Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Place in the Choir (Hebrews 11:29-12:2)

All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.
(Bill Staines)

     A couple of weeks ago, PH mentioned that she had heard this song and wondered if I had ever heard it before.  I just smiled and stated that it was one of the popular songs that I had learned in church camp . . . and, that I enjoyed making the noises of the various animals mentioned in the song . . . the cow goes moo, the coyote howls, and the owl hoots.  I also said that it would be a fun one for the choir and congregation to learn.  But, as much fun as it would be for the choir and congregation to learn the song, it would be better if we all learned to embrace the simple theology of the song—all God’s critters have a place in the choir.  Or to put it even in simpler terms, all God’s creation is a part of the family—we all belong.

     I don’t think that there are any here this morning that would disagree with that theology—that everyone has a place in God’s family . . . in God’s heart—everyone.  Think about what that means when we say “everyone”.  It means that everyone—not just those who are like us in the way that we live, think, work, and play, but everyone.  It means that people who are of different races, genders, economic levels, educational level, abilities and disabilities.  It means who think differently than we do politically . . . Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  It means Griz fans and Bobcats fans . . . and, even us snooty Nebraska Cornhusker fans.  It means those people who are there on the fringes of our society . . . the borderland people . . . the people in the shadows . . . the forgotten people.  They all belong . . . they all have a place in the choir.  Together we make beautiful music.

     That has been the theme of the scriptures . . . the adventure of God . . . since the very beginning . . . to bring the family together.  In the stories of the Old Testament we hear over and over again this theme played out as the people of God try to understand their place in the family.  In the New Testament, Jesus speaks over and over again about bringing the children of God together in God’s family . . . that we are all one in God.  And, through the grace of God, displayed in Christ, this is all possible . . . but, grace is only the first step through the door . . . it is what shows us the possibility of what could be . . . what Jesus refers to as the “kingdom of God”.   Getting there is the adventure . . . an adventure that has it highlights, lowlights, ups and downs, ins and outs, and lots of days in which we wonder if we will ever know and experience that promise of God’s kingdom.  Jesus never promised that it would be easy.

     Thus there is a requirement that comes with the grace that we receive, and that requirement is faith.  We have to have faith if we are going to fulfill the call of God to bring the choir together . . . to be God’s family.  Without faith it will never happen.

     The writer of our scripture reading this morning reiterates this over and over again in the words that are written.  The writer reminds the listeners of the story of their journey . . . reminds them of the stories of faith . . . reminds them that it was only through faith that they will succeed.  The writer tells of those heroes of the family who—in dire situations—remained faithful to the will of God.  The writer speaks of the children fleeing Egypt and now they believed that God would take care of them . . . and, God did.  Reminded them of how the battle of Jericho went down with the walls of that city . . . how Rahab, Gideon, David, and all the prophets made it through difficult times because they kept the faith despite the odds.

     Through the history of the people the writer shares stories of faith, but is not content to only look back at old history.  The writer shares stories of faith that are more recent . . . stories that speak of those who were persecuted and killed in the not so long ago past.  Speaks of their suffering and imprisonment.  These are the people they know . . . people who have lived with . . . and, it is their faith that will get the job done despite how terrible life might be and how difficult the journey is.  Faith gets the job done.

     This writing is written to encourage to who hear it.  The journey of faith, as I have said many times, is not an easy one.  There are difficulties that occur . . . there are setbacks . . . there are moments when we wonder whether or not we are even on the right path . . . moments when we feel as if we are alone and there is no way out of the darkness we call life.  Times when we feel persecuted . . . ignored . . . or forgotten.  Thus it is that the writer wants to encourage the listeners . . . to encourage us, to keep the faith.  To keep the faith that one day God’s family will be reunited and restores, that the choir will be in place.

     So it is in the end of our reading that the writer reminds us, we are not the first to tread this path, nor are we going to be the last . . . there were those who came before us . . . those who kept the faith.  Through their witness the listener is called to remain faithful to that which God has called all to do . . . “Therefore,” writes the writer, “since you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Yes, even Jesus is a part of that great cloud of witnesses from which we are to grab our inspiration.

     So it is, we are reminded that we have a place in God’s heart . . . God’s family.  We all have a place in God’s choir . . . that is our goal, that is our inheritance as the children of God.  All of us . . . everyone.  As the children of God we are called to bring the family together as one.  It is not an easy job, but we have before us a great cloud of witnesses who have blazed the trail for us to bring us to this moment this morning.  It was through their faith and faithfulness that we are here today.  Thus we are to have faith . . . faith will accomplish that which God has called us to be.

It's a simple song of livin' sung everywhere
By the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear
Grumpy alligator and the hawks above
Sly raccoon and the turtle dove.

All God's critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.

Have faith and it will be.  Amen.

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