Todays’ readings can be found here: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearC_RCL/Pentecost/CProp7_RCL.html
Click here to listen as you read:
There’s an Indian writer and social activist named Arundhati Roy. She penned one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever heard for a speech she gave in 2003 called Confronting Empire. She wrote: “Another world is not only possible. She is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. She is on her way.
I was hoping we’d have a longer “getting to know you” period than this… before I had to stand up here and preach in the aftermath of another national tragedy. Yet, here were are, about 3 months into our journey together. And my heart is broken. Again.
But I’m preaching to you today, not just from a place of grief, but also of love – from the love I have for you already and from the love for you that will grow in my heart as we continue to journey together. You’ve asked me to come here and be your teacher and your pastor and that requires the development of trust between us. And yet, we’re still getting to know each other. So preaching to you with a broken heart is not an easy thing to do.
But it’s not the first time I’ve preached after a massacre. Which horrifies me when I stop to think about it. I’ve not yet hit my sixth year of ordination. Less than 6 years… and I have already preached after violent massacres several times. I could list them but I’d rather not. 49 people in Orlando is enough. 49 people in Orlando is sickening, actually.
Because to continue to hear stories about mass shootings – about how someone has planned to and then obtains the means to take lives on such a large scale – to continue to hear these stories is increasingly beyond my capacity to hold.
It’s like the psalm from today:
As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.
My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long they say to me, “where now is your God?”
For me, it would be easier to shut down, to give up and surrender to the notion that “this is just the world we live in now.”
But that’s not the Gospel’s truth. And it’s not the truth I believe in. The God I worship and serve refuses to let me forget the truth, even in my darkest moments. And so I refuse to surrender to that kind of terror. Because the truth our God gives me in the message of the Resurrection is that there is something else besides terror and fear and violence.
I know there is something else. There is another world.
We throw the phrase Kingdom of God around a lot in the Christian tradition. The Kingdom of God is not only something you experience after a physical death. It’s so much more than that. God’s kingdom is always waiting to be realized in the here and now.
The Kingdom of God happens when we believe enough in love that we refuse to let violence have any impact on us.
It happens when we have decided to stop living in a world where we have surrendered to the demonic concept that violence reigns. When we start believing in a world where love reigns… and then acting to bring that about in very real, very tangible ways.
And that is a radical notion in a world that so desperately wants to believe in violence.
Because there’s plenty of proof available for us to believe in violence as the way of the world. And it’s so easy to respond by participating in the cycle of violence in some way. And it’s easy and understandable to be so overwhelmed and scared by the rising death toll that we shut it out of our minds and don’t do anything.
So, to believe that love will triumph over violence feels radical, if not completely pathetic and utterly irrational.
But the Resurrection story we tell as Christians, is the insistence that violence is not the last word. It is the central story of our faith, it’s the whole point of all the Gospel… that there is something more than death and destruction and fear and pain.
There is another world besides the one that is dripping in violence.
There is another world and she’s on her way.
But in order for that world to come into being, in order for that world to become real, to become incarnate… we, as the Body of Christ, must participate. We must act on the belief that love is the final word. That love will always be the final word.
This love is not a feeling. It’s an action. It’s a way of being in the world that takes this Table of Reconciliation out into a world in desperate need of healing. It’s a refusal of violence and an insistence on love… a love that extends to everyone – regardless of skin color, physical ability, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, religion, physical appearance.
Not just the people we feel safe with, but everyone.
This love is foolish?… maybe to some. But those are the voices that want us to believe in violence.
We’re hearing the story of Elijah in our Old Testament readings these past several weeks. You may have gleaned that Elijah wasn’t exactly popular as a prophet. God sent Elijah to advise Ahab because Ahab, along with his wife Jezebel, were tyrants and were worshipping another god.
In today’s installment, Elijah is threatened by Jezebel, the person who has ordered the deaths of hundreds of prophets before him. It seems Ahab and Jezebel weren’t taking kindly to being told they were wrong so their response was to simply get rid of those who were challenging them. To remove their credentials by killing them. Ahab and Jezebel believed the voices of violence and became violent themselves.
Not surprisingly, Elijah gets scared enough that he tries to flee from his call as prophet and asks God to take his life. Elijah listened to the voices of violence.
But an angel finds Elijah sleeping and tells him to eat – to come alive again. And instructs him to go and listen for God on the mountain. And Elijah listens for God in the wind. And Elijah listens for God in the earthquake. And Elijah listens for God in the fire. And Elijah finally hears God… where? In the sheer silence.
He hears God in the sheer silence. And God tells Elijah to go back and do the hard thing… to risk his life by continuing to prophesy to Ahab. God reminds Elijah to believe in something other than violence because violence is never the last word.
God – Life – Love. These are the last words.
So, how do we act in love right now? In 21st century America, in the midst of this madness… how do we act in love?
What I’ve observed, my friends, is that we are all scared. We may be scared for different reasons, but fear is the common denominator behind all of the theories and rants and arguments. And fear makes us feel powerless. It makes us want to listen to the voices of violence and find a stance so that we can become self-righteous, so that we can become right.
But this… whatever this is we’re doing now… it’s not working.
We haven’t stopped massacres from happening. They have, instead, increased. I know we can’t agree on the cause or the solution. But it feels as if we haven’t done anything.
So maybe the way to begin is to stop listening to the voices of violence that fill our TVs and our Facebook feeds and our online articles and our Twitter feeds… all of it. The voices of pundits and “experts” and political advisors…
I know that sometimes it makes us feel better to listen to someone else who’s scared, who sounds more sure about the cause and the solution.
But when is the last time you talked to God about this violence? And I don’t mean, just a couple of words, asking God to do something; I mean, asking God for guidance on how you, as a Christian, are called to act on behalf of your faith.
Asking God for guidance on how we, as the Body of Christ, are called to act as if love were the final word?
Ask yourself: when’s the last time I sat in silence… even just for a minute… and asked God to fill my mind with love? Asked our God of life to calm my fears so that I might be able to hear that voice? So that I might remember that the Resurrection teaches me that love is the final word.
My friends, I’m asking that we turn the volume down… on ourselves and on the voices that beg us to believe in violence, the ones that tell us we are foolish to believe in love. And, instead, spend time in active prayer. If we do this, we might just hear God in the sheer silence.
For if we believe in the Resurrection, if we believe that something else is possible, then we are compelled by our faith to act on that belief – to be foolish and irrational and act as if love is the final word.
To listen, really listen to one another… beyond the arguments and the rants and the fear. We might find a new way. We might realize another world.
Elijah didn’t hear God in the wind. And Elijah didn’t hear God in the earthquake. And Elijah didn’t hear God in the fire. God is heard in the sheer silence.
When we stop the noise and we quiet our anxious minds long enough to acknowledge that we are scared. When we remember that the person on the other side of the argument is a beating heart and is scared too. When we remember that we are both breathing the same air.
This is when we hear the voice of God. This is when we hear the voice of love. This is when we hear the Reign of God approaching.
“Another world is not only possible. She is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. She is on her way.”