Third Sunday in Advent (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Do you ever feel like a grilled cheese sandwich? I don’t mean a really good grilled cheese sandwich, with gourmet cheese and grilled to perfection. I mean, do you ever feel like this kind of grilled cheese sandwich? (Pull out sandwich from box). Do you ever feel like this kind of grilled cheese sandwich—the kind that’s been burnt and smushed? The kind that’s old and cold? The kind that had to be scraped from the pan? Do you ever feel like that? Burnt and smushed?
Well, if you feel burnt and smushed, the first thing you need in your life is a spatula (pull out spatula from box),, something to scrape you up from the ground.
OK, maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a smushed grilled cheese sandwich, but you have to admit it—you’ve felt like that sometimes. Sometimes when life has really gotten you down, sometimes when life has run you over, sometimes when life just crushed you, you’ve felt burnt and smushed.
And that’s what came to mind when I was reading Psalm 146 this week. I read the Psalm, and I imagined that Jesus is the spatula and we’re the smushed sandwich. Psalm 146 verse 8 says, “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.” Don’t you hear it? “The Lord lifts up” (motion with spatula) “those who are bowed down,” in other words, those who are smushed. The Lord lifts up those who are smushed. And a burnt and smushed grilled cheese sandwich is certainly a sad sight.
If you’re feeling like a smushed sandwich today, Psalm 146 is coming with a lot of hope, the hope of Jesus being the One to lift you up, Jesus being the spatula to scrape you off the ground, lift you up, and save you. “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.” Jesus is the uplifter. Jesus is the spatula. Jesus is your Savior. Jesus saves us from sin, death, and the devil, saves us from the things that smush us.
And whatever is leaving you feeling smushed, pretty much every category gets covered in the vision of Psalm 146, the vision of the Messiah that comes to save people, the vision of the Lord saving all kinds of smushed people.
Take a look at Psalm 146 in your bulletins. Notice all of the different situations that the Lord saves people from. He saves people who are oppressed, hungry, prisoners, blind, bowed down, alien, fatherless, and widowed. In other words, he saves the smushed. He saves all kinds of smushed people.
And it’s not so much about finding yourself in one of those categories. These aren’t the only categories that God is concerned about. This is representative of what God can do. So you feel like you’re experiencing some unique kind of smushness. Well, be assured. Jesus the spatula is coming to save you, too. This list, this list of categories, it’s not meant to cover everything. Instead, it’s meant to show that Jesus is going to save people from all kinds of smushness. It’s about seeing that the Lord comes to save all people, save people from whatever kind of smushness they find themselves in. He is the spatula. He is the Savior of the Smushed.
Saving people from smushness, that’s the sign, that’s the signal of the Messiah. Psalm 146 shows that the Lord will come to save people from their difficulties. Psalm 146 points to all of these ways that the Lord will save His people. It’s a promise of the Messiah; it’s a promise of the great things that God is going to do through the Messiah. Saving people from smushness, that’s the sign.
So then in our Gospel reading for the day, the reading from Matthew, John the Baptist is in prison. He sends his disciples to Jesus, sends them to find out if Jesus is the Messiah.
And John knew the Scriptures, knew the signs of the Messiah, so when the disciples come back with the answer from Jesus, John knows exactly what Jesus is saying. Jesus answers in a way that’s similar to the list of Psalm 146, Jesus says, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” In other words, the smushed are finding hope and salvation. The Savior of the Smushed has come. Jesus is fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament, all of the promises about God saving His people.
What joy John must have had when he heard this answer. What joy he must have had knowing that the Savior had come, that he had prepared people for His coming, that God had used him in the divine plan of salvation. What joy he must have had knowing that Jesus was healing people and calling people to believe in the Father. What joy—and John clearly needed that joy being locked away in prison. In fact, if John was thinking about Psalm 146, he would remember that the Lord would come to set the prisoners free.
