Monday, September 24, 2018

Year B Proper 20 23 September 2018 Being Beloved

Year B Proper 20, 23 September 2018
St. James the Less and St. Dunstan's at Shrine Mont
"Being Beloved"

Collect: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Mark 9:30-37
Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

[This sermon was given extemporaneously from an outline. It is a little less fleshed out as I am writing it post facto because several expressed how they appreciated it.]

In our Gospel reading today, we see another example of how the gospels ring true because they are so true to human nature. You get 12 guys walking along a road, the bragging and jockeying for position is going to come out.

I taught middle school for 12 years, and one consistent thing across all the years was that nobody wanted to be the bottom of the totem pole. Some of the nastiest things I have ever heard come out of a person's mouth was the kids who were near the bottom who were horrible to whoever was considered on the bottom rung that day so that the positions did not switch. No one wanted to be the least, which is where we get the pushing and shoving to avoid being last. This is often verbal instead of physical, but I have seen both.

My wife and I went to Cuba in 2003 on a mission trip. We got in on a religious visa. I loved the Cubans. It was a fascinating and wonderful place. But one key difference was when we tried to go anywhere. We had gone over to work with teens, and while we waited for the bus to go somewhere we would all be waiting patiently in line. This was the same as here until the bus arrived. Now you need to know, there were enough seats for everyone. And this was not about being the cool kids sitting in the back of the bus. Once the bus arrived, everyone ran for the door making a crowd pushing and shoving, EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE ENOUGH SPACES FOR EVERYONE. I never understood it.

Jesus' disciples, when he asked what they were talking about on the road I am sure said, "Nothing." Because they knew that is what it was. Meaningless trifles. Arguing over who is the greatest is so ridiculous, and yet we all know that it still happens in the Church (universal, not necessarily here).

So Jesus takes a child in his lap, and says whoever wants to be the best treats the child, the inconsequential one in there society like it was him/Jesus. And if you do that, you welcome God.

In Mark's telling of this story, he even says, "Unless you come to me like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So we have to ask, what is he meaning about these child ideas.

Jesus is not saying to be childish, but childlike. Think on a baby. Why does a baby cry? To get its needs meet. It has full faith that what it needs it will get. Or think of a child, a bit older. They come to the table to get lunch. Not "What's for lunch?" Just, come to the table and all that is needed will be provided.

A little bit earlier this morning, in talking about the book, "Life of the Beloved" by Henri Nouwen, Don Bruce talked about how faith is not a Zero Sum Game. There is not a limit of the love of God. Our God is a God of Abundance. If God is who we say God is, Creator of all that is and everything in this universe, and if quantum theory is right, in all the multiverses, then what have we to worry about?

We forget this so easily. Author and speaker Tony Campolo, according to stories I have heard, was asked to speak to a women's mission conference. Just before his keynote, the president of the group got up and said that they had gotten word that one of their missionaries needed $5,000 and she asked Dr. Campolo if he would stop and pray for God to provide. He refused. He did say he would do this, and opened his wallet and pulled out the cash and out it on the edge of the stage. And then he pointed at the President and said, "Your turn." She laughed and thanked him for making such a good point. He said, "Obviously not, because your cash is not on the pile." She hesitatingly obliged. Then he pointed to the first person in the first row, and so one and so on and so on. Finally, once every person had put their cash on the stage it was counted and they had $15,000, triple the need. The President led the applause, and then invited Dr. Campolo to speak. He got up and said, "Do not ask for a nickel when God has given you a dollar." And sat down.

Supposedly they asked him to return his speaking fee later and he did. However his lesson would have been worth every penny. God has already provided everything we need. As we grow in our faith we see that more and more. God is a God of Abundance and Love. We have no need to worry.

We do not have to worry, or jockey for position. IT IS NOT: "God loves everybody, but I am God's favorite." It is far from that. God is a God of Grace. God has chosen us, and loves us. That love is abundant and wants us to be our best, and does what can be done to accomplish that.

We need to cling to that idea, we are God's Beloved. We are God's Chosen. And no matter what we are going through, no matter what we face, we can rest assured in God's love.

Last week in my sermon, I talked about how much I love movies. Now one movie makes me think of how much being beloved means. It is a movie I would argue most of you have seen, and there is a scene you all remember if you saw it. It was from The Empire Strikes Back. You all remember the scene when Han Solo was lowered into the pit to be frozen in carbonite. I do not even have to say the line. You know it. Princess Leia calls out to him, "I love you!" And he responds...

[Here the whole congregation called out. "I know."]

Now one reading of this could be that he is cocky and full of himself, and that he cannot even say back, "I love you, too." But there is another reading of that scene.

What if he is SO SECURE in that love that even in this most terrifying moment, even in this moment of deep loneliness, even here he is SECURE in the knowledge that he is the Beloved. It is not being cocky, it is a statement of faith.

We can have that security. We can rest in that knowledge. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Hold on to that. Never let it go, especially when the day is dark and the road is hard. Remember who you are, the Beloved of God. Remember who you are, because of WHOSE you are. You are God's Beloved because God holds you dear. And always will. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock