Monday, May 4, 2015

Easter 5 B - May 3. 2015

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams, n/OHC
Easter 5 B – Sunday, May 3, 2015

Acts 8:265-40
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8
Listening with the ear of the heart
It is clear to me – as I look at them – that the readings this morning are intended for – as my grandmother would say – ‘grown folks’ or at least those who have been touched by the disarming and all encompassing love of God.
God does not wait for us:
  • To be fixed
  • To be whole
  • To be perfect
  • In order to love us.  
God loves us into wholeness but that wholeness is not the absence of scars if the post resurrection appearances are an indication of what we too will be. And that is good news.
I think to better understand our readings we will need to spend some time reflecting on what I think is one of the most beautiful chapters of literature the world has ever known. 
You know it; its read at lots of weddings. 
"Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Love bears all things, believes all things, Hopes all things, and endures all things. Love, never fails."
Ain’t it beautiful!?

But he includes some other words in that beautiful chapter of poetry, words not as beautiful as the rest, but words all the beauty rests on. 
It's the 11th verse of 1 Corinthians 13 I'm talking about:
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became an adult, I put away childish things."
There is a difference between being infatuated with the idea of Jesus and living the love He teaches in the Gospel. You see, that is a grownup matter.  It is a matter for ‘grown folks’. As best as I can tell, we live in a society, which says you're only young once, but you can be immature for a lifetime.  You know She who finishes with all the toys, they tell us, wins the game. 
But living for, and, in Jesus is different.
I love children and I have spent a lot of time with them.  One thing I notice is that small children  repeat one word: ‘mine!’  But you know those little tyrants never say it just once.  They say, :"Mine, Mine, Mine!" But, for the grown up Christian, there is no such thing as mine!  There's only what God has shared. 
"All things come of thee O Lord and of thine own have we given thee...."  That is what the old people used to say in church. 
But this is not a popular idea in America and not even in church, really. In our world, we look out for number one.  We say, "I got mine. You get yours."  But the Christian life is different. The grown-up Christian knows and understands that our futures are eternally linked. The grownup Christian knows that God always provides enough manna to match our hunger.  The grownup Christian knows every heart beat is gift; every nickel, a gift.  It is because everything is gift; we blaspheme when we cry out mine.  Or at least we sound childish.  Just think about the church in the book of Acts. They shared what they had and by sharing they distinguished themselves as a different kind of community.
Though the word love is repeated countless times by Paul, the word "our" captures the practical side of what it means to be a grownup Christian.
Jesus invites us to abide in him. To make our home in him. To get up real close. To listen to him closely.  To act like him. To love as he does. To be as vulnerable as he is.
A grownup love listens to the voice of God the voice of humility that says:  “That deep within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives.
When we come to the point that we can see God in ourselves when we can see God at work in us.  We can then look in the face of every person and see deep down within them "the image of God," We can begin to love them in spite of. No matter what they do, because we are able to see God's image there.  When we listen to God and the world around us we hear what is said and what is not said.  Love hears with the heart.  It hears the Spirit's groaning, too deep for words. 
Sometimes just listening is the best expression of love. If you remember the old King James Bible, you remember that in the gospels, all of Jesus' words are in red ink.  And compared to the words in black ink, Jesus says quite a bit less than everybody else. I used to think that Jesus was so deep he only needed to say a little to teach his listeners. Just drop some pithy saying and then it's on to the next preaching gig. But, now, I think his few words in comparison to others might mean that he was just really good at listening.  Real understanding comes from real listening. And real listening, grownup listening isn't simply waiting for a chance to speak; grownup listening takes courage.
Perhaps we have forgotten that Dr. King taught us that riots are the language of the unheard. The question for this nation the question for us is are we listening?  Will we hear the voices of our young people: Crying out in pain, Crying out for help Crying out of change? Or will we allow the spectacle of violence to become an excuse to turn away? 
Beloved if we apply defensiveness in our listening when we should apply courage, well, we've just missed what God was trying to reveal to us.  "God is love," the Bible tells us; and yet God's first language is silence.  And God only sees fit to break that silence with a "still small voice."  We've got to listen for God and to each other.  That's the only way we'll grow in God it is the only way we can abide in God. 
I know this maybe some difficult stuff because we can be such a chatty bunch--all of us--with our breathless busy lives.  Despite the Bible's warnings, we still measure success by verbosity and amounts of information.  But if a business can be measured by its profit margin, then a grownup Christian life should be measured by how much time is devoted to quiet, focused on hearing from God and from God's people.  Sure, we're getting older, but are we growing up?

Paul finishes all this talk of growing up by saying, "I used to think as a child."   Well, what are childish thoughts?  I have noticed that children are always sure of one thing, that they are right.  They will say to you with those beautiful childish faces, "You know I'm right.  I'm right about everything." We have beautiful faces too, but we are not always right.  Preachers are not always right.  Presidents are not always right. The justice system is not always right.  Economic policies are not always right. 
Yes, it takes a real grownup to admit being in the wrong.  And it takes a real grownup to hear an apology and move on.  It takes some real growing up to apply the words of our faith, "If someone offends you, go to that person directly."  Notice, it doesn't say send a terse email and then write the person off. 
The grown up Christian knows that when the opportunity presents itself to defeat your enemy, that is the time, which you must not do it. You see the grown up Christian knows there will come a time when; the person who hates you most; the person who has misused you most; the person who has gossiped about you most; the person who has spread false rumors about you most.  There will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. You see love does not seek to get back at the other for wrongs done. That is the meaning of love.  Or as Dr. King said: "In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It's not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all".
  • If we are really abiding ……
  • Living in God's love
  • Or at least striving to
  • Then The disease of racism will no longer be

The burden of Black and Brown people and the Shame of White People.  So what measure of love are we willing to extend to one another?

Beloved our: Marriages, Our work, Our church, Our children Our world cannot afford for us to be anything less than gospel ‘grown folks’.

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