Sermons on Mark
Mo. Barbara — Introduction We gather again today for our Seasons of Creation worship series to continue our exploration of the relationship between God – the source of all holiness and creativity – the created world, and humankind. Today we specifically examine the relationship of humanity to God and the relationship among and between humans. Now if I were choosing the lessons for today from an ecological stewardship perspective, which is the lens through which the Seasons of…
People were saying all kinds of things about Jesus. People always have, and will continue to say all sorts of things about Jesus. The disciples report on the word from the street. “Some say you’re John the Baptist, come back to life. Others think you’re the great prophet Elijah, returned. And some others think you are another in the line of our great prophets.” All their answers suggest that most Galileans think Jesus is the forerunner of the Messiah. That’s a safe bet. It’s easier to believe a Messiah will come, than to believe one has come. A Messiah yet to come makes no demands, calls for no change. Jesus listens, just taking in the disciples’ report. Then he looks at them and says, “But who do you say that I am?” Can’t you just see it? The disciples’ heads all drop, eyes to the ground, and they intently begin to study their feet. No one wants to be the first to make eye contact with Jesus. Well, there always comes a time when what other people think and say is just not enough. It’s Peter who finds his voice. He has allowed God to show him in his soul who Jesus is, so he breaks the awkward silence and speaks his truth: “You are the Messiah”.
Sometimes I ask God to break my heart with all that breaks his in the hope that I may see with God’s eyes and feel with God’s heart— at least as much as any human can. On those rare occasions when I am able to muster the courage to draw nearer to God’s own broken-hearted compassion— in the face of profound suffering— it guts me, empties me out, and if I endure through this refiner’s fire of love, it ultimately transforms my heart. You know. This is part of the path all of us here walk when confronted with suffering that brings us to our knees.
Because I know that Episcopalians find truth and strength in knowing when and how to take the high road, making the hard choices and seeking God’s truth expressing God’s love to all people, and working toward healing and reconciliation. This was the emphasis at our recent General Convention — addressing the problem of gun violence in our country; standing with and praying alongside the people in the border detention centers; addressing God’s call for racial reconciliation; witnessing to the #Metoo movement and calling the church to own the damage done in her name. These are hard, politicized issues that our church is grappling with and responding to – and yet, we also find truth and strength in claiming and living into the broadness of God’s love, which means we meet people wherever they are, and have the ability to hold two opposite points of view in communion. In some cases, we use such odd phrases as “both/and” meaning we don’t need to choose one or the other, but can see the truth in each position. One of the most helpful things I learned in seminary was in our pastoral theology course. Our instructor taught us to practice replacing the word “but” with “and”. For instance, instead of saying, “I hear what you’re saying, and I know you believe you’re right, BUT …” We say, “I hear what you’re saying, and I know you believe you’re right, AND, … I have a differing point of view”. It’s amazing how that word shift changes the dynamic of a conversation, equalizing the power, so people can listen to each other, without the defensiveness charging in.
When we “brush up against grace”, in all the many ways it comes upon us, we are invited into our own grief work, into our own places we need to offer or receive forgiveness, into our own truth telling, so that the resistance can melt away until we find our truth, the truth of God, the truth of the way of love, that we will take to our graves.
I know that because there was a woman who twice came through my line and actually said, “I want to have a countenance like yours.” I thanked her but found it odd. Countenance? Who says countenance? Anyway, I figured she was just glad that I was not a grumpy teenager throwing canned goods on her bread. She came through my line a third time and this time she actually said, “I know what it is. Jesus is in you.” I knew that. But I didn’t think someone else would. Most assuredly, I am not a dwelling place for Jesus, but when I am prayed up and open, he can be there for others.
“Look within yourself,” Jesus implores them. But they don’t. What we would have hoped would have been the turning point in the story– the disciples’ transformation into a living and breathing faith — doesn’t happen. When the seas calm and Jesus begs them to go into the dark and foreign places within their own souls, to examine why their fear has overridden their faith, they don’t. Instead, they focus their attention on understanding Jesus, rather than understanding the difference Jesus makes in their lives of faith.
When we create with God, which we do with each breath that we take (for aren’t we always creating our life), in both our proactive and re-active responses to life’s events, it takes real thought, discernment, and intention around balancing how much is our work and how much is God’s work, in this co-creative activity we do with God.
So, having been reminded of God’s love and mercy by a few heads of grain and stale presence bread, let us redouble our efforts to reach out to the broken hearted and the hard hearted in Jesus’ name. And if we are the ones whose hearts are closed, let us seek out help, here, at St. Andrew’s, today. After all, this is what we do— we follow the law of love— the most beautiful and gentle law of love.
So let us, in our age, in our part of the ongoing salvation history between God and God’s people— a love affair, really— do what our foremothers did once they got a grip: proclaim the Good News. Let us go to whatever Galilee we find ourselves in to seek out the risen Lord who has gone before us. Let us do as he asks. Let us dispel the darkness in his name and thereby illuminate the Kingdom coming into this world.
The pilgrims on their ascent up the Mount of Olives reasonably thought power of might won, but we know differently, it is only and always the power of love which will win in the end.