About the prisons we build ourselves and the God who turns them on their side. Preached @ St. Peter’s Comox, July 9, 2017.
Wisdom is proved right by her deeds.
Have you ever found yourself trapped? I certainly don’t recommend it.
Some of you know that I worked many years in a cherry packing house. One of the things I had to worry about was working with a team to physically pick up boxes of cherries and stack them on pallets for shipment. Once a pallet is stacked and wrapped and ready to go it leaves the loading zone. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
One day, however, I found myself in a position where I could not remove finished pallets from the loading zone area. And so we began to play a kind of tetris to see how many finished pallets we could squeeze into a small space. We removed tables and shelves from the area to create more space. Eventually though, as the day went on we had a small pathway to the door, and finished pallets. So we began stack boxes on top of the finished pallets up to the ceiling and the space closed in around us. We begged to be able to remove things from the loading zone but were forbidden and the boxes kept coming.
So I sent everyone else out and began stacking the boxes of cherries from the floor on the pathway to the door up to the ceiling. Using every muscle in my body and all of my energy and effort I fought to keep up with that conveyor belt. With everything that I had I was building my own prison. By the time the conveyor belt stopped there was space for maybe five more boxes in a stack behind me, and my body. When we were finally able to move pallets out of the loading zone the team worked for hours to dig me out.
Paul talks about what its like to build your own prison. And I can tell you its impossibly frustrating because you get ferociously angry about what you’re doing to yourself but you can’t stop yourself from doing it. You are driven by a conveyor belt that will not yield. You are made a slave in need of rescue. What’s more for Paul he finds himself imprisoned not only by what he can not stop himself from doing but by the reality of wanting to do that which he was powerless to do. Paul wants to be with God and to do right by God and wanting that is itself another prison for him. Can you feel that anguish?
Man does God love us.
Jesus’s teaching in Matthew’s Gospel arises from John the Baptist’s imprisonment. John came preaching for people to turn again into the burning of the Holy Spirit that was to come. He came fasting and depriving himself, emptying himself in proclamation of the Kingdom that was coming. For this he was put in prison and despised. Jesus came and entered into the fullness of humanity meeting us where we are, prostitutes and tax-collectors, eating and drinking with us in celebration of the wedding which is the union of our lives to the Life of God: that is the reign of the kingdom of heaven. For this he was hated and rejected for bringing good news of God’s love into the depth of our isolation. And more than the good news of it, he brought its manifestation.
Zechariah proclaims this to a people vulnerable and exposed. They have no walls to defend them and enemies harass them on every side and their former power and comfort is a long forgotten myth. Everything in the beginning of Zechariah’s night visions is extraordinarily specific and then the language shifts entirely a few versus before our reading this morning began. We enter into a bedazzling vision where future and eternal intertwine and Zechariah sees the return of a Davidic king riding on a colt humbly bearing salvation. To this King Israel finds themselves prisoners of hope.
And when this king comes into our hearts, my friends, he turns the prison gates upon their sides. Our chains of capture are remade into a tool we share and yield with God for the renewal of Creation. He call us to come to him with our burdens and chains to receive rest. But this rest, this refreshment is found in bearing with Jesus the yoke of being a disciple. For he invites us to work alongside him and in working with him, in being with him we learn from him who we are and the work becomes liberating and not oppressive.
For this is how God loves us, he wants us to be with him. He sent John the Baptist to invite us into the coming of the kingdom as well as Jesus his very self that we might mourn with him, that we might dance with him, that we might be with him. And so as we prepare to meet in communion with him let us hope to find rest in him, let us lift up our chains that they might be transformed, that we might be transformed encountering his humility, his gentleness, and the yoke he invites us to bear with him. Let us hope to be found in him for Wisdom is shown right by her deeds.