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November 4, 2018, 12:00 AM

Healing of Naaman


Grace and peace to you from the Triune God, our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer. May the words on my lips and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

God is in the business of healing. Today we read the story of Jesus healing the leper and the story of the healing of Naaman. In both of these we are looking at the healing of what was known in the ancient world as Leprosy. This might have been a mild case of psoriasis or it might have been the condition we know as leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease and caused by a bacterial infection. It could also have been any number of other skin conditions because they did not medically distinguish one from another. It was potentially communicable, they understood that much, and that meant that you were to be shunned until you got better at which point you could be restored to community, if the best medical authority in the community, the priest, declared you healed. I will simply note that for Jesus to have healed in this community meant that he did not shun this community but spent time with them. So, Jesus heals the lepers and God through Elisha was healing lepers.

Modern medicine is great. It has led to the cure of many of the conditions that were basic in ancient times and which led to being removed from the community. Take leprosy, which today is totally curable, with the correct antibiotic. There are so many conditions for which we have good medicine today that in ancient times required a healer, Take something like schizophrenia, which we now can control in many cases. Think about the legion of demons that Jesus healed, it was likely any number of mental health issues that led to that person being out in the graveyard instead of part of society. They were stark raving mad probably and today with a good psychiatrist could lead a relatively normal life.

My question is what is the leprosy of our time. I can remember a time when HIV/AIDS was a leprosy. Due to the work of my childhood church, I was around the Gay community and I can remember being told that it was OK to get a hug or for the person with AIDS to touch you, so long as there were no open wounds. This was something that doctors figured out pretty quickly and yet it took years to disseminate the information, through the media and books and articles and exposes and radio until, one day it became reasonably accepted that a person with HIV should be left to live a normal life and is not a person to be feared. But that was in my opinion a case of modern leprosy and so gives us something to relate to and Jesus through the church was definitely in the healing business for those people. No, not all churches, but where there was healing occurring it was often the work of some of the churches.

When I ask the question what is the leprosy of our time, I am really looking to the question of where should we, as the hands and feet of Christ, be working in our world. What are the issues of our day and time that leave people marginalized and on the edges of society. Maybe you experience one of more of these things and keep coming because you know God is in the business of healing. I think of the question, “What is the leprosy of our time” and Active Alcoholism comes to mind as one of those things that when you are in the depths of that disease you find yourself isolated and in a corner and yet we know that one of the most effective cures for it is a miraculous healing by God and the church has supported this work for as long as it has been going on. In fact surrender to God and miraculous cure is the best known solution to addictions of many kinds.

It is certainly true that inside of my life time, single parenthood, divorce and adultery are all things that have been variously unacceptable to society. They are also things for which the society, as a whole, no longer shuns people and for which we have better boundaries established. Admittedly, it is a work in progress and so there are places in which the church has and will continue to be, hopefully, a place of healing. You see as the body of Christ in the world we first receive that healing and then we go into the world and provide that healing. I sometimes wonder if partisanship is not a leprosy of our time which may only be healed by the intervention of God. God is capable of healing this plague in our land and God is capable of restoring community as God has for all of history, if only we will say yes I choose to accept this healing.

Just last week I was part of the healing work of the church. I went to Synagogue for services to remember the tragic shooting in a synagogue in Squirrel Hill. This was an act of reaching out to our neighbor and showing them through presence that they continue to matter and that they are not the lepers of our time, but people who deserve to be treated with care and respect. I saw first hand how that was healing to those people, who needed to know that their religion was not leprosy in our community, that their religion did not need to separate them from the rest of us, that their religion did not make them unclean and unfit to worship God. And so Jesus went, in force, to this place of pain and un-health and restored their health. It is not that there were not scars when we were done or that it does not play in the minds at moments but it is that it is no longer debilitating for that community. So, you see Jesus continues to be in the business of healing.

