Can You Hear the Knocking?
The following sermon was preached by Megan Sherman-Sporrong, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, December 4, 2008.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Listen to the lecture by clicking on the "play arrow" above.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. What do we find ourselves waiting for? Professors are waiting for those late papers to get handed in so they can give grades and get on with their breaks. Students are waiting to check off that last item on their to do list so they can go home for a well deserved break. My daughter Ingrid is waiting for Saturday, which is her birthday party and she gets to blow out candles and have a tea party. What do we find ourselves waiting for? I count down weeks, waiting for my due date to come, and probably pass - and by the way, I have 12 weeks left to wait.
As a parent I find myself reminding my daughter that we can't always get what we want right away, sometimes we have to wait and then I try to give her tools that will help her become better at being disappointed or waiting longer than she thought she would have to. I realize this is a big part of raising a child that is entering the terrible twos. Teaching her how to wait - and she is teaching me the same. She has to wait for a cookie, I have to wait for the tantrum to end before I try for the twelfth time to get her shirt over her head. She has to wait until 9:00, which is when her favorite show, Super Why, is on. I have to wait until nap time in order to get any homework done.
What do we find ourselves waiting for? Every day we find ourselves waiting for things, for time to pass, for something to happen, for someone to show up. But really, what are we waiting for and how have we been taught to handle the wait? Do we get annoyed, frustrated, mad, do we go on facebook to kill the time? Do we blame others or even give up and move on to something else?
Paul writes a letter to the church at Cornith and he can see them getting frustrated in their waiting. But what are they waiting for? They are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isn't that what we are all waiting for? We entered Advent this week, we are in a season of waiting, waiting for the revealing of our Lord. We wait for the coming of Christ, which in the larger picture trumps getting those papers written, getting to the store during the 12 hours of the 75% of sale, and Ingrid, I'm sorry, it even trumps blowing out those candles and the tea party.
We get so wrapped up in the day to day waiting that we forget that there is something greater that we should be looking for, that we should be focusing on. Our days get so busy we can't even hear the gentle reminder of Jesus knocking at the door, a reminder that he is there and we are called to give testimony in his name as we wait for his return.
We get overwhelmed and tired. Waiting is hard work, and it is something that never ends. As I think about my time here at LSTC I feel like it's been one big holding tank full of waiting for one thing or another. I waited to be entranced, endorsed and now I wait to be approved, I waited to complete CPE, MIC and internship, next I will wait to find out what region and synod I will be assigned to. All of this feels like things I personally am waiting for. Frustration comes over me and I find myself saying, "oh, I can't wait for Jan. 2nd to come!" Which is the day of my approval interview. But, really, what is that day going to change? What will the day of my ordination change? Having a bishop lay hands on my head and place a red stole over my shoulders will not change the gifts that are already given to me by God. Jesus will not stop knocking at the door as a reminder of where my focus should be, as a reminder of exactly what and who I should be waiting for.
Paul realized that the people in Corinth are frustrated and they are putting their focus into the wrong place. They are fighting over who was baptized by whom and what ministerial gifts are better than others and Paul wants to help refocus their energy on Christ, on the eventual return of our Lord. Paul does this by reminding the people that God is faithful and that they have the spiritual gifts given to them by God to continue the ministry for as long as it takes for Christ's return.
Get ready and wait for the Lord! Says Paul, but as you wait don't forget that we all have gifts given to us to continue the ministry of Christ until his return. Something from us is required. We're going to have to step up, get to work, prepare, watch, wait, listen for that knocking, open and change.
Our gifts in ministry are not individual gifts that we use once in a while - when it is required of us or when we can stop focusing on our selves and all that we are waiting for. Our gifts in ministry are something that is required of us in order to give true testimony to Christ. Our ministry is not about waiting for others to make the change, waiting for another person to hear the knock, waiting for the world to become the place we envision it to be. No, that is not what we are waiting for.
In fact, it should be the opposite. There is no waiting on using our ministerial gifts. If we wait for a perfect time - it will never come. If we see oppression, we speak up now, today. If we see suffering we call peoples attention to it now, today.
Using the ministerial gifts given by God is not always easy - in fact it can be unpopular. I did my internship on the South Side of Chicago at an African American church. During my year I not only learned about being a pastor, ways to be a leader in a congregation, but I also learned ways to use my ministerial gifts and to not wait for change. I witnessed the south side clergy speak out against racism with in our own synod. I witnessed pastors from all different denominations come together to support and pray for a fellow pastor that was getting very negative news coverage and in turn speak out against racism within America. I witnessed pastors, church members and people in the community come together at gun buy backs, HIV/AIDS test rallies, and anti-violence walks to claim back their neighborhoods. I witnessed pastors organize buses down to Springfield to talk to the state senate about unfair and unequal school funding and speaking against oppression. All that I witnessed was people coming together using their different ministerial gifts to work for change today, to speak out against oppression and suffering now.
Yet, there is still waiting. Racism in synods still exist, minority groups have to constantly remind bishops and leaders in the church that their styles of worship and ministry are not different or unLutheran, they speak to their culture and they should be recognized as equal, not as an addition. There is still racism in America. Yes, we elected our first black president - but that does let us forget that it was only a year ago that nooses were hung from a tree because some boys of the wrong color sat under the wrong tree, that does not level the playing field for all in this country. There is still violence. In fact, Chicago's murder rate is the highest it has ever been with 430 murders - toping Los Angeles and New York. And the south side schools are still not getting the proper funding in order to effectively teach.
But this does not mean that we give up, that we get angry, that we get so frustrated we stop using our gifts to stop being a testimony to Christ by speaking out against injustice and being an agent for change as we wait for what matters most - his ultimate return.
We all have ministerial gifts given to us by God that we are called to use daily. We are not to wait until the laundry is done, or until the paper is written, or even until someone gives you the okay. We are called to use our ministerial gifts to in order to give testimony to Christ. We share with others the ways God has been faithful and we allow our lights to shine through that testimony.
God calls us to act now, to live out our ministerial gifts today as we wait for the only thing that matters - for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.