Imperfect Vessels

Sermon for Sunday, March 31, 2019 || Lent 4C || LUKE 15:1-3, 11-32

Today I’d like to talk about humility. And we’ll start at the low point of the story I just read. The younger son has squandered all his resources, and a famine has driven him to hire himself out in such a way that simply perpetuates his destitution. In the parable, Jesus places the son there in the mud among the pigs, longing to eat their slop. And in this moment of distress and clarity, Jesus tells us, the younger son “came to himself.” In other words, there in the mud, the son received the gift of humility, which allowed him to view his situation with new eyes and new possibilities.

Continue reading “Imperfect Vessels”

Claiming our Mission

Sermon for Sunday, September 11, 2016 || Proper 19C || Luke 15:1-10

The unsavory elements of society come to listen to Jesus, and he does not send them away. The scribes and Pharisees watch from a distance so as not to rub shoulders with such disreputable people, and at every turn Jesus’ behavior confirms their opinion of him. Either he does not understand the basic tenets of society, which force the unsavory elements to the margins where upstanding folks can ignore them. Or he does not care that he risks his own reputation by welcoming them into his presence. Either way, his behavior allows the scribes and Pharisees to write him off.

But there’s a third option that I doubt ever enters their tightly closed minds. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing. Maybe he does care; maybe he cares about the people and not about his reputation. Perhaps the reason he welcomes those on the margins is that he has accepted his life’s mission, and he is living that mission to the fullest. Continue reading “Claiming our Mission”

Healing Brokenness

Sermon for Sunday, March 6, 2016 || Lent 4C || 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

HealingBrokennessWe live in a broken world: broken homes, broken promises, broken government, broken ecosystems. We’re used to brokenness. We learn to live with it. We hear about another mass shooting or another intractable political standoff or another couple dissolving their marriage, and we might shake our heads for a minute and sigh and say, “Boy, I don’t know.” And then we go back to whatever we were doing. And yet, even in the midst of this listless response to brokenness, something niggles and naggles at us, unsettles us; something deep within reminds us that “broken” is not the way things are supposed to be. We believe that God created everything and called Creation “good” and never made a thing called “brokenness.” And yet, brokenness crept into Creation. Separation and division soon followed. Today, we see a broken world, and we know that it could be, that it should be – better.

And in that seeing, in that knowing, God invites us to participate in God’s mission to repair this brokenness. In today’s lesson from his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” He continues, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.”

Did you hear that? We are ambassadors for Christ – representatives of Jesus bringing his message of reconciliation to this broken world. Reconciliation is the healing of brokenness. When Jesus welcomes and eats with “tax collectors and sinners” in this morning’s Gospel, he models the ministry of reconciliation. The scribes and Pharisees like their society just fine the way it is. They’ve learned to live with the brokenness, profit from it even. And so they grumble when Jesus upsets the status quo and shows them what wholeness can look like. Jesus tells them a story about a family, a family marred by brokenness, a family in need of reconciliation.

The younger of two sons basically says to his father, “I wish you were dead so I could have my inheritance.” His father acquiesces, and the younger son takes his portion and travels to a distant country where he squanders his fortune in what the King James Version calls “riotous living.” At first glance, the younger son’s sin sure seems to be his debauchery, given his status as a decadent wastrel. But I don’t think his prodigality takes the top seed.

Instead, his major sin is the rift caused by his separation from his family. Jesus makes a point to say that the father divides his household to fulfill his son’s wish. And then the son doesn’t settle nearby, but in a “distant” country. With the division and separation complete, all that’s needed is a famine for the younger son to notice his folly. When he comes to himself sitting in the filth among the pigs, he realizes the brokenness his departure caused. He no longer feels worthy to be called a son, so he prepares himself to live with the brokenness and to be considered a hired hand rather than a member of the family.

At this point in the parable, I imagine the scribes and Pharisees nodding their heads in approval. The younger son defiled himself. He is unclean after touching all those pigs. Of course, he mustn’t be welcomed home. But Jesus isn’t finished telling the story yet.

