Writing a Sermon Between the Tears of Rejoicing and Tears of Sorrow

Proper 8B, 2015 
(Readings Here)

The Water is Wide...


Last Sunday...

Last Sunday was a Sunday of lamentation in a time of lamentation.  

Last Sunday, we heard the lamenting of people crying out for the body of Christ to wake up, to wake up, and proclaim peace in the midst of the storm of bigotry and hatred.

Last Sunday, the waves threatened to overwhelm our small boat in the vast sea.

This Sunday, the cries are still there. And, the storm still blows.  

But, this Sunday we’ve seen the power of the healing that happens when the people wake up and ARE the body of Christ.

This Sunday, we’ve seen a flag that divided us torn down.

This Sunday, we’ve rung the raucous bells of this very tower in jubilation.

This Sunday, we’ve seen further evidence that the mercy of God is not earned, but granted.  

Marriage. Love. Rejoicing. 

Murder. Threats. Sorrow.

Tears of joy and tears of sorrow mingling on our cheeks.

And, the words of the apostle Paul emerge as truth, we ARE the “sorrowful yet always rejoicing; the dying who yet live”.

From last Sunday to this Sunday, from one side of the sea to the other. 

“I never thought I’d see this day,” these were words I heard again and again on Friday.

as we celebrated dignity affirmed and a hope that so many had lost hope in came to pass.

“I never thought I’d see this day,” words that come to mind as the very same church which once told slaves that baptism meant they’d be free only in heaven, elected a Presiding Bishop descended from slaves*--the Right Reverend Michael Curry.

Yes, there is healing on the other side of the sea.  There is healing when the body of Christ wakes up and cries out peace. There is healing.

And, yet there is still work to be done and other seas to cross and storms which continue to threaten this oh, so, small boat in which we stand.  

As Justice Kennedy so eloquently said,  "Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty." 

And, as the burning of black churches and the slaughter of black Americans can attest, the passing of the Civil Rights Act may have accomplished legal rights, but it did not accomplish liberation from the enduring and pervasive sin of racism..

outlaw to outcast does not achieve the full promise of God’s love for us. 

And, as GLBT peoples and their allies throughout the country rejoice at legal access to marriage, it is important to remember that legal provisions don’t guarantee safety, access to housing and jobs and the support of families and faith communities.  

Outlaw to outcast does not achieve the full promise of God’s love for us.  

And, so, in the midst of a time that has called us to great joy and great sorrow, we are reminded that if we disconnect ourselves from what has passed, we disconnect ourselves from the on-going work to which we are called. In the midst of our celebrations we must remember that the law cannot transform the heart--that kind of transformation will take the ongoing work of reconciliation and restoration.   

Ongoing work which will emerge out of our calling to the impossible possibility of a God kind of love.  We cannot settle for the status quo, we cannot settle for anything short of the liberation of the entirety of creation, and as President Obama reminded us in his eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again.”

And thus, as I reflected on the Gospel this week it strikes me that the most important moment of healing is what happens afterwards. 

“Go in peace”

“Give her something to eat”

The action of this narrative does not end with any one act of healing, the act of healing is a beginning, not an end. 

The time of isolation imposed by illness has ended, and a woman’s relationship with her community must be restored. The time of fasting imposed by death has ended and, to live, the child must be fed.  

Likewise, those who have been oppressed must be nourished, those who have been excluded must be welcomed in peace--the full promise of liberty relies on our collective efforts to turn law into love.  

When law becomes love, a woman is healed.  When law becomes love, a child is restored to life. When law becomes love, relationships are restored.  When law becomes love, the hungry are fed.  

And, what seemed impossible is possible and we, as witnesses of liberation, are overcome with amazement. 

The work of transformation is ongoing...and we are invited to explore what it is to be genuine in our love--to move beyond symbolic gesture and empty word into meaningful action. 

To go in peace and to nourish new life.  The apostle Paul implores the community in Corinth to walk the talk and in his exhortation, I hear the call to live the life of faith which we proclaim.   

“I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

There are other seas to cross and storms to quell...

and there is enough, hope, 

there is enough, love, 

there is enough, peace

there is enough.

*the Reverend Will Gafney, tweet dated 7/27/15




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