Homily

Epistle: 1 Peter 3: 13-16
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so what, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

Holy Gospel: According to Saint John 14:15-21
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of the truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will also live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Collect
Loving God, who made the world in beauty, grant us we pray, that wherever your image may be unseen or disfigured by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war, greed, or pre-existing conditions, a new creation through the love of Jesus Christ may appear in sight by justice, mercy, and peace. We beseech thee oh Lord, that we may see the glory of life in the love of both friend and stranger alike, and let us remain committed to transforming our world by justice and compassion. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight,
oh Lord, our rock, and our redeemer.

If you spend too much time with me… you’ll either become accustom to my poetic ramblings and cryptic vernacular that, more often than not, leaves you with more questions than you wanted from a simple conversation, or you’ll stop spending time with me… Such it goes I suppose…

But I believe, firmly, in the notion that vernacular, and prose, and poetry which invites and transforms and shocks, and from time to time offends, may very well be a part of what is missing in common, or “polite,” dialogue today. And I don’t think that it is a stretch of your imagination to see how in the predatory and quick fix society which we find ourselves within we have become accustom, even expectant perhaps, to prose and conversation that are, in the words of Walter Brueggemann, manageable and thin…

Now, before I get ahead of myself here… Don’t get me wrong… I completely understand if the last thing you want to do on your work breaks, surrounded by people you are paid to see weekly, at the proverbial water cooler if you will, is debate Nizche or listen to Todd or Janet or whomever is the resident arm-chair philosopher in your life is wax on about Camus and Sisyphus… Perhaps you’d rather not even hear that from me… I fully understand that the score from last night’s major league sporting event, or the weather perhaps, is a much, much, more palatable conversation at 10:50 am on a Tuesday

So with that in mind I must say that I’m lucky that while it is about 10:50 today… It’s not Tuesday, and were not at the water cooler… Because our gospel from Saint John this morning is anything but manageable and thin.

Humor me if you will and let me go back over just a little portion of our Gospel St. John writes, verbatim: “This is the Spirit of the truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will also live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you.”

Well… I am humbled to know that if we all knew what it meant to know that he is in the father and I am in him and he is in me, and were not orphaned, but the world will not see me, but you can see me, because you’re alive, but I also am alive in you… If we all understood this as easily as we understood the outcome of last night’s game… I’d be out of a job…

But seriously family, least I digress… This morning we are brought into a gospel narrative, and we hear from our Epistle of Peter more than just poetic prose and the ramblings of some lofty theological word play… We hear of very real and lived experiences of understanding not only truth within our lives, but where we are able to see that truth in others, and how we are able to defend it…

In an environment saturated by alternative facts, and lies by omission, you might think that the pulpit of all places would be familiar to tall tales and confusing rhymes, riddles, and parables about life and faith and God and all these things that matter… But let me assure you… Neither the pew nor the pulpit should allow for our gospel narratives to become either so confusing that they are lost upon us, or so simple that they are mistaken for literalist recollections.

Our faith, our gospel, our commitment to seeking out and living the truths of life demand from us much more than perhaps that which we have been led to believe are the only two options… Left or right… Up or down… Gay or straight… Black or white… Poor or rich… Friend or enemy… Male or Female… Need I go on… Our gospel this morning, and our epistle, are calling us to see the third way before us… More than just a title of a book by the esteemed Walter Wink… The third way of faith is one that demands we hold in tension the poetic and mythic rhythm of our cannon as well as the signs and guideposts of truisms and literalism that is dotted throughout the journey of life which we call faith. Our gospel this morning is calling us to see the value in both analogy and science alike… Both rhyme and reason… and the truth that rests in the call of our faith to live humbly, to nurture the living, and honor the dead… By song, industry, hammer, and pen, flower and harp, and prayer alike…

Our faith this morning demands that we push back when we are challenged with elementary and sophomoric notions of a faith that stands on straw arguments of there being but one way to interpret life. Our faith this morning, our gospel, our community, our commitment to this thing called Christianity, is now, perhaps more than ever, demanding that we, as Peter writes, be ready to make our defense to anyone who demands from us an account for the hope that is in you… The hope that all might be reconciled… The hope that war might someday actually be blotted out from the horizon which our children are marching into… The hope that we aren’t the only community committed to welcoming all peoples to the salvific love of God not the shaming and shallow redemption that is found in demanding you come before the lord as anything other than who you are…

Our faith this morning is inviting us to realize that this Spirit of truth which we hear of… The spirit unknown to others… Yet known by us… Is a truth that finds Gods creative beauty in all creation… Finds Gods love abundant… Finds our own love for others replenished daily, without fine print, without reciprocity, without the need to fit our own demands… Without the need to speculate whether or not the ice caps are actually melting… Without the need to demand that others look like us, talk like us, love like us, or even pray like us…

