Wednesday, March 16, 2011
It is an unfortunate part of our society today that there are some who would, in the midst of these events, seek to find a way to blame the victims, usually inferring it is God's judgment upon them, as though God is filled with the same prejudices they embody on Earth.
God's judgment. Really?
I was preaching a sermon at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, NJ on the Sunday before Lent. The Gospel reading for the day was Matthew 17:1-9, the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, and I think that it is fitting that the transfiguration is the story told before Lent begins. During the sermon, I brought forward these words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a wonderful leader in our Anglican Communion. “All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend [the] kingdom of shalom-peace and wholeness — of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation. God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And as we share God's love with our brothers and sisters, God's other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.”
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God..."
The "tyrants" that the Archbishop speaks of are not always the despot heads of state we often envision, but the worst kinds of all - the ones who seek to diminish their brothers and sisters, the very neighbors that Jesus commands us to love. These tyrants point to those they do not know or understand and accuse them of being sinful. But sin is that which separates us from feeling God's love. Actually, some define it as that which separates us from God's love, but I do not believe that is possible. I believe God's love is always there, all around us, just waiting for us to take it in. Sin is what keeps us from seeing it and feeling it, and in their hardness of heart for their neighbors, these tyrants have actually hurt themselves as they hurt others.
It is a sad and tragic thing to watch anyone harm themselves, but most especially when their actions harm others as well. And because there are those who would do just that, we must hear the call of God "to extend [the] kingdom of shalom-peace and wholeness — of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation."
We must be the agents of transfiguration for the world.
Because "as we share God's love with our brothers and sisters, God's other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.”
In this season of Lent, take a moment to open your heart to the love of God that is all around you. Hear the call of Christ to love yourself, your neighbor, and God. And be filled with the Spirit to work for change in the world, so that all of God's children may be free and live with dignity.
Wishing you all the blessings of a Holy Lent.