Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reconciliation as a Pathway to God

Living the Gospel II

The Gospel is about reconciliation. 

All those false dichotomies of race, ethnicity, gender and orientation; they are all false. The cultural warfare over the Treyvon Martin killing in Florida, Marriage Equality, the dilemma over Abortion Rights and Freedom of Choice, Gun is all false...for all shall be reconciled in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How, you ask? I suspect it will take all of us working at it, honestly, openly, and with an open heart, ready to listen, change, and grow.

In today’s Epistle my namesake reaches what I consider to be a one of those great moments of theological insight. Paul, as we know, had his days when he seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, but in this case, he seems to have hit the theological nail right on the proverbial head; 

“For in (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
         ~Colossians 1:19 & 20

If, last week we began with an exploration of the first great Gospel word “Love”, and worked it toward an understanding of how it becomes the standard by which we learn to live the Gospel life, so too this week, allow me to invite you to explore with me how the great Gospel word “Reconciliation” continues to keep us “on track” if you will, in living the life God would have us live. 

This three week Gospel series is really about “Living the Gospel” or “Proclaiming it” in thought, word, and deed. I am trying to suggest here that to do so is really quite a simple and straight forward matter. These three great words sum it up, crystallize it, and simplify it. The Gospel in a three word nutshell: Love, Reconciliation, and Forgiveness.

When we were a younger family, we used to look forward to packing  ourselves up in the minivan and towing our much loved pop up tent trailer to Maine; Old Orchard Beach to be particular, Powder Horn Campground to be absolutely precise. For many years it became our “summer home”, if you will. When we arrived, there was a lot of work to be done to set things up. There was a moment though in the midst of things when Cindy would say; “Why don’t you and the kids head off to the pool”. She didn’t have to say that twice. We were off in a flash. It was probably one way of getting us out of her hair so she could have a moment or two of peace and quiet. We headed off to the pool, and there we splashed the day away and cooled off and indulged ourselves in gales of laughter. Eventually, Cindy made her way down to the pool and smiled at the way we were obviously enjoying ourselves. 

My oldest son once told Cindy; “We love you mom, bud dad is more fun!”. Such is the case in our family. Often enough it seems to work out that she gets to do the grunt work and the boys and I get to have the fun.

Such is the case too it seems with Mary and Martha. Somebody has to do the grunt work. Somebody else gets to spend quality time with Jesus. Mary sits at his feet soaking up all that wisdom, being imbued with the radiance of his Light, and drinking deeply from the fountain of eternal life in the very presence of God Incarnate.

But it begs the question; “Do you not care that I have all this work to do? Tell my sister to give me a hand.” Is Jesus that callous as to disregard Martha’s plight or is something else going on here in this Gospel? 

Folks, if we look at our lives, let me suggest to you, you’re probably a bit too busy. You may not be taking enough time for yourselves. You very likely don’t take enough time to pray, to exercise, to read, to care for and about yourself and those who really matter.  Just Friday Brother Almquist of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist gave us this word.

"In our culture at this time, I suspect that most of us need to do less rather than more. The blur of our life begins to clear as we slow down and abide with contentment in the day and the place and the life we’ve been given, which is a gift. And God intends for it to be good."
~Br. Curtis Almquist

So we come back now to the Mary, Martha, and Jesus dynamic. There are the chores of Martha, there is the learning of Mary and there is the teaching of Jesus. I suspect that the fact is in life that all three things must be; simply be. There must be the teaching and the learning. But when all that is said and done, somebody’s is going to have to get up and do the dishes.

The fact is in any household, that there are dishes to be washed, floors to be cleaned, carpets to be vacuumed, lawns to be mowed, bushes to be trimmed and the trash to be taken out. That’s obvious. But there is also the matter of our vital conversations with one another. Any marriage or family system is driven to wellness or comes to a screeching halt depending on on well we communicate, and how effectively we deal with conflict. The matter of Justice simply requires that we all give one another a hand with the chores, the joys and the fun of life. We all need all of life, and we all need to look out for one another to live it to the fullest.

The Gospel is not just about the Compassionate Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is not just about the repentant son. Nor is it just about the resentful older brother or even the mother who has to cook for all the folly of all that testosterone. The Gospel is about all of us as we take our places on the stage of Salvation History and live out our lives as God would have us live them, so that all becomes reconciled to God and to one another.

Remember as you read the Gospel. It is not about who is right or wrong, it is about the whole of life and how we live each part of it. The Gospel is not about whether Mary or Martha is right or wrong. It is about the reconciling love of Jesus for both. Reconciliation begins with a recognition that the two are not a choice between the one and the other, but that the two are part and parcel of a whole. This is the ministry of reconciliation. 

Paul tells us we have been given the ministry of reconciliation not only in today’s Epistle, but in yet another of his soaring passages on living the Gospel. In his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, he says; 
“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
~2 Corinthians 5:14-20

All this is very good, but what of those who do not want to be reconciled? After all there are those marriages that die due to irreconcilable differences. And moreover there are those seemingly intractable conflicts that always simmer near the surface of our lives. I suspect that too often we forget the Gospel words Love, Reconciliation, and Forgiveness. How powerful those words are and how graceful when we live them.

As a man of Irish descent, at least in part, I can tell you that the Capulets and the Montagues are not just two families in a play but the very archetype of human and family conflict like our own Hatfields and McCoys. 

And lest we forget the ages old Protestant and Catholic conflict in Ireland that is now somewhat in abeyance since the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998. It is a complex agreement but it has held the animosities in check at least for some time now.

What then of the Middle East? Will our fellow Bay Stater and countryman John Kerry, actually get the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table to talk? Talk about animosities! Anyone who dares to approach such warring madness risks the ire of the extreme of either camp. Yitzhak Rabin paid with his life the price of signing the Oslo Accords with Yassser Arafat in 1993. 

Anwar Sadat also paid with his life for signing the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. Both men won the Nobel Peace Price. Both men gave their lives for the cause of peace.

Yes, exactly. what if there are those who do not want to be reconciled? What then shall we do? Shall we give up? Or shall we work on to that time when all God’s Children will hold their hands together and sing of the freedom God gives us in the very ministry of Christ which is to reconcile all to himself? This is not just the dream of Martin Luther King. This, in the words of Desmond Tutu is the Dream of God.

You know, when I think of Left Wingers and Right Wingers in American political life, I think too of the Eagle as a symbol of our this great nation, or at least about its potential for greatness. A bird cannot fly without both wings, duh! Neither can we without a recognition that it will take all of us pulling together to lift ourselves to the soaring heights we were designed to achieve. Alas, we have so much to learn in the infancy of our human moral development.

Jesus paid the ultimate price too for this ministry of reconciliation. I hope it doesn’t always come to that. But that’s our work: I'll grant you; an unending work. It is a good way to live our lives. A way that leads to eternal life. It is a Gospel life. 

So then there is Love.
There is the Ministry of Reconciliation.
Next week we’ll focus our energy on Forgiveness.
But every day we live the Gospel.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Gospel.
Fr Paul.

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