As Peter reminds us… For, this community, and for those of us who suffer under the thumb of patriarchal and cis-normative rules and regulations about who and how we are to love, about who deserves a living wage and who doesn’t… About who is “legal” and who isn’t… About which neighborhoods are labeled safe and which aren’t… About where we shop, and how we spend our days… Peter calls out unto us to not fear what THEY fear… Diversity, equality, justice, and equity amongst creation… For those of us who suffer under the languish of wondering whether or not our neighbors will get knocks on the door from ICE, or our marriage will be recognized by the state… Let us not fear what they fear… For those who suffer for wrestling with depression, or struggling with self-worth, let us not fear what they fear… For those of us who suffer from the weight and demands of blended familial ties, divorce, and trying relationships… Let us not fear what they fear… For those of us who battle and wrestle with the realities of aging and expectations never met… Let us not fear what they fear… For the truth of our worth… The truth of God’s love for us shall be the lynchpin, the fulcrum, the wage paid in full…

The hope that rests upon the eschaton, that horizon of hope where the pains of today meet the possibilities of tomorrow meet… There we are not orphaned… There the spirit is within us and we are in the spirit… There perfection does not have a particular wage range, or a country club membership, or a weight, or a height, or a size, or a hair color, or 2.5 children and a Labrador, no there us, we, broken, messy few meet… There melanin and citizenship, and salary, and orientation, and past do not equate worth, there truly we are in God and God is in us…

Our gospel this morning is inviting us, as it always does, but not so subtly today… To find a truth in the wisdom of seeing God in all things and allowing God to actually be in all things, ourselves, our own lives, our own actions included… This call from Peter to not fear what others fear is so beautifully paired with Christ’s own call to see the wisdom that can be found in allowing God to exist where God has always existed… In all of creation. Not only the clean, safe, sterilized, pious, holy, arched and culdasa qed spaces…

But in the clamor of a factories hum, in the gentle lullaby of a grandmothers song, in the broken spine of a well-read book, in the depth of a mathematical equation… In the stroke of an abstract artists expression, in the vibrations of a guitar being played for the first time… In the newness and fullness of each day…

Let me be clear… These are not hippie-dippy progressive notions about singing kumbaya and seeing god in the proverbial flower-power… This is not some utilization of new age crystals or Chakras… NO this notion of seeing god in ourselves, ourselves in god, and in all around us is directly from our Christian Cannon. This is not a new age idea, this is a reclamation of God’s call for our lives…

Let us make clear to those who cast judgment, and doubt, and fear upon us that change is not to be confused as compromise of God’s call instead of creativity of the Spirit…

Jurgen Moltmann urges us to see that if we take these starting points seriously, these realities of god in us and us in god… then, as he writes: “the path of theological knowledge leads irreversibly from the particular to the general… From the historic to the eschatological and the universal…”

From the knowledge and wisdom of god within us… TO the understanding, acceptance, and participation of god in all things, found in all things, alive in all things, thriving in all things, yearning in all things for the response that we have to make each day, and each situation, ourselves included, to be the most inclusive, loving, and fruitful experience that it can possibly be…

I find it no coincidence that our lectionary texts this morning, our gospel about seeing god within yourself, and within others falls on the day that we shall break bread with Imam Jamal after worship…

See… These opportunities are more than just present… They are more than just around us in our daily goings and comings… They, as our god is, are inviting us to commune, to participatory action… To living to this knowledge of wisdom found in recognizing that our faith is strong enough to see God in all creation… not merely where it is convenient for our own agendas… For as people of faith, as a community being called, our agenda is as corporate as it is individual… The body of Christ which we are unique members of, demands that we stretch our intellectual and spiritual muscles, exercise our spiritual strength by way of seeing, recognizing, and experiencing God and love in all our days, in all our ways…
I leave you this morning with this… Dr. Luise Schrottroff, when she was the chair of New Testament and feminist theology at the University of Kassel in Germany, wrote the following… She writes:

“One cannot deny the bodily responses to starvation, and that is part of the reason, some nights, I sat in the basement of my dormitory; locked in a bathroom, catching glimpses of myself in the mirror as I stuffed candy bars and chips, like a vending machine, anything I could into my mouth… And would then throw it up… For while I knew that about 90 million Americans were currently dieting to lose weight, nearly half that many are collecting food stamps or standing in line at their local food pantry… Hungry, and literally begging for food… And so, we witness today that God has put us in the center of this justice movement we witness today as so many have done before us that we will not turn back from this table of righteousness; we recognize that when we witness the welcome of all peoples, of queer peoples, of strange peoples, of other peoples, when we put ourselves at the center of this communion, we witness the welcome of all marginalized people; therefore we will witness to every denomination the river of justice that is God’s love for and in all people…”

May you witness the river of justice that you are within whether you know it or not… May you leave this space unafraid to see God in all peoples… And may you see the spirit alive in yourself, as it is in all creation… And for that… Together we say…Amen.