Sunday, September 2, 2012

Funny The Way It Is

(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN on Sunday, September 2, 2012, The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17B. The sermon derives from the RCL pericope of the day, specifically James 1:17-27 and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

“Funny the way it is, if you think about it” 
sings Dave Matthews,
"Somebody’s going hungry and someone else is eating out.
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
Somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song.” 1

Of course, by funny, Dave Matthews does not mean humorous. He means something more like fascinating, interesting, perplexing, or maybe even ironic.  

Funny the way it is, if you think about it. Like, for example, this past week’s tropical storm turned hurricane, Isaac. As you know initially there were concerns the storm would hit Tampa and interrupt the Republican National Convention. But then, interestingly, it missed. A Florida pastor, the Rev. Jesten Peters of Keys of Authority Ministries told the Christian Broadcasting Network that her prayer group had beseeched God to spare the [convention] from harm. “We have had lots and lots of people praying around the clock that it would move,” she said, “and after you watch from the very beginning where they were saying it was coming and now where they say it is going, then it has really moved out of the way for us and we appreciate God doing that and moving it for us.”2 Funny the way it is. Of course, then the storm moved toward New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast. There, while people prayed to be spared, the storm became a Hurricane which caused the deaths of five people, knocked out power for nearly a million people, and resulted in upwards of two billion in damages. The hurricane’s remnants then moved northward into drought stricken areas like Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. There people have been praying for rain to come and bring relief for the crops and livestock. 

Funny the way it is, if you think about it. How does God work then? And what about prayer? Hurricanes, droughts and conventions. Oh my! Is that the purpose of religion and religious tradition?