I return to the question of what is leprosy in our time. What are the conditions, physical or mental, for which we push people to the edges of the community. Are there things that YOU hide from this community or society in general because you are afraid that they will get you marginalized and pushed to the edges. Are there situations or realities that you know are true for you and for which you see no possible cure. Are there people you have not invited to attend social functions or church because you believe that something about their outward, lived reality would make them uncomfortable in this community and so to protect them you do not invite them. Whatever those things are, chances are they are the modern leprosy, either in the larger community or in this community and since Jesus is in the business of healing, they should be OK here in this place because this is a place of healing for leprosy.

Healing of the community is the first and most important work of Jesus. Look at our gospel story today. First Jesus heals the physical condition of the leper and then send him to the priest, which was how you were restored to community at that time. So, sometimes the healing is about changing the physical conditions, sometimes healing is about removing the mental conditions and sometimes healing like psoriasis today is about greater knowledge that helps us to include the person but does not change their outward condition. And so I am left with two questions. First, what is leprosy in our time and how are we called to be about the work of helping to be the healers of the lepers. Who are we as individuals and as a church body called to work with today to help restore their health. What are the causes and conditions of marginalization in our time and how do we as the hands and feet of Jesus channel the healing power of God to those people. Second, and for today maybe more importantly, what are the causes and conditions that need healing in your world. What are the causes and conditions that you hide from the world for fear of being pushed to the margins. What are the places in your life for which healing needs to occur.

God is in the business of healing. Jesus is in the business of healing. We are in the business of healing. First receive the healing you need, because you are a child of God, made fearfully and wonderfully in the image of God, and Gods want you to be well. Then go out into all the world proclaiming the healing of God to all you meet, identifying the lepers in our community and working with them to heal them and restore them to community. Amen.




October 28, 2018, 12:00 AM

Wisdom in the Commons


Wisdom in the Commons

Grace and peace to you from God, Our Creator, Our Redeemer, and Our Sustainer. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

There are many wise people in this world but they don't seem to make the news. My grandfather would often say that wisdom was knowing when to shut up, which is hardly news worthy. He didn't say much and he came across as very wise. It would seem that as we get older that more of us attain wisdom but then there are those who seem to posses it from an early age.

Wisdom is something praised and also something you don't hear about much in the news. Unfortunately, wise decisions don't tend to make for good news. News as we have it is much better suited to listing off the tragedies of our world. It seems easier to sell a story about who got shot up than it does the person who is quietly living out their life having retired for a series of good financial decisions and is now the philanthropist. After all when Bill Gates was stirring up the world and not caring about anyone he was in the news all the time. Now I can't remember when I last read about him and he is working on things like making sure the whole globe is polio free, because he has great wealth to throw at problems.

Today, we read about Solomon, always praised for his wisdom. Today's reading was a recollection from the Jews of one of the decisions that he rendered that proved the point. Solomon is presented with two mother's who each claim that the child is theirs and that the other one stole the child after loosing their own. Solomon knowing that a true mother would do anything to protect their child suggested a solution that would kill the child. One woman as we read suggested they go ahead and the other chose a path that would save the child even as it caused great personal loss. Solomon thus figured out the real mother and returned the child to her.

The opposite of this is the foolishness we see happening in the news. Just yesterday the Jewish community suffered a tremendous loss of people, here in the United States, but also the loss of that feeling of safety that we all hope to find inside the sanctuary, when worshiping God. “Is no place sacred” one is led to ask. The real answer is that for the sort of foolishness that happened yesterday there is no safe place and for the gentleman who shot up the synagogue there is probably no sacred space in this world. Sadly this is far from the only example we have and yet one is led to ask where are the wise rulers who can help to make this world a safer place for us.

If you wonder where the wise rulers are in this world I have great news for you. In just over a week you and I have the opportunity to help put wise people into the offices that write the rules that govern us. We get to participate in the election and thus help to choose who our rulers are. Unless of course you participate in early voting in which case you have already. What though are the criteria you have for those you elect. Is there are litmus test of issues that they say they will try to bring about in a way that is in keeping with your sensibilities? Is there one issue that if they will bring about the change you want you will ignore how they believe on the rest? What if I were to suggest that instead of worrying about the issues we were to seek wise people who could weigh the options and identify what was best for the country, state or city we live in. What if we looked to elect a Solomon not a platform. What would our country look like if our rulers instead of listening listening to the lobbyists, were to do their own research and figure out how each decision would affect people and choose the set of laws that benefited the greatest number of people.

This however requires a mindset based not on personal gain but instead a mindset that looks to the common good and to get to the common good you must have a belief in the commons. This is something I also hear very little about in our world today. I hear very little if anything about the commons and when  I do it is on the periphery trying to get people to understand that there is this space known as the commons. This is the space we all share. There was a time when the town square was also known as the commons in that it was where every one gathered, it was common space, it was where we honored the fact that our fate is tied to the fate of other human beings. This often happened in front of the government buildings. Government was intended then to be that which governed the commons and as such was not about what I wanted or needed but about what was best for us, that is the corporate we, not the individual I.

And then there is another word that seems to have changed meaning in my life time. Us in my memory was typically used in an expansive way that not only covered the group immediately around me but  groups which included up to the whole of humanity. And yet when I think of recent usage I have heard the word us more to mean those few, like my family, immediately around me and then down to a reference that included only the one person more often referred to as me, myself and I. There was at some points an understanding that what affected me also affected other people and that the good decision was the one that did the most good for the greatest number of people, whether or not that was good for me personally. This worked because I knew that on average the decisions would be beneficial to me. So, in the reduction of the world to the greatest good for me and maybe the few people around me known as my family, we have lost this concept of the common good as the words that made it possible have changed or fallen out of favor.

You will also notice that most of the incidents we have, like the shooting yesterday at a Synagogue, are perpetrated by individuals or at most a handful of people. They are fed from the cesspool of that untended commons but they have then taken on the belief that they can singlehandedly make the world a better place by inflicting their personal belief on the corporate body. So you see even as we chose to focus on the me in the us, the we in the us is still a reality, but an ill cared for reality and as we know health takes maintenance and that which is neglected will fall into disrepair. And so it is that the commons has not gone away as we might suspect, but has fallen into disrepair.

Unfortunately, the force that once would have stopped many of these rogue individuals at one point in our history was not another individual but the help and care that comes from being part of a larger group. That my friends gives me hope and means that the church can have a vital part to play in the rebirth of our society in a positive way. The church is about community, which means that we can be a shining example of how the commons can care for the individual. And yet is that not the wisdom of Jesus. Jesus gathered a community around him of people with different talents and they all worked together to help each other.  This church and many of the mainline historic churches also practice a form of governance that is reliant upon consensus. Consensus requires a belief in the common good and that not the decision I think is best but the decision we think is best, is likely to be to best decision possible. There was a time in our national politic that consensus was used to write laws, that is the nature of I give a little and you give a little and we each get some of what we want. Sadly, we instead focus on the intensely personal and getting others to fit our sensibilities.

It is easy to look for Solomon and to try to put all of our trust in one very wise person. Unfortunately, as proven by the fact that we record anomalies more often than commonalities and Solomon was considered to be an example but also one of a kind, the search for a wise ruler is often the first bit of foolishness. Maybe those you vote for can instead of Solomon be a Worker among Workers. Can we be wise as a body and choose people who are reasonably intelligent and understand that there is a corporate wisdom and thus can seek the common good.  And then while we are waiting for that to transpire can we as a church continue to work to show the world that there is a common good and that working for the common good is the best option for the self. Can we continue that work of Jesus, which gathered a diverse set of talents, and then used them as a community for the benefit of the community. In other words can we help to show the world the wisdom of the corporate and commons.




October 22, 2018, 8:52 AM

The God of Second, Third and Twelfth chances


Grace and peace to you from God, our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

I have the easiest of lessons today and the hardest of lessons today to share with you. God loves us. God forgives us. God really hopes we won't do it again. God will use us in the building up of the kingdom, either way. This means that God loves me. God forgives me. God really hopes I won't do it again. God will use me in the building up of the kingdom, either way. Therefore, God loves you. God forgives you. God really hopes you won't do it again. God will use you in the building up of the kingdom, either way.

