August 4, 2019

2019 August 4 Order of Service

Audio contents:

:00-5:13      “Bethena – A Concert Waltz” by Scott Joplin, Sandy Ruff and Matt Thompson-Aue
5:13-8:35     Scripture Readings
8:35-19:18   Sermon, “The Best of Plotters”
19:18-22:24 Hymn: You Satisfy the Hungry Heart

We are the night ocean filled
With glints of light. We are the space
Between the fish and the moon,
While we sit here together.
–Rumi

Psalm 107:1-9

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.

To My Son, Unknown
I will not say to you, “This is the Way; walk in it.”
For I do not know your way or where the Spirit may call you.
It may be to paths I have never trod or ships on the sea leading to
unimagined lands afar,
Or haply, to a star!
Or yet again
Through dark and perilous places racked with pain and full of fear
Your road may lead you far away from me or near—
I cannot guess or guide, but only stand aside.
Just this I say:
I know for every truth there is a way for each to walk, a right for
each to choose, a truth to use.
And though you wander far, your soul will know that true path when
you find it.
Therefore, go!
I will fear nothing for you day or night!
I will not grieve at all because your light is called by some new name;
Truth is the same!
It matters nothing to call it star or sun—
All light is one.

Colossians 3:1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Qur’an 8:27-30
O you who believe! Betray not God and the Messenger, and betray not your trusts knowingly. And know that your property and your children are only a trial, and that God—with Him is a great reward. O you who believe! If you reverence God, He will make for you a criterion, and absolve you of your evil deeds, and forgive you. And God is possessed of tremendous bounty. And remember when those who disbelieve plotted against thee, to capture thee, or to slay thee, or to expel thee. They plotted, and God plotted. And God is the best of plotters.

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

But Jesus said to him, “Mister, who appointed me your judge or arbiter?”

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on guard against greed in all its forms; after all, possessions, even in abundance, don’t guarantee you life.”

Then he told them a parable:

There was a rich man whose filed produced a bumper crop. “What do I do now?” he asked himself, “since I don’t have any place to store my crops. I know!” he said. “I’ll tear down my barns and build larger ones so I can store all my grain and my goods. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty put away for years to come. Tae it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you. All this stuff you’ve collected—whose will it be now?”

That’s the way it is with those who save up for themselves, but aren’t rich where God is concerned.

The Best of Plotters

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

Over the past year, I have heard that sentence from the Qur’an quoted often. It is a sentence of hope and trust. While the greedy scheme and plot to oppress others, ultimately, there is a bigger plan at work. Do not despair on account of the wicked. Their plotting and scheming will not be the final word. Truth, goodness, justice, integrity, honesty, love, will be victorious. That is the promise of the Qur’an. It is the promise of the Gospel. It is the promise of the Torah. It is the promise of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Lotus Sutra, the Nag Hammadi library. It is the promise of every spiritual tradition.

This walk through the valley of the shadow of death is not the last walk for humanity. Even during the darkest times, the most bleak times, when every indicator points toward the victory of the small-minded and the violent, there is God plotting still. Interpret that in whatever way makes sense to you, but ultimately, it is a call, a summons, to face this day with the assurance that goodness temporarily defeated is stronger than evil, and one day, one heart at a time, our true selves will be revealed. That truth will be love.

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

As we move through the Gospel of Luke for the rest of the summer and fall, we will find that Jesus in Luke speaks often of possessions and the hold they have on us. The power of stuff. The lure of security. It is the desire not for today’s bread as it says in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” but the desire for tomorrow’s bread and next year’s bread. When we start thinking about securing for ourselves, we think in terms of scarcity and competition and loss.

What could be wrong in the parable of the man who had such a bumper crop that he decided to build bigger barns? It is saving for retirement, right? What is wrong with that? Isn’t that a good thing?

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

Sure it is a good thing. Except when we forget how fragile and unpredictable life is.

I don’t think of God literally in terms of a divine being plotting and making supernatural decisions about who is going to die today and succeed tomorrow. I think of all conversation about the words and deeds of God as parable. How else can we speak of the ineffable except by parable?

I don’t think of God in this parable by Jesus as reflecting the way things work. That God punished this guy for arrogance or whatever and took his life. No. It is a parable that invites us to consider what life is about. What is my life about? What is your life about?

Given the uncertainty of life (and how can any of us regard life in any other way), how do we live it? Given that anything can happen to anyone of us today, tomorrow, or the next that will change our lives dramatically, in what do we put our trust? What do we work for? What do we advocate for? What do we do with our breath, our life-spirit, our energy, intelligence, imagination and love? Do we spend it on bigger barns? Do we spend it on securing for ourselves a store of possessions so that we might be happy someday?

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

I have read that the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago set humans ultimately on the path toward destruction. Agriculture created surplus. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings always had enough. They hunted. They gathered. Nature provided. But with the invention of agriculture, came surplus and storage and management and an aristocracy.

The Leavers became the Takers. I won’t go into it all, but I will recommend the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

Thus we are. Can we save humanity from ourselves?

Can God, the best plotter save us from the plotter within?

I am going to go out on a limb and say, “Yes.” Even as I have no conception on how that might happen.

Sometimes I think to myself, “What an amazing thing to be alive now.” No matter what happens today, tomorrow or the next, I did experience this. Sometimes I have to step back and try to silence my ego and its need for security and for whatever else it desires, and see if I can just observe honestly what is happening.

To try to be truthful about what I see and hear rather than allow fear to silence what I see and hear. It is not easy. Although maybe it is for some. While on one hand, anyone with eyes to see, can see that we are on a perilous path to extinction from our own hand. World War 3 with full-blown nuclear destruction appears to be the final solution for the powers that be to save themselves. They are plotting our end as we worship this morning.

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

Is God, the real God, not a fiction of religion, but a God of reality, the Source that really is also plotting? Is something within, beyond also at work here? Is there an escape? Is there a great turning? Is there a shift in consciousness? Is there an enlightenment that might yet save us in the final reel of this Hollywood movie that is civilization on the eve of its demise?

As humanity builds its bigger barns for all its crap that we have taken out of Earth, processed through a consumer economy, have temporarily housed in barns before it all goes to the rummage sale and then the trash heap, is there a future for another way? Obviously, we are unable to sustain this barn building enterprise. We are reaching Earth’s limits. Amidst this, is there divine plotting? Is there someone somewhere saying something sane? Or is it all political spin and posturing and b.s.?

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

Yes. I continue to go out on a limb and say, “Yes.” There is something sane. There is something salvific. There is something redemptive. There is something life-giving. There is something for my granddaughter and yours and for the grandchildren on the other side of Earth.

It is simply Truth.

Truth has nothing to do with messengers or authorities or identities. It has to do with what is real and how far you and I are willing to go to face it. I am not saying what it is or who has it, if anyone, but I am saying it exists. Every religious and spiritual tradition says that truth does exist, even as each distorts it for its own self.

We live in a time of illusion. Illusion that is created by the plotters.

Ultimately, that has always been the heroic quest in every spiritual tale. It is a tale of the search for what is real and what is true. Truth is the only thing that will free humanity from its enslavement to illusion.

Illusion is cynicism. It is mockery of those who search for what is true. But the true seeker does not worry over the plotters, the mockers, and the cynics and their surrender to illusion. There is too much at stake for that.

“They plotted and God plotted and God is the best of plotters.”

Seek truth and you will seek what God is plotting.

Amen.