Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 25, 2006

In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.

Life can be so unpredictable. As Fr. Emmanuel and I were returning from General Convention this week, we both had our travel plans in hand. We knew exactly what was happening and when on our travels. Or at least we thought so. I was the lucky one. I was only delayed a few hours. Fr. Emmanuel ended up spending an unexpected 14 hours in Chicago. Life is a lot like our travels this week. You never know, for an absolute certainty what is going to happen next. There are no guarantees. All of us face uncertainties and trials.

Job was surely caught by surprise in his life. He was living the ultimate success story. He was wealthy, had a wonderful life, a loving wife, and fantastically perfect children. It was all a man could ask for. I’m sure he felt that he would die content and with nothing to regret. But he would loose it all. The words we read in Job today is the response he gets from God after questioning and expressing his frustration with all that has fallen upon him. To me, the response from God seems rather shocking. It does not seem particularly pastoral!

But when I turn to the Gospel I see what seems to me to be the same thing. The narrative in Mark picks up just after Jesus has spent a lot of time sharing with the disciples. And after that, to get away from the crowds and get a small break at least for a short while, Jesus and the disciples climb in for a boat ride. Jesus falls into a deep sleep and soon a wild storm arises. The disciples are convinced that they are about to perish on the sea. The disciples panic in fear for their own lives and wake Jesus, rebuking him for his lack of concern over their own lives. And then we have, what seems to me, another most unpastoral moment. After Jesus calms the seas he rebukes the disciples for their fear and lack of faith.

Both of these stories trouble me greatly in the response we see from God to those who are in the story. I like to think I would never respond that way to people who had lost all, family and belongings or who had expressed a lack of faith in a moment of fear. Perhaps because I see myself in these people. I see myself lacking faith when fearful or having suffered a great calamity. I want a little more solace and comfort in those moments of failure. And I would imagine, rightly so, that any of you would expect that as well from Fr. Emmanuel or myself.

I find myself struggling for what is the right answer. The “in your face” response of Jesus and God leaves me uncomfortable to say the least. Not that the responses were not true. They were. We should always have faith. We should recognize the power of God in our lives and in the world. And perhaps since God knows our hearts God knew the answer that best suited in each of these situations. Which sort of brings me back to the passage in Job again. Who am I to question the ways of God?

But I think what ties all of this together, the loss, the fear, God’s response to it all, and my response to these stories all come together in one wonderful phrase in the reading from Second Corinthians. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”

In all that happens in our lives, God is there. In the good times and in the bad times, God is there. In the peaceful times and in the fearful times, God is there. God’s purpose is to reconcile the world to himself. And it is important to note that we are instructed to carry that message of reconciliation to others. It is our job to spread the message that God is reconciling the world to himself. You see, God is not reconciling only Episcopalians to himself. God is not reconciling only Roman Catholics to himself. God is not reconciling only Baptists to himself. What is God reconciling to himself? The world. Not just the parts we enjoy. Not just the people who are so full of faith that they never have fear. Not just those who never doubt or question God or God’s existence or God’s plan. God is busy reconciling each and every person in the world to himself.

There is good news and bad news in this for us. The good news is that each and every one of us is being reconciled to God through Christ. And the bad news is that each and every one of us is being reconciled to God through Christ. Those we love and those we love to hate are all reconciled to God.

This is the truth which we need to stand up for. There are too many in the Christian community only to willing, and dare I say happy, to consign others to hell. But that is not what Paul was saying in this passage. He was saying quite the opposite. As a church we must be willing to proclaim the truth. We must stand up against those who would teach otherwise.

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