Saturday, May 7, 2016

Easter 7C

The Readings appointed for today can be found here  


The Gospel is Personal is Political

Love wins.  I say this often.  Sometimes proclaiming in a full voice of rejoicing.  “Love wins!!”

Other times, with defiance, love will win!

And other times, as if I myself need to be convinced…love wins.

And these are days when I need convincing. These are days, as we find ourselves in the midst of a political season which continues to expose those places of brokenness in our own beings and our own midst, these are days in which I wonder when we’ll get to the love wins part of the story. These are days when hate and fear are preyed upon and communities and peoples are divided by rhetorical and literal walls that seek to keep us from the kind of unity in love that the Gospel proclaims as the culmination of God’s call to all of creation. Hate and fear, the breeding ground of the enemy. Hate and fear, the rallying cry that would deny our baptismal calling. 

Hate and fear which would deny the love that is proclaimed in the Gospel today. 

For the love proclaimed today is grounded in unity and reciprocity. In mutuality and consent. In grace freely given. This love finds its origins at the breaking dawn of new creation, proceeds all that is and will endure beyond all that will be. This is a love that welcomes and proclaims that not only are all welcome in this place, but that all are welcome to participate fully in the abundance of God made manifest in creation.

So, let’s stop for a moment, and consider. It’s not just about being welcome to this table; it’s about being welcome to the table on all fronts.  “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let everyone who hears say, "Come." And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

This is what is inscribed in the arch above these very steps, this is what is to be inscribed in us as worshippers in this place. Everyone has been given the gift of life and any effort that would deny that gift to any of God’s beloved children stands in stark opposition to the Gospel we proclaim.

So are we Christians or aren’t we?  Are we followers of the way of Christ, or aren’t we? Will we proclaim the good news or won’t we? 

The passage from the Gospel of John today is the closing of Jesus’ farewell discourse, and it points to the future for the Johannine community, a future in which the unity of the community is representative of God’s unity with us through Christ. A future and a present in which persecution is a given, and love manifested in unity becomes a means of standing in opposition to that persecution. A future in which Jesus, ascended, will no longer be with them in the flesh but will abide with them as the Christ. A future in which internal conflict and external oppression threaten the stability of the communities which seek to follow the way of Christ.

And in the face of those divisive elements in our culture we are reminded that central to our identity as Christians is love expressed in community. Those forces that seek to divide, one from another, are forces in opposition to the good news of God in Christ. Those who inspire fear and hatred in order to consolidate their own power do not serve God. And, with this in mind we are called to keep the promises we make in baptism.

For, in rising up against those powers which seek to divide us, we are indeed living into our baptismal promises—renouncing the evil powers of this world that seek to corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.  The Gospel and our own covenant are clear—love leads to unity, and we are called to this not in some monolithic sense of all become as us, but rather, in the sense of seeing each other as beloved children of God—regardless. 

The Reverend Daniel Berrigan, who died last week after a life devoted to the cause of justice and peace, wrote

" 'Love' and then 'enemies.' The two cannot coexist, they are like fire and ice in the hand. The fire melts the ice, or the ice extinguishes the fire. The fire wins out (at least in the Gospel text)! The verb 'love' transforms the noun 'enemies.' The enemy is reborn by the power of love. Astonishing. Now the enemy is a former enemy, and a present friend, brother, sister, lover even. Talk about rebirth!" Love, you, the enemy, and lo, the enemy vanishes where he stood."
— from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings, edited by John Dear

And the enemy is transformed. But, as the enemy of my enemy, I too am transformed—and in this, love wins and we are born again into a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. 

And as I consider Daniel Berrigan’s words and the Gospel he proclaimed, I find myself wondering, how will I be called to love those who would destroy the unity of creation in their pursuit of power? And with this wondering, I find myself considering that standing in opposition to evil is an act of love towards evil.

To stand in opposition embraces the custom of lamentation—we only oppose those things which we know can be transformed—we are called to see “better” in those who threaten the worst.  I realize that in refusing to be afraid, in refusing to hate, I am loving those who would have me hate and fear.

As we celebrate this last Sunday of Eastertide we are invited to look ahead into what’s to come. And, on the feast of Pentecost and in the season thereafter I will be using a closing blessing which paraphrases the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans—“Have courage, hold onto what is good. Return no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the suffering, honor everyone.”

If we do these things, if we respond to evil with love, if we are brave, if we hold onto the goodness of God’s grace, if we strengthen each other in our own weakness, if we help those who suffer and support those who are persecuted, if we honor the dignity of every human being.

If we do these things, then we can truly say “come” to all those who long for those words of welcome to the abundance that has been so freely given. 

If we do these things, our actions will proclaim a different way than the way of fear and hate—the way of Christ. A way in which love casts out fear, a way in which love overcomes hate, a way in which enemies are united in common cause. A way, which is the Way. 

And, as followers of the Way We are called to relentlessly pursue justice.  We are called to annoy the powerful, just as the slave girl in Acts annoyed Paul.  This is a relentless love…the kind of love that doesn’t give up when it is ignored!  The kind of love that proclaims the truth and in that truth, demands transformation. 

So dear people of God, let's be annoying!

This is the kind of love that wins.

So my prayer this day and in the days to come in this season of discord is grounded in that love that casts out fear. So, let us cast off our fear and our hatred and stand up in love. Stand up in love and begin our own pursuit of the powerful. Annoying them with our call to justice, annoying them with our insistence on mercy, annoying them with our persistent cry until our cry can be ignored no longer.

There are some who call this advocacy. Some who call this lobbying. Some who call this the pursuit of justice.

I would call it the pursuit of love. Perfect love which casts out hate and calls us beyond our fears and into new life.

The Spirit and the Bride say come, let all who thirst and all who hunger be welcomed to the table and fed.

We have been told of this new creation, now let us live this new creation! 

Love wins. Amen.

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