The younger son travels back to his father’s house, prepared for the sad reality that it will never be home again. But when he is still a vaguely human shape on the twilit horizon, his father sees him and runs out to meet him and embraces him and kisses him. The young man begins his prepared speech: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But his father will not tolerate the separation, the brokenness any longer. “This son of mine,” he says, “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” This son of mine. With these words, the father repairs the broken relationship, and the two are reconciled.

At this point in the parable, I imagine the scribes and Pharisees raising incredulous eyebrows. Now the father is unclean, as well, because he touched the younger son before he purified himself with the appropriate rituals. What kind of family is this? But Jesus isn’t finished telling the story yet.

When the elder brother hears the revelry coming from the house, he learns of his brother’s return, and he will not enter the house or join the party. The elder son echoes his brother’s sin by separating himself from the celebration. When the father comes out to plead with him, the elder son shows his own division from the family. He calls his brother “this son of yours,” thus ignoring the fraternal relationship. And rather than working like a son, he says, “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you.” Like a slave. Like the hired hand the younger son was prepared to be.

But the father continues to repair the brokenness in his family. “Son,” he calls his eldest. There is no division between us because “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Then the father attempts to heal the fraternal separation by emphasizing the sons’ relationship to one another: “This brother of yours was…lost and has been found.”

I imagine the scribes and Pharisees noticing that they themselves look an awful lot like the elder brother. I bet their own irritation with Jesus deafens them to the reconciling nature of the father in the parable. But while the parable ends, Jesus still isn’t finished telling the story yet.

Both sons separate themselves from the family, but their father goes out and meets both sons in their brokenness. He runs up to the younger when his son is still far off. He leaves the party to be with the elder. Jesus continues his ministry by mirroring the action of the father in the parable. He doesn’t just wait for people to come to him. He seeks people out where they are, eating with tax collectors and sinners, healing the sick, touching the unclean, standing with the marginalized, dying with the criminals in the refuse dump on the outskirts of the city.

That’s our savior, the one who will never let any barrier or rift or division – not even death – separate us from his love. Our savior leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one that is lost. Our savior seeks out and finds the man born blind after he’s thrown out of the synagogue. Our savior reconciles Peter to him after Peter’s triple denial of ever knowing him. Our savior left his home in order to bring us to it. And we are his ambassadors.

Today, we see a broken world, and we know that it could be, that it should be – better. We know in that deep place within that the world is not supposed to be broken. Participating in God’s mission of reconciliation begins when we listen to this deep place within, the voice of Christ our Savior telling us that we can make a difference. We can make a difference when we react to brokenness not with listlessness, not with apathy, not with indifference. We can make a difference when we react to brokenness with compassion, with the desire to be like the father in the parable and go out and meet our broken world head on.

It may seem like a fool’s errand, participating in God’s mission of reconciliation when the brokenness of the world is so great. It may seem insurmountable. But remember, Jesus isn’t finished telling the story yet.

*There’s a stealthy nod to The West Wing in this sermon. First person to figure it out gets five points.
Art: Detail from “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt.

Being Found

Sermon for Sunday, September 15, 2013 || Proper 19C || Luke 15:1-10 )

Have you ever been found before? I know this is an unusual question. A more normal one might be: “Have you ever been lost before?” but I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one. I want to know if you’ve ever been found. I have. Let me share with you a quick story from the “Stupid Things Adam Did as a Child” file.

dad and adam at campMoundville, Alabama is so named for the Native American burial mounds that dot the landscape. The mounds are both eerie and fascinating, which makes Moundville a great place for Boy Scouts to go camping. Well, the camping trip ended, and I was waiting for my father to pick me up. I was twelve or thirteen at the time. We had agreed he would meet me at the parking lot closest to our campsite, so that’s where I waited. And then I waited some more. He was running late, so I decided we could save a few minutes if I met him at the entrance to the park instead. (This was in the days before cell phones by the way. Ancient history, I know.)

I walked for a few minutes to the front of the park and perched myself on a stone sign with a good view of the road so I could flag down my dad’s car. But unbeknownst to me, he had already entered the park from a different direction. An hour later, I still had my eyes on the road when my father’s car came screeching to a halt behind me. He jumped from the car and ran to me, yelling my name all the while. Suffice it to say, he was not happy.

