And when we get to the wedding, remember that the bride and groom aren’t the only ones who make vows. We have replaced the old bit about “giving away the bride” with a new bit that asks everyone to promise that they will, by God’s grace, do everything in their power to uphold and care for this couple because they cannot hope to love each other very well or for very long without a lot of help. In the same way, the Church will fail to keep her vow to Christ and will fail in her mission to bring his love into the world without all of us keeping our vows to uphold and support her for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others until death do us part.
We come to the table confessing the truth that by ourselves, we can’t do anything about the divisions in our country or world except exacerbate them. On our own, we really can’t love our enemies. But if we can accept the fact that Christ loves us—that he loved us even when we were enemies of God [Rom 5:10]—then we can let Christ love our enemies through us. This is the way the division ends. This is the way the world begins again.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see the obvious: that we are in way over our heads. While none of us is Moses, we have all been in situations where we are way overextended, stretched to the limit and beyond the limit. Often we’ve been in that position long enough to forget that we ever had a limit. This can happen at work, in our job of parenting, or in the task of caregiving. It can happen as we struggle with divorce or job loss or chronic illness. In fact, for many of us, this is just daily living. The thing is that the more overwhelmed we get, the more isolated we become. Even when we are surrounded by people, we can feel very much alone. But often we don’t admit it until someone else notices it. Jethro noticed it and called Moses on it. “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone…?”
To those who still can’t let go of their ego, Jesus says, “Let me welcome that child in you who was always afraid to be last, always worried that someone would think they were least, always waiting for someone to tell them to get lost. Give that child to me, and then I will give you the strength to welcome every such child in my name. By loving and serving the last in your world, you will come to know what it’s like to be first in mine.”
I think we should require everyone who wants to hold public office to read the Letter of James, especially the third chapter: "How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…a world of iniquity…a restless evil, full of deadly poison." And then we should issue every voter a fire extinguisher.
So this morning, we ask, “What would Jesus say about this country’s original sin of racism?” This isn’t just an academic question. It hits much closer to home than that. What would he say in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville? What would he say about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson or Trayvon Martin in Florida or Oscar Grant in Oakland or earlier this year Stephon Clark in Sacramento? What would he say about the despicable bullying of an African American student that took place in a dorm room in San Jose?
That’s wise because there is something you cannot give him, no matter how much you love him, no matter how hard you work, how carefully you plan, and how diligently you save. You can save your energy, because it is something that has already been given to him. With absolutely no effort on your part, the divine life has been implanted in him. Baptism is our way of recognizing that God has already given Lincoln everything he needs to be all that God created him to be. Your job is just to help him discover this truth and to help him hold onto it for dear life.
I’ve always wished that I could have a long, unhurried conversation with each of our high school graduates before they go off to college or work or whatever. But they are so busy these days. I hardly get the chance to ask them what they are thinking of majoring in when what I really want to do is ask them what they are going to be believing in. Since they probably don’t want to have that conversation with me, I’ve decided to write them a letter, even if they never take the time to read it. Perhaps their parents will and possibly it will make them feel better about letting go. I know it will make me feel better. So, here it is:
What is left? After all, Jesus left, and the work of the kingdom was not finished yet. He still needs a body here on earth, so he drafted us. (Imagine that!) The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ is our last best hope for peace in the world today, which is why I want to cry when I think about what we have done to his body! Every time we exclude this group or that group, it is like cutting off a limb or ripping out a vital organ. We are all members of the body, so the foot can’t say to the hand, “I’m better than you.” The ear can’t say to the nose, “I have no need of you.” The lungs can’t say to the pancreas, “You are ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’ We don’t want you.” A fully functioning Body of Christ needs all of our bodies and all of our stories. To be a recognizable image of the all-loving God, we need all of our lives and all of our loves. I’m still waiting for the Church to be the Body of Christ.
When you eat this bread and drink this cup, remember that God created the whole universe through Christ, through the Word, as it says in John 1: “...All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” And that means that everything that is, every minute bit of matter, every living thing, every cell in every body already bears the imprint of Christ. Before we are ever baptized or come to this table, we have Christ in us. All of us. The only problem is that we don’t know that. In too many bodies and souls, Christ is there, but he is languishing there, starving for our attention. Over these past five weeks, Jesus got my attention. I asked for the renewal time because I realized that the Christ in me was hungry and needed to be fed. What about the Christ in you?