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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last week's preaching experience was both heartbreaking and liberating. Heartbreaking because I never intend on offending or hurting anyone; Liberating because being who God called me to be and speaking MY truth (What the Holy Spirit has moved me to say) means I am being honest and transparent. I struggle with things the same way each of you do. We don't struggle about the same things, we don't feel the same ways...but, the important thing is, we struggle together and we come to the altar rail together raising our palms upward to receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood and we are, once again, refreshed, made clean and new.
As Episcopalians we live in a world of dynamic tension. We encompass such a degree of diversity, and that is very good, that all of us are bombarded with issues that tense us and go against some basic understandings and beliefs that have been with us since childhood. When we face these "tensions" one of our natural human responses is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change, etc.
We follow a Resurrected Savior who was a refugee, rebel, lover of all people who sacrificed himself for these beliefs. If we are to follow Him we have to act in His name.
I grew up believing God doesn't give us a spirit of fear. However, it seems like our nation is acting out of fear more and more each day. For us Christians, who get wrapped up in this fear, we forget who it is we follow and are already saved through Christ's death and resurrection.
In the Gospels, when the disciple Peter is asked if he is associated with Jesus, he denies him, later saying he doesn't even know him. It isn't anything he does that rejects his faith; it's what he refuses to do. Like it or not, we (myself included) are denying Jesus in these times of national discourse (or lack thereof) as we tolerate words, actions and conduct that are entirely opposed to Jesus' life and ministry.
We are The Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement. We are on the same side, each and every one of us: the side of love and mercy and justice and gentleness and joy; the side of loving our neighbor and of turning our cheek and washing feet. We need that; our communities need that; our country needs that; our world needs that. If our faith can't surpass man-made politics, it isn't worth much. If we can't be united in love for all people, we will surely become the worst kind of clanging cymbal. May we act, speak and listen in ways that open our hearts and model respect for those with whom we disagree.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
See ya Sunday,
*Some of these words were inspired by an article by John Pavlovitz
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