Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector
Do any of you know people who are perpetually looking for something to be aggrieved about? You know the type: the person who, regardless of how good or joyful something is, will always, always find something is wrong with it, and then be affronted. I call these folks the “champagne-de-bubblers”: people who get a lovely flute of French champagne and commence to take a stir rod and vigorously mix it, removing all the glorious effervescence. Leaving it flat and lifeless.
The older son in this parable of the two sons and the father, is definitely a “champagne-de-bubbler.” He is aggrieved and deeply affronted by how his father welcomes his prodigal son home. He expects dad to punish and even disown his younger son, casting him back into the wilderness of famine and destitution, but instead dad gives him a hoe-down and beef barbeque, welcoming the younger son back with great joy.
Okay, I get it. This parable rubs you the wrong way. It gets your hackles up. It’s up there with that dissonant parable of the workers in the field, who regardless of how many hours they have labored under the hot sun, doing back-breaking work, all get paid the same wage by the field owner. It’s not fair, it’s not just, we think. Merit counts, and the longer we work the more we should be compensated.
I know many of us will hear this parable of the reprobate younger son and think the same thing: Merit counts and of course the older son is aggrieved because he has worked hard, is obedient, and loyal to his father, and then he – in his mind’s eye - gets nothing. Bubkes, as they say in the Yiddish. In the meantime, the greedy, debauched, wasteful, and disloyal younger son, who has frittered away a large portion of the family patrimony, has the chutzpah to come back home, hat-in-hand, looking for food and shelter.
The older son has every right, we think, to be aggrieved and angry with his father. We would feel the very same way, if faced with a similar situation. And we would be just and right to do so.
Except this parable isn’t about what we believe is right and wrong. It is not about our retributive concept of justice.
This parable – as are all the parables of Jesus - is about relationships. It is about how will we treat another person who has behaved badly? Will we forgive as we have been forgiven? Will we love as we have been loved?
Or will we default to the ways of the world and bear grudges, seek vengeance, be aggrieved, shunning or disowning people we see as being in the wrong, and in the process make them an exile, putting them out of the family, out of the community?
All too often in situations where we see someone behaving contrary to what we understand as being right and just, we demand our rights. Because, well, we have rights! And we place those rights, (and their attendant feelings) over and above our relationship with others. We see our rights as being first and foremost.
Yet is this true for God? Let’s look more closely at this story.
The younger son has asked for his relationships to be healed. He knows he has broken his relationships with his father and family by his disgraceful behavior. He has violated all that was sacred in family and community bonds. He knows this, and so does not even ask to be restored to filial privileges, to have his rights as a blood heir recognized. What he says is, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."
He didn’t ask for forgiveness, because even he believes his actions as being beyond it. He merely confessed. He’s just looking for enough to eat so he doesn’t starve. He’s not seeking grace. Yet to his surprise, he receives it. Abundantly.
And the father? Well, before he even hears the younger son’s confession, he jumps up and runs toward him.
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” Dad didn’t even have to hear a word uttered. It is enough to see his son who had broken relationship with him, and all that was valuable to the family, return home. The father’s response is more than the son could ever had dreamed of. Because right relationship is paramount in God’s family.
Now look at the older son. He feels that the relationship between the younger son and the family have be irreparably damaged. That based on his values of right and wrong, the younger son is beyond redemption. He represents all of us who think this way as well. We who live by human precepts of justice and merit, and place our pride, fueled by our rectitude, over and above restoring relationship, healing divisions, and offering grace. The parable shows that those who live by these standards can never know the joy of grace. They can’t hoe-down and party, enjoying great barbeque, when others receive the grace we would deny them.
You know, when you have siblings, you cannot be a daughter or a son, without being a sister or a brother, as well.
Several years ago, my sister chose to become estranged from me. I’m not sure of the exact reasons because she refused to speak with me, despite my imploring her to do so, repeatedly. She was going through her second divorce at the time and I was coming into a good relationship, which may have been a partial reason for her distancing. But I’m not really sure, and all I can do is speculate. I suspect the reasons are complex – at least for her -and therefore difficult to articulate. Our distance has grown over the years. Initially there was some contact, with greeting cards exchanged at holidays and birthdays. And then those just stopped when a birthday card from me to her came back marked as undeliverable. Since then I have learned – thank you, Google – that she lives in Florida. From what I can glean it’s not a great life she is living. Although I am very mindful that’s my subjective older brother viewpoint. It may not be hers.
