The walking dead are here, and I love it! and not it’s just because It’s. Trick or Treating in just a couple of hours, and it’s not just because the new season of TWD began this past Sunday. TWD, you don’t know what that is? It’s “The Walking Dead” AMC’s show about a zombie apocalypse.
The Walking Dead is just the latest of our culture’s fascination with the undead dead—with lifeless corpses hungry for human flesh re-animated and peregrinating. What you didn’t know zombies peregrinate? Well I could have also used peripateo. That’s the Greek word, to walk around, used in our passage from Ephesians. In English we, or maybe just some of us peregrinate, walk around, and in this Ancient Greek in this letter, we peripateo —literally walk around in the ways of the ages, the times, the culture—mindlessly, like the walking dead, just going about life, unable to escape this world.
Sin that is pictured here is bigger than just breaking a couple of commandments. It’s all the princes and principalities at work, it’s the system man; it’s the Man. It’s the broken way this world and life is that traps us and kills us. An example might be, so you want to stay current and watch that latest episode of the Walking Dead, or maybe something a bit more worthwhile, maybe the Rachel Maddow Show or something enlightening or sophisticated on PBS. You need a tv right? You buy your tv, or better yet for younger folks, your smart phone. Either way it needs electricity, and we’re not anywhere close to 100% renewable, so you are burning coal to run your tv or your lights or your cell and you are contributing to climate change, and then there’s all the components to our electronics and their transportation to the US from wherever they were made—there may be low wages and harmful working conditions included in the production of the parts and the building of that tv. Another example, you got up this morning, got dressed, ate breakfast. Your clothes were probably made thousands of miles away, by people paid very little to work possibly very poor working conditions. Unless you grew and farmed all of your breakfast it’s probably been well processed and traveled long distances, and who among us peregrinated here? Some took the bus, but just about all of us, got in our own little cars and drove here. Don’t get me started about that. The thing is the way this world is set up you can do very little to not contribute to consumerism and climate change and some industrial international complex. and it’s all a big ugly horrible mess we are a part of. Most people don’t think about it. Most don’t even want to. And if we do, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it as we perigrinate, march, tip toe, or simply stumble through this life like a zombie.
Which is probably what I looked like just a few weeks ago, around mile 17 or so of the Twin Cities Marathon. By that point, my exertion induced asthma meant I couldn’t run; I’d been already been walking for several miles, but somewhere around mile 17 or 18 at that point I wasn’t even sure where I was along the course, at that point a fellow runner/ ok back of the packer thought (maybe it was my eerie resemblance to the walking dead at that moment) she should check in with me, and I discovered that I couldn’t quite talk and walk. I wasn’t moaning, just wheezing a wee bit, and that’s when I experienced this thing called grace. It wasn’t anyone coming up, offering a shoulder, and saying, “hey, let’s do this together.”
No, a big yellow school bus, that picked me up and drove me to the finish. When I couldn’t make it, that big yellow bus saved me. Sure it was humbling; sure I had to let go of some pride, a medal, a t-shirt, even the chance to win a pair of Brooks running shoes (and if you know how cheap I am, always looking for a bargain a steal—that was a big deal). But lately for me God looks like a big old yellow school bus, because that’s what grace looks like to me.
Of course, I’m pretty sure that Martin Luther would not have described God’s grace, how God makes us cool with God, like a big yellow school bus. But almost 500 years ago when Martin Luther read these words, and others in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, and Galatians, and Psalm 46, Luther heard the Spirit talking about grace. And a great weight like a tombstone was lifted off him, and for Luther God became “Ein feste Berg”. A mighty fortress—God’s grace a place of protection and security. Luther wrote in his treatise on Christian Freedom; Luther wrote about Jesus: “His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.” That’s what Jesus not just shows us, but gives us—God’s love and peace. We don’t have to worry about earning or making our way, or making God happy. All of that stuff, I talked about earlier, God that could keep us separated from peace. It would be like a never-ending marathon with a goal that keeps moving farther and farther away.
For the writer of the letter to the church in Ephesus—God’s love and grace was new life—taking us from being zombified peregrinators aimlessly walking through life or even heading to that ever unreachable finish line to a people so loved and filled with God’s love that now we get walk through life following Jesus and sharing his love all over the place. . The thing about this new life, it doesn’t mean we quit walking. We are There’s no sitting still for us. We are perpetually peregrinating.
That’s why we as a congregation can remember something that happened 500 years ago, the Reformation—we remember the good that came out of it, we remember the bad as well; we don’t have to put Martin Luther up on some high holy pedestal, and the same is true for ourselves. 50 years ago we began as a congregation, an experiment of sorts, in these years some people have felt the love of God flowing vibrantly in us and on the other hand we may have looked as lively as any special effected zombie.
Today we are reminded that it is God’s love and grace (that we don’t earn, there’s nothing special about us) that love and grace energizes us, re-invigorates us, vivifies us so that we keep living, sharing the good news of this amazing grace. Now later this morning, some of us will walk up and place commitment cards in a basket. They are promising to support the work we do together—so that God’s grace looks like people gathered around a table, people praying together, so God’s grace is heard in the singing of our choir and our hymns and songs, so that God’s grace continues to look like a car full of food from the pantry, God’s grace looks like the lights on and a table full of food late on a Friday night, so that God’s grace looks like you and me. Walking the few steps up with our promises is just one way we walk in the way of love, it is for us only one step; it is important, but only one of the big steps that we take to walk in the way of, in the path of love and new life, that shows us and the world around us that because of faith in God’s grace we are not just interested in ourselves, our own wellbeing, what makes us comfortable, what we like and who’s like us. Because of our faith in God’s grace this church loves the Walking Dead, and we are loved to walking a new life of Jesus’ love. Amen.