NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON
11:00 AM., Sunday, October 23, 2011
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)
First Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1: 4 – 8
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
GOSPEL OF THE DAY: Mark 12: 28 – 37
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. “
And the scribe said unto him, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. “
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” And no man after that durst ask him any question.
And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, “How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.”
SERMON PROPER BEGINS
“And the common people heard him gladly” Song writers such as Woody Guthrie, Ewan MacColl and Jackson Browne were inspired by this image of Jesus and his relationship with the people around him. Saints such as Francis of Assisi and Saint Marguerite d’Youville were moved by this message to lives of active compassion. Movements, such as the Catholic Worker, are rooted in this sentiment. Liberation and post-colonial schools of theology arise from this short passage.
Jesus spoke with anyone who’d listen to him. He helped Romans and Samaritans. He debated with the educational elite. He listened to social outcasts and got his hands dirty helping fishermen. He didn’t spend his life in academic isolation or a cloister—he spent his life in the streets and hostels and taverns and auditoriums of his time. He taught and healed, but he also listened and learned. One thing Jesus learned was that before you can do something for others you have to care for yourself.
Jesus went on retreats when he was tired and discouraged. He remembered to take time to eat and drink. He learned that if someone runs himself down he was unlikely to speak well of others; if she looked down on the Samaritans she was likely to accept being looked down on by the Romans. If someone truly cared for others, such care was rooted in self-respect.
We know that it is hard to look outward and truly see others as they are if we look inwards in a distorted fashion. If we have contempt for our own bodies, we can not have respect for the physical needs of others. If we judge ourselves harshly and unfairly it is hard for us to treat others fairly and with compassion. From obsession over weight or body tone to fear of the physical effects of aging, our self contempt cuts us off from others. We judge others by their appearance because that is how we judge ourselves; we judge others by their wealth or lack thereof because that is how we judge ourselves; we judge others by social status or power because that is how we judge ourselves.
This is at odds with the life Jesus calls us to. We are offered unconditional and non-judgemental love. We are accepted no matter what we look like or how much money we have in our pocket or how many hang on to our every word.
The more fully we accept this grace, this gift, the more fully human we become and the easier it becomes to love our neighbours. We can accept their strengths and weaknesses, find common ground, care for them, let ourselves be cared for; The more we accept God’s unconditional love for us the more we can reflect the intent of the shalom kingdom in the world around us.
We won’t be greedy because we are comfortable with enough; we won’t be oppressive because we are confident in our own worth; we won’t be hateful because we no desire to exclude others from our community.
Accepting God’s love for us can have practical results in the world. We would be more likely to join a co-operative because we would be more confident in our ability to share our resources to meet common needs, more confident in our ability to make decisions with others to meet our diverse needs. We would be more willing to share food and other things with others because we would be more confident that we have lost something in the process. We would be less likely to harm others because we would be more empathetic with others and less wounded ourselves. We would be physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually healthier because we won’t be swayed by fads and social pressure.
It is hard to live a life in harmony with divine will. It can be draining, demanding and frustrating. At times being faithful can result in one being mocked, isolated, harassed, jailed, tortured and even executed. It can also be exhilarating, fulfilling, exciting and life renewing. Living a faithful life is made far easier by being open to God’s presence within.
Our contemporary world is one that discourages both love of oneself and love other others. It encourages consumption rather than sustainable economic relationships; it provokes damaging self-images rather than a healthy life; it encourages turning our eyes away from where our goods and services comes from so that we stop being aware of the tapestry of relationships that are essential for the gifts of creation to be shared among all.
The divine kingdom we are called to bring to life in the current movement is a familiar one—it is the image of the ideal family, one where people love and care for one another no matter what. It isn’t a strange otherworldly heaven, but a practical, down to earth one. If we love ourselves; if we love one another; if we accept that we are worthy of being loved we can bring such a world to into being. It won’t be a world of contemptuous corporations or alienated individuals. God offers us a world of loving, transforming relationships and calls us to remind the world that love is running rampant, that the earth is ours to share, that each of us is of worth.
It is not surprising that the common people listened to Jesus. He offered common sense and common knowledge, encouraged everyone to share work and responsibility and offered love and respect to all that were willing to accept this rare gift. In a time and place when individuals don’t matter, this was and remains revolutionary.