We are one of two siblings and the only remaining living members of our family. Because of this, the loss of the relationship seems enormous. We have no other family. We are it and we are what we’ve got. And so the broken relationship is not pretty, at least for me. In fact, it’ s often painful. I think about my sister every day. And my emotions about the estrangement run the gamut. I am frequently disappointed and sad. Sometimes I feel aggrieved, as if a great injustice has been visited on me. At other times, especially at holidays and celebrations, I feel lonely. And occasionally the breach induces anger and resentment within me. Look at all we’re missing, I think. Life’s runway is short and getting shorter. How painful would our estrangement be to our deceased mother.
I share this personal experience with you because I know many – maybe all – of us have similar circumstances in our lives; where we are estranged, for whatever reason, from someone who we once held close. Who we had bonds of relationship with. And then circumstances occurred where something was done to betray that relationship. It could be with a sibling, a parent, a formerly beloved friend, whomever.
And the temptation in these situations to respond by being the older brother in the parable - to feel aggrieved and angry and resentful – is powerful. It is a temptation to reciprocate the separation and to tell ourselves, just wait until I have a chance to get even. Just wait until she comes to her senses and calls and comes to visit and I have an opportunity to bring my human understanding of what is right and wrong, my values of what justice is, to bear upon her.
It’s mighty tempting, and of course as a person of faith, I know it’s wrong. Because I have a sister and I need to be her brother, if the opportunity presents itself, to be back in right relationship with her.
So, my prayer is that if she stops ignoring and rejecting me I will be the father in the parable. That I will have the grace to offer grace if she does come home, and that I will not even wait to hear what she has to say to me to give her that grace because love requires no confession or restitution. I pray I be filled with compassion and run out as fast as my legs can carry me to embrace and kiss her. And then I will make a reservation at Fire or L’Albatros and order up champagne and a great feast to celebrate, because at this juncture of my journey I know the relationship is everything.
And I pray that the older brother, always lurking inside of me, will join in the celebration and not stay outside pouting and feeling wronged. Because to do so is to cast myself into the outer darkness.
And I pray the same for you all in your broken relationships, as well. That you find the will within you the desire to offer grace and not be aggrieved if the opportunity presents itself that you can be reconciled. That you be compassionate and not spiteful. That you enter the party and eat and dance your butt off.
When the opportunity presents itself to heal our broken relationships may our response be to emulate the father’s joy, because that is the joy of heaven. It is the joy of the lost come home, and there is nothing sweeter to God, and hopefully to us.
God, Sin, and Punishment
The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector
Our Gospel lesson from Luke today is in three parts. The first two are about a Roman slaughter of Galileans by Pontius Pilate, and of a tower collapsing and killing eighteen people. They are events that seem to be well known to Jesus and his audience, but regretfully not recorded in any extant documents so that we can verify them. The third part is a parable about a fig tree, a topic Jesus uses on several occasions in the Gospels.
Parts one and two make clear that people attributed these tragic events to acts of an angry God against people who had sinned.
“At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’” (Luke 13:1-)
It was a deeply held belief in the Judaism of that time that sin lead to suffering. This belief of sin leading to punishment found its origins in Moses and the Ten Commandments. In Exodus Moses tells the people, “The Lord [is a] God merciful and gracious and slow to anger . . . but by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children, and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6b, 7b) In other words not only is sin equated with suffering, but its stain carries from one generation to another. People suffered for the sins of their forbearers. Just like Christian theology long held that the original sin of Adam and Eve is passed onto all successive generations.
Yet, centuries after Moses, the Prophet Jeremiah dismisses this harsh and difficult belief. Offering hope for the restoration of Judah after the decimation the Hebrews had suffered during the exile, Jeremiah proclaims to the people, “In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30)
So, there was a theological split in Judaism, with some Jews believing that your sins, and the sins of your ancestors, would result in personal malady or even death. With other Jews seeing sin as something one was personally responsible for. Regardless, both camps saw a correlation of sin inciting God to bring harm, illness and even death in a person’s life.
Jesus confronted this belief on several occasions. In the Gospel of John Jesus is about to heal a blind man. His disciples ask of him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn. 9:2 NIV) Jesus replies, “"Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” (Jn. 9:3)
The connection between sin and bad behavior by you or your parents, resulting in some tragic punishment by God was one that Jesus said was not true.
