Today’s psalm says:
God is our refuge and our strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea
Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
Woo! Thank you, Jesus. And then our Epistle comes along with
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father ….skip, skip skip…God was pleased to reconcile himself to all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
I’ll take it, sounds good, yes Lord! And then we round the corner into today’s gospel where all that strength and all that glorious power and all that patience come to a screeching halt.
Golgatha. The Skull. Jesus’s death. Is this really where we are going on Consecration Sunday? The most central moment to the Christian faith, besides the resurrection? Yes? Okay.
Jesus’s death. How does this terrible moment in time make us feel? Angry, depressed, sad, anxious, fearful, confused, and sometimes even numb. But, it happened such a long time ago, right? It’s not a new thing, right? Sometimes I even feel stupid for all the emotions I have about Jesus’s death, because I think I should be able to handle it. But you know, sometimes, we just can’t.
Because it’s real.
And things happen in the world that just bring up that moment so often that we have a phrase about how we experience it in modern times – a heavy cross to bear. Definition: an unpleasant or painful situation, truth, or person that you have to accept or deal with, although you find it difficult. How do you pick up that cross? How do I?
How does anyone? We are the body of Christ, right?
Many if not most of us in this room can think of an unpleasant or painful situation, truth, or person that you have to accept or deal with, although you find it difficult.
There are people we know who are all are collectively carrying a heavier burden than we can understand and we know that this is true from the conversation in our country right now that people who live in poverty, women, people of color, LGBTQ persons, people with disabilities, to name a few – they are finding times to be difficult.
The feelings about Jesus’s death – pain, anger, sadness, fear are emotions very accessible to us in this moment.
There has to be a lot of pain if someone says to you “we’re going to build a wall, and we want you on the other side of it.” Stuff like that makes me cry – I don’t know if it does that to you.
We are the body of Christ.
Women, myself included, who have been powerless as a man has done or said things about us or to us, feel very shaken on a deep level when the national conversation shifts to casually talking about objectifying, abusing or violating women like we aren’t even in the room.
We are the body of Christ.
We are the body of Christ.
We are the body of Christ.
People have been saying that they feel like somebody died. Well this Sunday’s gospel has something to say about who suffered and died. So my answer for how we, the body of Christ, pick up that cross is – we pick it up together.
And some people are better able to carry that cross than others, right? Some of us are not that vulnerable. We have education, we have connections, we have financial means, and we have power.
We need to talk and plan out how to use these super abilities to help others thrive.
You know you have some resources that our community needs, and that by sharing them, you will find that in the places where you are suffering, you will feel better.
As WH Auden writes, O look, look in the mirror, O look in your distress; Life remains a blessing Although you cannot bless. ‘O stand, stand at the window As the tears scald and start; You shall love your crooked neighbour With your crooked heart.’
What love are you holding back from your neighbors?
A few weeks ago Corbett Clark talked about how we just kind of end up somewhere in the world – it’s not because we’re more deserving, that’s just how we landed, and it’s not God’s will that we have super rich and crushingly poor people in the world.
If we are true disciples of Christ, we cannot sign up for a world where the privilege of some causes that pain of many. God wants us to take that privilege and spread it out – that’s the kingdom of God – thank you Corbett – that’s the body of Christ. But the body of Christ doesn’t mean all peace, love and harmony. Those of us who have power and connections need to really look at how we are acting with our neighbors.
How we are getting fed up with protestors, or how we are calling on angry or frightened people to calm down, or how we push for unity or respect or say “what’s wrong with you?” “I just can’t wait for things to get back to normal!” If we have nothing to fear right now, and we start to say “get over it” to other people, that means that we have stopped hearing the people among us who are carrying heavier crosses: those who are in pain, those who do not feel safe.
They don’t want to hear us say “don’t tell me about what it’s like to be black, or that how you can’t pay your bills on minimum wage; don’t tell me about what it’s like to be muslim, to be gay, disabled, transgendered, a woman.”
The list goes on and on of the people that we could hurt – that Jesus would not hurt.
Jesus never shouts at the outcasts, beggars, the prostitutes. That’s not who he shouts at.
I am not saying that as long as one person is trapped in fear, pain or anxiety – as long as one person is sitting up at Golgotha in agony we all need to be right up there, too.
I am saying don’t dismiss legitimate fear or anger if you are seeking the truth.
I had a really great priest named Marc when I was in law school who was there for me as I was having some kind of breakdown – because everyone has a breakdown in law school, it’s just like, part of the process. I was definitely crying as a told Marc that I didn’t think anything good or meaningful or worthwhile would ever come from me, given my life. I tried to explain that I felt like a nothing.
He immediately said, that’s absolutely not true – you are a wonderful person who is going to do great things. I completely see that in you and I will hold that space for you until you see it for yourself.
Have any of you ever heard that phrase before “I will hold that space?” In that space, that’s where the truth waits for us.
If we are going to experience the resurrection, we need to hold space for people who are hurting, afraid and angry to step into when they are ready.
I don’t think I ever stepped into that space when Marc was my priest. But I like to think I am stepping into it much more now.
That’s what we do here.
We say, how can I help you?
You are precious to me.
You are amazing to me.
You are loved.
I am listening, and I am holding a space for you.
If we are not lukewarm about this about our faith community, we need to acknowledge each other, right in the eyes, and tell each other that we are not going anywhere until we sort all this out.
Until we are reconciled to Christ and one another. Until we make this right.
We need to experience each other and make room for each other. Every day – especially when we are together – we need to acknowledge what it means to be the actual body of Christ.
We seek the truth, the unarmed truth.
Here’s some truth – Jesus died with his arms out – with his mother watching, while people made fun of him, and stole his clothes, while people had no clue what was really happening.
And there he said “Forgive them father, for they know not what they are doing.” And there he said to the thief, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
God says, listen to my son. The son says, I want to hear from you.
Why would Jesus want to hear what you have to say? Because we are the body of Christ – we Christians – our truth that we need to step into, the space that Christ is holding and guarding for us and waiting for us to claim as our own – our story, our narrative, what we have to say is love. What do we Christians say? Love. Let me hear it – What do Christians say? love. One more time, What do Christians say? Love.
This is holy work. I see the good in you. I see the best in you. Men you are beautiful. Women, you are powerful.
Where do we do this holy work? In our hearts, in our church community, with help of the holy spirit, with our time, with our talents and with our pocketbooks – everything that we can give – in this wonderful loop of love that God is building with us.
There is a space here at this church, here at this altar, here at this table, for you to step into where you will always be welcome.
This is your sanctuary.
This is a space where your leadership, your annual gift to this church, your creativity – will always be embraced and have deep value and meaning. We are all working together to remember the love that made us, and the love that is constantly re-creating us.
Bishop Gene Robinson, who was the first openly gay Bishop to be consecrated in the Episcopal church –
you may remember that people in that ceremony had to wear bullet proof vests, and that wonderful, loving man got hate mail and death threats every day for the years that he served as a leader in our church –
Bishop Robinson has this wonderful idea that when we start off as babies we aren’t fully created yet.
We are co-creators with God as our life unfolds.
What are you creating with God?
What are you creating with me, o body of Christ?
Where do we even begin?
Today we enter into prayer about giving money to our church.
We pray about the space where we ask God to meet us, because we trust God – that if we give our time and our money in this community we will show that we value this Church and the role that it plays in our lives.
Don’t concern yourself with doing enough – or not the right activity. We are called to be faithful. We are called to be vulnerable. We are called to love.
Show up. Put what you have on the table. Be fully present. It’s enough.