So growing up I did absolutely everything in my power not to participate in the classroom. Of course you learn some tricks along the way: first, you have to resist the temptation of talking to your classmates; that’s a guaranteed call-on by the teacher for nothing short of pure embarrassment. But also, evidently if you act like you’re feverishly taking notes or act as if you’re obsessively concentrating on whatever’s written on the chalkboard, teachers don’t want to mess up even the possibility that you’re actually paying attention to what they’re doing. And yet, by far the most important thing you can ever do as a student is under no circumstances whatsoever do you ever make eye contact with the teacher. Do that and you’re begging to be reeled in for an answer.
Now obviously I’m not the only one who’s come up with all this. It just comes with the territory in the classroom setting that students learn these not-so-insider tricks as well as they would any assigned memorization. For a while I did everything I could to master them because I didn’t have enough confidence in myself. I didn’t think I was smart enough to answer anything the teacher asked. And, of course, I couldn’t risk being wrong, because that, for sure, docks you social status points amongst friends.
However, over time I still refused participation because I thought I did come around to finally knowing not just some, but all the answers. I was too good to waste my time with whatever the teacher was trying to talk about in the moment. Instead, I had to work ahead on the next day’s homework or another class project. Then again that couldn’t top the satisfying enjoyment of hearing the others’ half-intelligent attempts to the teacher’s questions and turning out to be unbelievably wrong, leading me to feel so incredibly proud of myself. The arrogance…still embarrassing to think about.
And yet how often do we fall into that trap as the church, sitting back in silence as our default response to our neighbors and the world in its struggles desperately trying to find their own answers. Nevertheless, we remain silent because we think we’re too good in our own devotion to God or all-around work ethic to have to help those who aren’t worthy of even of our effortless voices, let alone our dedicated hands. Or perhaps the silence is because we think we don’t have enough to help. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough charisma. We don’t have enough confidence. We don’t have enough skills. Surely, somehow, someway, someone else with enough of all that will help those others in need. That’s what our prayers are for, aren’t they? We pray that God will find someone else to take care of finding the answers, of raising their hand and stepping up to the chalkboard of the world and drawing up the plan that will save the rest of them. Certainly God will find a way to take care of all that.
Except there’s that very first verse of the very first reading we heard this morning that can be so easily overlooked, especially when you have Jesus turning water into wine. Clearly that’s much more exciting and interesting to talk about. Nevertheless, the first verse from Isaiah calls us out: “I will not keep silent…I will not rest.” His people were in turmoil, there was suffering all around him, there were his neighbors being taken advantage of: “I will not keep silent…I will not rest.”
Never since the beginning when God lifted the church up through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has God desired any community of faith to be silent, to rest for long periods of time. That’s not in our pedigree from a nailed-in cross and an earth-shattering empty tomb. We are children of a God Who is constantly active in still redeeming the world, in still lifting up the downtrodden, and constantly raising up people just like us to continue the very ministry that our Savior brought to the world. We are called-on children of God in a constantly active classroom: students filled with the Holy Spirit, not so that God can simply fill our brains with Bible chapter and verse knowledge, but to instigate our passions, make our creativity and love thrive, so that we may boldly raise our hands to serve.
We may not necessarily be able to end poverty and homelessness and hatred among the children of God all by ourselves. But God has blessed us with more than enough to still serve nonetheless. We write a card to those who serve in the military. We call our sisters and brothers in Christ who are homebound, who so desperately miss being here. We visit people in the hospital and the nursing home. Those seemingly miniscule holy class projects in Christian discipleship can dramatically alter a person’s entire day and week and beyond, because they may not be strong enough to raise their hand anymore. They may not have the endurance to walk to the chalkboard any longer in service to their community. But we are; so we’ll do it for them. We’ll do it in honor of them, of what they have done for us. We’ll do it because they, fellow classmates, along the way ended up teaching us too. They helped us find our answers to questions from our own personal problems and wonderings about the faith.
We have too much to offer to simply hope God will call on somebody else. We can try to act as if we’re feverishly reading through Scripture, as if we’re too busy trying to figure out what the Bible has to tell us to before trying to actually go out and do the whole loving thy neighbor as thyself thing. We’ll try to avoid direct eye contact with a cross that sets us free from our own sin and death to instead to be obsessed with love and service to the world.
But God nevertheless will keep on the instigating, the whole invigorating the Holy Spirit within us, because that Holy Spirit does not take silence very well, nor is it satisfied with rest. There’s too much love to share. There’s too much hope to keep to ourselves. There’s too much God active in the world, the same God Who saved us and the world and set us free from sin and death then, now, and forevermore. And for that we give thanks to this God of everlasting life! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon