Proper 7 – Ordinary/Lectionary 12 – Pentecost + 3
25 June 2017
Psalm 69:7-18 pg 792
God of truth uncovered, you trace the sparrow’s flight and plumb the secrets of the heart: bring our fear and conflict into the light of your presence, so that we may lose our hollow life and find our way to you; through Jesus Christ, the master and the slave. Amen.
Have you ever thought about how much courage it takes to be a person of faith? Or even to be a child of God?
Our gospel for today talks of how Jesus and his followers faced gossip and rumours. How Jesus message is considered so counter-cultural, so far outside the norm for information about humanity’s place in the universe that those who don’t want to hear it perceive it as a threat.
In addition, we know from life, still, today, all threats must be eliminated, discounted, derided, until absolutely no one in their right mind would even listen.
Yet Jesus continues to speak words of hope. Jesus continues to bring God’s message of love to the world, to each one of us, who is willing to hear it, believe it, and ultimately be forever changed by it.
But it takes courage.
It takes courage to hear Jesus words, to sort out the misinformation and the opinion, that others interject into God’s message of love for all of humanity.
It takes courage to allow Jesus words, God’s love into our lives, and hearts. It takes courage to allow those words, and that love to forever change our hearts, our way of being, of thinking and of doing. It takes a great deal of courage.
After all what would have happened to the believers, the apostles and disciples in the upper room if the love of God, in the actions of the Holy Spirit didn’t drive them out into the streets loudly proclaiming the message of God’s love, of Jesus teachings in the languages of the people in the street? (Acts 2)
What would have happened if those present at the breaking of bread on the road to Emmaus hadn’t felt compelled to return to the disciples and proclaim that Jesus had opened the scriptures to them along the way, but they didn’t recognize him until he blessed and broke the bread with them at their evening meal. (Lk 24:13-35)
What would have happened, if, when Jesus saw Peter and Andrew, James and John and said to them “come, follow me,” first took care of their homes, their families, and their possessions instead of just heeding Jesus call to follow? (Mt 4:18-22)
What we are following, what we are learning from and within is God’s love. What Jesus demonstrates for us, last week, this week, every week, in the words of the gospels, is the love of God in action, in words, in the way he fearlessly goes amongst the people and just by his presence, his words, his touch changes their lives, our lives for the better.
For those of us who realize we are loved by God, and we love each other as a response to that love, we have truly embraced and been embraced by the love of God.
There was an interesting post on Facebook this week, about the interconnected nature of love and understanding. (http://thepowerofideas.ideapod.com/love-without-knowing-love-wounds-person-love-thich-nhat-hanh-mastering-art-interbeing/)
The article says: “in a simply worded but profound passage, Thich Nhat Hanh says that the way of love is one of the most complex and rewarding human experiences.”
The article says: “At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name”. In other words, to love another is to fully understand his or her suffering. After all, according to Buddhist thought, understanding is what everyone needs.”
The article works from the premise that love itself is essential to being able to love others. To love, then is to understand not only the positive in our and another’s life, but also the negative, and from that understanding, we can love them.
In wrapping our minds around this premise that love and understanding are interrelated, we can look at God’s actions in, around, and for our lives.
God sent Jesus, born of a woman to become fully human. We celebrated this miracle not only at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child into the world, but we also celebrate the mystery of God’s action, God’s love in this way in the Creeds.
But in sending God made man – Jesus the Christ into our midst, God fully enters the human experience and so, not only does God love us, as God does love us, unconditionally, but God also understands our lives, our pain, our joys, our happiness, and our frustrations.
God learns through Jesus what our lives, our experiences are like and God comes to a deeper understanding of that love that God showers upon each one of us, every day.
The article on Facebook works from the premise that to love ourselves, is essential to being able to love others. To love others as we love ourselves is central to Jesus teachings, to the fulfillment of the law that Jesus brings to our lives and to our hearts.
Jesus tells us that we are loved by God, and God wishes us to love our neighbours as we are love ourselves.
