Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 25, 1998
Sirach 35:12-17 or
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
|Israel restored before the end comes
A suffering people ask for mercy
|66: Praise, My Soul, the
King of Heaven
355: Depth of Mercy
384: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
|God does all that is good
The glory of God's house
|75: All People That on Earth
540: I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
698: God of the Ages
|Luke 18:9-14||Honor in humility;
humiliation in pride
|298: When I Survey the Wondrous
299: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
355: Depth of Mercy
|2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18||At the end of the race--the glory of God!||438: Forth in Thy Name, O
701: When We All Get to Heaven
Being here. Being there. The difference between the two statements is only one letter, but what a tremendous difference it makes! Both, of course, have a sense of "being" or existence. The next word, though, puts a place with it. Depending on where you are, one will be preferable. If you enjoy reading stories aloud with the family in the evening and you are doing that, then "being here" sounds pretty good. If you enjoy basking in the warm sun on a sandy beach near the ocean but you are in a blizzard in the Rocky Mountains, then "being there" would sound a whole lot better!
The passages in this week's lectionary readings describe some of the contrasts between "being here" and "being there" as people of God. "Being here" is the part of the story that involves the human condition. It is separation from God. "Being there" is the part of the story that involves grace and reconciliation. It is reunion with God.
In Joel, we are told that God's people will be restored. They aren't "there" yet, but they will be! In Jeremiah, God's people begged for mercy. They weren't "there" either, but they wanted to be! The goodness of God and the glory of His house are affirmed by the Psalmist. Who wouldn't want to be there? In a parable, Christ related the stories of two men: one who knew he wasn't "there" but took steps to move in the right direction, and one who thought he already was "there" and was continuing to go astray. Finally we find some of Paul's final words to Timothy. Paul was so ready to be "there" that he could practically taste it!
"Being here" and "being there." Just one letter different, but all of God's people want to be "there"--to be with Him. How wonderful it is to notice that the one letter we need is "t"--a letter formed in the shape of a cross. To be "there"--to be with God Himself--requires a cross. It completely changes the meaning.
This week's featured hymn was written by Eliza Hewitt (1851-1920). She was a cousin of Edgar Page Stites, who also wrote great hymns. Hewitt lived in the eastern United States and was actively involved in church and Sunday school programs throughout her life. Hewitt participated in Methodist camp meetings in New Jersey along with the composer, Emily Wilson. The hymn first appeared in 1898. Today, 100 years later, the thought of being together with God in heaven is just as exciting as it was then. Can't you feel the excitement in the words? Read them:
|1. Sing the wondrous love of Jesus;
sing his mercy and his grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed
he'll prepare for us a place.
|2. While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
clouds will overspread the sky;
but when traveling days are over,
not a shadow, not a sigh.
|3. Let us then be true and faithful,
trusting, serving every day;
just one glimpse of him in glory
will the toils of life repay.
|4. Onward to the prize before us!
Soon his beauty we'll behold;
soon the pearly gates will open;
we shall tread the streets of gold.
I want to be "there" in heaven with God, just like Hewitt and Wilson wanted to. Don't you want to be there, too? It only takes one thing--a cross--to move you from here to there.
God bless you--
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|