Saturday, August 4, 2012

God's-Eye View

Ordination of Scott Marlin Morey
Fridhem Lutheran Church, Lengby, MN
August 4, 2012
Isaiah 6:1-8 and Ephesians 4:1-16

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Last month I traveled 14,587 miles over two continents, one ocean, involving nine takeoffs and nine landings in jet airplanes of all sizes.

Although I don’t fly as often as some business travelers, I have gotten to a point where I read my newspaper right through the flight attendants’ safety instructions…and I yawn during the takeoffs, the landings and the high-altitude scenery.

But not last month.  Because most of my travel happened in the context of vacation, I actually looked out the window of those jet airplanes and I marveled. 

·        I marveled at the sight of a moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean as night literally descended upon us. 

·        I marveled at the magnificence of those mountains that surround Salt Lake City.

·        I marveled at the green-and-tan farm-and-ranch checkerboard that one beholds from above our part of the country.

Simply put, when you are cruising  between 7 and 8 miles above the earth, you see things you don’t notice when your feet are planted firmly on the ground.

You see things—dare I say it?—perhaps more the way that God sees things.   You finally see “the forest for the trees,” quite literally.

In today’s scripture readings we’re treated to a God’s-eye view of things, a high altitude panorama that permits us momentarily to escape the dirty details of earthly, grounded life….envisioning heaven and earth from the Creator’s vantage point.

So in Isaiah chapter 6, we look over the prophet Isaiah’s shoulder as he stands trembling in the heavenly throne-room, with the Lord “high and lofty,” and angelic beings attending to him, and the smoke and  rumble of an earthquake punctuating the announcement that ”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the earth is full of his glory.” 

Now there’s something we don’t hear or see in our everyday lives—God in all his “Godness!”

And here in our second reading from Ephesians 4, the same high-altitude view of things is rolled out as the apostle sees past all the divisions that appear so daunting on the ground, so that we too-often forget there is (finally!) only ONE:   “one body and one Spirit,…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

When our feet are nailed to Mother Earth we can miss all that.  Our attention to the differences, divisions, and details….can rob us of the “forest for the trees view” that God has—God who is “above all and through all and in all.”

Take a jet airplane ride….survive nine takeoffs and nine landings…..and catch a glimpse of how big God is and how wide and far and deep God’s reach extends.

And yet, even this little comparison I’m drawing between seeing at ground level and seeing from 39,000 feet above the earth….even this “angle” doesn’t quite get it right, because you see God’s angle of vision is another animal entirely.

God, after all, sees the forest for the trees at all times….and yet not without also always seeing each and every tree in each and every forest.   

God’s vision is amazingly “bin-ocular.”   God sees what you and I cannot see:  the huge, broad patterns right alongside the tiniest, most intricate details.

And we encounter that reality as well in these breath-taking texts for today.

For, although Isaiah sees God, “high and lofty” in the smoking, thundering heavenly throne-room….Isaiah is not swallowed up by that vision.   Isaiah, a creature of time and space, is not overlooked. 

In fact, this whole scene unfolds precisely for Isaiah’s benefit, and for the benefit of Isaiah’s wayward people.    A call rings out:  “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”    We need someone down there.  Who will go to speak on the ground for the One whose glory fills the earth?

“Me,” ventures Isaiah.  “Here I am, send me.”    “Me,” we whisper.  “I could do that.  I could be that on-the ground witness.  Here I am, send me.”

This compelling vision is repeated in Ephesians.   For even as we see the forest for the trees—even as we catch a glimpse of what God sees, of who God is:  ONE reality, one God, one great story of God descending in Jesus and ascending back to heaven before descending again in the power of the Spirit…

Even as the fog clears and we “get it” that God is going to be all in all….we are not swallowed up by that vision, our individuality isn’t simply  dissolved into the One who is “above all and through all and in all.”

No.  God never loses sight of us, each of us, in all our intricacy, in all our variegated giftedness, in all the conditions of creaturely, down-to-earth life….because the issue remains the same:  God needs feet on the ground to go for God into all the world and reflect God and serve God and bear witness to God’s glory that fills the earth.

So we have here in Ephesians, that laser-focus on God’s calling once again:   “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called….”

Someone writing from a jail cell (can you get more down-to-earth than that?!) …a prisoner writes to encourage disciples to “lead a life worth of your calling” because God needs you “on the ground,” living and working and being and speaking up for God….

And because that happens in a whole host of ways, God pours out very specific gifts for this royal service, like a victorious conqueror distributing the booty, passing out the spoils of his victory….God sprinkles gifts across the whole world for ministry-on-the ground:  

·        gifts for crossing borders to testify that Jesus is risen (we call them apostles)….

·        gifts for fearlessly telling the truth in a world that prefers to live by lies (we call them prophets)…

·        gifts for making sure that the story of Jesus lives as truly good news (we call them evangelists)….

·        gifts for tending vibrant Jesus-communities with generous care and compelling insight (we call them pastors and teachers).

God showers down all those gifts in order to get the job done—the job of bringing heaven and earth together again, Jesus’ job of breaking down all the dividing walls and creating in himself one new humanity, one new Body of Christ through which God truly will be “all in all.”

We belong to a God of “bin-ocular” vision who, unlike any of us, can see the forest for the trees while at the same time never missing a single tree in the forest.  

And because this God’s love for us is made manifest in Jesus’life, death and resurrection…because Jesus has set all things right in heaven and on earth…you and I can dare to go for this God into our bounded, earthly lives….reflecting, witnessing to, and staking out a claim to this world, for God.

And although that is really and truly something that ALL God’s children are called to do—to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called….it does all come to a particular focus whenever we call, ordain, and install a pastor.

Because we ask pastors to center and invest all their time and attention on tending what we all are called to be about: building up the Body of Christ here on earth, in and through the church.

And this too, is a big picture/little picture reality.   For the “holy, holy, holy” God has called you, Scott Marlin Morey---called you not to work at 39,000 feet above sea level….but right here, down on the ground, in dusty places, among dirty people like all of us gathered here.

For as certain as the “devil is in the details,” even more so our God is in the details of creaturely life, now renewed and transformed in Jesus the King.  

So we set you aside this evening, for some very specific work, Scott.   We lay hands on you to signify that God has laid claim to you to

·        Cross borders to announce that Christ has died, is risen and will come again;

·        And to speak truth fearlessly to persons who prefer to live by lies;

·        And to make sure that Jesus’ story is always told as the good news that it is;  

·        And to tend the church—here at Fridhem and wherever else you will be called to serve—to tend God’s people with generous care and compelling insight;

·        And to do a whole bunch of other things that pastors do, not all of them very “high or lofty,”  but all of them necessary so that God’s people might grow up fully into Christ Jesus.

So there you have it.  This calling to which you have been called should keep you busy for as long as God gives you life and breath.

Count on it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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