The Buddhist scholar tells us that understanding is a vital part of love, and we can see this through God’s actions on our behalf, and throughout human history as well.
At the same time, it takes courage to love and to be loved.
It takes courage to love ourselves, to acknowledge there are parts of ourselves, our lives, our past and the decisions of our past that we’ve not loved, and cannot honour, but if we understand then we can accept and so continue to love ourselves as we are loved of God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us “24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. 26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. ” (Mt 10:24-27)
And knowing that Jesus is talking about the opposition he has received to God’s message of love for all of humanity, this takes courage.
It takes courage to walk out his front door and face the opposition brought to him from opposing directions, those who would rather see humanity pull itself apart and segregate itself from each other to the point that suspicion reigns in our hearts instead of love and understanding.
We see this in the world around us. We see this in the actions of ISIS, of those who feel that might makes right, and are striving to move the Islamic faith forward in the world by conquering the perceived enemies of their faith through force. But even today, these groups, these extremists are being denounced by their religious leaders around the world.
What those who follow ISIS are truly fighting against is equality between the genders. They’re fighting against the education of women, without which a society inevitably flounders. They’re fighting their fears of those who are different from themselves, they’re fighting those fears in their hearts and have come to the conclusion that if they removed the object of fear then the fear will go away.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The moment they remove all aspects of what it is they think they fear then that fear will turn on them and devour their hearts and minds with fear. And we’re subject to this aspect of our fears, as well.
Jesus on the other hand embraces each one of us, no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve experienced, no matter what we fear and holds us close, and lets us know that fear is a part of our lives, yet it doesn’t have to rule our lives.
Jesus knows that his message is so different that people will strive to destroy the love of God found in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus knows that his message is so radical, so counter cultural that it has the ability to divide families.
But in that division, if we understand the fears, the causes of division, then we can still love, and in that love, we have the ability to grow stronger, to grow together, to overcome the fears, the divisions, the efforts of the evil one to keep us apart from friends, family, neighbours, even from our own hearts.
It takes courage to be able to do this, and not everyone will be ready to take the same steps at the same time. That’s ok. We can take the steps when we’re ready, but at the same time because we love each other and seek to understand each other then we know to be patient with those who need more time, more support, more help to take that step than perhaps we needed.
This is the same principle that is used when we strive to understand other faith systems, other cultures. In regard to faith systems it’s called ecumenism (e-cum-in-ism). It’s the intentional discussions, debate between faith systems so that we can understand each other, and live together in harmony. To fully participate in ecumenical gatherings, we need to fully understand our own faith, and we need to be able to talk about it, answer questions about it to those who don’t share our understanding or even our faith system.
Today, when people choose to isolate themselves behind ideas, ideological belief systems, behind technology that feeds them perhaps not the purist of truths, or opinions, this need to understand ourselves, to understand others is more important than ever.
In the face of the violence between racial groups in the US and how that is leaking across our boarders, there was a poem by a Lutheran Vicar, a seminary student serving in a community. This vicar is African American and he’s responding to the fact that a white police officer, charged with the shooting death of a black citizen was exonerated. His statement shows the fear that is growing in the US, the lack of understanding, the openness and willingness to not understand each other in the face of the current administration.
This vicar rests his courage in the love of Jesus, the love God as he points out that he’s expected to make a statement because he is a vicar in the church, at the same time, he knows that his personal appearance will undermine that message amongst those who will hear him. Yet, he speaks out.
He rests in the courage that Jesus teaches us as he understands the needs of his congregation, of his community for his words.
Jesus loves us. Jesus holds us up in the struggles of our lives. Jesus strives to give us the tools that are needed to face the opposition that is both within us and around us.
Jesus gives us the courage we need to love ourselves as we are loved by God. Jesus gives us the courage we need to live that love to the world around us, always in the light of God’s love for all of humanity.
And this is where we stand, loving, understanding, living in the courage of God as we face those around us who may not yet be where we are. We continue to love them as well as we seek to help them to take even one-step toward that same self-love so that we can walk with them toward loving our brothers and sisters as we are loved by God.