Sermons on Jesus
The opening lines of the movie Amadeus highlighting the genius of Mozart and the divine gift of his compositions, begins with words of an aged Antonio Salieri, speaking from a place of despair and ridicule, and reflecting on the first time he heard the beginning notes of Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B flat major — “On the page, it looked simple, nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse. Bassoons, Basset Horns. Like a rusty squeezebox. And then,…
Here we are “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. In the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, Amen. Well… look at us! Here we are. Our Sunday morning worship looks a little different than usual, doesn’t it? We are…
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”.
Though we may find grief is at our core, often it is unchecked assumptions about how life should be, or our childhood beliefs about what is right and wrong, or our privileged status, or the way we expect our lives to turn out, or our own agenda. Regardless, it asks us to join with God to build a life larger than that within us which can consume our lives.
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.
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.
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.
We celebrate the nurturing love of all mothers, all who have mothered us, all who have mothered creatures and creation and even congregations. We celebrate their laying their lives down for new life, their self-sacrifice, their bond of love like no other that nothing can sever. We also celebrate Jesus’ mothering love today in asking God for humankind’s protection– it is as if he is standing at our bus stop on the first day of school watching us go forth on our own. Did he teach us enough? Will we remember? Will we be ok without him beside us? Will we find our way home?
God gives us the opportunity and ability to bear God’s grace to each other, to be God’s love and grace to each other. It’s a huge responsibility and a gift. It’s something of a miracle each time it happens.