Proper 10A, What Grace...

As always, the readings can be found here, we are using Track 2 for this three year cycle.

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Love. Freely Given.

I mentioned last week that, in my senior year of high school, my Father died. Suddenly, unexpectedly and ultimately, unresolvedly.

And, as I stood at the literal grave, all I could do was wail “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

I was sorry for so many things that had not been forgiven, so many things that had hurt my relationship with my father, my father whom I had sought desperately and, ultimately, unsuccessfully to please in life.

And, so, my song at the grave was one of regret at all that was unresolved. 

It has taken me upwards of 20 years to forgive myself for being a teenager, to forgive myself for not fitting within the confines of my parent’s expectations, to understand that their love for me was not conditional even when I knew that I could not meet their conditions.

20 years to let go of the “I’m sorry” and sit in the “I love you” of who they were and who I am.

And, so today, as I listen to the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, I am struck by the unconditional and powerful statement of faith with which this passage begins.

 “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

It makes me want to weep.

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

Listen,

Listen,

my friends, my community in faith and in love,

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Just as you are, just as you will be…you are loved by the God who loves us.

The God who loves us, the Christ who abides in us—turning our brokenness into wholeness beyond our understanding…

And, in this, our regrets, our brokenness, our shame, our guilt—are all, ALL, transformed by the love of the God who first loved us.

There is a George Herbert poem, written in the 17th century, that speaks to this, titled “Hazards Transformed”


On thistles that men look not grapes to gather,
I read the story rather
How soldiers platting thorns around Christ’s Head
Grapes grew and drops of wine were shed.
The wing├Ęd fowls took part, part fell in thorn,
And never turned to corn,
Part found no root upon the flinty road—
Christ at all hazards fruit hath shewed. 
Food for five thousand: on the thorns He shed
Grains from His drooping Head;
And would not have that legion of winged things
Bear Him to heaven on easeful wings.



Although the letter said
Though when the sower sowed,
From wastes of rock He brings

The thorns that wound, produce the wine that we drink. The barren land is transformed by the miracle of enough for all.

Wine from the bier…bread from the tomb.

The parable speaks of the seed sowed where no seed shall grow, but the wonder of it is that the seed shall grow wherever and however it is planted.

What we see as lifeless becomes a place of life--because the landscape is not of our devising, but of God’s transforming.

As the prophet prophesies,

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Shall not be cut off.

As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

And, even at the grave, we make our song.

A song not of regret but of alleluia. And, so let us cry out, “alleluia, alleluia, alleluia”.

Amen.

At this time, I’m going to offer you an opportunity to take those things which feel broken, and turn them over to God for the freely given grace that transform our brokenness into wholeness. In the envelopes taped to the pews you will find paper and pencil. Please pass these amongst yourselves, sharing as needed (tearing the paper in half if needed).

Time allowed for distribution

Now that you have paper in hand, I will give us a few moments in silence so that you might write down those things or that thing that burdens your soul—the “I’m sorry” that needs to be transformed (don’t worry, no one will see what you have written). 

Pause for writing

Now that you have written down your burden place set it aside for a moment (in a pocket or in your bulletin). When you come forward for communion you can bring your burden with you and place your piece of paper in the basin of water in front of the altar. The paper and the burden you’ve placed upon it will dissolve.

May we all be set free so that we too can sing alleluia!




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