Sermon,  Sermons

With All Your Heart: Restored

Sermon video, part 1 (of 2)

part 2 of the sermon can be found here.

A young mother of 4 small children absolutely adores her children. She has found her calling and pours herself into nurturing and guiding these young humans to grow into the knowledge of who they are as image-bearers of the God of the universe. But after the birth of her fourth child, the postpartum depression that seeped into the edges of the joyful reception in which she received the first three babies rushes in with such ferocity she does not have the strength to push through.      

            The heroine that served to bring a measure of escape from the pain in her younger years beckons her back with its sinister promise of bringing relief when nothing else seems sufficient. And then it isn’t any great effort to plunge a little too much of the vile venom – enough to remove her completely from the pain, and the children from her mother.

            This story is not unique, and most of us can probably see ourselves in her place. We may not choose heroine to escape, but we do have our own vices – and none of us can judge what that may or may not be for another.

            Still, as soon as the first two people chose to open their eyes to one kind of knowledge by eating the fruit from which they were warned to abstain, humankind are rendered nearsighted, myopic. That is, I cannot see you for who you truly are. not really, at least, not at first. Because, I first see your hairstyle, the clothes you wear, the color of your skin, your body type and size. And I make assumptions.

            And then I look inside myself and scrutinize everything about me with an ever strengthening magnifying lens, and try to hide. Keep in secret the bits that seem unworthy of seeing light – because I have already deemed them unworthy in you. And so we live in an ever spiraling condemnation-being-condemned-to-condemn-the-other again, and again.

Emptied himself

Philippians 2.7:
but [Jesus] emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

[adapted from a previous post] My Lenten discipline this year to meditate with Julian of Norwich on my crucified Lord has been a profound experience for me. It is deepening my sense of the breadth of God’s love, and with it, God’s persistent—stubborn, insistent—patience. It is reworking my notion of what I am as part of Christ’s body.

Frederick Bauerschmidt’s reflection on Julian’s vision brought him to conclude,

“To be a ‘theological person’ . . . is to be ‘in Christ,’ to be included in his person by being included in his mission. Christ is not simply ‘the one for whom we now live (and die) but . . . the pattern and archetype of our new vocation’ (TD III, 248). The selves that we are given by God in our mission are selves in which the individual-community antinomy is healed. The mission, the task of discipleship by which one is ‘in Christ,’ is unique to each individual, yet when one receives this unique mission, one is ‘simultaneously de-privatized, socialized, made into a locus and a bearer of community’ (TD III, 271).”

Frederick Bauerschmidt

            Your experience and relationship with Christ is your own, unique – And, that very relationship with Christ makes it communal. I love that phrase: de-privatized. Still, a tension remains “between individual and community [as] the individual . . . must ‘bear witness to the authentic Church of Christ in the face of an environment that mistakenly imagines that it is the Church’ (TD III, 455).” (Bauerschmidt, 168) When the church isn’t acting like the church, it messes with our sense of identity as followers of Christ.

           When we are incorporated into Christ we become Christ-as-mission. It is a personal assent, an individual decision. It is also a decision arrived at in the context of community, and, it follows, as the ecclesial-Body-as-mission. The tension occurs when the ecclesial body asserts an absolute viewpoint that is not possible for finite being or institution to determine.

It is both/and—where Jesus “meets [each of us] sacramentally in the concrete community of the church.” As Julian of Norwich understands, Jesus “desires that we cleave strongly to the faith of holy church, and find there our dearest mother in solace and true understanding, with the whole community of the blessed” (61.57-59)

It is a drama, it is movement, it is living.

           And, as we live Christ’s body—individual embodied Christ’s as ecclesial body of Christ—we live his mission. During Lent we are particularly aware of the action of Jesus on the cross, the wound that remains open until all who will be saved, are. And we find it poignantly expressed in the hymns of our faith tradition.

