Is Fine Enough?


The Rev. Robert P. Travis
Lent 2A Sermon  – 8am and 10:30am  Church of the Ascension, Knoxville TN
RCL  3/16/2014

Scripture Text: Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17


Sermon Text:
Don’t you just love the psalm we read today?
“I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
where does my help come from?”
Many people come to our mountains looking for help,
solace, peace, or at least beauty.
And how blessed we are to live near them,
and to be able to go into them seeking, and finding.
But the psalmist continues, my help comes  from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He looks higher than the mountains, for a greater help.

Last night I thanks to the generosity of some of our friends in the parish, Jackie and I got to go to a concert,
and hear a band that I really liked in the 1990’s,
called the Indigo Girls.
Have you heard of them?
One of my favorite songs of theirs from back then,
is called Closer to Fine.
I liked it so much, I would sing it constantly,
and I think I believed in it.

The refrain goes:
I went to the doctor,
I went to the mountain,
I looked to the children,
I drank from the fountain,
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line,
and the less I seek my source for some definitives
closer I am to fine.

As I thought about that song that I loved so much,
I realized they were wrong,
it’s not the Less we seek the better,
but the more we seek.

Nicodemus was seeking,
with Jesus in our gospel,
seeking even though he should have known better,
after all, he was a religious leader.
seeking so much he was willing to go at night,
probably because he was afraid of what others would think,
if they saw him going to this controversial teacher
by light of day.
He went because he saw the deeds of power that Jesus did,
and he was unsatisfied with simply dismissing Jesus
as many of the other pharisees did,
as they quickly judged his actions
to be different from their interpretation of the law,
but something in Nicodemus tugged at him,
made him realize
“that no one can do what you do . . . apart from the presence of God.”
And so in his willingness to seek Jesus,
Jesus meets him and reveals the depths of his mission
and the importance of the Holy Spirit in that mission.

Jesus reveals to him that it is the Spirit,
giving new birth to our spirit that really matters,
that lets us see the kingdom of God,
That even lets us enter the kingdom of God.
Now that is a meaty bit of teaching,
and its very clear, not vague and enticing
as when Jesus talked to the woman at the well.
not the kind of stuff that Jesus shares with just anyone.
And Jesus seems a little surprised,
when Nicodemus says, exasperated
“How can these things be?”
and Jesus responds
“are you a teacher of Israel
and you do not understand these things?”
So Jesus explains more clearly,
that it’s not just the outward signs that we see,
even if those draw us, entice us to seek God,
it’s being reborn in the spirit that gives us a new sense,
a spiritual sense of what is really going on.

Now I think we all have the capacity for this spiritual sense,
Even Children, though they’re not fully developed,
and couldn’t explain it if you asked them,
have a good sense of what grownups are really following.
And in their seeking they look much deeper than the rules,
we try to teach them, or even than the lessons.
Children learn more by looking at what we do, than by listening to what we teach.
We all know that.

I’m starting to see that Children,
at least the ones I know most closely,
seem to follow more what the grownups they respect desire,
they learn from and follow what we’re seeking.

Given that, I was thrilled when these three young girls,
who are being commissioned today as our first
Junior Daughters of the King,
asked to be a part of that ministry.
They’ve seen these women in our parish,
seeking a more prayerful life, a deeper life of service
to this God who is also the King of Kings.
And they want to seek Him too.
Being a guy, I don’t know what women seek after,
so I asked some of our women this week,
in our Lectionary Bible Study
“what is compelling you to seek after this faith?”
And, not surprisingly they each had different answers,
but all pointed to a glimpse of a hidden Kingdom

One learned from nuns who said “if you learn this knowledge it will be allright.”
But she found that their actions taught her more,
and lead her to find that Jesus
was with her whether she wanted him or not.
One loved what she saw in church,
and wanted the life she experienced there.
One described the pull as something in her personality,
and she wanted to come so much as a child,
that she would go by herself.
One said it was very satisfying, and she was always wondering, how could you not believe?
One said truthfully it was so long and boring when she was young, but with age she has developed a thirst for it.
And one said that she felt a powerful urge,
for a place to express her gratitude.
All of these things speak to a deeper longing,
than just physical needs and hopes for something nice,
something that’s just fine.

And Jesus tells us in another place,
seek first the Kingdom of God,
and this is the same phrase he uses in his conversation
with Nicodemus.
Want to see the Kingdom of God?
Let the spirit give your spirit new life.
Want to enter the Kingdom of God?
Be born from above.
Many Christians are understanding the Kingdom of God these days deeper than just the hope
of eternal life when we die.
Sure ultimately that is important,
But Jesus came to bring us life,
abundant life now,
and the Kingdom of God is what he was talking about.
I have surely seen Christians who have actually seen
the Kingdom of God,
even just a glimpse of it.
Some have even entered the Kingdom of God,
and seem driven by it’s love in all they do.
But all of those people, and myself,
are constantly seeking, constantly reaching for this Kingdom.
It is that Kingdom which we will see
through our spirits when the holy spirit fills us.
This Kingdom we will enter and not just when we die.
That is so much more than just being ok.
Much more than just being fine.

So maybe the Indigo Girls were correct after all,
if we want to be fine,
then maybe we should stop seeking.
For the less we seek our source, our God,
for this Kingdom,
the closer we are to fine.

But fine is not enough for me.
Jesus says we’ll see the Kingdom of God,
and that’s what I’m after.
I want so much more than fine.
Our children want so much more than fine.
These girls becoming Junior Daughters of the King
want so much more than fine.
They want the Kingdom.
We all want so much more than fine.
We all want the Kingdom,
to enter the Kingdom of God in this life!
We will be unsatisfied in our longing,
until we experience even just
a small glimpse of the Kingdom.
And the good news is, it is available to each of us.

That's a deeper sense of what it means to believe.
It is so much more than the passive sense of,
well I believe in Jesus so I’ll be fine.
It’s about ever seeking God and God’s kingdom.
So seek that kingdom here with your whole hearts and in that way believe
accompany others in that seeking.
And especially look forward to how children will follow you in that seeking.
For they know who we really are,
or at least, who we really want to be.

Amen

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