Sermon,  Sermons

Nothing to Separate Us

8th Sunday after Pentecost

In the Garden, arr. by j. Boyd; Deb Ketzel
Rom 8:26-28, 33-39; Mat 13:31-33, 44-52

sermon video

Jeremiah 3:14-17 – you will no longer say, “the ark of the covenant.” “It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”

There will no longer be a need for the symbol, because the kin-dom of God IS.

The kin-dom of God is like….

A mustard seed, yeast that a woman mixed into flour, a treasure in a field, a merchant who finds a priceless pearl, a net cast into the sea that catches everything. Jesus tells us so many ways what the kin-dom of heaven is like, so that all of us would understand, so we would Recognize it. If we have eyes to see.

Jeremiah tells the people of Israel, you will no longer need to gather around a symbol of your faith because you will no longer need it to remind you of God’s covenant with you. You will gather where the kin-dom is already made apparent: in your markets, in your fields, in your homes.

No more need to gather around the symbol of the Word of God when the Word Lives within us.

No more need to offer blood sacrifices because the Word fills every space

No more need to make pilgrimage to the temple because the Word’s Spirit is within, prays for us, prays with us, prays in us.

John Lewis, exemplar of civil rights, peaceful revolutionary, who recognized the kin-dom amid injustice, and who died last week said:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

— John Lewis

Lewis talked with Krista Tippet a few years ago, ‘about seeing the humanity in everyone — even those who were attacking, beating, or spitting on him. “There comes a time where you have to be prepared to literally put your physical body in the way to go against something that is evil, unjust, and you prepare to suffer the consequences. But whatever you do, whatever your response is, is with love, kindness, and that sense of faith.”

The same love anchored his protest against a society designed to never love him back. “When we went on the freedom ride, it was love in action. The march from Selma to Montgomery was love in action,” he said. “We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action.”’

John Lewis describes, he lived, a reality in which he saw people as children of God. He lived a reality in which Love motivated him to speak out against hate and injustice and indifference. John Lewis lived a reality in which to Love means to tell the truth about it—and then do something about it.

You will no longer say, “the ark of the covenant.” “It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”

People! Jerusalem is here! The kin-dom of God is at hand! The kin-dom of heaven is within you! Love came down, heaven came down and glory filled my soul….

If we believe this – Jesus, help my unbelief! – is that reflected in my lived reality?

Because, in those interesting little parables that Jesus told, there are a few that describe, yes, all of the boundless variety of fish are caught in the net, but the unviable ones (“bad”) are thrown out. And thrown into the furnace of fire, for good measure!

Now, this is a parable, a metaphor, and there are countless interpretations that explain the soteriological and eschatological (salvation and end times) meaning of the furnace.

Whatever the meaning, I do know that I would prefer to be among the ones picked because I am viable, useful, to provide sustenance for a weary soul… a friend… a sister or brother whose DNA carries the trauma of centuries of injustices….

To be among the ones picked because I am viable, useful to, despite my small frame and chronic illness, can provide an expansive resting place and refuge for those who march, active in Love, in loving each other, in the face of physical and soul-ripping harm.

I would prefer to be among the ones picked because I am viable, useful, to participate in making the Bread of Life rise, hold together in unity – fragrant, delicious, satiating – the Body of Christ.

What would this look like?

In GTGT we just finished reading the book, Holy Envy, by, Barbara Brown Taylor. In it, Brown Taylor processes her lifetime of belief according to the Christian tradition, and explores other faith traditions with an eye for seeing the holy in each, the sacred that reveals God in a way she never felt free to consider. At the end of the book she reflects,

“I asked God for religious certainty, and God gave me relationships instead. I asked for solid ground, and God gave me human beings instead—strange, funny, compelling, complicated human beings—who keep puncturing my stereotypes, challenging my ideas, and upsetting my ideas about God, so that they are always under construction. I may yet find the answer to all my questions in a church, a book, a theology, or a practice of prayer, but I hope not. I hope God is going to keep coming to me in authentically human beings who shake my foundations, freeing me to go deep into the mystery of why we are all here.”

Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy, 213

The mystery of why we are all here. All of us made in the very image and likeness of God. All, who uniquely reflect God’s character, personhood, divinity. All of us. And yet we can sit in our homes and allow entire groups of people to be treated like lesser beings.

We won’t find the answers in a book, ultimately – though reading books by people of color or about ways to change our perspective is still important. We won’t find the answers in a church building – though meeting tougher for worship is edifying.

But we will find answers in each other – in the other who may seem so different from us but is a dwelling place for the Spirit of the Living God.

At the end of Aug or beginning of Sept, a few of us are going to work through Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies. I will also incorporate mindfulness spiritual practices to augment the healing, the mind-body-soul work of the whole person. If you would like to join us, please order the book soon as it takes a bit of time to ship.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, in our inability, or lack of interest to act. But the Spirit is already praying for us! The Spirit knows what to say, even when we don’t have any idea how to even think about what we should be praying for. The Spirit knows and prays, searching the depths of our souls, the deepest parts we are terrified to traverse – and intercedes on our behalf anyway.

And even then, there is nothing, even in that pit of bad attitude, even hateful ideas and thoughts, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ.

For I am convinced that neither riches nor poverty, nor femaleness nor maleness, nor health, nor a devastating virus, nor intelligence, nor disability, nor coffee brownness of skin, nor coconut shaded, nor olive toned, nor pasty paleness, nor freckled, nor wrinkled, nor any other socially-contrived edifice is able to separate us from the Love of God…

And out of that conviction, we will find that there is

Nothing to separate us from each other.


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