Sermons on vulnerability
To listen to Mother Barbara’s homily for this Sunday, please click below.
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.
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…
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.
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.
The good news is that we don’t do it alone. Just as Jesus claimed that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed him, which was true in a very particular way for Jesus, yet it is also true for us – for this happened for and with us at our baptism. We have been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, which enables us to be guided in this Advent work of preparing our hearts for Jesus,…
There was another party going on in town that night. One where the rejected, the tired, the weary, the lonely, the ones who mourn, the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers were gathered, where the healing love of Jesus flowed through and around them, where they anointed each other, maybe not with expensive oil, but with tears of joy, for Jesus was with them. The church shows up, our church shows up when we readily offer ourselves and our resources to each other, when we ask the question, “What do you need?” or “How can I support you in the cold dark night, where fear and trembling settle in upon your soul and weigh you down like a heavy down comforter, almost making it difficult to breath?” The church shows up, our church shows up, when we acknowledge our vulnerability before God and each other, or when we acknowledge that we can’t be prepared for everything, and instead chose to trust that it is Jesus who opens the door, invites us in, and prepares the feast.
Because Jesus stayed in the tomb, contained with the earth, with the massive round stone rolled across its entrance, Jesus sanctified, made holy, saturated with the presence of God, the darkened container he was put in, and therefore sanctified all the darkened containers we put ourselves into. But the point of the story of Jesus is that he didn’t stay there. And his resurrection invites and implores us not to stay there either. God’s mercy, love, and compassion draw us into these places of alienation and disconnect. We resist going there often, sometimes by saying, “We’ve always done it that way” as a reason not to move into that place of uncertainty, where the old begins to fade away before we can see the new. Or sometimes we resist the draw into exile because it’s easier to fortify the sides of our containers with bolstered arguments or fiery threats. But the pattern of faithful living, that paschal mystery we often speak of, moves us into a place of exile, of self-reflection, of noticing the places of disconnect between what God has asked of us and what we are doing, to the land, or in our lives, or in our relationship with God, for they are all connected, of acknowledging what we have done or left undone that has caused harm. But then the Spirit turns us again toward God, when God’s mercy, love, and compassion can strip from us all that we have falsely created, to return us to what God has created within and around us. If we listen closely enough, in these times of exile, which our own lives may be in now, or our country may be in right now, we can hear God’s voice saying, “Come and see, I am bringing you to a new way of experiencing me. Come and see.”
So, the first challenging question is: does God see the emptiness or negative space in our souls and yearn for us to become more? or birth more of God’s goodness in our lives? The answer to that question for each one of us is “absolutely yes”. The second challenging question is: rather than seeing the emptiness or incompleteness that we need to fill, does God see the negative space, wishing that we have it all? Does the generous and abundant God want to give us more? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “yes”, but the question to ourselves is “Can we receive that?” Can we take it all from God? For that will involve opening ourselves, creating a space for vulnerability, for change, for radical reorientation of our lives, to letting grace cling to and release pain, to finding ourselves worthy of God’s love. Each challenge is right and hard, whether it is allowing ourselves to be transformed to become all that God desires of us, or whether it is allowing ourselves to be transformed to receive the fullness of God’s love. Negative space has power, but God’s love has greater power. Let us allow that, God’s love, to be what drives our lives. Amen.
It is almost unfathomable to me that God leads us into temptation, and yet we pray against that happening each week in the Lord’s prayer as we say, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” If we pray against it happening, it means we must imagine it as a possibility, and one that only the grace or mercy of God can prevent. And our gospel story today reinforces the concept that God leads us into temptation, as it is clearly stated that the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, into the place of testing and temptation. Somehow the time of testing and temptation serves the Spirit’s purpose. Does that seem odd to you?
Some say that the psalms serve as mirrors for our souls, for just as a one looks into a physical mirror to see one’s outward state, when we read a psalm, we can often discover our inner state. When we hear the psalm today, perhaps we can hear it as an invitation to more deeply examine when, where, and how have we been moving toward God, and when, where, and how have we been moving away from God.
Our selfishness denies the members of the community the opportunity to share the burden of our pain and suffering. Our selfishness denies the community the opportunity to perform the joyous work of healing within our Christian faith and calling. The selfishness we demonstrate denies our family the opportunity to love and nurture us. And we deny ourselves of the very