Charles Wesley, John Wesley’s dear brother in life and mission, wrote theologically as hymnody, speaking directly to experiencing the reality of Jesus’ wound. Here are two:

  1. CHRIST, from whom all blessings flow, Perfecting the saints below, Hear us, who thy nature share, Who thy mystic body are.
  2. Join us, in one spirit join, Let us still receive of thine; Still for more on thee we call; Thou who fillest all in all.
  3. Closer knit to thee, our Head; Nourish us, O Christ, and feed! Let us daily growth receive, More and more in Jesus live.
  4. Jesus, we thy members are, Cherish us with kindest care, Of thy flesh and of thy bone, Love, for ever love thine own!
  5. Move, and actuate, and guide: Divers gifts to each divide; Placed according to thy will, Let us all our work fulfil;
  6. Never from our office move, Needful to each other prove; Use the grace on each bestowed, Tempered by the art of God.
  7. Sweetly may we all agree, Touched with softest sympathy; Kindly for each other care; Every member feel its share.
  8. Wounded by the grief of one, Now let all the members groan; Honoured if one member is, All partake the common bliss.
  9. Many are we now and one, We who Jesus have put on; There is neither bond nor free, Male nor female, Lord, in thee!
  10. Love, like death, hath all destroyed, Rendered all distinctions void; Names, and sects, and parties fall: Thou, O Christ, art all in all!
  1. GOD of my salvation, hear, And help me to believe! Simply do I now draw near, Thy blessing to receive: Full of sin, alas! I am, But to thy wounds for refuge flee; Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.
  2. Standing now as newly slain, To thee I lift mine eye! Balm of all my grief and pain, Thy grace is always nigh: Now, as yesterday, the same Thou art, and wilt for ever be; Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.
  3. Nothing have I, Lord, to pay, Nor can thy grace procure, Empty send me not away, For I, thou know’st, am poor: Dust and ashes is my name, My all is sin and misery; Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.
  4. No good word, or work, or thought, Bring I to gain thy grace; Pardon I accept unbought, Thy proffer I embrace, Coming, as at first I came, To take, and not bestow on thee; Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.
  5. Saviour, from thy wounded side I never will depart; Here will I my spirit hide When I am pure in heart: Till my place above I claim, This only shall be all my plea, Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.

            So as we center on, allow our awareness to focus on the action of Jesus on the cross, the wound that remains open until all who will be saved, are, We can enter, as it were, to see as Jesus sees. This Lenten season, my eyes have been drawn to the devastating wound of drug addition—heroin, in particular. The use of heroin is on the rise and it is everywhere—even (likely) where you might not expect.

The decision to use a drug is not made in isolation, its effects not confined to the user. All who intersect the world of the user feel the impact. The decision also involves the seller, the producer and all who are complicit by benefiting from the profit thereof, the structures that support it.

            Considerable time and energy could be directed to discussing the systemic nature of the drug industry. Right now, in this moment, let us instead draw our attention to the One who cries out in pure love for these wounded ones enveloped in the false reality of escape-by-substance.

Let us allow our minds and hearts to be caught up in a Lenten prayer, to know the pain Christ takes on himself for us—all of us—for whom He bleeds, and, perhaps, catch a vision for the mission of Christ to make things right in this world—so that all will be well, all manner of things be well.

As you watch this video, listen. Notice the images, hear the music, and consider how you might be Christ-as-mission, Ecclesia-in-mission. Or, perhaps you are wounded and need to enter Jesus’ wound, absorbed and healed by the one who knows our pain – died for our pain.

          Last week, we shared a closing prayer. It was part of a Suscipe. Suscipe is the Latin word for ‘receive.’ St. Ignatius of Loyola incorporated the term into his Spiritual Exercises in the early sixteenth century. However it goes back to monastic profession, in reciting Psalm 119

the Suscipe Prayer:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

John Wesley had his own kind of suscipe prayer that many of you might be familiar with.

Pray this with me. Be intentional with your words. It is a serious prayer. Notice. Welsey’s Suscipe:

Suscipe Prayer

I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, allow me to struggle; let me demonstrate your glory or diminished so that you alone are praised; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Benediction

God has called you to bear witness to hope and goodness. Know that you have been healed of all that prevents you from serving God. Go out with God’s love and blessing to bring Good News to this hurting world. AMEN.