But let us look at the lessons and see what they have to say about all of this. We often look at this Gospel lesson from the perspective of the tenant who is doing wrong by the landowner and that is not entirely wrong. The earth was made by God and then we are the stewards or those left in charge to care for the earth. There is a long history of prophets sent to tells us that we need to return to God, what is rightfully God's and the time is now. We can also look at the lesson that stewardship of the earth may well be given to another if we do not do it well. And while all of these are valid lessons there is another possibility.

What if the prophets of old are those servants sent before us, whom the tenants killed and beaten. Certainly even Jesus acknowledges that they have killed all the prophets who came before and why should we expect any less. We know that we are the adopted children of God. We are warned that we may be required to testify to our faith even under penalty of death. So, what if we are the child sent in the last to reclaim for God, God's rightful portion. Then the message is consistent with what we have read elsewhere that we are filling the shoes in some ways of those who have gone before us as the prophets. If this is true, then all of the things that we are doing to announce the king and for which we are getting beaten and abused and potentially killed, for all those things we need to give thanks that we were worthy to suffer as the prophets did before us. Now that is not exactly what we want to hear, but if you are suffering for your work to spread the good news it may well be comforting.

What if in the doing of God's work as God's servant we get it wrong and do that which we are not supposed to do. What if even after we know that we are God's servant, we go and do something absolutely horrible. What if we managed to both Commit murder and commit adultery in the same situation. What if we, in the process, used deceit to try and redeem the situation. Surely, we must be done for, in God's eyes. We have violated at least three of the commandments in the process. However, if you figure it out and repent you will still be OK. I say this because the promise to David was not removed.

Let us look at the story for a moment. A beautiful woman is on the roof taking the ritual cleansing bath and King David spots her and wants her to be his wife. OK, actually he was just lusting after her. So, he calls her over, and this is a classic case of misuse of power because it is hardly like she had the option to say “No” to the King. King David calls her over to his house and sleeps with her, thereby committing adultery, because she is married. So, double whammy of adultery and misuse of power, although in fairness to the text it never mentions the misuse of power.

OK, So David has broken one of the commandments by committing adultery. I think we can all recognize that God would likely forgive this, so long as there was repentance and a commitment not to do it again. You see though the story of abuse of power continues because King David uses his position to order that her husband be sent to the front line, where it is almost certain that he will die. You see there is one more twist to this story, Bathsheba is now pregnant with a child from David. So, whether to save his own reputation, which would be the story often, or whether he had fallen madly in love with Bathsheba and now wanted to ensure that he would have his child with him all the time, David sends Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba to the front lines and as expected, he is killed. Now David has committed Adultery, Abuse of Power, Murder and Lied. The rap sheet is adding up pretty quickly, certainly he is done and will be stripped of his title and God has no more use for him.

Actually, and this is the good part for us. There is one more twist in the story and one that is reasonably common throughout scripture. The twist in the story is that David,  admittedly after being called to account by the prophet Nathan, but David, sees his sin, sees what he has done wrong, admits what he had done wrong and sincerely intends not to do it again. David repents for the sins he has committed. And this is classic with God, I come to admit and repent for the sins I have committed and God chooses to continue the relationship with me and to continue to use me directly as a servant of God.

There is a key here however that is important and that key is repentance. Repentance means not just seeing and acknowledging what we have done wrong but genuinely trying not to do it again. We all know the alcoholic or addict who says never again to get back in our good graces, but knowing the whole time that they fully intend to drink or use again. That is not repentance. We all know the politician who makes a public apology, which is meant to smooth things over, but fully intends to commit the same action again. That is not repentance. Repentance is more like the alcoholic or addict who is now sober and comes to make amends. They are truly sorry and genuinely intend never to do it again but need to acknowledge that truth as part of the process. So, it is with David, and with us when dealing with God. Once we come to see the sin we have committed, we need to acknowledge that we have done it and if possible seek to make it right, while making an honest effort not to do it again.

