Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Bodies: the Exhibition, Titanic: the Artifact Museum - A Sermon Delivered on October 4th, 2009

With Reference to Job 1.1; 2.1–10; Hebrews 1.1–4; 2.5–12; and Mark 10.2–16
The Grand Canyon
In these last days, God the Father has spoken to us by Jesus, His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things and through whom also he created the world, including this:

A couple of days ago Jude and I visited the Grand Canyon. God the Father created that through Jesus when He set the earth on its foundations, when the mountains rose and the valleys sank down to the place He appointed for them. Way, way down, in the case of the Grand Canyon. (See a bit of a Flickr gallery here.)

Bodies: the Exhibition
The day before that we visited Bodies: the Exhibition in our hotel, the Luxor, in Las Vegas.

We got a glimpse of the awesome complexity that is each and every human body and the sheer brilliance of the design. We are, indeed, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 139, fearfully and wonderfully made. Not only was the body that was broken for us on the cross made like that. God the Father created, creates and will create every human being who ever was, is or will be, whether born or unborn, through Jesus, too.
Bodies; knitted in our mothers’ wombs, fearfully and wonderfully made, in secret, intricately woven. Wonders like the Grand Canyon, one of the LORD’s manifold works, made in wisdom.
Good things we got to see because we were in Las Vegas.

Titanic: the Artifact Museum
Interesting, that next door to Bodies: the Exhibition, at the Luxor in Las Vegas, is Titanic: the Artifact Museum.
God-given skills and talent, led to the Titanic, a luxurious and technological marvel in it's day. But over-confidence in a fatally flawed design and excessive speed led to the loss of 1523 lives, each with one of those intricately woven bodies; mostly crew and third class passengers.
That wasn’t good. What’s that all about? As he sits scratching his sores with a piece of pottery and in answer to his less-than-helpful wife who suggests he should just curse God and die, Job answers, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
The Walking Dude
In the midst of this wonder and goodness, there is Satan, the one who brought hard times upon Job, and who tempted Jesus in the wilderness, who, was there, tempting and lying in everything that led to the Titanic disaster. As we read in Job chapter 2, he goes to and fro on the earth, walking up and down on it. It’s interesting that the Walking Dude, Randall Flagg, the personification of evil in Stephen King’s The Stand, was based in Las Vegas.
In the midst of all this wonder and goodness, there is also sin.
For example, as we heard in Mark this morning, there is adultery. There is also rebuking, in some way, people who bring children to be touched by Jesus. Today, that might simply be giving “the look” to someone who’s baby is fussing in our service, or just not making the effort to welcome people with children when they come.
An aside
If Jesus says, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them,” and if “the kingdom of God can only be received like a child,” then our children’s ministry must be an especially important part of what we do as a parish. Please consider helping with that. There are lots of opportunities with our Angelic Adventurers, Faith Quest and our Youth. Speak to Jill Rebbeck, who is co-ordinating our family ministry. We need leaders, shepherds, who deal with the children face to face; supplies getters, curriculum preparers, who don’t.
Back to Sin City
So perhaps it isn’t surprising that on the floor below and the Titanic, was the casino where I learned how fast $5 can disappear amid the flashing lights and electronic siren song of a slot machine (once I figured out how it worked—and I’m not suggesting that a wee flutter for fun is a sin—it’s when it gets to me more than that that’s the problem). And out on the strip were the men and women clicking cards at us trying to sell somebody’s daughters and sisters for sex.
The Walking Dude still strolls the strip.
Three Problems
So, amid all life's goodness, my visit to Vegas and today's readings bring to mind three problems we all have to overcome.
1. Satan: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." No kidding. How is he to be overcome? "Resist him, firm in your faith” wrote Peter. (1 Peter 5.8-9)
2. Sin: where sin is the problem, Jesus is always the answer. Jesus provided purification for sins. Have you confessed you sin to Jesus?
3. Bad things that happen to us: take heart from the example Job set. Job’s fortunes were doubled through what he suffered. Take heart from Jesus' example. Jesus was made perfect through suffering. Neither Jesus or Job gave in to sin through their suffering.

Back to Vegas

Vegas? (See a Flickr gallery here). Plenty of opportunity to sin. More opportunity than in other places? Perhaps. But we had fun there. We got to visit with my brother and his partner, his son, my nephew and his new bride, without fear, because the Jesus who is the radiance God’s glory; brighter than the brightest lights on the Vegas or any other strip and grander than the Grand or any other Canyon; the Jesus who upholds the universe in all its myriad detail by the word of His power first spoken in creation and still ringing out through time and space—from spinning slots, bell hops and show girls, tiny capillaries and nerve endings to the Grand Canyon and beyond—upholds it all by the word of His power. Everything is in subjection to Him. Nothing is outside His control.
You can bet on it.