Except John was never set free. John ends up being beheaded. So then it looks like Jesus came to save some of the smushed, save some of the poor, free some of the prisoners, feed some of the hungry, but he didn’t come to save all of the smushed. These are certainly signs that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is fulfilling the promise of the Old Testament, but it looks like God isn’t going to intervene for everyone. And that conclusion could leave us really struggling in our faith. In fact, there must have been times when John the Baptist struggled in his faith, wondering why the Lord was leaving him there in prison, leaving him there to die.
And that’s probably the hardest thing about this message, that Jesus is the Savior of the Smushed, that’s the hardest part: we can’t see it. How do we declare that Jesus is the Savior of the Smushed when people are still hungry, oppressed, poor, and prisoners? How do we say that Jesus is the Savior of the Smushed when His followers still suffer? How do we say that Jesus is our Savior when we still get smushed in life? (Solicit answers).
That’s right, our hope in Jesus isn’t just for today. It isn’t just for the here and now. In the here and now, you and I might continue to feel like smushed sandwiches. We might still get burnt and smushed by life. But what we believe, what we hope in, isn’t that Jesus is going to make all of those troubles go away. Jesus doesn’t automatically make our lives perfect and happy. Jesus gives us the hope that one day, one day He will rescue us, one day He will reach down with His spatula to lift us up forever.
When Jesus was out healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, helping the poor, He was giving glimpses of His glory, glimpses of His power, glimpses of the future, glimpses of what He will do in the end. Jesus didn’t come to just make this life a better place. Sometimes He intervenes and changes our things in our lives; sometimes we suffer through things.
But the reason Jesus came was to give us eternal life, eternal hope, eternal peace. Jesus came to be the Savior of the Smushed for eternity. Jesus came so that when we die, we will no longer be smushed, we will live with Him forever, we will live in a new world where we will no longer be smushed.
So in that way, Psalm 146 is a vision of the future, a vision of eternity. It’s not only a prophecy, a promise of what Jesus would do while here on Earth. It’s not only a prophecy, a promise of what Jesus would do for His followers through all generations. It’s a prophecy, a promise of what Jesus will do for eternity. That’s the real vision here.
And that’s what we tell the world, that’s what we tell our friends and family who don’t understand, that’s what we tell them when they wonder how we can call Jesus the spatula when we’re still getting smushed. How can we believe that Jesus will lift us up when we’re still getting burnt in the pan? How can we trust that Jesus is going to save us when we’re still ending up smushed by life?
Well, that’s when we tell people that our faith isn’t just for the here and now. Our faith isn’t just about what Jesus has done for us lately. Our faith isn’t just about whether Jesus is going to make life better now.
Our faith is about the future. Our faith is about what Jesus will ultimately do. Our faith is about not being burnt and smushed for eternity. Our faith is knowing that Jesus will lift us up to be with Him forever. Our faith is for the future. Our faith is for the Second Advent, for the Second Coming, for the time when Jesus will return to take us to be with Him forever.
And in that way, in that way, we get through being smushed now. That’s what keeps us going in the face of being burnt and smushed by the things that happen from day to day. We get through these days, because Jesus has promised to be the One who will lift up those who are bowed down, will lift up the ones who are smushed.
So take your faith with you today. Take your faith not because Jesus is going to make everything work out for you. There are still going to be times when you are burnt and smushed by life. There are times when you will feel like a smushed grilled cheese sandwich.
Instead, take your faith with you today, because you know that ultimately your Savior has come and will come again. Your Savior will lift you up for eternity. The Savior of the Smushed will give you eternal life. The Savior of the Smushed will rescue you from sin, death, and the devil. The Savior of the Smushed gives you hope for what happens when you die. The Savior of the Smushed has promised to rescue you no matter what has smushed you, no matter what kind of smushness you find yourselves in.
Rejoice in the Savior of the Smushed. Rejoice that He is your Spatula. Rejoice that the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.