Sermon,  Sermons

With All Your Heart: Create

Create Love. Break Boundaries.

Sermon video

We are desperate to be fully known. And equally desperate no one finds out who we really are. This self-imposed impasse is both personal and societal; indeed, it is the human condition – When that fear extends to offering exposure to God, that is. When, in the Garden, the first 2 image bearers consumed fruit that gave them insight to an external knowledge, the vision was too great, the cost of it devastating – because their eyes became so saturated by surface area glare that they were effectively blinded to the reality of the inner soul, the true being of one another – and of God.

            And so blinded by the outer boundaries of the body, we have fought to protect that vulnerable skin at all costs – even at the price of our own souls.

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. And the Word became flesh.

           When I was turning 50, it was exactly 50 days from Easter to Ascension Sunday, so I began a 50-days-of-turning-50 blogging project that explored what occurred during the year of my birth: 1967.

            While the history of humankind as resident on this earth depicts lands riddled with the puncture wounds of markers moved and the battles fought to place them. In 1967 alone, there were 67 conflicts underway. In Saigon the Second battle of Bàu Bàng went down in March, the ongoing Vietnam War advanced, Che Guevara’s Ñancahuazú Guerrilla, the people of Portuguese Guinea fought the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, equality was at stake in the Chicago Freedom Movement, and the War over Water (Jordan river) was only one issue behind the Six-Day War over territory Israel and Arabs claimed—to name only a few.

            A common theme underpinning these clashes is a human one: recognition of identity as part of a distinct community, and a desire for basic regard—the dignity—to freely live that out. Many were fights for independence from colonizing nations that were concerned more for their own interests than that of the people whose home they entered. Others pertained to the assertion of basic rights as human beings, rights that were not afforded them based on arbitrary indicators (skin color, religion, etc). And religion, well, the number of wars justified by religion cannot be quantified. Wars motivated by religion are most heinous because it assumes a god who would prefer one human being (or ethnic group) over another—and that preference implies the other is dispensable.

            I recently finished a science-fiction trilogy (my guilty pleasure) that rather purposely speaks to societal structure in relationship to religious belief. The central character commented on whether members of one powerful group were gods, stating, “They are not. Gods create. If they are anything, they are vampire kings.” His point, rulers that suck the resources out of a place (or peoples) to prolong their own lives are no different from parasites. True, it is no easy thing to be part of organizing a society that honors the social contract while keeping basic human dignity in tact. War is easy. Peace is not.

           Peace is ongoing, organic, necessitates effort, is hard work. It entails collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, listening. Cooperation assumes sharing, and sharing means giving something up for the good of all, so that those who have none may have some. The issue in war is always that someone is holding on to control, to power, unwilling to yield, disinclined to take the moments necessary to really see the other.

Because once I see you, know you, I begin to love you. And if I love you, oh how I want to share with you in my life.

            I began this entry because I was interested in the Israel-Palestine concern regarding boundary lines and the 1967 map frequently referenced these last few years. Obviously, I got a little sidetracked when I noticed there were so many other places that suffered over similar aims, as are so many current disputes equally significant to those affected. And I am increasingly concerned about a leadership that is so self-interested and self-preserving while there are dire needs worldwide – and in our own country. And it is difficult to keep from wondering how this leadership can be supported.

Instead of creating more pathways to peace, a bridge to peace, we erect walls, we mark borders that stymie relationship. The need to control overpowers the deeply human need to connect. Time and again, too easily I put up my fists at any hint that my borders are being breached.

And I am struck by what Dorothy Day writes in one of her journal entries:

“Oh, the loneliness of all of us these days, in all the great moments of our lives, this dying which we do, by little and by little, over a short space of time or over the years. . . . But we repeat that we do see results from our personal experiences, and we proclaim our faith. Christ died for us.  . . . [but] as Julian of Norwich wrote, the worst has already happened and been repaired. Christ continues to die in His martyrs all over the world, in His Mystical Body, and it is this dying, not the killing in wars, which will save the world.”

Dorothy Day

This is the practice of Lent. This is what we do between Ash Wednesday and Easter. We notice. We commit to giving up or giving more or giving in so that we can be reminded in a tangible way what matters:

Hope. Faith that the suffering of Christ “transformed the meaning of human suffering.” Yet, its realization is twofold: “those who suffer can take hope because they suffer with Christ, but those who inflict suffering on others must also realize that they inflict it upon Christ.”

Lived authentic communal embodiment of the gospel occurs when the Body is “purified according to the model of Trinitarian reciprocity, rendering not the static egalitarianism of modern liberalism, but the drama of the servant’s exaltation. What Julian gives us in vignette is something that is neither feudal ‘stability’ nor modern ‘liberty’ but a Trinitarian ‘charity.’”

The dance, the Shekinah of making space, giving way, to be filled and give more, be more . . . There is nothing in the Trinity that contains domination or control of one Person over Another, power imbalance, oppression. The Trinitarian act and Being is charity, is love. It is giving to receive only to give back . . . again, and again.

To emulate in our lives God’s mercy is to lift the servant above the master. This is no guarantee of stability; it is not a promise of being given carte blanche. It is Trinitarian ‘charity,’ indulgence, extravagant love—a love that makes no sense. Love that lifts the underling above the executive.

Thomas Keating, recently disclosed, “So, I’m struggling, and physically I’m not so vigorous, so I think of myself when I stumble around the cloister as simply manifesting the mystery of Christ’s journey to Jerusalem and then his way of the cross, so I feel more and more a great responsibility. I think that’s the natural or spontaneous unfolding of God’s presence in us, which is opening us to the oneness of the human family and our accountability for everything else. So you might say we are just as much someone else as ourselves and certainly God is more us than we are.”

Christ opened himself to us at the wound at his side on the cross, rent the boundary between God and us. And, God in us and between us. The result of this supreme action of Love is that I become more of who I am most truly. This same God in you and me makes us more of who we are when I open myself at my wounds to you—then true love begins. Why is this so hard?! I have this instinctive reaction to whine and complain about this slight or that injustice, or recall the sting of another’s salt dashed on my sores. It is vulnerable. It is scary. It is wrought by hope and by faith. And, it is here that we emulate God’s mercy . . . and truly love. The pain subsumed by the Love that knows ultimate suffering—for us . . . for love.

But, this kind of love is not meant to console. It is meant to evoke the drama of the servant’s exultation, Trinitarian charity. And it is this giving up for Other “which will save the world”—if we are in it together. Please pray with me, meditate with me on these visual and lyrical images, and allow the Spirit to speak to ways that you and I might elevate another, and hear the assurances that my wound, your wound is enclosed in the wound of Jesus . . . and let the borders blur and fade away.

In my 50-something years of life, I still believe in a God that creates. I believe a God who communicates that making right relationship between God and us, and among us is God’s purpose—from the very first spark of creation to the kingdom of on earth as heaven revealed in all its fullness. I believe we are created to be for one another, that we have grown as people in technologies and the insight and knowledge of each other – that I am capable of seeing God’s character reflected in you and your culture. That by knowing you I know God more, and together we can more effectively, productively be church – collaboratively, creatively, peacefully. It is possible.

Still we must live that creativity, be creative – not building from a kit, painting by numbers – the church is in a place that requires that we think, as with the amplituhedron, an entirely new way of doing things means we might consider the starting point from outside space-time, other-dimensionality. “Behold I am doing a new thing.”

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. And the Word became flesh.

With God, all things are. I believe that. Jesus, help my unbelief.