Thursday, August 6, 2015

Actions speak louder than words

Earlier this week I visited with Margie O, one of our elder, infirm members at her care facility. I love Margie. Even in her weakness and infirmity she’s feisty and very wise.

During my visit, Margie uttered the same phrase three times as we spoke, in moments that didn’t make sense in our conversation. She said, “Actions speak louder than words.” I agreed and we went on with our conversation. The second time she said it, I asked Margie why this was so much on her mind and she replied: “People can say anything, but you know the truth about them by what they do.” The third time, Margie was almost asleep – her head dropped back onto her pillow, her eyes closed, and the words came forth. This time I knew it was the voice of God speaking prophetically through Margie, a faithful servant, so I pondered them prayerfully.

The next day at our Wednesday Holy Eucharist, we read two parables in Matthew about rich men who sold all they had in order to acquire 1) a field with treasure hidden in it, and 2) a pearl of great value, both metaphors for the kingdom of God. That’s when the power of Margie’s prophetic utterance hit me: actions DO speak louder than words. What these two men DID spoke the truth about them - they valued the kingdom of God so much that they sold all of their earthly possessions in order to possess (also translates as ‘be included in’) it. These parables aren’t about the field or the pearl, but the response of the characters, which spoke very loudly.

This brought to mind a similar story in Mark’s gospel: a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments: don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t defraud or bear false witness against anyone, honor your parents. I’ve done that all my life, the young man says. Then Jesus looks at him -- loves him -- and tells him to sell all he owns, give the money to the poor, and follow him. The young man, shocked by this requirement, walked away grieving - an action which also spoke loudly.

As Christians, we believe that the salvation of the world by Jesus Christ is a reality, and our Baptism makes us partners with Christ in the continuing work of reconciliation until he comes again. We must, therefore, choose, as the three men above chose, what our response will be.

When we, the church, see a person who is hungry or homeless, are we moved by compassion for their suffering? Do we hunger with them for a world in which no one suffers from lack? If so, what are we are doing to make that happen? When we, the church, see someone who is marginalized, how are we opening doors that are closed to them? When we, the church, see someone who is bullied, abused, or trapped in the prisons of addiction, poverty, or privilege, in what ways are we sacrificing our comfort for the sake of their healing and reconciliation?

St. Paul advises the body of Christ, the church, with these words: “get rid of… anger, wrath, malice, abusive language… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other… And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Col 3: 8, 12-13, 17).

As members of the part of the body of Christ at The Church of the Redeemer, what do our actions say about us? We feed the hungry each week, host the annual gay pride picnic, offer our building to support groups for people with addictions and mental illness, worship God together, and we’ve committed ourselves to prayer and unity as we discern our common path forward. That’s quite a statement.

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