Rowdy Vessels

June 3, 2018

Series: June 2018

Category: Faith

Speaker: Rob McClellan

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you. THIS IS HOLY WISDOM, HOLY WORD. THANKS BE TO GOD. Amen.

Rowdy Vessels

          Seasons of traveling soccer and I can still name the towns in central and southern Indiana where I played growing up.  For some reason I can only remember one team name, the Rowdies from Noblesville.  Noblesville may be been an unfamiliar name to you a few weeks ago.  Then one week after the shooting in a Santa Fe school, Noblesville was home to a school shooting. 

Since I had a child later than most, it’s conceivable I played against some of the parents of those kids from Noblesville West middle school.

          Add this shooting to the frustratingly long list of shootings and add them all to the list of intractable issues on which it seems difficult to make progress:  Refugees fleeing death at home being denied entry to safer places, migrants in similar positions being separated from their children at the border, the persistent march toward the wasting of the earth, mass incarceration, unhealed racism, sexual abuse, and I haven’t even touched on many of the personal issues that understandably may occupy most of your mind and energy in the course of your everyday life.  The list surely isn’t exhaustive, though it is exhausting.

          It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of what seems unchangeable and tragedy that seems inevitable.  One of the most disturbing comments after the Santa Fe school shooting was made by student Paige Curry when she was asked by a reporter if she was surprised this happened in her school.  Her response was, “No…It’s been happening everywhere, I’ve always kind of felt that eventually it would happen here, too.”[1]  Nelson Mandela famously said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”[2] We have not treated them well, when they tell us that when they go to school they expect to be shot.  My son will go to kindergarten this fall, and I wonder how soon he will experience his first “active shooter drill,” in which I’m now told kids are taught to throw staplers and books at the shooter to create enough distraction to allow more kids to get away.

          There are some who would like us to raise Teflon.  The Apostle Paul would beg to differ.  He provides a far more fragile and accurate, and beautiful for that matter, image for human life.  Paul says that we are “clay jars,” and that sounds about right.  The imagery is often assumed to refer to ceramic lamps, which carry the light of Christ.  That may not be the only image at work here.  Biblical archeologist Mark Wilson argues that the clay pots to which Paul refers may instead have been treasure hoards, pots filled with coins.  Too much treasure has been spilled.

          Here’s what’s stunning about so much of this violence, so much of it emanates from guns unsecured in the home.  In one study where there was data available about where the guns used in school shootings came from, some 75% came from the home. [3]  There are those who have begun to talk about these incidents as “family fire,” borrowing from the military concept of “friendly fire.”  Friendly fire is when you accidentally kill or wound some of your own.  They call it doing the enemy’s work for them.  As one person put it, when there’s a friendly fire incident in the military, so much as it is possible everything stops and every link in the chain is evaluated so changes can be made to prevent it from happening again.  With family fire, we curiously seem to change nothing, maybe in a spiritual sense doing the “enemy’s” work for him.

          If we think it won’t happen here, I fear we’re simply living in denial.  Someone came up to me after the early service this morning who said they were an ER physician at Columbine.  A year later as they were speaking about the experience someone came up to them and said it was nice they were speaking, but, “it would never happen again.”  Look at the demographics of the schools where these shootings have occurred and then look at Marin.  Many of these communities look a lot like ours.  As our youth director has said to me, if it’s going to happen around here, it’s probably going to happen here.  The good news is, we can stop it, or we can drastically reduce the odds.  We can end family fire, drastically reducing the availability of weapons to those who should not have them for purpose that have no place. 

You see Jesus has an important teaching for us, that we need to be shrewd, creative, like a fox. While the legislative battles remain deadlocked, we can work around the obstacles, being creative and finding ground.  We’re told that there is no common ground, but there is actually a significant amount of agreement on this on a number of fronts.  What if we as a church got creative and changed the conversation?  My guess is Marin gunowners, and we have them here, don’t like to reveal themselves for fear of chastisement.  What if we gave them a safe space, where they could share why they have a gun, whether they’re hunters, they shoot for sport, or for some other reason.  What if we promised not to challenge them, or judge them, or even respond, but rather promised just to listen.  Maybe some of us would learn something new and have some stereotypes broken.  Then together, we could all celebrate a covenant and pledge that if we have guns in the home we will secure them under lock and key.  I know we are a divided people – some people wanted to “Lock her up!” and now some want to “Lock him up!” What if we focused on the guns and said we should “Lock them up!”  That’s a chant on which we can agree, and it will save lives.  Someone else from the first service, a gun owner already said they would come forward and share and someone else still said they’d provide food and help raise money to purchase locks! 

