The Rubber Hits the Road

Preached on 24 June 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
The fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, Track 2.

One of my good friends in seminary was from Hawai’i.  Not surprisingly, when he was ordained, I, along with many of our classmates attended.  Afterward, as he was greeting everyone, people gave him leis. Lots of leis. When there was no more room to put them around his neck, they draped them on his arm and then the other arm.  When he got home, he put them in his fridge.  There was no room for any food.  And then, when we all went out, he would get them out so everyone could wear two or three.  When we protested, he explained that leis are supposed to be passed on, not kept.  That’s the way it is with love.  That’s the way it is with grace.  That’s the way it is with the Kingdom of God.

This morning, I want to dip into the letter to the Corinthians a bit and start by backing up a few verses to chapter 5, verse 19, which some might say is a concise summary of the Good News.

“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting anyone’s faults against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Repeat

Paul continues, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, .. it is as though God were urging you, through us,
and in the name of Christ, we appeal to you, be reconciled to God.”

He goes on, “Do not let your acceptance of God’s grace come to nothing.”  Unlike the buck, don’t let God’s grace stop here.  If it does, it ceases to be grace.  Grace flows through us to others, to the world.  It is meant to be passed along – like the leis.

Now, I want you to take the Prayer Book and turn to page 855.  This is an outline of the faith presented in question and answer format.  At the top, we see:

“Q What is the mission of the Church?
A  The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
Sounds a bit like that verse we just heard, doesn’t it?

“Q  How does the church pursue its mission?
A  The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worship, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
So it’s not just about going to church and reading your Bible and saying your prayers.  Promoting justice, peace, and love is an active pursuit.

And finally,
“Q  Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A  The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.”
That’s us.  All of us.

Now, turn to page 304, the Baptismal Covenant.  Here are the vows we make when we’re baptized and that we renew several times a year.
We vow to “persevere in resisting evil.”
We vow to “serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself.”
We vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Here is where the rubber meets the road.  Christianity is not merely an intellectual or even spiritual pursuit.  It’s not theory or a philosophy or an ideology.  Christianity is incarnational; it is how we actively live our lives and put it into practice.

What our government is doing at the southern border, and at SeaTac and all over the country for that matter, they are doing in our name not only as Americans, but as Christians.  And it is wrong.  The injustice and gratuitous cruelty must be stopped.

This is not about conservative or progressive, it’s not about partisan politics.  This is about basic humanity.

The words of our baptismal vows are strong verbs – Persevere in resisting evil.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It takes stamina.
Strive for justice and peace.  That sounds like a bit more than signing an online petition or sharing articles on facebook.  It isn’t easy.  If you are interested in what you can do, I attended a couple of events this week and learned, how the Church Council of Greater Seattle is involved.  I have a handout if you want to know more.

You need to remember, when we live our baptismal vows, resisting evil, loving our neighbor, striving for justice, insisting that every human being be treated with dignity, we will be opposed.  Opposition is not a sign that we’re doing it wrong.

Did you hear what Paul experienced?  He was beaten, maligned, persecuted, imprisoned, and on and on.  Yet, he persisted.  He spoke frankly with his heart open.  And he appeals to his readers, “Open your hearts, also.”  May we open our hearts, also.

In closing I will read to you excerpts from an exhortation by Karoline Lewis, based on today’s Gospel.  The citation will be on my website.

It’s called, Crossing the Kingdom.[1]

Please follow the link to read Karoline Lewis’ article.
Crossing the Kingdom by Karoline Lewis

Here is where the rubber hits the road.

[1] Karoline Lewis.  Dear Working Preacher.  Posted June 19, 2018.