Oct. 30, 2016 Sermon
Luke 6: 20-31
Connecting with the Ancestors
I don’t know about you, but I like watching documentaries. I especially enjoy historical documentaries. It stirs up my imaginations and I could get sucked into the historical scene I am watching. But visiting historical places and seeing historical artifacts fascinate me on a whole new level. For example, going to museums and looking at historical artifacts makes me wish I could visit and experience the old times. When I went to Versailles and stepped into Marie Antoinette’s bed chamber, or when I went to Auschwitz and stepped into an old gas chamber, the emotions I felt were pretty powerful. I could almost feel the presence of the people who used to occupy those spaces. This is why, as someone who wasn’t interested in history at school, now I find history fascinating. For me, history mirrors what we look like today. We are here with our world looking like it does because of what our ancestors did and how they lived. Recently I read that because our homo sapiens ancestors mated with Neanderthals, we developed certain diseases. In this case, we’re talking about something that happened really really long time ago; this is how much the past affects us. If you are looking for something scary and haunting for Halloween, here’s a headline for you; “Our Homo Sapiens Ancestors Mate with Neanderthals And We Are Stuck With diseases”.
We are celebrating today as both Reformation Sunday and All Saints’ Day, because this Tuesday is All Saints’ Day. It makes so much sense to celebrate these two together because they are both about our ancestors in faith who affected our lives and beliefs. What we read in the Book of Daniel and the Gospel of Luke helps us to connect with our ancestors in faith because our first Christian ancestors listened to the same messages. The Book of Daniel, from chapter 7 is considered important to Christians because the Son of Man of which the text speaks, who will sit at the heavenly throne for the final judgment is thought to be about Jesus. From our early Christian ancestors, we have been taught concerning the eternal kingdom we will inherit; Christians over the ages had the same dream and hope of inheriting this kingdom of God.
The gospel lesson we read today is one of the most fundamentally Christian one, which includes a set of blessings called the Beatitude, the parallel woes that Luke included that are not in Matthew, and the lesson on loving our enemies and treating others as we would like to be treated; a.k.a. the Golden Rule. You can’t get more Christian than this. These are the messages that All our Christian ancestors have listened to, and our contemporaries and we are still listening to. Reading and learning about the Scripture is one way of connecting with our ancestors in faith. As the first disciples listened to the teachings of Jesus, as the early Christian Church members learned the same lessons through the writings of the gospel texts, we are still learning the same lessons on how to live as disciples of Jesus. Just like our ancestors, we are faced with the same challenge to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
This week as I read these verses, I experience a similar feeling as when I’m in a museum looking at old artifacts, or when I step inside a historical place and sense the presence of the people who used to occupy that space. Does this sound like a ghost story? Well yes! It is a beautiful ghost story of our ancestors and us. This is how we connect and communicate with our ancestors.
In today’s bulletin, there is a short document about the Reformation. What Martin Luther did one day affected Christianity forever. Of course, those who followed Luther and left the Catholic Church became Protestants; but the Catholic Church was also affected by the Reformation movement because, after our Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church also went through a reformation process for the renewal of the Catholic Church. Therefore, what happened almost 500 years ago in Germany affected the whole of Christianity. If we know now that what our homo sapiens ancestors did with Neanderthals affected us with certain diseases, how much more would something that happened only 500 years ago affect us?
We are here because of our ancestors; the good and the bad they did. As we remember our ancestors and loved ones who departed us, let us remember where we came from as Christians, Protestant Christians, and members of the United Church of Canada. As Christians, we remember Jesus and the first disciples. As Protestant Christians, we remember Martin Luther who lead the Reformation movement. As members of the United Church of Canada, we remember our mother churches and their heritages; the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Congregational Church. As a Methodist child, I am personally grateful for our Methodist father John Wesley and his brother, our uncle Charles who wrote a lot of Methodist hymns (including “O For a Thousand Tongues” that we sang today). I am grateful for the Methodist theology that taught our Untied Church of Canada to fight for social justice. I am proud of where I and we come from as Christians, and grateful for our ancestors.
Of course, being proud and appreciative of our Christian ancestors doesn’t mean they were perfect. Let us not forget the Crusades of the Medieval Age. Let us not forget the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the Christian Church. When we honor our ancestors, what we need to do is learn good lessons from them and reject the bad examples they showed us. The teachings of the gospel as we have heard from the time of the first disciples are the good lessons we should learn and perpetuate. Let us connect with our ancestors through the gospel text we read today and participate in our ancestors’ struggle to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us; to treat others as we would like to be treated. Let us be grateful for all who paved roads for us today, learn from them, and continue the legacy of the Christian teachings of love, humility, compassion, and justice.
Rev. Sunny Kim