Monday, November 14, 2016

Being the Body Still:
A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
For the Community of First Austin: a baptist community of faith
On the Twenty Sixth Sunday Following Pentecost
November 13, 2016

Incarnate God, we ask that you once again take the Word and transform it into a living and breathing reality we can all together experience. Be present here in this space and in these words God for if you are present here then nothing else will matter, but if you are not present here then nothing else will matter. In the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Comforter.  

So here is my confession: I had plans to phone one in this week in some ways. After last week’s installation celebration and what promised to be a very busy week with friends leaving town- a staff retreat- and several bigger projects on my plate including preaching the Hose for Homeless Memorial Service earlier this morning, so I was planning to preach a moderately revamped version of one of my favorite sermons I have ever preached. It’s one that has really well worked in other pulpits, a sermon about being the church… not to brag, but it was a pretty good sermon: it had a good story about my kids that would have made you laugh, it was built on biology and some new information we know about the human body, it was progressive in terms of celebrating the human body and it was an affirming call to be the church of Jesus Christ… and it was the perfect follow up to Installation Sunday…. and a few weeks ago, knowing how busy this week was going to be, I had pulled it out, dusted it off, added new life to it and felt so good about it.

And then this week happened. 

It started Tuesday morning as I left staff meeting and was going to prepare for our noonday contemplative prayer service. I stopped in my office and checked my email to find a letter waiting for us from the leadership of the Texas Baptist. The letter should not have been a surprise, but still had a sting to it that I was not quite expecting. The letter informed us that because we have “affirmed any other form of marriage or expression of sexual behavior” beyond what the current leadership of Texas Baptist deems as biblical that we have (in their words) “effectively chosen to withdraw [ourselves] from harmonious cooperation with the churches” of our state convention. 

They won’t receive our funds. They won’t seat us at meetings. They won’t identify with us. They don’t want us. 

In other words we have been kicked out of our state fellowship, which we helped build, simply because we have chosen to open our doors to all of God’s beloved children. 

And then Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning- Election night happened- and for many of us in this room we all sat in total disbelief when what we thought was an impossibility became a possibility and then a reality as state after state after state turned red and our tears of joy turned into tears of lament. And since then we have spent this week facing the despair and the fear and the grief and the anger and the confusion so many of us are holding. Although it should be noted others in our community had the opposite reaction and this election made the week harder in other ways, because it’s hard to celebrate when those around you are mourning. It was one more week in our country where we felt so far apart. 

And here we are today…. Gathered together in desperate need of a word, of light, of a new unifying calling. And if nothing else, that is a sign of hope. We come here because we know there is More and we know we are in need. And today just for being here and making it through the week, everyone gets a gold star. Because it’s been a hard week.

And as the week has gone on I have felt a lot of tension… On one hand I am still carrying so much goodness and light from the celebration last week. You all made me feel so loved and I was so proud of this church, of us, and who we are… a light in the darkness, a people who understand, the church that God needs today. And I still believe that with all my very being.

And yet in the other hand I am carrying the exact opposite…. Sitting with the fact that our own once beloved state fellowship that was founded as a group of independent and true Baptist communities has kicked us out not because we have made any demands of them but because we chose love…. And with the fact that no matter how you view the outcome of the election, our civility and public discourse and politics have forever been changed and the church was once again an irrelevant voice in helping shape that change.

And that is the tension I carried into the text for this Sunday… loving our church and so angry at the broader church…. And that is not an easy tension to carry into this text which is all about the beautiful body of the church.

And I read it over and over and over looking for somewhere where Paul said “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body… so it is with Christ… unless one of those members behaves really poorly and kicks you out for your stance of love or votes against your candidate in the election.”

Because to be honest that is the text I want to read this week because my gut reaction is that all the healing I need in my soul would be better if I could point the finger and blame someone else, to be angry at someone else outside of me, to point the finger of blame away from the one body to the other body. Because to be honest it feels really good to point the finger of blame and to label the other and to be angry at them for what they did and how they got us into this mess and to say it’s their fault.

But the truth is I think that type of thinking is exactly what has gotten us to where we are today… the thought that there is more than just one body, that there is you and me, right and wrong, black and white, gay and straight.. and that whatever is wrong is always the other side’s fault and their doing…. And that won’t work, in the words of Mother Teresa, “we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

The deepest truth is there is not this and that, there is just One. 

One Beloved.

One body. One humanity. One kingdom.

And we all belong there. 

Paul did not give me any room here… so I sat thinking about this one body and I began to think about how my own body has felt in all the news we have encountered and experienced this week. I tried to explain how I felt in terms of my body and what I realized is I feel dizzy and disconnected and disoriented. I feel like the whole world is shaking and we are the only one’s who notice it. And I think that is how so many of us in this community feel this week and I suddenly realized, it’s one body but right now there is part that body the feels like the world is spinning out of control and we are so disoriented.

And once I could describe it I knew what it was because once during a pastoral visit a friend said to me through tears, “Griff, do you know what it’s like when your head knows what is the right way, your body can’t understand and you are so dizzy?” She had vertigo… we have spiritual vertigo this week.

