Grace to you and peace...kind of...did you year that reading?
In C.S. Lewis’ most famous Narnia chronicle, Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund discover the wonderland of Narnia through a magical wardrobe. [Any of you, teachers, ever read that to your class? I remember mine did...] And here’s the scene when they learn exactly what kind of animal the Great Aslan, who is able to help them, is:
"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."
Great illustration for today’s text! “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course God isn’t safe. But God is good.”
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. … But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Another great author Annie Dillard puts it like this…
“Does anyone have the foggiest idea of the power we so blithely invoke?...It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”
“‘Course he’s not safe.”
Have we domesticated God? Have we sterilized Jesus, turning him into just a sweet little baby for a small part of the year...and just a nice buddy for the rest?
We’re talking about “something that cannot be touched” -- a blazing fire, the blast of a trumpet, a roaring lion, a hurricane.
Think about being in a big rain storm -- thunder crashing, lightning flashing...
My kids have never really experienced those big ones like we had back in Texas. They used to terrify me, rattle the windows, but over time, Mom taught me to go out onto the porch, and be awestruck at the power. “Course it’s not safe out there,” she would say to me in a matter of words, “but if you think about all the plants that are getting water, all the reservoirs that are filling up, all the washing, all the animals receiving what they need -- course‘ it’s not safe, but it’s good.
Today’s Teacher Appreciation Day -- think for a minute about who your best teachers were. Elementary school, middle school, high school, college, graduate school -- I’ve been reflecting on this for a few days, and I’m wondering (even betting) that they probably weren’t “safe” but they were good. They probably helped you break out of the box, or challenged you...my best teachers -- my grade was definitely not safe...
Friends, we have a God, who’s definitely not safe. Church people seem surprised when they find themselves in dangerous situations. Shane Claiborne -- I was just laughing and remembering the other day -- talks about, “My life was great until I met Jesus...
“I used to have a ‘real’ job, I had money, drove fancy cars, wore nice clothes, lived in comfortable houses, never was hungry. Now I give my money to the poor, serve in rough neighborhoods, love my enemies, and fast from food and excess...”
“‘Course he’s not safe, but he’s good.” This Christ is good, this “mediator of a new covenant,” as our text says, “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” You know what that’s referring to? (Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and anger.)
The blood of Christ, speaks a better word than the blood of revenge, the blood of short-sightedness, war, greed, jealousy and anger.
Cain was being safe -- killing his brother. We are being safe -- hunting down and killing our enemies. But Jesus talks about loving them and forgiving one another. “Course he’s not safe, but he’s good.”
How are you wrestling with this God these days? As we as a nation are always about hunting down and killing the bad guys? Jesus would be a bad soldier, in the literal sense. “‘Course he’s not safe.” A good soldier is safe, and keeps others safe. What do we do with that?
“You have come to something that cannot be touched,” Hebrews says, “a blazing fire, darkness and gloom, the sound of a trumpet.” ‘Course he’s not safe. But he’s good.”
I don’t know that we do wrestle with this God. Why would you wrestle a lion?
The last part of our passage talks about worship.
All we can do is stand in awe, like watching a thunderstorm. That’s a thing about worship -- I wonder sometimes if we’ve lost: we’re so worried about controlling it all. (I’m preaching to myself here!) Is this right, is this done perfectly, is this hymn going to work, is this sermon going to hit home, is this image going to connect -- sometimes we need to just shut up and sit in awe. God’s got this! God’s the primary actor, the one doing the action. We’re all acted upon. Just quiet down and bear witness to the roar! [pause]
And then...after the worship, after the standing in awe. We are changed forever. We can’t go back to how it was before. I’ll never look at a foreboding cloud the same way again. I’ll never play with fire without being very careful. If we really stand in awe, then we can’t help but we changed.
Safety is not God’s concern. There’s nowhere in the Bible where safety is all that important. Think of how many dangerous situation God calls the people into. Think of the crazy things Jesus tells us to do.
‘Course he’s not safe. But he’s good.
And this book is full of the goodness of our God.
It’s around those stories, that grace, that mercy, that radical love -- and ultimately that peace -- that we gather. God is good. AMEN.
Blessing of Teachers
God of wisdom, your Son came among us as a teacher.
Send your blessing on all who are engaged in the work of education:
give them clearness of vision and freshness of thought,
and enable them so to train the hearts and minds of their students
that they may grow in wisdom
and be prepared to face the challenges of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.