God doesn’t cause life’s calamities. If humans die by the sword or accident or natural disaster it is not because God has arbitrarily chosen to punish them for their sins.
Those Galileans were not killed because of their sins. They were brutally murdered by the Romans. Which is definitely sinful behavior on the Roman’s part. The Tower of Siloam did not fall and kill eighteen people because God punished them for their sins. It fell because it was either weakened from an earthquake, or more likely, poorly constructed – maybe with watered down mortar to save money by an unscrupulous contractor. Which again was definitely sinful behavior on his part.
The Muslims at worship in their mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week did not have their blood mingled with the sacrifice of their prayers because, as some egregiously postulate, their faith is sinful. They were murdered by a deluded, hate-filled, white supremacist whose deology and faith are so deranged and distant from the ways of God, it caused him to engage in the heinous sin of taking human lives.
God did not cause these events.
We need to stop blaming God for all of life’s ills. We need to take responsibility – both individually and corporately – for the sinful behaviors we engage in and visit upon others. Of “what we have done and what we have left undone,” as the Confession states. And we need to make amendment of life to correct our sinfulness. In other words, we need to repent. God is totally about all these things, especially repentance and returning to right relationship with God.
This is why Jesus adds the story of the fig tree to the references of the two tragic events. God is the God of redemption, of second and more chances. God gives even an unfruitful fig tree another chance to produce good fruit. You see the tree’s unfruitfulness indicated it was not in right relationship with God. Yet it gets another chance to repent of its unproductive, sinful ways and amend its life to live in relationship with God, as God desired it too.
Let me paraphrase the “God is still speaking” slogan used by our friends in the United Church of Christ. God is still calling; God is still calling us to repent and amend our lives from our sinful behaviors. God does this by using the manure of forgiveness. But that opportunity for repentance is not infinite. Which is why Jesus is so insistent, even strident, for us to engage in repentance. There is a final judgement, and how we have lived our lives matters.
As we repeatedly hear in Advent, none of us knows the hour when the final judgement will occur. There is ultimately a final chance, and then no chance, we just don’t know when. This means every day we have to live as though the next thing we do is our one last chance to put things right- to reject our sins - before the judgement comes. There really is no hedging our bets here. God is the ultimate bookie and knows the odds way better than we do. If we refuse to change despite God’s repeated appeals, there comes a day when we are shut out. Not by God, mind you, but by our own deliberate choices.
Just ask those five foolish virgins in the parable how that feels!
And our own deliberate choices impacts us corporately as well as individually. Communities of faith, cultures, political ideologies, and nations are not exempt. Israel as a religion and as a nation-state repeatedly confronted this truth. We are all called to turn away from sinful things that violate God’s purposes such as idolatry, injustice, and exploitation of others. We are called to repent and turn towards faithful living centered in worship of the most-high God, and in the practice of justice, mutual commitment, care of the most vulnerable, and showing compassion and respect to all people.
The nation and its leaders who choose the wrong way will suffer. And make no mistake about this, we are living that painful reality right now. People are suffering because of sinful behavior, idolatry, lack of compassion, apostacy and a blatant, thumb-your-nose attitude toward any desire for repentance from these sins. But judgement will come. We can rest assured of that. And righteousness will prevail. We can rest assured of that, as well.
Repent. Live your life as if today was your last. Turn away from the assumptions, attitudes and actions of sinfulness, and live into the values and practices of the Realm of God as taught by Jesus. Your life depends upon it.
The Devil Is In The Details!
The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector
Last week Saturday, Anthony and I went to the Kurentovanje festival in Cleveland. Kurentovanje is a Slovenian celebration that occurs before Lent and is meant to drive away winter. The reality is that the festival is an excuse to gather Slovenians and wanna-be Slovenians together, to eat delicious Slovenian sausages and pastries, drink Lasko beer, and dance to fabulous polka music. So, if winter isn’t exactly driven away, at least you can forget about it for a while as you party.
The centerpiece of the festival are Kurenti, which are creatures that originate in the Slovenian Alps. When they appear in these pre-Lenten days winter is supposed to flee in fear. The problem is that Kurenti are not very fearsome and are in fact pretty lovable, resembling large walking haystacks with cow bells attached on their waist. It is when they swing their hips, making those clanging cow bells ring, that winter is supposed to flee from the sound. So adorable are the Kurenti, most people I saw that day fled toward them, wanting to engage them in a polka, or taking selfies.
