Sunday, April 29, 2012

Easter 4B 2012 sermon: Love anyway

Lectionary:Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

(Note: Below are sermon notes. Today's sermon was mostly exptemporaneous - notes filled in afterwards :)

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Indy singer/song-writer, Dar Williams: “Go ahead, push your luck. Find out how much love the world can hold.” (From After All, on her Green World album).

Today’s Gospel: The Good Shepherd

Christmas – I preached about shepherds. They were a despised occupation. Dirty. Smelly. Unclean – wouldn’t have been allowed in church. Yet Jesus chose to identify himself in relation to us like this.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who voluntarily lays down his life for the sheep. FOR THE SHEEP. That’s what love does – it acts for the other.

The hired hand does the work for himself – for the money, in order to survive. Many of us today do our work for ourselves, for the money, in order to survive. Or b/c of the reputation it gives us, or the satisfaction, or the power.

When trouble came, however, when the shepherd was threatened, the Good Shepherd gave all he had, his very life, for the sake of the other. Jesus saw the wolves circling. He saw them drooling, waiting for the kill.

But he didn’t run. He didn’t hide. And he didn’t leave the sheep. He gave his life so that they could live.

‘I have power to give my life, Jesus said, and I have power to take it up again.’

God Incarnate - Jesus came to be one of us. He lived among us. Taught us. Healed us. Fed us. Forgave us. And commanded us to love one another as he had loved us.

But loving us was inconvenient, painful, and costly for Jesus. Yet Jesus loved us anyway and said love one another as I have loved you.

We are and have always been a stubborn, unreasonable, & self-centered people. Yet God has always loved us anyway, leading us to still waters, refreshing our souls, setting a table for us even in the presence of those who trouble us so …

So that… we can keep on loving, giving ourselves until we have given it all. Then, when we have given our lives, we too will have the power to take it up again – b/c the Spirit of the living Christ abides in us.

As we heard in our epistle: “All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them.”

And we do this individually AND as a community. Each of us is asked to carry the light of God’s love into the very spot of darkness in the world God has chosen for us.

Yesterday: I was invited to lead the Luminaria service for the Humane Society fund raiser at the fairgrounds. There I met people dedicated to loving the precious animals who serve God and us so faithfully, yet endure abuse and neglect by unfaithful humans (who are supposed to care for them). These people love the least, the powerless, the voiceless. Light in the darkness.

Earlier in the day, I participated in the March to the Ballot with a group opposing NC Amendment One.

I call to your attention the letter from the bishops of NC opposing the Amendment, linked here.

(Note: Portions of the letter are read.)

Yesterday, I marched with gave freely of their time, risking their reputations and abusive rebuttals so that the banquet table set by God might include the excluded among us.

Which brings to mind my favorite quote on the subject… the one by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“Jesus did not say, ‘I if I be lifted up I will draw some… Jesus said, ‘I if I be lifted up will draw all, all, all, all, all. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful, gay, lesbian, straight. It’s one of the most radical things… All belong… All are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All.” (From the Article, Archbishop Tutu Calls for Anglican Unity and Inclusion, Ruach, A Publication of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Christmas 2005, Vol. 26:1, 11.)

The radical truth the Archbishop is pointing out is the nature of the extravagant love of God.

“Go ahead, push your luck. Find out how much love the world can hold.”

I’ll close with The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith. (I’ve given these to you as a handout in your bulletin.)

You may recognize these – Mother Theresa had an adapted version of these up on the wall in her home for children in Calcutta.

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway. © 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

“Go ahead, push your luck. Find out how much love the world can hold.”

1 comment:

Skip Foster said...

Thanks for posting these, Valori. I hear most of them, but this one I missed that was beautiful. Skip