Now we are the prophets, the ones sent into the world with the gospel lesson to collect for God but we are also the ones who are being called to send in God's portion of the harvest and as the ones sent in to return to God what is rightly God's, though we will kill the first messenger and maim the second, more opportunities will be presented. God is a God of second (and third and fourth and twelfth) chances. Your opportunity to repent is here now today and then you can remember your baptism, which reconciled you to God. And then you can come to the table and receive the bread and cup of life, which bear the forgiveness of God for you this day.

So come to the font and come to the table, all of you and receive what God has promised, the forgiveness of all that separates you from God, even if you are the lying, adulterous, murderer but have genuinely repented of those things. Because, God loves us. God forgives us. God really hopes we won't do it again. God will use us in the building up of the kingdom, either way. This means that God loves me. God forgives me. God really hopes I won't do it again. God will use me in the building up of the kingdom, either way. Therefore, God loves you. God forgives you. God really hopes you won't do it again. God will use you in the building up of the kingdom, either way.




October 14, 2018, 12:00 AM

God in the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy


Good Morning, Grace and Peace to you from God and may the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in the sight of God.

Panama City & Mexico City is destruction close to home. I have friends who live there. There is a Lutheran Church there that was flooded and is missing large sections of the roof. Entire neighborhoods are flattened. I must admit my heart lifted a little when I found out my friend had a home still and that the power had come back on for her. Yet, there are still all those other people in the area who suffered the loss of their homes, which grieves me. And then there are the memories of homes flooded during hurricane Sandy for me. I must admit the first thing I thought when they talked about the flooding at the church was, “Give me a circular saw and a hammer so I can get rid of the wet sheet rock before it becomes moldy.” Sadly, these are things I know because I have seen this before and I already had learned about from time in North Carolina even before Sandy. For some here it will bring back memories of hurricane Andrew no doubt. But then there was Katrina and it seems like the list goes on and on and on.

We could get a little closer to home and talk about the loss of Pete and how hard it is to watch one from the community pass away and especially at such a young age. And then our hearts grieve for Helen and the rest of the family. No one should have to bury their child, it is something that we as human beings were not designed to do, and yet we know that many have done it. One of the great blessings of modernity for those of us who get to enjoy it is that infant mortality has been greatly reduced and that alone has raised the age of mortality by a lot. And yet there are areas of the world where that has not yet become a reality. And so this brings me to think also of all the parents who dealt with still birth and infant deaths but that brings me to remember the teenagers that I have buried, too many to name here. And that brings me to the friends my own age who I have lost, again too many to name here. And that brings me to the mothers and fathers I have had the privilege to walk with, people like Helen, who are burying their child, that act that we should never have to participate in.

Then there is the national and international news. How about that Journalist who went to the Embassy to get paperwork so that he could marry his fiance and it would appear, “never came out again.” There is the head of the Interpol, who went from his home in France back to his home country of China, and found himself arrested and brought up on charges, which sadly we tend to think might relate to his not being useful to “the Party.” And the list of those public figures suffering persecution, which we know now because of the internet and instant communication, that list goes on and on and on.

Governments seem to think they are never going to be accountable for their actions and enough of them seem to get away with it that maybe they are largely right. And how sad that makes me and how deeply that grieves me, which also leads me to the question of those in this country who think that their privilege will make them immune, sometimes because they think they are too valuable to the country to actually suffer the consequences of their actions. And that reminds me of the discussion in El Salvador that the difference between us and them was that we lived under the rule of law and that people actually thought in the United States that if they did something they would be held accountable, but in El Salvador if you had enough money the law was always on your side. And so my heart is deeply grieved as I look around our country at what is happening and what is not happening, but particularly at the simple meanness toward those who are not part of “my group”, because I have been able to dehumanize them and deal with them as a group not as individual people and thus generalize and thus not engage or challenge my own view point or compromise with anyone, which might make me appear weak.

And then we have the audacity to wonder, why we are anxious for our future and afraid of the present. And that anxious and afraid moves us into our amygdala, that little part of the brain that has two responses, fight or flight and so we treat our neighbor as an existential threat because they might be part of the group of bad people trying to ruin us. Instead of Debbie who helped me rotate the tires on my car or Tom who lent me a cup of sugar, whether or not we agreed politically. And I think of this and grieve for the loss of a time when things seemed kinder and gentler.

