“A drink offering”
We are going to vote today, as a congregation. What we are going to vote on is how we will die to the life we know presently and love so much. We know the TIME of our impending “death:” about 2020. That’s the year when, under any of the four options we have discerned as a way forward, the life we know together at Church of the Resurrection will be transformed.
Our life together will be vastly different in 2020, whether or not we choose to redevelop our property to provide affordable housing for our community. Our life together will be vastly different in 2020, whether or not we choose to retain a physical presence in this, the West End of our City, a corridor so filled with human need. Our life together in 2020 will change in a major way, even if we choose to let this mission opportunity pass us by, simply because we, who are already well past our prime, will be four years older.
I don’t know how you FEEL about today, how you feel about having to choose what kind of “death” we will die. I suspect you are grieved, if my own feelings are any indication. Even with the surety that death brings resurrection to new life, we grieve the loss, grieve the change, of what we love.
I wonder if you are a bit tired. Tired of having to work for eight weeks to replace the worn out lights high above our heads. Thank Bob Naismith for his perseverance for this miracle, by the way. Bob and two much younger members of Nueva Vida (Romeo and Galileo) ended up renting a huge cherry picker—drove it right down our center aisle here and spent many hours cajoling our worn out lighting system back into service. I had wondered for a while whether God was trying to give us a hint in our voting. If so, God apparently was saying, “Continued thriving is possible, but takes a lot more energy now than it used to.”
I wonder if you, too, are a bit tired. Tired, for example, of the extra energy painting takes now than in years past. Did you notice the newly painted red church doors today? Bob Noe, Edna Noe, and Emily Ewing spent two days refreshing our doors. And Peggy Tiedemann and Lori Thurgood… Or maybe you are tired of having to think and act beyond our walls. Remember when church used to be only about coming on Sunday to worship God? I don’t think we COULD remember such a time here at Resurrection. The beautiful thing about our church is that we have NEVER been that kind of church, that kind of people. From our beginning 52 years ago we were embedded in the fabric of our community and its needs.
The Apostle Paul, in our epistle lesson today, shared a marvelous description of our identity as Church of the Resurrection and of our situation. Paul wrote, “I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.”
“Poured out as a libation,” a drink. Or, more accurately, “poured out as a drink offering for the world around us.”
We don’t have drink offerings today, do we? The ancient Hebrew people used offerings of wine when they made other types of sacrifices, other types of offerings, to God, as required by God. Jacob, who we heard about last week when he wrestled with God, was required immediately thereafter to provide a drink offering to God at Bethel. (You can read all about Jacob’s turn back to God in Genesis chapter 35, where we learn that Jacob poured a drink offering all over the altar he set up at Bethel.)
Jacob wasn’t the only one who made a drink offering to God. Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a drink offering, identifying his own blood as the libation that would continually be poured out for us. And by giving his life on the cross for us the next day, Jesus completed the sacrifice, which he invites us each week to share with the world.
Paul used the concept of a drink offering to reflect on his life of service to God and to others. He said he was being poured out, and that the pouring was “almost done” as he approached his own coming death with great faith. In this way, Paul invites us today to consider OUR lives—as individuals and as Church of the Resurrection—as a sacrifice, even as we are being poured out, used up, and expended for God’s purposes.
Church of the Resurrection is a potent drink offering to God and to our world. Today we bless tuna, which we will use his year to stock the West End Food Pantry, and improbable endeavor for a small and energy-challenged congregation, an improbable endeavor that begins tomorrow. Today we also bless children’s books, which we will give away this Saturday when we will help feed our hungry neighbors in two ways: through the ALIVE! Last Saturday Food Distribution, and by installing a Little Free Food Pantry on Beauregard Street (a little “mini-me” pantry open 24/7 to the extent that you and our neighbors add canned food so that hungry people can have something to eat).
Are you exhausted yet? We should be because at Church of the Resurrection we are a drink libation being poured for the world. And yet, God (that great energizer), gives us every single thing needed to do what God wants us to do, and that includes energy, improbable energy. So we are energized and refilled to the brim and overflowing by the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus himself, given to us here at this altar. If you are tired, we are doing the wrong things here at Resurrection.
The Apostle Paul assessed his life—as we do when nearing the end of our life. He said, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Paul said he didn’t accomplish these things by himself. Instead, Paul assessed that Christ Jesus was working through him to provide the world with the drink offering that he had become.
Paul knew he had been chosen by God so that Gentiles might hear about Christ Jesus. So, too, Church of the Resurrection has been chosen so that God’s church might be reminded to persevere to “the end,” whenever that end might come and whatever we might become in the process. And in so doing, Christ’s church might embrace whatever future, whatever new life, God is calling us into.