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Sermon: Hydrate. Perspirate. Urinate!

Sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, VA August 4, 2013.
12th Sunday after Pentecost; Year C (RCL): Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Ps. 50:1-8, 23-24; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth Your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

   HYDRATE. PERSPIRATE. URINATE. (Have I got your attention now?)

If you’ve ever done a long haul charity run, walk, or bike ride, you know these words. Hydrate. Perspirate. Urinate. They are instructions to keep you safe, healthy, and able to finish your intended journey. God doesn’t use these words to us in the Bible, but let’s see if they might correlate!

Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” That has been God’s promise from the beginning. It was promised to Abraham, and promised to the early church, and is promised also to the “little flock” of which we have become a part by assembling here today. Faith, God’s baptismal gift, trusts in the promises of God. Have no fear.   We are called to be people of God who hope and believe. 

HYDRATE in the wellspring that is hope of God.               

The prophet Isaiah announces God’s displeasure with the offerings and sacrifices of the people of Judah and Jerusalem who lack compassion. Although Jerusalem was not finally destroyed until 587 BC, by Isaiah’s time the nation had already reached the point of no return. They had rejected God. And God was appalled by their moral degradation, social injustice and religious hypocrisy. Swift and terrible judgment would fall upon all those who persisted in being disobedient and not attentive to God. Isaiah addressed the Southern Kingdom, offering a word of judgment and a call to genuine repentance. The prophet urges them instead to do justice and defend the oppressed. Indeed, if they repent, the Lord promises, sins that are like scarlet will be made clean as new-fallen snow.  

PERSPIRATE! God’s wrath is much to be feared. Sweating is a way to cool us down while releasing harmful toxins from our bodies.        

      In the letter to the Hebrews, we see that Abraham and Sarah exemplify the vision of faith that people of God enact in every age. Their hope and trust in God’s promise allowed them to face an unknown future and to receive the promise of God. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Here the writer remembers the faith of Abraham as sign of the faith of all who seek a homeland. Abraham started, he knew not where, to find the City of God. He also was willing to offer his son, Isaac, in confidence that God would fulfill God’s promise. The faith discussed here is not man’s first unsteady step towards God. It is a life-long attitude of confident reliance on God’s Word. For to have faith is to be certain, not of the here and now and its tangible things, but rather about future things that are unseen realities.           
The Old Testament abounds in examples of men and women (maybe heroes and heroines) who possessed a faith like this, and who lived and died accordingly. God has given us their record. God is proud to claim them as His people and to be their God. They all looked forward to the time when God would fulfill God's promise, yet none of them lived to see it.

URINATE: It is necessary to ensure your system is processing all that hydration and perspiration properly. Without urination, you may, in fact, be dehydrating, and thus dying!

Finally in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples to devote their hearts and minds to live fully into God’s reign. Instead of facing life with fear, those who know God’s generosity are always ready to receive from God and to give to others. Jesus teaches that our real values are where we put our money. We are called to be ready at all times to receive Christ as the bridegroom from the wedding banquet. Jesus teaches about the future, and the way future events should affect life in the here and now. Jesus’ thoughts pass from heaven to that glorious day of his Coming again, which He warns might be to a sleeping world in the dead of night. Blessed are the faithful who are ready to welcome their returning Lord.           

“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” Jesus promises us today, challenging our minds with this uninhibited generosity. Suddenly everything we hold dear in this world is valued differently. Why not sell our possessions and give to those in need? We are being given the kingdom! Why not wait on expectant tiptoes for the Master? When he comes he will wait on us! Like our faithful fathers and mothers that Hebrews speaks of, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” But in Christ our heavenly country, the kingdom of God, has already arrived.

HYDRATE. PERSPIRATE. URINATE. Make yourself ready.

However great the faith was that these Old Testament heroes displayed, they did not realize here in this world what had been promised (Heb. 11:39-40). What God promised was forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God – something made possible by Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and exaltation.           

Sometimes people seeking aid from this church show up unannounced, hoping for help. At other times, they call ahead to see if there's someone here able to help them out. More often than not, the requests involve some form of financial assistance, but rarely have they asked for scripture or prayers. Until last Friday.  

      A cyclist named Marcus called, hoping to get a bible and receive prayers for his trek to a North Carolina monastery. I said, “Come see me.”

Marcus arrived that hot and humid day in full biking attire on a nice 15-gear rig of a bike. Sweating profusely as he walked to my office, I offered him bottles of Zero Water and diet Green Tea to hydrate himself.

HYDRATE. PERSPIRATE.

Catching his breath, he began to share the difficulties of his life: run-ins with the law that lead to jail time in Fairfax and Alexandria, custody battles for his daughter, losing family members and all his belongings in a house fire (that was not his fault), and other hardships. Marcus was down on his luck, but not devoid of hope. His faith was strong. We talked about having little, but trusting much in something that is more enduring. I don’t know what gave him that hope after all his troubles and losses, but I clearly heard it in his stories. Maybe jail ministry changed him. Perhaps the chance to share his stories changed him. I think the chance to cleanse himself was changing Marcus from red like crimson to wool white as snow. 

URINATE. Show that the process is working.

Marcus talked about things that reminded me of being “rich towards God.” I found myself revisiting the parable of the Rich Fool from last week, showing Marcus the painting that I had shared with you. We each wondered aloud about a figure in the Rich Fool’s home. I later emailed Jim Jennet for the answer: “It is a piece of modern sculpture, like a Henry Moore, that signifies his wealth and at the same time the hollowness of mere accumulation: the hole is where the heart is.”

I gave Marcus the bible he had asked for, with my business card and cell phone # tucked in it. I also gave him some trail mix I'd set aside from lunch, and then handed Marcus $60 in cash to buy a headlight for his bike and to buy some food along the way. Outside, I laid hands upon him, praying over Marcus and I blessed his bike. His hope in God had fed me in my ministry, and my hope in him produced God-given gifts and prayer.  

      In his sermon "Hope" from the book "Secrets in the Dark,” Frederick Buechner preached, "I think it is hope that lies at our hearts and hope that finally brings us all here. Hope that in spite of all the devastating evidences to the contrary, the ground we stand on is holy ground because Christ walked here and walks here still. Hope that we are known each one of us, by name, and that out of the burning moments of our lives he will call us by our names to the lives he would have us live and the selves he would have us become. Hope that into the secret grief and pain and bewilderment of each of us and of our world he will come at last to heal and to save."           
Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” That has been God’s promise from the beginning. It was promised to Abraham, promised to the early church, and is promised to us, his “little flock” assembled here today. Faith, God’s baptismal gift, trusts in the promises of God. Have no fear for we are called to be people of God who Hope and Believe.

Hydrate, Perspirate, and Urinate. Let the cycle of life that is within each of us prove that we are functioning!

AMEN.