Where were you…Didn’t we agree to meet…You scared me half to…I’ve been looking everywhere…

All of this spilled from him as he approached me. His eyes blazed with anger – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so upset, before or since. But then his hand touched my arm, and everything changed.

Now, parents out there, you might be able to identify with what happened next. When he touched me, it was as if he confirmed that I was really, truly there, that I wasn’t merely a figment he had been chasing through the mounds for the last heart-pounding hour. All the scenarios of kidnapping or being mauled by a wild animal or getting lost in the forest – all these scenarios that had been shuddering though his mind vanished when he touched me. And with the touch came relief. And with relief came joy. And with joy came an embrace brimming with all the spoken and unspoken love of father for son.

I was still in trouble. I was chastened for my foolhardiness. But above and beyond that, I was found. Have you ever been found before?

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus responds to his opponents’ critique of his unsavory dinner companions. “He told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’ ”

Now, for Jesus’ opponents it was quite easy to separate the sinner from the righteous. The system of sacrifice and purification allowed people to proclaim themselves blameless before God – indeed, even Paul does this in his letter to the Philippians. This system created an in-group and everyone else. But by eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus proclaims that God doesn’t just move in the lives of the so-called “in-group.” In fact, God is present in the lives of all people. God seeks out and finds all people. Let me assure you, this was a radical claim in Jesus’ day.

And I think it remains a radical claim. How many of us have heard one religious group or another claim that God is on their side and no other? How many of us have been jealous of other people, who we assume God has favored because, darn it, everything seems to go their way? In our fallen state, we have a kneejerk reaction to exclude, to isolate, to create cliques and in-groups just to make ourselves feel better. But when Jesus sits down with all the wrong people, he punctures the false assumptions that God belongs to any one group and that God seeks to find only one type of person, the kind with white teeth and perfect cheekbones.

In truth, each and every person on this earth is the sheep who has gone astray. We have all wandered off alone and gotten lost. The path is there – perhaps a bit overgrown, but there. And yet, something shiny catches our eye and we strike out for it. But it’s just a trick of the light, and now it’s growing dark and the path is away to the left somewhere but good luck finding it. We stagger around in the gathering gloom, hoping against hope we are going in the right direction.

Into this gathering gloom, the light of Christ shines. Into the underbrush, Jesus tramps. Onto his shoulders, he lifts us up and carries us back to the path. And guess what? Tomorrow he’ll do the same thing again. Last week, Margot invited us each to go deeper in our commitment to God’s work in our lives. This week, Jesus invites us to celebrate God’s commitment to do whatever it takes to remain in relationship with us, no matter how often God has to find us and return our meandering feet to the path.

This commitment is no idle tale. God’s presence in the lives of all of us lost sheep gives us the hope that we are being found each day. And in being found, being nourished. And in being nourished, being molded into the people God calls us to be.

Now being found takes on all shapes and sizes, so I invite you to be aware of the unique ways God is actively finding you. Perhaps you are sitting in your pew and the choir’s anthem pierces your heart with the truth of God’s majesty. And God finds you in a moment of pure delight.

Perhaps you are holding your mother’s hand as she lies dying. She holds your hand back…until she doesn’t. You don’t think you have any more tears, but you are wrong. Your deep grief reveals not how deeply you loved her, but how deeply you love her, and you realize your love will never become a past tense thing. And God finds you in the continued connection between the living and the dead.

Perhaps you are waiting for your father to pick you up and you wander off and when he finally reaches you, you feel his desperation and anger melt into relief and joy. And God finds you in the fervent embrace of father and son.

God finds us every single day of our lives, no matter how far we have strayed from the path. We participate in this reality when we notice God finding us, when we realize just how God is weaving the strands of our lives together, and when we act as the vehicles of God’s finding in the lives of others.

After the service, I invite you to go to the Bartow Room and look at Ann Musto’s beautiful painting hanging over the fireplace. In the foreground, sheep gambol on a sun-drenched field bisected by a dusty path. In the background, there is a small, red figure walking up the path, walking towards the viewer. He’s small enough to miss unless you’re really looking at the painting, unless you’re paying attention, unless you really take the time to notice. Jesus is walking towards us from the back of the painting. He’s walking toward us, his lost sheep. He will seek until he finds us. He will find us wherever we are. And wherever we are, he is there already, inviting us to open our eyes and find him, even as we are being found.

