Sermon March 20, 2011
The Reverend Lois Keen
Grace Episcopal Church, Norwalk, CT
Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17; Psalm 121
Our bishop, Ian Douglas, tells us often that God has one mission in the world: To reconcile all humankind and creation to God and one another. Love God and your neighbor as yourself; do justice, love mercifully and walk with humility before God; love your enemy, pray for him and do good to those who persecute you – all these commandments are given in order that we might participate in and fulfill God’s one mission: the restoration and reconciliation of God’s good creation.
After the creation, after the fall, after Noah and the flood, God called Abram and sent him and his family out into the world. They had no road map; only a promise: “You’ll know where I’m sending you when you get there!”
Abram’s faith in this unknown God, Abram’s trust, was the foundation of God’s cosmic mission of reconciliation.
After Abram, there was Moses and the Law. After Moses and the Law there were the prophets. After the prophets, there was Jesus, in the fullness of whom God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration through love and mercy were made flesh and dwelt among us.
But most of humankind have been and still are like Nicodemus and the disciples – slow, thick witted, getting it wrong, but stumbling through in the dark anyway, sometimes with only a fraction of the faith of Abram and Moses and the prophets, but enough to serve to keep the light of Christ burning against all odds.
Sometimes it feels like there is still no road map, no light in the darkness. New Zealand was just the latest in a ceaseless string of natural disasters when their earthquake hit. Then Japan’s earthquake and tsunami topped New Zealand for horror and powerlessness against God’s creation. Haiti has hardly begun to recover from its earthquake and now, when they are about to have democratic elections, two formerly exiled dictators have returned to Haiti, “to help”, they say, but truly for God only knows what kind of mischievous reasons.
And in a string of mostly peaceful protests for freedom in the Arab world, Libya’s dictator has attacked his own people. Yesterday France struck the first blow to support a U.N. no fly zone by shooting down a Libyan bomber. The United States has joined in to protect France’s fighters. Meanwhile the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue and Harold Camping of Family Radio in Oakland, CA, tops it all by continuing to proclaim that the world will end on May 21st of this year.
Where is God? Where is God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation in all this? Are we still wandering in the dark without a road map?
Nora Gallagher was once sitting at table at Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara, California with a young priest and a great bishop of the church, Daniel Corrigan. She writes that “Dan was in his eighties at the time retired, still strong as an ox. For most of his life, he had defied authority for the sake of compassion. […]
“As we were eating together, the young priest was suddenly overcome with earnestness"
“Bishop Corrigan,” he asked… “What would you die for?”
“Water rights,” Dan replied, without missing a beat.
The boy sat back in his chair. Dan smiled. “Why not?” He asked. Then he continued, “You don’t actually get up one morning and decide to die for something. You put your foot on a path and walk. One day, you look back, maybe fifty years, and say, “That’s what I gave my life for.” (Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher, as quoted on Anglicans Online.)
That’s what we continue to do. We get up each day and put one foot in front of the other. And while we may think we have no road map, at the end of 50 or 80 years we find that God has already gone before us. God does not leave us to figure it out alone – God’s Holy Spirit is with us and if we will, we can encourage our souls if we would stop, once in awhile, and listen – wait, and listen.
When I was working with young children in Delaware, I walked a six year old child home and I realized that I had no clue how to get back to the Cathedral. I was lost in all the left and right turns we had taken. The little girl said to me, “Turn around!” I turned around. She said, “You see that cross?” I said yes. She continued, “That cross is on the top of your church. Follow that cross and you won’t get lost.”
What other sermon ever has to be preached but that one?!
Regardless of the chaos in the world, despite Harold Camping’s promise that the world will end two months from now, the promise of life still stands: God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall have eternal life. And the son came into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
Turn around. Look up. Follow that cross. You can’t get lost if you follow that cross.