But there were some truly terrifying and evil looking creatures at the Kurentovanje. Outside on an enclosed patio area there was an ice sculpting competition taking. When I opened the door to this patio from the building we were in, I encountered two creatures that so frightened me, I nearly leapt out of my skin. Standing there - enjoying a couple of beers - were two Krampus’s. Krampus is a central European creature of Germanic origins. He usually appears around the feast of St. Nicholas and is meant to frighten children into being good, so that they get treats for the holiday. If they are not good, Krampus drags them into the woods. Pretty frightening stuff. Evidently these two Krampus’s felt that they could be of more use beyond the month of December, and supplement the more gentle Kurenti into frightening winter away.
Have you ever seen a Krampus? Their bodies resemble the Wookie in Star Wars; big, tall and hairy. But their heads. On my gosh, their heads are big half goat, half demon with long twisted horns, ruby red glowing eyes, mouths agape with huge razor-like fangs. They are devilishly terrifying, the personification, (or better put, creaturization) of pure evil. Winter and I were ready to flee at the sight of them.
Today’s Gospel story is of Jesus’s being driven into the wilderness for forty days and being tempted by the devil with three significant temptations: the desire to turn to material things – like bread in both its literal and metaphorical sense – for creaturely comforts and gain; the temptation of power and control over earthly principalities, in return for fealty to the devil; and the temptation to test God to see if God is true to God’s self.
This event in Jesus’ life is what we premise the forty-day season of Lent on.
I often wonder what image comes to mind when we hear of these three temptations of Jesus by the devil. What did the devil look like?
Did the creature in the wilderness look like Krampus? Or maybe a little demon in red tights with horns, a pointy tail and a pitchfork? Maybe he looked like Al Pacino in the film The Devil’s Advocate? Or better yet, the bald, androgynous, spectral creature that slithered around in Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ?
These are all personifications of the devil, Satan and evil. Certainly, something that looked like one of them, or a combination there-of, was what Jesus encountered and resisted. Right?
Yet my hunch is that it was none of the above. In fact, all of these images of the devil and evil are products of the human imagination. And as such, they can allow us to trivialize evil as a caricature, a mythological creature, a Hollywood fantasy. Something to frighten children into behaving. As anyone of those things, we can then dismiss evil as being real. But doing that is to fall into evil’s trap. “Let me manifest myself as a cartoonish, Halloween caricature that they don’t take seriously, distracting them from the real me,” evil says.
The Church takes evil seriously. In the Great Litany we beseech God to deliver us, “from deceits of the world, flesh and the devil.” In the baptism service parents, godparents, and if old enough, the baptismal candidate themselves, are asked if they will, “renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?” Evil is a very real, powerful, insidious and seductive force in the world. And it is relentless in trying to gain entry into our lives. Witness that at the end of Jesus’s temptations we are told, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from [Jesus] until an opportune time.” Evil wasn’t done or defeated. It just went away to plan a new assault, waiting for a better opportunity to invade Jesus’s life. And so it does with us as well.
This is why the Church takes evil seriously. We understand how insidious its soft, seductive voice whispering in our ear is like as it attempts to lure us toward it, and away from God.
In the first letter of Peter we are told, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9a) That is what Jesus did in the wilderness; he resisted, firm in his faith. His witness is an object lesson for us to learn from.
The devil tempted Jesus with creaturely comfort and lucre, with power and control, and of tempting God to prove God’s authenticity. All three violate the Ten Commandments and the distillation of the law that Jesus gave us to love God and to love neighbor. All three are idolatry, which is arguably the greatest sin addressed in the Bible.
In those three temptations, Jesus needed to decide how he was going to live his life. Enslaved to the ways of the devil and the world, or loyal to God and the values of God’s reign. In each instance, despite how enticing the temptations were, he chose God, not the devil.
We all get tempted by the devil with those very same temptations each day. And we, like Jesus, need to decide who we will be loyal too: the ways of the evil or the ways of God.
Have you ever heard the expression, “the devil is in the details?” It’s true. Evil loves to work in the minutia; in the seemingly small things of life.
Too often we relegate evil to the identifiable macro events: 9/11, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, the crimes against the people of Yemen. These are evil, but they occur as a result of the accrual of the small ways as evil invades our lives.
When we gossip about, slander, demean or engage in character assassination of another person, that’s evil at work in our lives.