This is a real possibility and it’s our responsibility if we are to worship a God of life. One of the rooms we hope to get out of this capital campaign and renovation is a much-needed classroom for a new children’s program we’re starting, Sacred Stories.  In this program, we invite the children into the biblical story and make them feel save in God’s care.  How can we tell them about God’s safety here, however, if we don’t take the steps to make them safe out there?

Paul writes that we carry the death of Jesus around in our bodies, and we feel that, don’t we? The scars of our world are not distant, though maybe closer to some than others.  Paul also says that we the life of Jesus should be visible in us too, the light of Christ, the treasure of Christ.  We are not meant to be pots on a shelf, gathering up dust.  Maybe we are meant to be rowdy vessels, shaking things up, creating a little holy unrest and carrying the life of Christ into the world.  This is a resurrection life, a life that came back from the dead.  In raising money, we are not trying to build a museum to someone whose dead and gone, but to someone who was dead and came back and promises to come back again! 

Oh, I know we sophisticated folk scoff at traditions that hold to the promise of the second coming of Christ, but it is one of the tenets of the faith, however mysteriously it will look or we understand it. We are taught to pray for it.  Aside from the final greeting, the very last words of the Bible are, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).  It’s not a prayer about escaping the world, getting to heaven; it’s a prayer for God to reenter the world again in a special way and make things right, bringing heaven right here. 

So when is that going to happen? As we’ll sing in our closing hymn, “soon and very soon.”  It’s not a description of linear time; it’s a conviction, “soon and very soon!”  We don’t just wait for it to happen, we help make the way for it to happen!  When are things are finally going to turn?  Soon and very soon!

How can we feel helpless when we have the strongest most creative force the universe has ever known, the very force that created the universe? As Christians we proclaim that the universe was created out of an overflowing of love.[4]  The royal wedding, which I know you watched, was good for more than just silly hats.  In that church there was testimony to the strength of what we all carry around in these clay pots.  Bishop Michael Curry reminded us, “There’s power in love.  Don’t underestimate it.  Don’t even over-sentimentalize it.  There’s power, power in love.”

          That kind of power is what fuels us to say:  

-Soon and very soon we will we stop the senseless killing because we are slaves to dollars rather than public servants. When?  Soon and very soon!

-Soon and very soon we will realize that forcing people into the desert to cross our border so they die or separating children from parents isn’t the way of the cross or the family of faith. Those are Democratic and Republican polices respectively, so on this issue, to borrow a phrase from Brian McLaren, these are two wings of the wrong bird.  When will we take flight on different wings?  Soon and very soon!

-Soon and very soon we will stop cooking this earth, as we realize God’s got something cooking for us in the way of more faithful relationship with the land, the sea, and the air, knowing the poor will pay the largest price if we don’t? When?  Soon and very soon!

-Soon and very soon, we will open our eyes fully to the plight of those who are not white, and the poor who are, all those who have been exploited and abused, those who have been and are disproportionately imprisoned, who cannot find work, whose first question when they get sick is not will I get better but can I afford to go to the doctor? When?  Soon and very soon.

-Soon and very soon we won’t simply sit their with jaws on the floor at the stories of Me Too women and some men too. We will pick our jaws off the ground and systematically change the way it is in the workplace and so many places.  When?  Soon and very soon!

          Soon and very very soon, you’ll be invited to this table where we break bread and pour the cup, where we remember what Jesus did and what God promises to do!  When?  How about now??

          So, come, bring your treasures and your light, you’re about to see the king and the kingdom come. Amen.



[3] file:///C:/Users/rob/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/6PMOZ5P1/Most%20Guns%20Used%20in%20School%20Shootings%20Come%20From%20Home%20-%20WSJ.pdf

[4] See Jonathan Edwards (yes, that Jonathan Edwards) on God’s “disposition in general, or a disposition in the fullness of the divinity of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself.”