P.S. The internet has helped make possible the dehumanization of the person who lives in the house next door because I no longer go out in the yard and talk over the fence to hear the latest gossip and so while gossip is bad, it is better than not knowing who lives in the house next door and being suspicious of those who live immediately around us. And I grieve for the combativeness and I grieve for the loss of community and I grieve for the loss of civility and thus I get overwhelmed and so I freeze. When I freeze I stop doing anything productive, and instead spend my time worrying when the tiger is going to eat me.

My friends, there is an answer to all of this and it is very simple. The answer is God. In our text today we heard about all that God had done for the Hebrew people and the text concluded with “and therefore as for me and my house we will serve God.” My friend who is in Panama City who I know serves God, I commended to God's care. The Church destroyed, I pray that God will use this as an opportunity to rebuild the body that resides inside it stronger than ever. Helen and the other parents who have lost their children, if they have a strong relationship with God, they are not happy about what happened, they are deeply grieved and they keep moving forward and doing mostly OK. I, having buried far too many teenagers and young adults, I can keep going because I know, love and trust God. The friends I have lost, especially the ones to poverty, suicide and addiction, leave me deeply saddened but not paralyzed, because of my relationship with God.

The world news that is deeply troubling and which I can do very little about, I can leave in the hands of God, because I trust the long arc of history to God and I trust that God will show me how to do my little bit to help. The problems in our country could leave me paralyzed or they can be the impetus to do something good, like get to know my neighbor, and because I have the directive from Jesus to love and serve my neighbor, I start by getting to know my neighbor and learning what they love and why they think things need to be done in a particular way, which by the way may then lead to finding the common ground. And I do this because of my relationship with Jesus. I do this not by my own strength, but by the strength of the Holy Spirit, which leads me, guides me and supports me.

I don't want you to think for a minute that I think everything is OK. I don't want you to think for a minute that I plan to do nothing. I don't want you to think for a minute that I plan to bury my head in the sand. No, I have found a way to have a good cry because of all the pain and suffering and then to dry my tears and ask the question, “Is there is anything I can productively do to make the world a little better today?” That, my friends, is possible because of my relationship with Jesus and because I know the body of Christ, (the Church) walks with me. Yes, because I am here and I know you and you also have a relationship with Jesus and thus are part of the body, because of that I keep going. And so, not that we are not sad, and not that we are not deeply grieved, and not that we don't need a good cry many days but we get to have all of that and have the strength to do what little part we can, because of God's love and care for us and because of our relationship with God. And therefore we are changing the hymn of the day and invite you to rise and sing together “Give Me Jesus.” #770




October 7, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Egalitarian Body of Christ


 

Grace and peace to you from God, our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer. May the words in my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

We gather this morning to worship and in the midst of this worship to baptize another child. We are bringing this child into the body of Christ, making her a sister with us in the work of the kingdom. This is a wonderful break in the week. The is a moment we can all gather and agree. This is the time when we put down the politics to do something even more important.

As we get ready for this baptism we have the opportunity to be reminded of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. In our texts this morning we had the ten commandments and we had Jesus talking about what it takes to get to heaven. Jesus for his part says that we must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and the  Scribes. Being more righteous than the Pharisees and Scribes, if it meant following every religious rule would be very difficult. Remember the rich young man who came to Jesus, who said I have done all of these things what else must I do. Jesus response to him was to sell it all and follow Jesus. Jesus' answer was not about how money is evil but about where the young mans heart was on the journey to follow God.

Lets talk about the Scribes and the Pharisees for just a moment. Paul, our beloved Paul, who wrote most of the letter at the end of the bible and to whose ministry most of the book of Acts is devoted , this same Paul was before his conversion one of the Pharisees and so would have been really well taught and versed on Jewish law. He would have followed all 613 laws to the jot and tittle. Paul like the rich man above would have followed every one of these laws and yet he declared after his conversion that none could be saved simply by works of the law. In other words, none were going to heaven on the merits of their actions alone. Paul points us in another direction. Paul says that it is our faith that will get us into heaven, not all of the things we have done correctly.