This friend was always a regular at church until suddenly she wasn’t there for a few weeks. I called to check on her and she said she had bad vertigo and really missed church and she would love for me to come and visit with her and pray with her. I went to see her and she explained to me how vertigo felt- like the world is spinning and won’t stop and it leaves you so dizzy and disconnected and disoriented. I asked her if there was anything that could be done.

Her doctor had given her a few directions to help with the symptoms. When she began to feel dizzy, she was to immediately sit down and be still and rest. Once she was resting she was supposed to slowly open her eyes and find a fixed point and stare at it until the dizziness went away. And then she was supposed to slowly get up and go about her day. 

Stop and rest. Fix your eyes. Once you can get up and go about your work.

Maybe that is the message God is giving to our body this week. 

We need to stop and rest. 

Maybe we need to unplug for a bit. Maybe the constant news and opinions of others are not good for our souls. Maybe we need to read less of everyone’s opinion on everything in the world. Maybe we need to see a little less of a screen and spend more time staring out a window because there is still beauty in our world everywhere we look. God is still active all around us and we need to stop and notice.

And we stop because that is what you do when you need to get better: you stop and rest and hopefully that allows you stop doing the thing that caused the disease and you start doing the things that will heal you. You stop and you are still. 

It’s Anne Lamott who wisely says “almost everything will reset if you unplug it, including you.”

For some of us we need to unplug for a bit, we need a season where we sit and we know the truth of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” We need to get away because all of this has become too much and our souls can’t take it anymore. 

We practice radical self care and maybe that means time at Alamo Drafthouse or instead of raking leaves this afternoon we put on sweats and a game or Netflix, maybe it means eating an entire Torchy’s chips and queso on your own or going to walk Town Lake with your dog, maybe it’s a good book or the entire Sunday New York Times. Maybe you do like we did yesterday and you put your Christmas tree up early because Christmas always gives you up. Maybe it’s coming back here tonight for Agape Meal because you need to be at the table with your church. 

So sit and rest and let God catch you. Let God restore you. Let God breath into you. Let God fill you. 

And once we have done so we need to open our eyes slowly and set them on a fixed point. And that fixed point is our Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, whose very life is where we set our eyes. Everything we need to know we learn in his life.

That everyone belongs at the table.

That love is the only force that will drive out fear.

To walk the border lines and listen to the stories we hear of those on the margins because those stories matter in the Kingdom of God.

That healing is always found with the outcast and that God’s best work is done with the broken.

The beauty begins in the places we never expect to look.

The darkness always gives way to the light.

And that darkness itself always has it’s own gifts to give us.

That we are all… all, all, all…. Beloved children of God.

The kingdom of God exists right around us. And within us.

That death is never the end and that life is born over and over again.

That being faithful has always meant speaking truth to power.

To tell our stories loudly and to share everything we have, including our own bodies.

That love- the greatest of these- that love will always win.

We set our eyes on Jesus because Jesus is our constant, we set our eyes there until the world seems to stop spinning. Until we can focus so much on Jesus that we regain our sense of balance and stability. That we have found our center and the world seems right again. 

And then we slowly get up and go about the work the Spirit is calling forth. Because church there is so much work to be done. As Abby told our kids on Wednesday morning “this just means that we love harder and we are kinder and we are braver than ever before because that is what our world needs each and every day.”

Our world needs us to take the attitude of our own First Grader Maggie Hooten who declared Wednesday National Hug Day and hugged every person she saw… the world needs us to get it like she gets it.

Our world needs us out there handing out blankets out to all the homeless men and women who are sleeping on our very church doorsteps. The world needs the arms of this church wrapped around our brothers and sisters who are immigrants or who have families trying to get across the border and we promise them that we will be family to and with them. And God needs us yelling that Black Lives Matter. And God needs us bringing casseroles and cakes to our members who just had babies. And God needs us promising our gay sisters and brothers that their marriage is as real as our own and always will be. And God needs us to go down to the nursery in our church and to take the children into our arms and promise them that we are doing everything we can to create a better world for them. And we are going to stand up for the poor and sick and promise to find ways to give them access to quality health care. And God needs us to continue to fight for better care of creation. And God needs us on our knees praying for our current leader President Obama and our next leader President Elect Trump.  

And God needs us….. because just as we don’t need a politician but instead need a people… God doesn’t need a politician but needs a people. 

God needs us to get up and go back to the same work we had on Monday of this week before the Texas Baptist kicked us out and the work of Tuesday before the results of the election, the same work of Kingdom building, the very work of Christianity. That has and always will be our primary vocation, no matter who sits in the Oval Office and not matter what denominational body desires our affiliation. 

Stop and rest while God fills you. Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ. Once you can get up and go about the work of the Holy Spirit.

Oh and one more thing… when I was leaving my friend Lucy’s house, she said she wanted to walk me to the door and promised me she was good to stand and make the journey. She stood and then she softly took my hand in hers and then she looked at me and said, “the doctor also told me for a little bit it would be best if I held hands with people as we walked, knowing someone is right beside me actually helps restore and keep my balance.”

And that is true for us as well. 

We need to hold hands and know that we are in this together.

One Beloved Body.

And we will rise up, Because God is counting on us. 

Amen and Amen.


Post a Comment