Thursday, September 21, 2017

18A, When Sin is the Place Where Jesus Shows Up

The scripture appointed can be found here


2, 3, Jesus

Most of us know what it feels like to be alone in the world.

The first night after the break-up. The first night after leaving home. The first weeks, months or even years in a new city. Watching the news after everyone else has gone to bed. Endless scrolling in the middle of the night.

Feeling far away, even when close by.

Many of us know what it feels like to be alone in the world.

In this world that seems so, so, big—and us who seem so, so, small.

And, so, on this day. When the news once again overwhelms and so many of us feel uncertain about what is and what is to come.

I long to know that I am not alone.

That I am not the only one frightened; that I am not the only one anxious; that I am not the only one saddened by this world we are in.

And, that in this place and this time, I can turn to this gathered community as a place where I don’t have to go it alone. I can turn to this community, and the God to whom we give praise, for both solace and strength; pardon and renewal.

Solace and strength, pardon and renewal.

Achieved not through anything I am doing, but through what God has already done.

Solace--a comfort in the routine and rhythm, consolation that in the midst of change God’s love is unchanging. Solace when we find wholeness in the midst of brokenness and rightness in the midst of all that feels wrong.

Strength found in the sacrament, the bread and the wine that serves as a means by which we can find unity with God and with each other, taking the broken body and making it whole again through our participation.

Pardon, in turning to each other and recognizing that we are all broken, we are forgiven and out of this forgiveness we are renewed.

Renewal, when we work with this word assuming that it means to resume an activity that has been interrupted we can see that in our gathering we resume the journey towards God that has been interrupted by the world and its brokenness.

Solace, strength; pardon, renewal.

“God, open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.”

These words, from our Eucharistic Prayer today, bid us to see our gathering as a place where we find both solace and strength, pardon and renewal.

Solace, strength, pardon, renewal—and grace.

A freely given grace made possible through the love of the God who first loved us.

A grace that forgives, a grace that includes, a grace that welcomes. The grace that lends itself to the mercy we long for when we cry out, “Lord, have mercy on us, for we are sinners in your sight.”

Grace and sin. Sin and grace.

Solace, strength, pardon, renewal.

A gift to us in the midst of our brokenness. The brokenness we describe as sin, the sin we describe as those things which separate us from God and from each other.

And, if we are to understand sin as that which divides us, grace and pardon is that which unites us.

Grace and pardon found at our table, in our prayers, at our peace, and in our collective and growing awareness that our brokenness is not the sum total of who we are. The grace and pardon found when we do not allow the sins that separate us to define us. The grace and pardon found when we refuse to let our brokenness define us, or our woundedness control us.

To speak of grace is to speak of sin...pardon given through grace, renewal found in renewed relationship and new life.

Sin becomes the place where we experience mercy. Sin becomes the place where we can seek renewal. Sin becomes unitive in its universalism. Sin becomes a place where we reclaim our identity as beloved.

And this belovedness, by definition, requires relationship. We are beloved and in this we are reminded that even in the hardest of times and places, we are not alone. We are never alone. Sin would serve to isolate, but renewal of life is found in relationship. We are renewed in relationship.  

We are renewed whenever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name.

Wherever two or three are gathered…

I have heard this phrase so many times, most often as a flip response to small worship attendance. But, this text is not meant to be an encouragement to worship even when only a couple of people showed up. It is meant to be a reminder that in our relationships with each other, we encounter Christ. That whenever two or three are gathered Christ is there.

And, we are not alone.

When we show up with and for each other in the midst of this reality, we engage in making incarnate the love of Christ. When we engage in the messy and muddy work of relationship, we create new life from the very mud in which we thought ourselves mired.

A new creation, a renewal of life, all made possible when we step out of our loneliness and into relationship, even in the midst of brokenness—or, perhaps, what the Gospel today is saying, especially in the midst of brokenness.

Because, Jesus will show up in that brokenness.  In the middle of the mess and the muddiness of our relationships, Jesus will show up. Not just then, but now.

Whenever two or three are gathered—I am there. I am there in the midst of conflict. I am there when you seek reconciliation. I am there when you show up to and with each other. I am there.

Whenever two or three are gathered. Whenever we turn to each other, in peace and in pardon—Jesus is there. Whenever we engage with another member of the body of Christ, Christ is made manifest. And we, we, are not alone.

We are the gathered body, that place where solace and strength, pardon and renewal, are lived out. Lived out in our love for each other—not the saccharine love of hallmark cards, but the love that is experienced in mercy, the mercy that is found when we show up to each other and to our merciful God.  

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