Date: October 15, 2017
Preaching: The Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 9-11
An act of revealing or communicating divine truth; something that is revealed by God to humans; an act of revealing to view or making known; something that is revealed; especially, an enlightening or astonishing disclosure.
That, according to Miriam Webster, is what “revelation” is all about. Now admit it – when I first introduced the word of the day as “revelation”, didn’t your mind first go to the last book of the Bible? There is that Revelation, which incidentally has more to do with the cult of emperor-worship and its subsequent persecutions of first century Christians in Asia Minor, than it has to do with the particulars of the world’s end.
There is that kind of Revelation. And then there is the kind of revelation Paul writes about in the letter to the church in Corinth, telling them:
You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did – Jesus crucified. (1 Corinthians 1:1-2, The Message)
You’ve got to feel a little sorry for those early Corinthians! They thought they had the whole Christianity thing figured out; they thought they knew where they were headed and why they were going along. After all, the apostle Paul himself was the founding pastor of their church, and they remembered at least some of his sermons. In fact, they had latched onto a few of his key phrases like
- Everything is allowed (who wouldn’t like a rule like that?)
- Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food (seems self-evident enough)
- We have knowledge (that would make them feel special)
- Celibacy is the way to go (okay, so maybe not that last one!)
The problem, as Paul wants us to know, is that you cannot just reduce the faith to a few slogans, even ones that have the ring of absolute truth. Because faith has to be understood and more importantly, it has to be lived out in a more wholistic manner, and revelation – God’s enlightening disclosures – cannot be understood with a deep transformation of life.
When you enter into the mind of Christ, you no longer see reality with yourself at the center. And whether you like it or not, whether it makes you comfortable or causes you confusion, transformation is not a once-and-forever kind of thing. It is a continuous journey.
Jesus talked about this transformation a lot. He called it the Kingdom of God. It is a counter-intuitive realm, that kingdom. It is a reality where power is not determined by wealth but by love, where status does not determine worth, and where wholeness if available for all. Compare that realm to these Facebook descriptions of our current reality, where the kingdom of the world is described as “a thick fog – large, scary and impenetrable; a seemingly endless system of victim and victimizer, winner and loser, rich and poor.”
Jesus talked about God’s Realm more than anything else, according to the Gospel writers. And he even told us where to look for it when he said “The kingdom of heaven is within you and among you.” Nadia Bolz Weber puts it this way:
When we can identify the Kingdom of heaven sown around us, it’s not just an FYI kind of thing. It is a subversion. It is God peeking through the curtain and letting us know there is a deeper reality present in the world, a reality in which God gets God’s way. It is the light of God’s Christ shining the darkness which cannot overcome it. And seeing where God seems to be insistently, dangerously, gorgeously, and hilariously showing signs of the kin-dom frees us from the false promises of human culture and shows us that which is eternal and true and unstoppable.
So where do we go for this kind of revelation? Should we all pack up our lives and sell our possessions, kiss the family and head for the hills to live alone in a holy and monastic simplicity? No. The Kin-dom of God is within you and it is among you. It can be found in the ordinary, daily, right-in-front-of-your-face revelations we see when we are awake enough and brave enough to notice them. I think it is true, what the Little Prince says in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic tale: “Here is my secret, a very simple secret… it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I have a little game which some of you have played with me. It is a game that helps me remember another important facet of revelation. The game is called “Zoomy, Zoomy”, and it is actually a book which I have taken apart, page by page. There is no writing in this book. It is only pictures, a different one on every page. When you play the game, everyone gets one page of the book. And the object is to work together, in silence, and to place the pictures in a sequential line that tells the story from beginning to end.
Zoomy, Zoomy is kind of like the Christian church in first century Corinth, and in 21st century Portland. Each of us is holding a piece of the story. Each of us has our own little bit of God’s revelation and transformation. But we cannot see the whole story and we cannot put it all into perspective without each other. I need your bit of revelation, and your experience of transformation, in order make sense of my own. Because the kin-dom of God is not only within us. It is also among us, when we keep it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did.
Transformation is not a once-and-forever kind of thing. It is a lifelong journey. And the good news is, God is with us, and Jesus is along for the ride, now and always. Amen.