Racing to Meet Us

(Sermon for Sunday, March 10, 2013 || Lent 4C || Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32)

"Return of the Prodigal Son," Rembrandt
“Return of the Prodigal Son,” Rembrandt

After I finish this opening bit of the sermon, I’m going to ask for a show of hands, so please listen to see if you remember this illustration from your youth. You arrive at school one day – perhaps you are a month or two into, let’s say, the seventh grade. That morning before school, you looked in the mirror and grimaced at the half dozen new pimples, which had colonized your forehead during the night. You tried to comb your bangs over the spots, but your hair just wouldn’t stay, so you resigned yourself to the fate of being called “pizza-face” all day. So you walk into the school wishing your forehead were in a less conspicuous area of your body, but you know it’s not, so instead you concentrate on making your entire self less conspicuous.

Halfway through the day, everything is going fine – better than expected even. No one has mentioned your acne; you really haven’t talked to anyone all day, except your best friend at lunch. But then on the way back to class, the day takes a turn. You and your classmates are waiting outside your fourth period room when someone brings up the hot TV show that everyone’s watching. (In my day, it was Dawson’s Creek, but I’m sure you can come up with one.) The show was on last night and something terribly important and life altering happened to the main character. Everyone’s discussing the episode and you just smile and nod, hoping against hope that no one asks your opinion because your mom doesn’t let you watch that show, but your classmates don’t know that and if they did, they’d have another reason to make fun of you.

But, of course, someone does ask, and you stammer out something generic about the show, but it’s obvious you don’t watch. Your classmates start laughing, and you can feel your face getting flushed, which only makes the pimples redder. You will the teacher to open the classroom door, but she doesn’t, so you race off to the bathroom to be alone with your shame.

So don’t be ashamed to admit it – show of hands, how many of you remember a day similar to this one back when you were in that Lord of the Flies–esque jungle known as middle school? …Yeah, that’s what I thought.

You want to know the worst thing about that feeling of shame from long ago? The feeling of shame is still there; hidden perhaps, but there. The context may be different. The constellation of catalysts may be more grown-up. But the disease of shame has – from a tender age – infected each and every one of us.

You can blame Adam and Eve if you like. They are the “Patient Zero” of this disease. After they eat the fruit of the tree, they notice their nakedness, so they cover themselves up with primitive garments. When God comes to them in the cool of the evening, Adam says, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Here we have the first documented case of the disease of shame. Adam and Eve hide from God because they are ashamed of their nakedness.

Shame, then, is the feeling that prompts us to want to hide – from God, from the world, and especially from ourselves. The disease of shame invades the secret places within us and then starts whispering incessantly: you aren’t good enough. You aren’t worthy. You are defective. How could you possibly think you measure up? And the worst of all:  You are a mess and a failure. How could you possibly think God or anyone else could ever love someone as shameful as you?

I’m sure these debilitating thoughts were running through the mind of the younger son as he fed the pigs. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells the famous and beloved story of the young man who squanders his inheritance in a far off land. He is destitute when a famine hits, so he hires himself to a pig farmer. On those days when the hollowness of hunger is worst, he longs to eat the pigs’ slop. Jesus chose his details well, for there isn’t a much more shameful position than for a good Jewish boy to be anywhere near such unclean animals. Jews were never to eat pork, let alone touch the pig. And here is the younger son, cut off from his family, wallowing in the mud, hungry, unclean, and ashamed.

You can hear his shame whispering to him, can’t you? How could you possibly think your father will take you back as his son, you worthless swine? His shame convinces him that all of his mistakes, all of his bad choices, all of his ruinous living amount to too much for his father to forgive. Another whisper: How could you possibly be reconciled with all this disastrous baggage?

The younger son agrees with his shame and decides that his father would never bring him back into the family, but that maybe his father’s generosity would extend to hiring him on as a laborer. So he sets off for home. And then something happens that the younger son doesn’t expect, something that his shame had convinced him was impossible. When he is still a speck on the horizon, his father sees him coming and races to meet him. His father runs flat out, as if he can’t bear one more minute estranged from his son. When they meet, the son begins his prepared speech, but his father isn’t listening. He’s already preparing a welcome feast because his son was lost and is now found.