When a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor make anti-Semitic, misogynist, racist or homophobic comments, and we stay silent in the face of it, that’s evil at work in our lives.
When we intimidate, denigrate, bully, manipulate, plot against, or abuse someone, that’s evil at work in our lives.
When we are parsimonious toward giving of our time, talent and treasure to organizations that work for justice, righteousness, harmony, beauty and peace in the world, but are extravagant with those resources to fulfill our every whim, desire and lust, that’s evil at work in our lives.
Those may seem like small things. Some even innocuous. At best we might consider them bad behavior. But trust me, they are evil insidiously at work in us. And they more we engage in them or allow them to go unchallenged, and the more others see us do them and emulate them, they accrue to the big explosions of evil that blow up in the world. We have only to look at what has happened in our own nation these past few years to know this is true.
We are in the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday’s invitation to a holy Lent calls us, among other things, to engage in self-reflection and repentance. I invite you as we begin our journey through this season, to reflect on how evil has gained entry into our lives, and to repent of those things we have said and done to aid and abet its power and influence. Then renounce this evil power that corrupts and destroys God’s creatures. When we do we make a new beginning, forgiven and redeemed by God, so we can role model our Savior Jesus, resisting the wiliness of the devil in all its iterations, and finally “beat down Satan and his insidious ways under our feet.”
The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector
We are finishing the season of Epiphanies today. From the manifestation of the baby Jesus to the Magi in Bethlehem, to today’s transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain top and his revelation as being God’s son, the Epiphany season is one that not only lifts up the various revelations of Jesus as the Messiah, but maybe equally as important, helps us to recognize those moments of epiphany that occur in our own lives.
For instance, it is always an epiphany moment for me when at the end of this service a group of our children will come forward to bury the Alleluia, as we prepare for Lent. Seeing them proudly process down the center aisle with the elaborately decorated letters for the Alleluia banner that will resurrect at Easter, is an epiphany. Watching them stand before us just before placing those letters away into a basket with a felt cover, is always a revelation of God’s love to me. Their innocence and joy remind me of the epiphany Jesus gave to his followers when he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16) This was a significant epiphany to those who heard Jesus say it, as the culture of the time believed that children were – at best - a nuisance who should be kept out of sight.
And that epiphany about children inspires us at Christ Church to treasure our children, and to lift them up as the precious gifts that they are. And in so doing to honor those who Jesus said were the ones to whom the kingdom of God belonged.
Children are fully incorporated into our common life; and are often the center of it. There is no shutting them away or silencing them. No sound proof quiet rooms where parents with chirping babies are isolated from the congregation. No separate communion service for them, or denying them the sacrament. No saying that children are our future, when they are really our present. If, as Jesus said, children own the kingdom of God then we have a lot to learn from them, because they reveal a vision of what that kingdom is like. They are an epiphany.
Of course, the gospel of Luke is plentiful with these kind of epiphanies; revelations of Jesus saying certain rejected people were of great value, versus a culture that said they were not.
This was true of Gentiles, women, children, the sick, the poor, the bereaved, the un-believing, and the outcast. All of them, in all their iterations, were people who were not only welcomed by Jesus, but beloved by him. And in each instance, when he accepted and loved those who were considered of little value, it was an epiphany – a revelation of how God’s grace works in the world.
Christ Church has a rich history of taking these epiphanies of Jesus and incarnating them in our common life as a faith community. We have been intentional in welcoming the little children, and the big one’s as well. Of honoring women as co-equally created in the image of God, along with men. Of seeing all people – regardless – of being worthy of respect and dignity. Of creating a safe environment where all feel welcomed, loved, accepted, valued and affirmed for who they are. In other words, of hanging the plumb line of love into the midst of how we decide what to do as followers of Jesus.
These epiphanies are not our submitting to the pressure of the secular culture, or of not being a Bible centered church, or of our trying to be relevant and cool so we can be seen as hip. In fact, just the opposite is true. These incarnated epiphanies are deeply rooted in the scripture, and therefore they are our Gospel truth as we strive to follow Jesus.
We have seen plenty of instances where others who claim the name Christian do not see these epiphanies as we do, or don’t believe they’re epiphanies at all. These others do not hold them as sacred revelations of Jesus, as we do.
Three events of the past few weeks are poignant reminders of that reality.
