Sermons on offering ourselves
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson Proper 13 Year B August 5, 2018 In our Epistle this morning, we hear the proclamation and directive to “Live a life worthy of our calling”. Understanding what our calling is, as individuals and as parish members as well as part of the larger Body of Christ, seems to be a necessary first step to doing this. Let’s begin this exploration with Frederick Buechner’s famous line that states “The place God calls…
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.
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.
It was a hot summer day, the sun beating down on our shoulders tinged with pink, the heat shimmering up from the pavement to meet us, as I stood before this young woman, who had such a perplexed and incredulous look in her attentive and piercing eyes. She asked me, “Why?” “Why would you do this?” Her question to me was in response to something I had recently done for her, a generous act of kindness. Instantly and without thought,…
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.
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.
We are grains of wheat. That is what we are. We can stay by ourselves, alone and rigid, encased in a hard shell, holding the embryo of what could be, of what God could be through us and deep within us, imprisoned by our unwillingness to let go of those things we hold to be safe and true through our understanding of ourselves, each other, or God. Or, we can die to ourselves and we can become the bread of life, giving life and nourishment to others and bearing much fruit for the Kingdom. “Come and die”, Jesus says.
Oh those Israelites. They were grumbling and mumbling their distaste with God’s plan. Their worn out bodies were wracked by the relentless heat of the day while the few blankets they had grabbed from their hurried escape from slavery were worn thin, nearly translucent. Every night, they had to huddle together, clasping the tattered material tightly around them to survive the frigid evenings. Their throats were parched, their stomachs empty, their legs ready to buckle and collapse, when from their…
This holy work of truth telling, of allowing God to seep within our souls to spotlight that which needs to be washed away by the tears of Jesus, that which needs to be held in love by Jesus’ healing touch, that which needs to be sanctified, claimed as holy within us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, all of that is the intentional work of Lent. I invite you to let Jesus do this work for and with you, as you offer yourself, all of yourself, to follow the One who loves you beyond measure. Jesus was inviting the disciples and is inviting us to look at our greatest fear often hidden deep within the recesses of our heart and mind and to look at our deepest pain straight in the eye, so it can be transformed into something that can be life-giving for us or for others.