How many of us have let the voice of shame drive us into hiding? How many of us still have the disease of shame eating away at our capacity to give and to receive love? How many of us have let our shame convince us that we are unworthy of God’s attention? I’d hazard to guess that we’ve all been there, feeling like the pimply kid in seventh grade or like the younger son among the pigs.

Perhaps your shame starts whispering when you look at all your bills and realize your salary will barely cover them. Or when you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge the presence of the homeless man on the street in Boston. Or when you say something hurtful to your spouse during an argument. Or when your colleagues don’t think to invite you to lunch. Or when your date stands you up. Or when you look in the mirror.

Whatever the source of your shame, please believe that God our Father is running flat out to meet you in the midst of it. Your shame might tell you to hide. Your shame might tell you that you aren’t worthy of God’s effort. But your shame is lying to you. There is no shame big enough to scare God away. You will never be so defective that God stops desiring to repair you. You will never be so lost that God can’t find you. And when God finds you, you can participate with God in beating your shame into submission. With your shame healed, you might find you are willing to ask for help when trying to make ends meet. Or you might find yourself serving the homeless man at the Long Island Shelter. Or you might look in the mirror and see beauty rather than shame looking back at you.

So the next time your shame threatens to engulf you with its incessant negative whispering, look to the horizon. See the dawn break. See the sunlight racing toward you. And know that God has already run out to meet you in the midst of your shame. God has already enfolded you in a compassionate embrace. And God has already welcomed you back into God’s family, as a beloved child who was lost and has been found.

Broken

(Sermon for Sunday, March 14, 2010 || Lent 4, Year C, RCL || 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:-13, 11b-32)

Connie looked especially haggard. For the better part of two hours, I watched her hold a phone to each ear, tap-tap-tap on the keyboard, and patiently plead with belligerent passengers all at the same time. As I inched closer to the desk to change my flight information, I caught snippets of the abuse hurled in Connie’s direction and prayed for forgiveness for the entire irate human race. The reason for the belligerence was simple: the airplane was broken. Some gizmo that keeps the flaps from freezing fell off during the plane’s trip to Nashville. One piece in a hundred thousand broke, and the plane was grounded. One piece – a nothing part, really, until you don’t got one. Then it appears to be everything.

Ironically, Delta had to fly this nothing part, this anti-flap-freezing gizmo, in from elsewhere. The departure time leapt forward, finally settling on 8:00am yesterday morning, a full twenty hours and ten minutes late. With the airplane broken, the system broke down, as well. All the other flights out of Nashville were booked solid. Passengers missed connections. People were stranded and growing more bellicose with every update of the plane’s ramshackle status. And in the middle of it all stood Connie, a wisp of a woman on the verge of tears. She clung to the desk, and she clung to her manners. She was the unlucky target of vented frustration, of heaps of bile, of caustic protestations. And all because the plane was broken.

You’d think that people would be used to brokenness by now. You’d think that people would take the brokenness in stride because brokenness marks our lives everyday: broken homes, broken bones, broken pavement, broken promises, broken ecosystems. You’d think that this brokenness would come as no surprise. But every time we encounter brokenness, we seem to react with astonishment and incredulity. How could your best friend betray your trust? How could the kid break his wrist right before the big game? How could the airplane be grounded?

While brokenness does seem to mark our existence, I think we react with astonishment because in some deep place within, we know that “broken” is not the way things are supposed to be. We believe that God created everything and called Creation “good” and never made a thing called “brokenness.” And yet, brokenness crept into Creation. Separation and division soon followed. Today, we see a broken world, and we know that it could be, that it should be – better.

And in that seeing, in that knowing, we hear God calling to us, inviting us to work with God’s help to repair this brokenness. In today’s lesson from his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” He continues, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

The world needs this message of reconciliation because the world is marred by broken relationships that need repairing, separations that need healing, divisions that need stitching up. When Jesus welcomes and eats with “tax collectors and sinners” in this morning’s Gospel, he models the ministry of reconciliation. The scribes and Pharisees like their society just fine the way it is, and they grumble when Jesus upsets the brokenness with which they have learned to live. So Jesus tells them a story about a family, a family marred by brokenness, a family in need of reconciliation.

