Friday, November 7, 2008

Sermon for Year A Proper 25

You sweep us away like a dream…

Imagine this.
It is early Saturday afternoon/early Sunday morning.
I get a phone call.
It’s Bishop Taylor.
He says, “Jeanne, he’s back.”
“He’s back? Who’s back?” I ask.
“Jesus,” the Bishop replies.
“ Yes, he’s back and he’s coming to your Saturday evening/11 AM Sunday
morning service.”
“To St. John’s?”
“Yes, that’s where he said he wanted to go. He wants to preach.”

Who am I to say no to Jesus wanting to preach.
I’m a bit of a nervous wreck and I don’t say anything to anyone.
After all, what if I say Jesus is coming here to St. John’s
and he doesn’t show up?

The service starts.
No Jesus.
We begin the Liturgy of the Word.
We hear the lessons and I read the Gospel.
Just as I return the Gospel book to the altar,
here comes Jesus.
Right down the center aisle.
Right here at St. John’s.

He walks up to the pulpit.
He looks out at each of you.
I mean he really looks at each of you.
He looks at me too.
Needless to say, we are all speechless.

Jesus too is silent for a few moments.
Then he speaks.

“You shall love the Lord your God
with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul,
and with ALL your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it:
you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these TWO commandments
hang ALL the law and the prophets.”

On these TWO commandments—
Love God. Love your neighbor—
hang ALL the law and the prophets.

Jesus smiles.
He looks again—deeply—at each one of us.
And then he walks down the center aisle and out of St. John’s.
We are stunned.

Suddenly we come alive and realize we have all these questions
we want to ask Jesus.
Someone runs after him,
out into the parking lot
But he is gone.
We sit in silence and think about what he has said.

You shall love your God
with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul,
and with ALL your mind.
Love your neighbor.

It sounds so simple.
Almost too simple.
Surely there is more required of us than love.
But those are Jesus’ own words.
Love God. Love your neighbor.

Most of us realize--
regardless of the simplicity of the statement--
we realize that love is never an easy journey.
Even when we set out with the best possible intentions.

Loving with ALL our heart
And ALL our soul
And ALL our mind—
That means no exceptions.
Not an easy journey
but that is the journey for which we are each commissioned.

When I travel,
I like non-stop flights.
No changing planes.
No lost luggage.
No sitting around in multiple airports.
No missed connections
Give me a non-stop flight any day.

And that is great—for going to Wales or to Providence or to Denver
or to wherever we might be traveling.
But we have to understand—
there just aren’t any non-stop flights on our spiritual journey.

We get on. We get off. We wander. We lose our “luggage”—
whatever we are carrying around at the time.
Sometimes we pick up some new baggage along the way.

Our spiritual journey forces us to travel some new routes.
Some we willingly undertake,
Others are almost forced upon us.
We find ourselves sitting next to strangers quite often.

Have you ever noticed how pews in a church are set up like an airplane?
All neatly lined up.
A center aisle.
We have our favorite seats—window or aisle.
Please oh please save us from those middle seats
unless we are sitting with family!

We travel along our spiritual path and we arrive—
Or at least at first we THINK we have arrived.

But when we stop and look around
We realize we are not at our destination—
we are at a new place
but it often feels like beginning again.
And the journey continues.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus tries to make it so simple for us.
Friends, he says,
You don’t really need to remember 10 commandments.
You can remember just two.
Two will do it.
Here are your signposts for your journey.
Love God. Love your neighbor.
ALL the commandments hang on those two.

Yes, we know it is simple to remember—
but we know it is not simple to live those two commandments
on a daily basis.
We can get our ticket and board the plane
but it won’t be a non-stop flight.

But regardless, loving God and loving one another—
with ALL of our being—
that is our flight assignment for our spiritual journey.

It’s a bumpy ride sometimes.
There is often turbulence.
How do we love people that drive us crazy?
How do we love people that are down right hateful?
How do we love God with all our heart and soul and mind
when we are so busy, when we’ve been hurt,
when we are struggling to make a living,
when we are fighting an illness?

We show up.
We pray.
We make mistakes.
We try again.
We start over.
It’s not a non-stop flight.
There is no direct route.

We choose to sign up for the journey or not.
We choose to accept the assignment or back away.

We are not trying to achieve perfection or success.
Our spiritual journeys are not about accomplishments.
Our spiritual journeys are about increasing our faith, our hope, our charity.
Our spiritual journeys are about learning to walk in love
as Christ loves us.

We heard in the reading from Deuteronomy about Moses.
Moses never got to go and live in the promised land here on earth.
But he got a glimpse. He got a holy glimpse.

And that glimpse reminded him
That the journey—that long and winding road—
is not about the promised land here on earth—
it is about what lies beyond.

Moses only got a glimpse.
But that glimpse was enough.
That glimpse makes the whole journey—
with all its stops, connections, layovers, lost luggage—worth it.

We show up for worship to catch a glimpse.
We offer kindness and forgiveness and love
to those who have not earned it or deserved it,
to catch a glimpse.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.

Love is everything.
Absolutely everything.

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