Sermon for June 21, 2020 Third after Pentecost “Tough Good News”
Of all the noteworthy sayings there are, the two that get us into trouble for not heeding are; in social and family gatherings do not talk about religion or politics and three’s a crowd.
The texts today from Romans and Matthew are challenging and force deeper than the surface of the usual niceness of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is more than rainbows and butterfly kisses. He is challenging, can push our buttons especially our ego buttons and Jesus loves us no matter what. So let’s wade into the waters of relationship, sin and the love of Jesus.
Father Thomas Keating expressed wonderfully the well-established path to maturity both mentally and spiritually in this way: “The freedom Jesus promises involves letting go of our small self, our cultural biases, and even our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things; it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become ever more free as we let go of our three primary motivations: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem.”
Paul spends plenty of time teaching and preaching on sin. Much of what he says stems from his own challenges with living in right relationship with God. We tend to categorize sin into groups. Some sin is worse than another is. Over time what constituted sin changed. I define sin, if such a thing is even possible, as the actions and intentions that separate us from a full and complete relationship with God.
As Paul points out in Romans, because of our baptism we are born into a new relationship with Jesus and God. That new life places us in the path of decisions on how we behave each moment of each day. How we treat ourselves, each other and creation is a reflection on our relationship with God and Jesus. Will we be perfect? Absolutely not. Each miss-step that we recognize as such is actually a step closer to God. One of the detours we sometimes end on is about why we treat people and creation the way we do. Some believe that heaven is a reward sort of like allowance, If it do these things right or just do them then I get the reward. Jesus, I believe calls us into relationship with God and Jesus and from that place of profound love and acceptance we have the model and pattern for our relationship with all others and creation.
For example, there was a time when society believed we could treat people of colour or First Nations peoples how ever we wanted; enslaved, abused, raped, forced education. We recognize that is just wrong and not in keeping with a belief in Jesus. So we changed and are changing. Recognize our sin, make amends and work our hardest to live in right relations. It is not easy, reparation never is but it is essential if we claim Jesus as Saviour.
In Matthew Jesus talks about setting family members against one another. In a time of rigid adherence to orthodoxy and little tolerance for not towing the family or Synagogue’s idea of truth, Jesus teaches about a relationship with God first. Then all other relations will flourish. Jesus knew this was going to be challenging and that it had the potential to set family members against one another. Over the centuries, not much has changed. In our day we say, three’s a crowd’ because we know one will be left out or at least feel they are. Jesus teaches, first you and God, then everyone else. Again we have this desire or need to place family or friends before God and Jesus and our egos rebel when Jesus calls us to love God first. Loving God first enables our hearts and minds to be in better relations with family and friends. Sounds easy but living a life of faith is challenging.
Finally, Jesus embodies the love that God has always had for us and creation. It is in the context of this profound love that we can have life in abundance and love with vigor. It is not a reward; it is the benefit of knowing that we are first loved, beyond our understanding. It is in living our lives as if this matters that marks us as believers. My prayer is that our lives as individuals and as a church embody the teaching to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and body and to love others as God loves you”. A tough Good News but one essential for creation’s survival.
And Jesus extends the invitation…Follow me.