Reopening our doors

Bring it on

Bring it on
November 13, 2016
Series:
Passage: Malachi 4:1-2a, Psalm 98,, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
Service Type:

You will be hated by all because of my name.

 

You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.

 

This morning’s texts are perfect for this past week, when many of us have felt betrayed, shocked, anxious, and afraid. And before I say another word I want to acknowledge that not everyone feels this way. It may be that not everyone in this room voted, or not everyone voted for the same person. Voting aside, we are all in a different place on the continuum of trying to imagine what the new administration will mean for us and for many people we love. I also want to acknowledge that personally I resist talking about politics, almost to a fault. But because the election seems to be a license for acts of hate and violence toward vulnerable people, we are beyond politics. We are beyond secular politics, yet we are called to respond. I believe we are called to respond out of our Christian identity.

 

In its inception, Christianity was always a resistance movement. The Roman government under which first-century Jews lived was racist, misogynist, xenophobic, corrupt, and economically oppressive. No one in the early church ever expected the government to line up with the love and justice that Jesus preached. To be a follower of Jesus was a life-threatening proposition. Today we rarely have to take a stand for the gospel in a way that puts us at risk.

 

As some of you may have imagined over the past few days, this could change. Anglican theologian Kenneth Leech, a friend and mentor to several of us in this parish, reminds us that “…to struggle for freedom and equality is to be a resistance movement. This will not increase the popularity of the church…and so we will need to support and nourish each other more and more.”

 

When we say “each other” we are talking about a whole lot of people who need our support and nourishment, who need us to stand beside them. I don’t even like to say “us” and “them,” because it is all of us: women, gay men and lesbians, people dependent on the Affordable Care Act, people of color, our Muslim sisters and brothers, our Latino sisters and brothers, and our homeless neighbors who are so poor and invisible to the people in power that they are not on anyone’s priority list, and they, too, victims of fear and hatred, in need of our support and nourishment.

 

To be part of the resistance movement that is Christianity is to protect victims of hatred with love. This protection has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with how we voted or even whether we voted, but with what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Protection may come in the form of advocacy, inclusion, friendship, sanctuary, financial support—and much more.

 

So how do we get there? How do we align with the resistance movement to which our Christian identity calls us? I’d like to suggest three practices. Many of you already do these things; I invite you to enter into these practices reflecting on them as expressions of Christian resistance:

 

The first practice is to immerse ourselves in our sweeping scriptural tradition of resistance by praying the Daily Office. In this ancient and timeless practice, when we pray the psalms and listen to stories of the people of God throughout history, we can tune our ears and our hearts to resisting hatred and fear.

 

The second practice is to participate just as often as we can in the Holy Eucharist. Ken Leech says that “the eucharistic offering must be at the heart of Christian politics, because it is the realization of a new force at work within the world.” In the Eucharist we take things of the world—bread and wine—and transform them into holy food and drink that binds us to Christ while keeping us grounded in the world God loves, to do the work that has been set before us.

 

Finally, we can practice love, intentionally, incrementally, extravagantly. In the past five days I have heard or read hundreds of stories about ways that people want to love more, and better. You’ve read them, too. You don’t need me to enumerate the actions and ideas all around us, from safety pins to ACLU donations. One of my favorite stories came from one of you, who wrote:

 

After the election results I felt like crawling into my Washington state bubble. However, this morning I reached out and invited someone I just wave at to lunch. Join me in making a new friend!

 

Such a small thing, and yet, a big stretch, an act of love. We join the Christian resistance movement when we stretch in love. What we have seen happening to vulnerable people in our country in the past five days and what we fear will happen means that we are called to be the hands and heart of Jesus in the world. We love not just by coming alongside the vulnerable, but by standing between them and those who would do them harm.

 

We join the resistance movement that is Christianity by staying close to our baptismal promises. Last Sunday, we renewed these promises. We renounced the evil powers of this world that destroy the creatures of God. We promised to remain in fellowship, to break bread, persevere in resisting evil, and practice repentance as often as we need to, maybe more often. We promised to proclaim good news. We promised to strive for justice, peace, and respect. Our baptismal covenant binds us to the work that I believe is set before us—all of us—in this time where we find ourselves, regardless of how we voted. Prayer, communion, repentance, resistance, love, kindness, advocacy. This is how people of the Way, people of promise and hope, strive to live our Christian lives in the world all the time, when the news is good or bad, when we agree or disagree.

 

I have often described the Church as a training ground for discipleship. This is what we have been training for. This is when we make good on our baptismal promises. All of those times we showed up at church when we didn’t feel like it, or practiced love with someone we didn’t know or care for, all those times we prayed for courage and strength to be more like Jesus in some small way or some grand way, we have been training for this moment in our common life as citizens of the Kingdom of God. Some of us might feel like the original audience for this morning’s gospel, hated and persecuted. As people of the Way, people of hope and promise, I say: Bring it on. Let’s be hated because of Jesus’ name. Let’s be hated because we are truth-tellers and lovers in the name of Christ. Let’s astound the world with our love.