The Hot Wind of Transformation – sermon, September 15, 2013

Year C Proper 19 September 15, 2013

The Hot Wind of Transformation

The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that.

Please be seated.

50 years ago today children all over the country were in Sunday School and church services.  It was 18 days after the historic March on Washington.  Close to 10:30 that morning, twenty-six children at 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, about 5 ½ hours south of here, were going into their basement assembly room to hear a sermon entitled, “The Love that Forgives.” They did not know that Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement.  The bomb went off.  Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14), were killed in the attack, and 22 additional people were injured. The explosion blew a hole in the church’s rear wall, destroyed the back steps and all but one stained-glass window, which showed Christ leading a group of little children. The children were killed and injured because of the color of their skin….

And even 50 years later we ask, at least I do, who kills children in Sunday School?  Who thinks that is moral and right?  While that level of violence was extreme and not condoned by many people, segregation and racial oppression were legal.  Something so many of us now understand as against God’s laws was the norm for much of the country.

Jeremiah prophesies:  A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that hot wind?  I’ve lived most of my life in the eastern United States.  When breezes blow, there is a cooling effect.  Often we welcome a breeze.  Mostly I know positive words for a breeze – it feels so good, we say.

Yet, when I lived in Kansas, I knew that hot wind.  The wind blows all of the time on the prairie, with not much to block it.  Keeping the car in the lane of the highway can be a challenge some days.  There were days when certain doors at the University of Kansas could not be used because the wind was so strong, it could catch the door and bring it off its hinges.  Sometimes, you may hear me say “It is a Kansas Day” and you will know I am referring to a particularly strong, windy day. 

But even in the shade of the few trees that exist, the wind is HOT!  The breeze is warm.  The blowing wind does not cool the land, but seems to draw the heat into it, making the place even warmer. 

Yes, the wind can be used to winnow the wheat – separating what is the good part, from what is not needed.  The wind can cool.  But the wind can be fierce, and hot, and withering.

This hot wind that Jeremiah foretells… this strong wind that does not cleanse nor winnow… is what is needed at times for transformation to occur.  This destructive wind is what is called for… this wind representing the judgment of God… a kind of odd invitation to turn around… a kind of warning that we are lost… a destruction of what we believed was right, blowing us in strong fashion to what is right with God.

Yes, being a good steward…  being a careful and responsible manager of something entrusted to one’s care….means repenting…being blown by the hot wind to turn around… to change the direction in which we are living as individuals and as a community.    

 A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that.

Jeremiah was telling the people of Israel that God needed them to change.  The hot wind would bring destruction… destruction of the lives they were living because it was not in accordance with God’s teaching.  A hot wind was required to bring destruction to the segregation and racism of this Country. 

What hot winds do we need 50 years later??  What evil are we skilled at doing today?  Signs all around tell us we are careless with God’s creation.  Signs all around tell us our economic system needs fixing – that some are excessively wealthy, while others live in poverty and like Jesus Christ, have no place to lay their heads.  Racism and all kinds of oppression continue to exist and to harm all of us.  Governments tyrannize their citizens.  God’s people war with each other, with little regard to the people and the children.

A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that.

We are lost…

And therein lies our hope.

In our Gospel today, Jesus proclaims that when we are lost, God relentlessly and persistently searches for us… seeks us out…leaves the majority…lights a lamp…sweeps the floor…and vigorously pursues us until we are found.  AND then picks us up and carries us home, calls all of the neighbors and rejoices!

Jeremiah prophesies:  For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.

The hot wind comes… the judgment comes… the whole land is a desolation… yet it is not the end… it is the beginning… the beginning of being found… the beginning of repentance…  of turning around… of being carried home.

We can start right here.  What is God calling us to do within our church of St. John’s and within our community of Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties and our city of Corbin?  What is God calling you to do?  Calling us to do?

The hot wind comes, bringing destruction with it.  If we are willing to repent… to turn around…to be transformed, God picks us up, carries us home and “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God.”


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