Sunday, September 02, 2012

Walk the Walk

Walk the Walk

St Gabriel’s is blessed with seven AA groups. Every week scores of people share their stories and help one another work the “Twelve Steps” toward recovery. They learn many lessons together about the nature of human nature. It is easy enough to hear or to speak the Word of God. It is another matter entirely to Do the Word of God.

As we used to say in the Old Neighborhood; "Talk is cheap". To talk the talk is one thing. To walk the walk is entirely something else. The sacrifice of living the life is one built on the notion of compassion and love. Living that way will cost you. It is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "The Cost of Discipleship". 

This way of life, while it will cost you, is the way of God. It is the way that leads to eternal life. Such a life is built on our care and concern for the poor and the vulnerable. It is built on truth within and a fearless inventory within ourselves.

There is goodness within. There is also much that needs our attention. For without a constant "weeding" of the soul, things "rank and gross in nature possess it merely". (Hamlet Act 1 Scene II line 136)

A Biblically ordered life is a life that builds itself on an awareness of the kingdom of God within.

These words from today’s Epistle speak volumes. They come at an especially helpful moment. There is lots of talk coming from Tampa this past week. There is more to come in a few days from Charlotte, North Carolina. Lets hold these words up to the Truth.

That's the acid test.

Here are the words without comment.

James 1:17-27
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

May I live the words.
May we all live the words.
May truth dwell within us.
May we too dare to "care for the orphans and widows in their distress and keep ourselves unstained by the world". There are so many others to care for too! And to keep ourselves unstained in the process! How in the world can we do such a thing without the help of God.

Jesus’s disciples were challenged because they did not observe the kosher codes of cleanliness. They were thought to be stained. Is it only reasonable that we wash our hands and clean the pots and pans? Even my grandmother would say that cleanliness is next to godliness. But the question was of a deeper kind of cleanliness. Then Jesus responded that the dialectic of righteousness and cleanliness had more to do with what comes out of a human being more than what goes into one.

As Jesus said in today’s Gospel lesson: “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
You may notice that all these evil intentions are bountiful in the world we live in.  It is clear that we have much to learn as we seek to honor one another as Jesus encouraged us to do; indeed as the scripture requires us to do. 
Today’s Psalm (Psalm 15, Book of Common Prayer, page 599) is worth listening to again especially when we consider how we treat one another in our political relationships
LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
who speaks the truth from his heart.
There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.

These are some sobering words. Heaping contempt is a national pass time, it seems to me. And the money that goes around in any election is astounding! If we are seeking to lead a biblically ordered life as so many of our political representatives claim to do, then there are significant portions of scripture that many seem to ignore.

Moses, the “Law Giver” speaks wisdom to the nations of the world with these words. They are no mere suggestions of humankind; they are the direct command of God.

“You must observe these laws diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!" For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?”
The fact that I read these words into the record today is not by any stretch likely to have much impact on how we conduct the remainder of this year’s election. Mutual contempt and diatribe are very much likely to continue and indeed likely to intensify as the hurricane season also often does. Much wind I’m afraid but little wisdom! It is the way of the world.
But we the people can conduct ourselves in a kinder, gentler way. God know’s I’m capable of being an outspoken advocate for my point of view. But isn’t it interesting how often God speaks into the midst of human life...right into the heart of things?
When that happens, the preacher is bound to be faithful to God and proclaim the word as it is, not as s/he might prefer it to be. I thank God that we as Episcopalians are bound to live by the Whole Word of God. I thank God that we follow a lectionary, a three year cycle of assigned readings. The preacher is not free, in our tradition, to select a passage of Scripture s/he likes or tickles his/her fancy. S/he is bound to preach on those passages assigned to her or him on any particular day.
We do pray for this nation. Yes this election is important. They all are. For it is in our discernment of God’s will that the Commonwealth of the nation rests. If nothing else may the Wisdom of God’s Word guide us to that sacred space that we have been given through years of sacrifice: the sacred space we know as the Voter’s Booth. This Labor day may Business learn to honor Labor. Without Labor there is no Business. And may Labor learn to honor Business. Without Business there can be no Labor. After all we are two wings of the same bird. Without the use of both wings no bird can fly. It is compelling me to remember that one of the symbols of this great nation is the Eagle. The Eagle must use both the Left Wing and the Right Wing to fly and then to soar. When shall we learn this Truth with itself is also self evident?

In the meantime, We the People come to the Altar of God week by week. Our AA meetings continue unabated. We seek the Wisdom of God together. We build a strong nation from within. May God prosper our Prayer our words and above all our actions.
God bless you today. God bless you always.
Fr. Paul

1 comment:

Maggid said...

Thank you for this powerful reminder.