Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sermon for Year C Epiphany 3


Many of us watched the Presidential inauguration this past Monday--
either on television or streaming it over the internet.
Regardless of our political persuasion,
I feel our President gave a very moving address.

He used the first line of the Preamble to our Constitution
as the phrase which united his speech:

We the people..
WE the people.
He emphasized the word WE
and how important it is for us to work together
to make a difference in this country.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is making much the same point:

Just as the body is one and has many members
and all the members of the body, though many,
are one body...

We the people of God...
we are different, we are diverse, 
we come together as the Church, as the One Body of Christ.

Paul writes to the Corinthians--and to us--
to tell us that we need this diversity.
We are more dependent upon our diversity,
our different gifts, than we sometimes give credit.

Imagine if we were all the same.
Paul is almost comical 
as he leads us through this metaphorical

If the whole body were an eye...
we wouldn’t miss seeing anything 
but we would never hear one note of music.

If the whole body were an ear,
we would never have the joy of smelling hyacinths in the spring
or freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.

We need each other 
to fully be the body of Christ
just as our bodies need eyes AND ears AND noses
AND hands AND feet and elbows and fingernails...every part.

Every part of the body is important.
I can’t think of one part that any of us would give up willingly.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice,
but God is not about perfection.
God is about wholeness.

We need diversity.
Even though diversity sometimes makes us very uncomfortable
God chose to create a world where we are each different.
It is what makes us so amazing.
It is what makes so much possible.

I am reading this marvelous book right now
by Susan Cain.
The title is: Quiet: The Power of Introverts
In a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

She opens her book
with this quote from Allen Shawn:

“A species in which everyone was General Patton
would not succeed,
any more than would a race in which everyone
was Vincent van Gogh.
I prefer to think that the planet
needs athletes, philosophers, sex symbols,
painters, scientists; 
it needs the warmhearted, the hardhearted, 
the coldhearted, and the weakhearted.
It needs those who can devote their lives
to studying how many droplets of water
are secreted by the salivary glands
of dogs under which circumstances,
and it needs those who can capture 
the passing impression of cherry blossoms
in a fourteen-syllable poem
or devote twenty-five pages 
to the dissection of a small boy’s feelings
as he lies in bed in the dark
waiting for his mother to kiss him goodnight...”

We are not the same.
We are different.
That is good news.
And the rest of the good news
is that we need each other.

This is what Paul is trying to teach the people of Corinth.
We still need this lesson today.

Sometimes we seem to celebrate our diversity
only from a position of power and privilege.
How wonderfully kind I am to accept others 
who are so different than I am.
How generous and open hearted of me 
to welcome the stranger.

But I don’t think this is the gospel message.

Last week I mentioned billboards that say
Love God.
Love your neighbor.
Change the world.

I want to throw a bumper sticker into the mix this week:

God loves everyone.
No exceptions.

God’s love is deep and big and immense and inclusive.

God loves you.
God loves me.
God loves everyone.
God doesn’t love us EVEN THOUGH we are different and diverse.
God loves us BECAUSE we are different and diverse.

We are not being asked to be kind or be generous
when we notice that someone is different than us.
We are being asked to notice and to celebrate
that someone is not our clone.

The very things that may irritate us about someone
may be the very thing God loves the most about that person.
Each and every person matters to God.

Most of you know how much Tom and I love movies.
One of our nephews, Patrick, is also a movie-lover.
He lives in LA where he is an aspiring screen writer and film maker.
Each year he sends out a list of his TOP TEN films from the past year.
I am never surprised to see a James Bond movie on his list!
But I was surprised when he included the film THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Yesterday Tom and I went to see the movie THE IMPOSSIBLE.
It is based on a true story about a family of five,
spending Christmas vacation at a gorgeous new resort right on the beach
in Thailand--
there having fun together  in the beachfront pool--
when the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004.

Even though I knew about the tsumani
and it’s vast destruction--of human lives and property and the land itself--
for some reason I had never thought about so many families,
so many little children, being there,
being overwhelmed by that 98 feet tall tidal wave.

This is not an easy movie--
and I know that the film is far, far easier to experience
than what it was that day--and the days that followed.

But what you see
is the diversity of humanity.
What you see is that none of us are protected
because of our income level or the color of our skin
or our jobs or our family or our country of origin.
We are each as vulnerable as the next.

I do not believe that God makes tsunamis happen
or earthquakes or hurricanes
nor do I believe that God will protect us from anything horrible
happening in our lives.
I do, however, firmly believe that God will be with us.
God is with us through everything
and God is with us through every person.

There is a scene in the movie,
after the tsunami first hits,
when the mother, Maria,
and her oldest son, Lucas, see one another
as they are being violently pushed along by the waters.

They are finally able to connect, to grab hands--
even though they are both hurt, injured,
especially the mother.

But the survival instinct is very strong.
They see a tree that is still standing and they know they need
to get to that tree and climb as high as they can
in case there is another tidal wave coming.
The tree will give them refuge until someone comes--
they hope and pray that someone will come.
But on the way to that tree
they hear a child crying out.

At first when you see Maria listening,
you think she is listening, hoping
it might be one of her two youngest boys,
two little boys, ages 5 and 7,
that she has lost--along with her husband-- when the tsunami struck.
She listens, hoping.

But then you can tell by the expression on her face
that it is not one of her own children.
Mothers--and fathers--
usually know the sound of their own children’s cries.

But she tells her son Lucas that they need to find this child,
this child who is crying out.

Lucas, who is about 11 years old, is the practical one.
He knows how badly his mother is hurt.
He knows they need to save themselves--
and at this point, they barely have the strength 
to save themselves.

NO, Lucas says.
We can’t.
We have to get to that tree and climb up.

But Maria, even though she knows her son is right in so many ways,
she finally says to him,
“Lucas, it may be the last thing we ever do,
but we have to try to find that child.”

Maria sees and hears and feels, at least at that moment,
with the heart of God.
She knows that everyone matters.
She knows that everyone matters as much as she matters.
I have no idea of her religious beliefs
but at that moment, she fully understands what it is to be the body of Christ.

They go in search of that crying child.

God loves everyone.
No exceptions.

You may think you don’t matter.
You are wrong.
You do matter.
What you have to offer as part of the Body of Christ 
is so important, 
so vital,
so vibrant.

You matter to this little microcosm of the Body of Christ,
St. John’s Episcopal Church.

When you are not here worshipping with us,
you are missed.
I really mean this.

We miss you when you are not here.
The prayers don’t have the right cadence if YOUR voice is missing.
The hymns sound  a little flat if you are not here--
or maybe they don’t sound flat enough 
when you are not here!

Are we all the same?
But we are all God’s children.
No one is superior.
No one is inferior.

We are different.
We are diverse.
To God we are each equally amazing.
We all belong to a God who loves us.
Our task is to learn to love one another as we are so loved by God.
To learn to love one another BECAUSE of our differences
not in spite of our differences.

Jesus came into the world to bring this good news to us.
Now the scroll has been passed into our hands.
To go into the world and share the good news.

God loves you.
God loves me.

God loves everyone.
No exceptions.

No comments: