June 3, 2018

2018 June3

Proper 4 - Year B

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

It’s been 3 weeks, and people are still talking about the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! We Episcopalians need to ride this wave of positivity and international attention for as long as we can! The one way to do that is to express his main theme as readily and as easily as he does.

 

The core of his sermon was about love. Some people thought that he went on too long. Perhaps that is an indication that we are losing faith in love, that we have molded it into the consumerist society that we are enveloped in so that we see love in the world when it suits us. I dunno…I don’t want to speak on behalf the Western World.

 

At about 5:10min into his sermon, Bishop Curry asserts that:

 

“…Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. A movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about some power, real power. Power to change the world.”

 

That’s what I found in this morning’s readings. You might have thought that I was going to talk about the Call of Samuel, or suffering for Christ, or the nature of Jesus’ Healings. Nope. Instead, I want you to see the love in these scriptures:

  • The love that Eli has for Samuel that he affirms God’s call of Samuel to be the new leader.
  •  The love of Jesus that Paul says is inside each of us such that he calls on the Christians in Corinth to continue to suffer for the love of Jesus.
  • The love of every person that the Historical Jesus has such that He challenges the law, risking His own life.

The clearest image of love in today’s readings is in the Psalm.


Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.


That can only come from a place of feeling loved by The Creator. There is nothing other than
love that would result in "You created my inmost parts; You knit me together in my mother's
womb.”


The Presiding Bishop asserted that “Love changes the person and the world.” Turn to your
neighbor and share a story of when you felt that someone’s love changed you. I’ll give you each
2min.


<share>


I am not going to have you share your story out loud. But hold onto that feeling that you had
when you remembered and shared your story. That’s love. Is it happy, emotional, unsettling,
uncomfortable, exhilarating? Love, whether eros, agape or philia, does funny things to us.
Whatever it does may be indescribable, and that’s when you know it’s real.

 

That ennui that we experience when we experience love is what changes us. If love is the
backbone of the story that changed your life, then you’ve got an idea of the love in today’s
scriptures.

 

  • Eli and Samuel have a very special relationship. Eli is not simply Samuel’s mentor and boss as a High Priest in the Temple. Samuel’s conception, birth and upbringing are directly related to Samuel’s mother having a pastoral relationship with Eli. That’s not code for inappropriate behavior on the part of the High Priest. It was one of those instances in which God works in mysterious ways on behalf of the humble and pious

    Eli’s nurturing of Samuel from birth is reflected in this morning’s story.

    Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

    There is a type of philial love in that scenario that was life-changing for Samuel. It was also life-changing for Eli. He knows that his own family is cursed, and that his own legacy and the legacy of the High Priests are contained within their relationship and their trust in the Lord.

  • In 2 Corinthians: “We have this treasure in clay jars” sets our human physical weakness in beautiful imagery, and the affirms our hidden treasure as the knowledge of the Love of Jesus Christ – this love we were entrusted to carry. That love is so amazing that Paul instructs the Christians in Corinth to suffer for that love. Their suffering is part of their identification with Jesus and His suffering, which also makes Jesus’ life visible in the world. That love that the Christians in Corinth carry around inside their clay jars changed their lives by setting them part from the debauchery that surrounded them and what Corinth was known for.

  • The main focus of the Gospel story is not the healing, as some might think. It’s about the interaction with the Pharisees and challenging the Sabbath laws. Jesus shows defiance, wisdom and compassion. But behind all of that is Love. Jesus does not have to do anything written in this story, not even heal the man with the withered hand. But Mark wants to illustrate Jesus’ power and authority above that of the Jewish authorities. WE have the hindsight and breadth of the history of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to know that all that Jesus does in the Bible, regardless of the motivation of the writer, is done out of a love of God’s people that goes beyond understanding. That sort of love changed the lives of the man with the withered hand, the lives of Pharisees and the life of Jesus.

 

When you experience the kind of love you described to your neighbor, your instinct is probably to keep it to yourself, to hang onto that experience or relationship and treasure it forever. But remember what the Presiding Bishop said: Jesus started a “movement mandating people to live [God’s unconditional] love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.” So…when you feel love…when you know that God is within that love, you are to live that love…share that love. Just like the Church believes about marriage: it is a reflection of Jesus’ Love for His people. That is a shared love, not a concealed love.

 

Back to the Presiding Bishop’s sermon at the Royal Wedding. You will do well to remember that he referenced the hymn “There is a Balm in Gilead”.

 

I’m talking about some power, real power. Power to change the world. If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, it’s one that says there’s a balm in Gilead. A healing balm, something that can makes things right…This way of love is the way of life.

 

One of my Facebook friends posted his annoyance with the media referring to “There is a BOMB in Gilead”, B-O-M-B instead of Balm, B – A – L – M. Pretty big difference, right? But think about it from the hearer’s perspective, the person who has never heard the hymn before. Bishop Curry makes a point of the lyrics:

 

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,

you can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,

there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.


The Balm (B – A – L – M) in Gilead is the love of Jesus. It is the love of Jesus that is the medicinal ointment that makes the wounded whole. Now imagine if you thought it was B – O – M – B! The love of Jesus is a BOMB that makes the wounded whole and heals the sin-sick soul. A BOMB that doesn’t destroy, but it heals. I can imagine that first-time hearers thinking that the Love of Jesus that heals wounds and the soul is a BOMB might feel the love a bit stronger. Imagine if:

  • The survivors at Santa Fe High School in Texas hear that a Love BOMB heals.
  • Those who gathered for the anniversary of the Manchester Arena Bombing hear that a Love BOMB heals.
  • The survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL hear that a Love BOMB heals.

A BOMB of Love, instead of a BALM of love, is similar to calling for swords to be pounded into ploughshares. We need more Love Bombs in this world. We need more love in the world. We are reminded of and drawn into the Love Bomb of Jesus when we partake in the Eucharist, so we are constantly reminded and commissioned to take the Love of Jesus out into the world.

 

So…how do we change the world through this Jesus Movement that Bishop Curry stunned the Royal Family with? It’s easy: Be a Love Bomb. Let the love that changed your life spark a love in you that will change the lives of others. Show others this Jesus Movement that Bishop Curry keeps talking about that is grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. Let the love of Jesus be made visible through your mortal flesh. Let us each be the love that we want to see in the world.

 

Let us live lives that show to

others the Unconditional Love

of Jesus.

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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