In preparation for the 2020 Lambeth conference that gathers all Anglican Bishops around the world at Lambeth Palace in London every ten years, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, last week disinvited from Lambeth the spouses of bishops in same-sex marriages. Heterosexual Bishops with husbands and wives are still welcome. Fifteen years after the uproar of Gene Robinson’s consecration and certain Anglicans are still squeamish about gay Bishop’s, especially married ones.
In response to the ever-increasing revelations of the sexual abuse of children in Roman Catholic church that has been on-going for decades, as well as the recent revelation of of a significant homosexual presence in the curia at the Vatican, many bishops, priests and laity are now blaming a culture of homosexuality as the cause for this child abuse. Gays are being scapegoated and even witch-hunted out of churches for a situation that has a myriad of complex factors at play, the least not being the dishonesty, entitlement and the mentality of “protect the institution at all costs” - even at the expense of the well-being of our children - by those in power, from Rome on down to the parish level.
This past week our sisters and brothers in the United Methodist Church who meet at General Conference approved a plan, called the Traditionalist Plan, that will continue to deny LGBT people full inclusion in the life of that denomination. This plan expressly forbids LGBT people from ordination, and prohibits ministers from performing same-sex marriages. That decision has come as a serious disappointment to millions of adherents of the UMC. Going into the recent General Conference there was considerable optimism and hope by many UMC folks that a more embracing option called the One Church Plan would prevail. This option would have permitted the local parish to decide who to ordain and marry. It was a way forward that allowed those who had experienced the epiphany recognizing the dignity and humanity of LGBT people to stay in the denomination without threat of schism. Yet it failed and the vote was not close.
Our epiphanies are not understood by everyone to be epiphanies.
The story of the Transfiguration is a poignant reminder that the three closest disciples to Jesus – Peter, James and John - did not understand that mountain-top epiphany revealing Jesus as God’s son either. They failed to grasp it. In fact, despite repeated epiphanies of who Jesus was they remained obtuse to the whole Jesus endeavor, at least until after the Resurrection. The immediate juxtaposition of the story of the epileptic boy following the story of the Transfiguration proves their lack of faith. The un-understanding disciples could not heal the boy, revealing their obtuseness to the new message of Jesus and the way of life he proclaims.
This annoys Jesus to no end. "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” Jesus scolds them.
This is how I feel about Archbishop Justin Welby and those Anglicans in league with him. It is how I feel about the Roman Church and its response to the tragedy of child abuse. It’s how I feel about the UMC folks who remain unaccepting and untransformed, rejecting the epiphanies that acknowledge the full humanity of LGBT people. You faithless and perverse people, how much longer must we bear with you? Understand this: Regardless of what you do, love is more powerful than legalism. Love is more powerful than our institutions. Love is more powerful than hate. With Jesus love comes before all. And love always wins.
Despite the disciple’s obtuseness, Jesus persisted, and so must we. He comes down from the mountain and gets back to work: Preaching and teaching, revealing his epiphanies of God’s love right up to his death on the cross; the greatest epiphany of love the world has ever witnessed.
We too must continue to work to proclaim the epiphanies that have been revealed to us in Jesus. They are our Gospel truth.
For people from other traditions who cannot attend their denominational church in this moment of pain, we must provide a safe harbor. Not as an evangelism opportunity, (That’s sheep steeling, which we don’t do. And any way it only results in moving the pieces on the game board.) but as an opportunity to offer gracious hospitality to those who feel as if they currently are at a precarious point in their faith journeys.
For people who feel rejected by their denomination, we can encourage them to stay the course in their respective denominations and parts of the Communion, as difficult as that can be. We can support and sustain them to follow the voice of the Spirit and continue to bear witness and proclaim the revelations they have received, so that they may be bearers of light in the dark places. Just like we did in this Episcopal Church fifteen and more years ago.
And because this task is just not possible for all people, depending on the degree of their wounds and hurts, we can be a home for them. And we can love them back to health and wholeness.
All three are options are places where love can be nurtured. And where love will win.
Epiphanies and dreams give new meaning and cause to our lives and journeys, but they also point back to the struggles and tasks we have had to bring about the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed. They also prepare us to continue in those places where the struggles continue. If we are faithful, we can’t stop or escape this reality. There are always new vistas and transforming experiences ahead for those of us who do. Be assured, they all lead to the fruition of God’s reign. And that is holy work, as well.
Amen to that!