The younger of two sons presses his father to give him his share of the inheritance. The father acquiesces and divides his property. The younger son takes his portion and travels to a distant country where he squanders his fortune in what the King James Version calls “riotous living.” So I’m wondering: what’s the younger son’s sin? At first glance, his sin sure seems to be his debauchery, given his status as a decadent wastrel. And while this qualifies as sin, I don’t think his prodigality takes the top seed.

Instead, his major sin is the division caused by his separation from his family. Jesus makes a point to say that the father divides his household to fulfill his son’s wish. And then the son doesn’t settle nearby, but in a “distant” country. With the division and separation complete, all that’s needed is a famine for the younger son to notice his folly. When he comes to himself sitting in the filth among the pigs, he realizes the brokenness his departure caused. He no longer feels worthy to be called a son, so he prepares himself to live with the brokenness and to be considered a hired hand rather than a member of the family.

At this point in the parable, I imagine the scribes and Pharisees nodding their heads in approval. The younger son defiled himself. He is unclean after touching all those pigs. Of course, he mustn’t be welcomed home. But Jesus isn’t finished telling the story yet.

The younger son travels back to his father’s house, and yet he’s aware that it will never be home again. His decision to separate himself from his family saw to that. But when he is still a vaguely human shape on the twilit horizon, his father sees him and runs out to meet him and embraces him and kisses him. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” he says. But his father will not tolerate the separation, the brokenness any longer. “This son of mine,” he says, “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” This son of mine. With these words, the father repairs the broken relationship, and the two are reconciled.

At this point in the parable, I imagine the scribes and Pharisees raising incredulous eyebrows. Now the father is unclean, as well, because he touched the younger son before he purified himself with the appropriate rituals. What kind of family is this? But Jesus still isn’t finished telling the story.

A celebration for the younger son’s return begins. His elder brother hears the revelry coming from the house and asks a slave what’s going on. When he finds out about his brother’s return, he will not enter the house or join the party. The elder son echoes his brother’s sin by separating himself from the celebration. When the father comes out to plead with him, the elder son shows his own division from the family. He calls his brother “this son of yours,” thus ignoring the fraternal relationship. And rather than working like a son, he says, “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you.” Like a slave. Like the hired hand the younger son was prepared to be.

But the father continues to repair the brokenness in his family. “Son,” he calls his eldest. There is no division between us because “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Then the father attempts to heal the fraternal separation by emphasizing the sons’ relationship to one another: “This brother of yours was…lost and has been found.”

As the parable ends, I imagine the scribes and Pharisees noticing that they themselves look an awful lot like the elder brother. I wonder if their own irritation with Jesus deafens them to the reconciling nature of the father in the parable.

Both sons separate themselves from the family, the younger through taking his inheritance to a distant country and the elder through refusing to join the celebration. But their father goes out and meets both sons in their brokenness. He runs up to the younger when his son is still far off. He leaves the party to be with the elder. When neither brother feels much like a son, the father practices reconciliation and repairs his broken family.

The father refuses to separate himself from his sons. Likewise, God refuses to be separated from us. Our sin may separate us from God, but God never separates from us. As Paul says, God “reconciled us to himself through Christ.” God never gives up on relationships with us. Instead, God continually brings us back into relationship with God. We may be broken, but God is whole, and so we can find wholeness. We may be separated, but God is welcoming, and so we can bring welcome. We may be divided, but God is One, and so we can come together.

Today, we see a broken world, and we know that it could be, that it should be – better. We know in that deep place within that the world is not supposed to be broken. And we also know that God has reconciled us to himself in order that we might engage in a ministry of reconciliation to this broken world. The question is: will we?

And the answer is this: we will, with God’s help.

Notes

* The first person to notice and correctly identify the reference to Joss Whedon’s Firefly in this sermon wins five points. (These points aren’t really redeemable for anything, but hey, you should try to get them anyway.)

* If you are as big a fan of Firefly and Serenity as I am, you may also notice that the overarching theme of this sermon is pretty similar to that of the film Serenity. And no, that’s not the reference. The reference is incredibly specific.