This sermon was delivered at Wallace UMC on Oct. 7.
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
First, I want to share a video with you, that attempts to answer a question: What would it look like if the world was a village, reduced to 100 people?.
When you put stuff like this in perspective, it does many things. First, when I read these statistics, I was floored, and also, I was humbled. I bet that many of you are too. It gives us an opportunity to be thankful for what we have, and to appreciate how very diverse and different this little planet we live on is. At the same time it’s a bit of an exaggeration; of course if the world only had 100 people, things might be different in the way we do things, but maybe not.
The truth is, the world is much bigger than 100 people. The population now is somewhere around oh, say, 6.8 billion people. That’s a lot of people, my brothers and sisters, which is why I didn’t hit you with that figure first. Also, there’s a lot of other circumstances as well, and dealing with that many people on that big a scale is far more difficult than just 100 people in a village. But despite the large size, the percentages remain the same.
Now I hear me out: I’m not here to lay a major guilt trip on you. Nor do I expect this church of about 35 to 40 people on any given Sunday to have the ability to solve all the world’s problems—we have enough problems on our plate as it is, and so does every family in here. But the point of that was not for guilt, but to open our eyes. It is really easy to just focus on our own problems, be it just in our household, or even just in our community. There are a lot of problems out there to work on, there is no shame in addressing them. This country, as we all well know, is a broken, divided, and hurting country, and there is much to be said for worrying about it.
Today, however, is World Communion Sunday, and I bet some of you all are wondering, what the heck is World Communion Sunday about? What makes today so special? Well, let me to tell you. The first Sunday in October has become a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. On that day, we remember that they are part of the whole body of believers. It actually started in the Presbyterian Church in 1936, and then became an ecumenical, multidenominational movement in 1940 by what was then the Federal Council of Churches, and is now the National Council of Churches. It is celebrated by many various denominations that recognize the sisterhood and brotherhood of Christ above and beyond our many divisions. That’s what we get to participate in today, and that’s why I’m talking to you about the global context.
It’s not often that we get to talk about the context of Christianity, but that’s exactly what this day was meant to do. It’s to open our eyes and recognize that all over this world are our brothers and sisters, living, working, sharing, and praising the God who made us. We are a family of God, brought together by a common joy, a common faith, and a common hope for salvation in this world. There is so much that divides us day in, day out, so much death, so much poverty, so much of everything, I think it’s necessary to take a day and rest in the knowledge that around this whole world, Christians are gathering together to share in the bread and the cup, to embrace the presence of Christ in their lives, and to celebrate the gift of salvation, peace, and unity that gives us purpose and joy in the world.
Context can do marvelous things, and I think the writer of Hebrews knew this as well. Our scripture reading was written by an author who wanted to bring more context into the picture, so that the people who read it could get a better vision of what is written in the scriptures so that they could in turn react and act on the faith that they now have. But there was a significant problem he wanted to address in it: How do we take into account the life of Jesus in context with the Old Testament? How does the story fit together? What happens to the old covenant once a new covenant is in place?
The author starts by acknowledging the situation: Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets. God used prophets to get his message to us, the message of love, the message of justice, of forgiveness and of mercy—really, the message of salvation. But there’s something at issue with this. The message was obviously either not getting out right, or the message wasn’t being heard right. In either case, the result is that the people were not getting the message.
So in the fullness of time God in God’s wisdom sent to us Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, so that we may hear directly from God the message we needed to hear. The importance of Jesus’s divinity is front and center. He’s the very reflection and imprint of God! God incarnate! God in Human flesh! And the fact that God would come to us as one of us is nothing less than the truest expression of God’s love for all creation, because when Jesus came to us, the old way of doing things could not continue. No longer was salvation only given to Israel, no longer was it reserved for just a portion of the people of the world, but for all the people of the world. The walls were broken down, and the good news was given to us.
Now, if all Jesus did was come to us and give us the good news, it might have been sufficient, but it turns out it wasn’t. The world is too damaged for Jesus to have gotten through it unscathed. The fact is, the world didn’t know what to do with Jesus, the good shepherd, the prince of peace. And in the process, Jesus managed to make the wrong people angry. For his good work, for his saving message, Jesus, God incarnate, fully human and fully God, was made to suffer. He suffered from poverty. He suffered from violence and persecution. He suffered from hunger and thirst, and he suffered from death on the cross. Jesus suffered as any human could have suffered, in solidarity with the suffering, he died. But the good news is, that suffering was not in vain, because 3 days later he arose from the grave, and defeated sin and death. He conquered suffering and pain and surpassed it, and through that offers us a hope for resurrection ourselves.
In all these things, God had one mission and one goal, and that was bring salvation to the world by drawing the world closer to him. In taking on the suffering of humanity, God defeated it and in doing that offers salvation and divinity to the world in its place. God drew near to us, and became like one of us. The end result of this is now, because of Jesus coming into the world, all men and women, all people on this earth, are brothers and sisters in Christ. I love the way Hebrews puts it: It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should be made the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one father. For this reason, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!
In the end, we became a part of God’s family, and all who share in the body and blood of Christ shall become the body redeemed by his blood. All of us. Every single person. We are brothers and sisters. And I think it’s high time we started acting like it, learn about our family, and love each other like a family.
I love this church. Ever since I got here, it has been made very evident to me that this is a family. We treat each other like family, we love each other like family, and we eat like a family. It’s one of the highlights of the month to have the family dinner night once a month where we can just relax and enjoy the richness of fellowship and brotherhood and sisterhood at the table together. But like every family, we aren’t perfect, but we try the best we can. If only I could say the same for the church at large. The body is not perfect, we’ll have squabbles and fights and such, but beyond all that we must remember that we are a family, and we should celebrate that fact.
Through Christ, we have been given a family that goes beyond the barriers of blood and genetics. The family of God goes beyond households, beyond church walls, beyond cities, beyond counties, beyond nations, and even beyond continents. The bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood transcend all political lines, all borders, all boundaries. Christians around the world are celebrating the victory of Christ our Lord over death and sin, and coming to the table in remembrance of the grace that God has given all people through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
So I want to challenge you now. I’ve given a few statistics, and hopefully, some perspective on our place in the grand scheme of the world. The world may be more than just a village of 100 people, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t show love to the world, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, just because we don’t know them. Knowing that we are family should be enough for us to think about what we can do. On the bulletin are some links to several websites that, if you feel called to it, you can learn more about what United Methodists are doing to share the love of Christ with our brothers and sisters in the world. United Methodists are an active force in this world for good, helping to end hunger and poverty worldwide. If you have the chance, look them up. If not, talk to me, and I can get you in touch with people to learn more.
I know we have a lot on our plate right now, but being generous with what God has given us is part of what God has called us to do. We can help. We won’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can help.
Beyond that though, what we can do is enter into this time of Holy Communion with one another, in remembrance of Christ our Lord. In breaking the bread and drinking the cup, we share in the fellowship of the Father, Son and of the Holy Spirit more fully and more beautifully than at any other time. God is here among us, and is present throughout the entire world with all the people sharing in communion as well. We are a family, and when we gather at the table, we actually start looking like one. Let us remember that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. Neither should we.