As with most of my sermons, there are points of divergence from the notes and the delivery. Alas, in the middle of the two there is much to be interpreted.
Jesus & The Gospel of Interdependence: Let Your Heart Be Moved
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 9c
Rev. Joshua Case
The other day my friend Steve and I were having one of our conversations. Yes, I said one of our conversations because Steve and I have these conversations quite often. And while our day-to-day work/perspective is often vastly different, I trust Steve as a conversation partner when we disagree because he is honest and, well, we share a sensibility for the other that I trust; namely: respect.
As Steve and I were discussing the ethics of neighboring in Urban Atlanta/America, Steve quickly reminded me that one of the challenges with our society today is that while we are deeply connected to one another through all kinds of mediums, the complexity of life lived as a 24hr news cycle can lead us to pine for simpler times and places without even knowing it.
Do you remember The Andy Griffith show? You remember it, right? (Whistle). Wasn’t that such a simpler time. I mean think about it: everything was black and white; the sheriff never had to worry about shooting anyone because he didn’t carry a gun – except on those few occasions when bad people took refuge in the woods near the lake in the cabin – think about it..they all found the same place…why didn’t they destroy it?); and the town drunk (only one in Mayberry as far as I can tell- Otis) would put himself in jail without intervention and in the instances where he didn’t – it didn’t take more than a good conversation to convince him to make his way there.
Is this another world or what? No…y’all really…it’s the Or what…it’s a TV show y’all. Mayberry didn’t exist.
You know there is a rumor going around in WASPy-America today, in fact there is a rumor going around the world today that goes something like this: if we can rediscover some kind of ethical/moral/relational place that looks or smells or sounds or acts like those “good ol’ glory days” or some other time in our past, then things will somehow be better.
But my friends, let this preacher just say it: its just not true.
You know, maybe this Independence Day weekend we need the sent-on-out gospel of Luke to challenge us to broaden our understanding of what it means to be new creation and new harvesters of gospel works. Because in truth, just as the disciples were sent, so are we AND if we don’t get to going, if we don’t get to living together with our faith on our backs, who knows what kind of kingdom will be preached out there.
For we are a church (we are a republic) of interdependent (not independant) persons. And right now y’all, we (the church) live in a world where machine guns have replaced muskets, where systemic poverty has replaced slavery, and were food deserts have replaced 5 & Dimes. My friends neither the church nor our country can go back to a day and age that values the individual (or individual class) more than the collective – as if that age really ever existed. For let us not forget, we are the body of Christ – networked, connected, dependent upon one another’s gifts, and we are all neighbors. We need each other in order to be our best-God-created-selves AND the world needs us to become that too.
You see my friends, as Paul reminded the Galatians, because of the cross of Christ and our claiming to be Christian, the world – with all of its hurts and needs – with all of its wisdom and resource – with all of its fullness and limitations – has been crucified to us. It shouldn’t surprise us then if we feel overwhelmed by our inability to meet all the needs that we know of or if we wonder why in some places there can be such plenty living right around the corner from such want. This our the world. And let us not forget: it was sown .. it was sown successfully in the last two centuries and now we are reaping.
Like Jesus and the disciples we must set our faces to the work of the gospel of interdependence and put our whole selves in play (networks, friends, families, gifts, talents). And then my friends, we have to remember that sometimes putting all that “stuff” in play is actually the easiest part work. The hardest work of the gospel is not what you can do to help others – that’s easy. No, the hardest question the gospel asks this: how will you let the world’s great need, crucified to all of who you are, redirect/orient your life towards God?
Yes, systems of injustice change in the world when Christians live out the gospel of interdependence, BUT personal change, nay, personal transformation comes when we discover that the same gospel that sends us out into the world wants to remake heaven on earth starting right in our very hearts.
When we let the orientation of our hearts be touched by the stories and experiences of our neighbors (near and far), oh, yes, then we will know the grace of having had our names written in heaven. For until we experience how insufficient we are to meet the greatest of challenges crucified to us, until we know our own need for grace, we can never hear God say, yes… “as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” says the Lord!
As most of you know, I now participate weekly in the burial of indigent children on behalf of the people of HIEC. I start even service with that line…I lead the services for the families when they are present, and I lead them for those gathered when they are not. In the beginning this work was just for us. It was me going going as sacrament to the grave in order to help the people of HIEC/you discern how the stories of children who die in this state may claim us newly.
But my friends, let me give witness to you now: I no longer go for you alone. I go for myself – I go for my kids – I go for God – for this also my journey of faith – my mending of our societal and systemic flaws – of my flaws, oh, America!
Friends, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to us and we’ve got work to do. But that work, doesn’t always start out there, it starts again every morning, right here. The gospel comes here first. And if it does, HIEC will be your place for faith, mission, worship, prayer, hospitality…and that will be good news, for all God’s children. Amen.