an unfamiliar place, and at an unplanned time. God saw what I couldn’t see - God saw the bigger picture.
 
In sending Jesus, the bigger picture was God’s plan to bless the world, but it wasn’t going to happen according to the control of politics or religion. The Lamb of God was coming to take away the sins of the world and redeem humanity but in order for that to happen a human body would have to be assumed or taken up by Jesus.  By humbling himself and taking on human form he ended up transforming the whole of human existence.  One of the early Church fathers, St. Gregory of Nazianzus in trying to explain this phenomenon put it this way:
"What has not been assumed has not been healed;
it is what is united to his divinity that is saved . . ." 
 
As we look at the earthly life span of the human Jesus we see that he assumes all of human life from birth, to all of his many temptations, pains, and sufferings to his earthly death, descent into hell, the bodily resurrection from the tomb and as we remember today his gathering all of human existence into his body and taking it up into heaven thereby redeeming and transforming all human life and filling it with the presence of the divine. 
 
The good news is that because of what Jesus has done there is nothing that we will experience in our human journey that will not be healed and redeemed, if not in this life then in the life to come. 
 
There was another dimension to the big picture of the ascension of Jesus. As he left them the disciples stood there gawking into heaven and wondering what would be next and they are rebuked by what appear to be two angels (men in white robes) who ask, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   Up to this point the disciples had been totally dependent upon the physical appearances of Jesus in order to be in the presence of God. They were told to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of power from on high – for Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit. 
 
This was the big picture that we will fully celebrate next Sunday. Jesus tells them that the Spirit had been with them but would be coming to live in them. Now it would be possible to experience communion with God wherever they went because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Like the millennium falcon in Star Wars the spiritual journey would be going into hyper drive.  
 
As the disciples stood there on the brink of this amazing change they must have felt many things but among the feelings must have been a feeling that they had been abandoned. They were in the in-between time with the absence of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit not fully come.  Jesus had instructed them to wait for the coming of the power of the Spirit. God was trying to bless them. How many times do we find ourselves in an empty place in-between where the promise has not been fulfilled and the blessing hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps if we can stay in that place long enough trusting that behind what seems negative is really a positive the blessing will indeed come: “Hang on, God is trying to bless you.”  
 
The Persian poet Rumi in his poem entitled The Guesthouse, describes this empty place that we experience in preparation of God’s fuller blessing:
The Guest House
 
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and
 invite them in.
 
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
  -Rumi
 
Hang on, God is trying to bless us! Amen.