Sermon by Alex Stayer-Brewington, Associate Pastor for Youth & Families
I don’t think you’ll disagree when I say that we are living in dark times.
Fires rage. Thousand-year-floods occur every September.
Guns in schools. Guns in churches. Guns in nightclubs.
Nazis marching in the in the streets of American cities.
Things aren’t looking good.
All this is enough to inspire a young youth pastor
to stick his curly head in the sand.
Like an ostrich, I would rather shut out the ugliness than deal with it.
I’d rather find escape and distraction in the black hole of Netflix,
than subject myself to the horrific reality of the 24-hour news cycle.
So like many Christians before me and no doubt many after me,
I try to take comfort in a timeless set of stories.
I find escape in stories that carry the promise of a better tomorrow.
Stories that describe peace and prosperity –
an age where the concerns of our century seem frivolous and childlike.
an age where all of Earth has united and our differences set aside.
I’m talking of course, about “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
(what did you think I meant?)
That’s right! Star Trek!
The voyages of the starship Enterprise –
whose mission is to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no one has gone before.
I like watching Star Trek because in times such as these,
I need something hopeful to look to.
I need to spend time considering a world
where curiosity and courage are valued more highly than pride.
Where mutual understanding takes priority over being right,
and respect is more important than power.
Star Trek is an inspiring show!
It’s a great break from the news,
I think that it makes me a better Christian.
Even in my escape, God finds me and reminds me that we have work to do.
Let me tell you what I mean.
Star Trek, and a number of other science fiction and fantasy stories,
help me to imagine a better world.
I read about teleporters and spaceships,
and I start to remember that there are new possibilities.
New ways of living are possible!
There is a playfulness and freedom in science fiction and fantasy.
These stories are unburdened by the rules and constraints
of life as we know it.
And so, there is something miraculous about them.
Star Trek reminds me that things don’t have to be the way they are.
They may seem like fantasies today,
but the solution to every problem begins with an idea – a dream.
Solutions to the problems of the world:
disease, war, poverty, addiction, injustice of every kind
must be met with imagination.
And imagination stems from hope.
And hope – of course – comes from faith.
Today, is Christ the King Sunday –
the day where we proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
It’s the day where we remember that Jesus was not just a healer,
he not just a Jewish teacher with a vision for how to live a good life.
Today is the day when we remember that Jesus is Almighty,
the Alpha and the Omega – ruler over all kings of the earth –
and Lord of the Universe.
It’s a day to remember the Sovereignty of God –
a day to remember that God is in control.
Jesus is Lord.
God is in control.
Radical and even…fantastic…claims
in a time when there is so much that is so obviously wrong with the world.
Fire and floodwaters destroy
regardless of whether you’re a good person or not.
Car accidents and incurable diseases take loved ones far too soon.
Even those of us who somehow manage to avoid dramatic tragedy
often find modern life to be full of anxiety and worry.
Nothing – is as it should be.
So I ask you to consider this morning –
(PAUSE – Don’t forget to slow down)
What does it mean to assert that God is in control,
when all evidence indicates otherwise? (repeat)
It may comfort you to know that this is not a new question.
Christians have wondered this from the beginning.
What’s more – it’s a question that we inherited from our spiritual ancestors.
So much of the Hebrew Bible – what we call the Old Testament –
is about trying to figure out what it means to worship God in hard times.
The Book of Daniel that we read from today
is a document from a time very much like our own.
It was written by Jews living in Babylon –
captives forced to leave their home and take up residence in a new place.
The hero of the book – Daniel – is a boy taken into captivity as a child.
The book chronicles his wisdom and resilience in the face of adversity.
Daniel’s wit, courage, and imaginative insight are meant to offer encouragement and inspiration in uncertain times.
Like us, Daniel lived in a day
when it was frequently difficult to see God at work in the world.
Like us, Daniel wrestled to reconcile what his faith told him:
God is in control.
And what experience made clear:
The world is frightening. The world is broken.
And so, Daniel too lived in time desperate for change.
Daniel lived in a time where imagination was necessary.
We hear it in the way he wrote. Listen!
“As I watched – thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne…His throne was fiery flames, and it’s wheels were burning fire…A thousand thousands served him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.”
Daniel’s prophetic is the stuff of fantasy.
It’s surreal! It’s the stuff of science fiction.
His writings are the desperate and creative words
of a man seeking to inspire.
In the face of disorder and violence he writes:
“To God was given dominion and glory and kingship…
God’s dominion is everlasting…a kingship that shall never be destroyed.”
This is the kind of assertion that requires faith.
If you’re paying attention to the state things are in,
it takes courage and hope to proclaim that in spite of everything
Jesus is Lord.
In spite of illness, Jesus is Lord.
In spite of violence, Jesus is Lord.
In spite of hatred, Jesus is Lord.
In spite of worry, Jesus is Lord.
My dear siblings,
Christ is King and we are his subjects.
So what will we do this week to lessen the distance
between the world as we see it
and the world that our King wants it to be?
In the midst of all the trouble,
where do you see the kingdom of God coming into bloom?
What are you excited about?
What are you hopeful for?
What new thing is the Creator making through you?
There is so much pain in the world,
and as Christians we can’t ignore the pain.
But! We have to look beyond the pain. We have to envision a cure.
So where does your inspiration come from?
Where do you go to envision a better world?
Where do you go to remind yourself that a new way is possible?
Some people go to the forest
to take comfort in the peace of wild things.
Some people spend time with children
and take inspiration from their laughter and their fresh perspectives.
Some people turn on Netflix
and spend time dreaming about fantastic utopian societies.
Some people sing. Some people dance. Some people paint.
Some people look at shapes in the clouds.
Wherever it is you go to recharge your creative batteries,
know that you are doing important spiritual work.
Never dismiss the importance of fantasy.
Because the church and the world
desperately need people who can imagine alternatives to the way things are.
This is where our outreach has to come from –
This is where the church’s mission should begin –
taking note of where our world is out of step with God’s expectations
and imagining a new way of being in the world.
We need Christian dreamers.
Our dreams become prayers.
Our prayers become actions
Our prayers become miracles.
And every action and every miracle,
brings us closer to the world that God desires.
What if no child to had to go to school hungry?
What if no one had to worry about sexual assault?
What if we could move through the world without fear?
These are tall orders. Idealistic propositions. Fantasies.
Questions that seem more like dreams than possibilities.
And they are absolutely worth considering.
Especially for a people who proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord and worry is not.
Jesus is Lord and fear is not.
Jesus is Lord and violence is not.
Jesus is Lord and anything is possible.
Jesus is Lord and his kingdom shall never be destroyed.
Thanks be to God.