NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON:
11:00 a.m.., October 18, 2009
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave.
1st Lesson: Ephesians 4: 17 – 32
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and yet sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Gospel: Matthew 9: 1 – 8
And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, “This man blasphemeth.”
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’; or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’ But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.”
Then saith he to the sick of the palsy, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”
And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
SERMON PROPER BEGINS
(Just like starting over)
Over the years I have the opportunity to work for a more peaceful and compassionate world alongside many dedicated people. My focus may have shifted over the years, from opposition to war to addressing hunger and homeless that in the reality for so many even in a place of plenty. But my motivation has always been to express in the public realm my understanding of how God wanted all those with creation to treat one another. The most challenging times were those spent with those, such as Ruth Morris and Fred Franklin, who worked with those seeking a healing, transforming approach to crime in the world—sometimes expressed as victim/offender reconciliation; at other times as healing the wounds of all those affected by a criminal act.
Perhaps the best description of this can be found on Margo Arrowsmith’s website Squidoo where I found the following description of what such an approach is based upon:
Restorative Justice posits a paradigm shift
that is best understood by asking the oft-
quoted “three questions.” The more
common three questions for a system of
justice to ask are “1. What laws have been
broken?, 2. Who did it?, 3. What do they
deserve?” Restorative justice asks, “1. Who
has been hurt?, 2. What are their needs?, 3.
Whose obligations are these?” Zehr,
Howard. The Little Book of Restorative
Justice Intercourse, PA: Good Books. 2002.
There have been occasional miracles—for the me the first one being the Kingston store owner who, after being the victim of vandalism, agreed to have the offenders to repair the damage. In the time they spent together, both the victim and the offenders learned to see common humanity in someone they had previously pushed aside. The store owner ended up hiring people he at one point wanted to punish. There are stories of healing and reconciliation involving far more serious crimes that more experienced practitioners of healing justice
have been involved with—victims of rape; victims of torture; the families of murder victims.
Such overturning of expectations is at the core of our faith. If it works in the big, overwhelming experiences of life, it surely can be made real in the daily ebbs and flows of our lives.
We do not need to be trapped by habits and decisions that lead us to actions that harm ourselves and others. We see this in big ways such as when a decorated soldier speaks out against war. We see it when we work to make amends with those we have harmed—perhaps through a meaningful apology to our spouse or by paying for the replacement of someone’s tools we’ve lost or inviting an estranged relative to a holiday meal. If we change the way we usually behave, we will change the way others treat us and eventually the way they treat others. We build the new Jerusalem by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and by healing our relationships.
We need to start this process very close to home. Paul also tells us, in Romans 13:9 to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” You can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself. Just as one can’t be guaranteed food unless everyone is guaranteed food, love can’t be truly free in the world if anyone is excluded. Putting off one’s old self includes putting aside self-defeating attitudes and learning that one is worthy in the sight of God, deserving of love and compassion and healing. You can’t put aside bitterness and anger if you hate yourself. You can’t be tender hearted towards others if, in your innermost thoughts, you are harsh and hurtful towards yourself.
Ghandi urged us to “Be the change you want to see in the world”. To see a world without hatred, we need to not hate others; to see a world without war, we need to live in peace with those around us. To see a world where the shalom kingdom is being made real we need to accept that we have a home in it and show the world what this can mean. We need to forgive others and ourselves, we need to put aside gossiping and speaking harshly of others and ourselves, we must accept help when we need it and offer it to others in turn. We are to seek to
show in our private lives what we want for others.
And we can do these things because we are a free people, not trapped in old ways of doing things. We are offered rebirth, a renewal of ourselves. We are offered a chance to both return to Eden and live in the Shalom kingdom—to be in harmony with creation and the creator and therefore in harmony with ourselves. What brings us together are not rules and laws but love and hope. Whether expressed through the social gospel and liberation theology or the 12 Steps or through caring for ourselves and those we share a home with, we weave together a free society of people equally embraced by the divine spirit.
Paul’s epistle is an inspiring passage—we are told that whatever our past we can become a new person. We aren’t chained to what we have done but, thanks to God’s grace, are forever liberated.
God does not want us to be worn down by our personal demons or the ills in the world around us. God does not want us trapped into bitterness or being pushed to the margins. God wants us to experience joy, to know we are loved, to share in the abundance that lies around us.