Jesus Christ calls us to be a joyful community that celebrates God's love, transforms lives, and is a force for justice in the world.

Sermons on Love

Growing Pains

The point is that what we see here in this frantic and tense episode from Jesus’ life is true for all our lives. We belong to God, each of us individually and all of us together. That’s the core truth of Baptism: as children of God of whatever age, God is at work in all of our lives, even we can’t see or feel or know it. God is with us in the growing pains of faith, working out God’s good purposes.

A Mirror to Us

This story—the whole story, all parts of it—hold up a mirror to us. In the harsh light, we see the truth of what humanity is capable of. We can see ourselves in Pilate washing his hands saying, “I’m just doing my job.” We can see our reflection in Peter’s betrayal a friend because of fear. We can see ourselves in the other disciples, as they flee; in Mary, who faces the agony of losing a child. We can see our reflection in the fickle crowds who shout “Hosanna!” one day and “Crucify him!” a mere few days later. It’s all there: disloyalty, dodging responsibility, mob rule, persecution, blaming, bloodshed, you name it.

Virtue in the Vice – Greed and Sloth

“Greed is the inordinate love of money and material possessions, and the compulsive behavior that is driven by the need to have more and more of both. The truly greedy person is never content and is willing to sacrifice everything (and everyone) to acquire more… Sloth is more than the cartoon of a couch potato. It’s the sickness of the soul that leads to complete and utter indifference.”

Virtue in the Vice – Anger

Some in the tradition of Christian thought make an important distinction between anger, which can be neutral, and wrath, which is excessive or misdirected anger, from passion, a normal emotion. I said last week that the sins which make the seven deadlies list has evolved over time: wrath was on the ancient lists, not anger. Passion can be constructive, an intense energy to be harnessed, but wrath can smolder and then start to take over, like a forest fire.

Virtue in the Vice – Pride & Envy

At the core of both these virtue and vice pairs is the question: how aligned are we with God’s love for us? How secure are we in who we are, in that love? Myers quotes a rabbi friend of his who said, “A man who does not love himself will make a casualty of the neighbor sooner or later.”

esplanchnisthe

That’s one reason why I love Jesus and am fascinated by him: the profound compassion he has for crowds, for random strangers, for vulnerable and suffering people… What I have trouble with, in this story and with Jesus’ teaching in general, is the compassion he has for the likes of the Centurion. I’m fine with Jesus having this gut-level mercy for someone marginalized like the widow, but a Roman solider, a commanding officer?

Because You’re Loved

But that’s not the molten core of your ministry. That’s not why you are called, at the foundational level of that vocation. You’re called because you’re loved. All that other stuff might be true, but it’s secondary to the fact that God is abundantly pleased with you. You might not hear a voice or see the clouds part and a dove might not descend, but it’s still true. God says, “You are my Child, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Being With

What counts, what really counts at Christmas time, or any other season of the year for that matter, is being with. Time spent, sincere words exchanged, authentic presence offered— that’s what really matters. We know deep down that money, flattering words, and other “stuff” are poor substitutes.

Holy

So this is my prayer today: that we, too, would hear God’s voice, even if it’s in a whisper. That we would remember that no, we are not perfect, but we are God’s people. We’re not sent out empty handed. We’re not alone in what we’re called to do. The God of Hosts goes with us!