Sunday, June 21, 2015

Do You Not Care?

Jesus, Do You Not Care that we are Perishing?

Let me begin with a greeting; Happy Fathers Day. 
When Jesus spoke of his father, he used the word "abba" which means something like "daddy". 
There is, in the relationship between God and Jesus an intimacy.  Even in the midst of a great windstorm, when the waves were beating against the boat so that the boat was being swamped, such was the trust of Jesus in God that he was there he is asleep astern on a cushion. 

Quite reasonably, the disciples, fearing for their own continuing existence called out; “Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?” 

This, of course is the question that comes to heaven from the human heart again and again in this country, whether it is from Charleston, Sandy Hook, Columbine or Virginia Tech. Again and again we face the pure agony of the slaughter of the innocents, and in this case as they studied the sacred writings of the Holy Bible. 

Jesus looks directly into every human soul and asks the same question; "Do you not care that your brothers and sisters are perishing?

The spread of hatred and the easy availability of guns in this country is indeed a real and present danger. 

Where is our salvation?
Where shall we look?
To God? Obviously!
To ourselves, Yes, and even more urgently.

The foundational credo for all Christians is to love God and to love one another. There is a challenge to this simple and straight forward mandate.

Do we hear family and friend alike use racial epithets when describing the President of the United States, people of color and other minorities? Do we challenge statements like these? Or do we let them go? After all, how can we find a constructive way of dealing with the growing ubiquity of ignorance?

Where is our salvation?

In classic Christianity there is the teaching of our catechism. Let’s review the Five Mighty Acts of God. All right class; what are they? (The Catechism of the Episcopal Church can be found in the Book of Common Prayer beginning on p. 845)
1. The Creation
2. The Exodus
3. Jesus Christ
4. The Church
5. The Christian Hope

In the face of hatred, racism, and violence where then shall we place ourselves?

1. First, let’s begin with the creative energy of God. Let us become co-creators with God. Let us become partners with God in creation.

For example, when I was in West Virginia and I may have told you this story before. Forgive me if I have but it bears repeating especially in the wake of recent events; but there was a cross burning on the front lawn of a black family in town. Apparently, a black youngster dated a white girl and the Evil Specter of Hatred and Racism was swift to show its ugliness. 

What do we do in the face of such hatred and racism?

I called my friend Mike Poke the pastor of St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church. We had a cup of coffee. He hadn’t heard of the cross burning incident just yet, but it wasn’t long before it was a headline event in the Kanawha Valley. I was glad that he heard the news from me.

We began to plan a service at St. Paul’s Church and a march down the main street of town to St Mark’s Church, both historic congregations in town. St. Paul’s was the first black congregation in town and St. Mark’s was the first church built in the valley and served as a way station in the underground railroad during the Civil War. 

We looked at one another over a cup of coffee that day; a black face and a white face but neither of us saw the color of our skin, we saw children of God and the Christ within who makes us one. 

I called the mayor, the Congressional, and Governor’s Office. We got our permit to march. All were present and accounted for. We packed the churches full of the creative and redemptive love of God.

There is no other way than the way of God.

We renounced hatred then.
We renounce it today.
And we turn to God as the source of our Salvation.

Will the hatred go away? Not likely.
Will we do anything in this country about guns? That’s even less likely.

Lets face it we are a violent people. The stats speak for themselves
        Gun deaths in France 35
Britain, less than 100
Germany, 158
Canada, less than 200
India, much more serious there: just over 6,000
And the United States; 30,000.
We are not the worst in the hemisphere however, that distinction belongs to Honduras and El Salvador.

How many more churches, schools, shopping centers, or movie theaters?
How many more?
The answer, in this country, many, many more.

Where then do we turn for Salvation?

Perhaps to the second great act in Salvation History; The Exodus
As Martin Luther King famously said; “The long arc of history bends toward justice”.

This is why Moses was able to bring the people from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land.
This is why Patrick drove out the serpentine evil of the slave trade in Ireland in the 5th century.
Or that the Augustinian Monks worked to free the slaves in Britain in the sixth and seventh century.

Does justice stop the hatred between 
Arab and Jew?
Protestant and Catholic?
Black and White?
Rich and Poor?
And so on. 


The reality of Sin is still so much on the surface of the human heart.
Where then do we turn to Salvation?

This brings us to Act III in the Mighty Acts of God.

Jesus Christ. What God does in Jesus is not external to the human heart but woven deep inside and within us all.
The “metanoia” that is to say; the “complete makeover” God requires is a turning from fear and hatred to forgiveness and love.

Will that do it?

Perhaps Act IV; The Church.

Perhaps through our Baptism and Eucharistic Fellowship we can turn to God as the source of our salvation. Perhaps as billions of people around the world turn to Christ over the millennia as we turn to the Risen One, the All Merciful, the All Loving?

That should do it, should it not?

One would surely Hope so. Ah but not so.

The Fifth and Final Act in Salvation History, the Christian Hope.
You do know that we all fall into the hands of the Living God both in this life and in the Life to come? If you don’t know that, then listen up, it is all true. The whole Gospel is true. And it is high time we as Christians proclaim the message, the essential kernel of the Gospel; That Jesus is Victorious over Sin and Death.

I have walked with many friends to the very end, all the way to the very end. It is never easy to see beyond the end, but as we pray and share in the last Eucharist, Christ is there yet again. 

Even before we get to the end, just in those moments when we notice our vulnerability, there may be a panicky moment or two of anxiety. I got a call one night from a parishioner who told me her mom wanted communion. She was quite sick and she thought her time had come. It was two in the morning, but I did what a priest does. I went to her. She felt much better after that and did not die then. And her daughter apologized. No matter, said I. She needed to hear the Gospel just then and from that moment on she could focus her sites on the fact of heaven within her heart and beyond her comprehension.

In the meantime the Philistines will have their day, but we all know where they will end up.

And what of us…Paul said it well today in the Epistle; “as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left”. 

Yes, as for me and my house we will put on the armor of God. This will bring us to salvation.

And now may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen

Fr Paul

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