What therefore is the remedy, if it is not right action, that makes us right with God. I want to quote two things for you, first is in the Gospel text we read today which lets us know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. In other words the only way to fulfill all the commandments of the law is to have faith in Jesus and in the saving power of his life and death and resurrection. And what is the first step to this but what Jesus commands at the end of this Gospel where it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mat 28:19-20 We are here this morning to accomplish the remedy. We are here this morning to baptize this child in keeping with the command of Jesus, thus fulfilling for this child all righteousness. There is nothing this child could have done more than being another beautiful example of the grace of God.

This does not mean we are not to try and do the right things. No I would never claim we should do nothing but instead only that being right with God does not require anything other than consent on our part. It is our faith, like it was Abraham's faith that makes us right in the eyes of God. It is the faith of this little child that makes this child right in the eyes of God. It is the baptism that forever connects this child to the body of Christ. All of this accomplished for us and for this child, by the grace of God. All of us on equal footing. This child is no more or less a child of God after baptism than you or I are a child of God because of our baptism. We are all equal in this space. We are all children of the living God. We are all saved by Grace through Faith for God. We are all going to heaven for the same reason.

I think that in this, that we are all equally members of the body of Christ, simply by our baptism. None are greater and none are lesser. None are going to heaven first because the did all the right things and none are going to heaven last because they did all the wrong things. No, in this space we are all equal. If you are rich you come to the table to be fed. If you are poor you come to the table to be fed. If you are strong you come to the table to be fed and in the very same way as if your were weak. This is one of the few places where it does into matter your social, societal status. We all come to the table on the same terms, we are all called to do the same thing, we are all given the same gift and the same commandments. We are all children of the living God, joined to the body through our baptism.

This space where we all come on equal terms and get along as brothers and sisters through Christ is a place where the church has something to offer the world. Outside of these walls we are told that we need to grab for everything we can figure out and inside of these walls we are told to make sure all have what they need. What might the world look like if we truly fought for a nation where all had what they need, how would it change our laws and our legal system. Outside of these walls, we are told that we are not good enough, if we don't have the right car, house, clothes, credit card or political position and inside these wall we are told that it does not matter the car, the house, the clothes, the financial position or the political position, if you are baptized, you are part of the body of Christ. What might the nation look like if all were treated with respect and dignity simply because they were recognized to be a fellow human beings of intrinsic worth.

Call me crazy but as I watch the political and social jockeying for position, as I watch people trying to have the right car and clothes and struggling financially to do it, as I watch the simple meanness involved in our politics and even more the callous not caring what others are saying if it does not serve my ends, if it does not put me in a better position, if it does not make me feel good. As I watch these things, my heart breaks for those who are hurt because some other people want to preserve their privileged position, because some want to make sure there bubble is not burst, because some don't see all as equally valid, or valuable. As I watch this and I consider this morning I think, the church has something to offer the world, and by the church I mean you in the world. As I look at that baptismal font where there is not a question of male or female, rich or poor, straight or gay, educated or not, addicted or not, perfect hair and clothing or slightly frumpy. As I look at that baptismal font, I see a place where your social position and social reality don't matter, what matters is that you want to be a child of the living God. As I see this, I see an example for the world to follow that would lead to the peace and justice that we are called to work for. As I look at the table where the Lord offers us nourishment for the journey and all are called to come and be fed (ALL are called to be fed), I see an example that the world needs if it is ever to achieve the peace and justice central to our calling as Christians.

So, in closing, we come to the font and then to the table to be fed and nourished for the journey ahead. We come to the font and table to be sent into the world an example for all to see. We come to font and table, a space of true equality, experiencing what is possible, so that hopefully we can mirror that in a world that is fractured and fragile. We are called to be those who work on behalf of the widow, the orphan and the least of these. Come be fed, Go be an example for all the world to see.  Amen.

 


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