Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence Day Sermon

A few years ago, there was a special series on A & E about young men discerning whether to enter the Priesthood. I found this show fascinating as it caused me to reflect back on my own journey of discernment when coming to seminary.

The young men were rather extreme with their discernment. One carried a life sized cross miles and miles down an old country road. Another was in the midst of college and spent much of his time speaking with priests, family, and friends about whether this was the right thing to do. His family had always pushed him to enter the priesthood.

One young man who particularly stood out for me decided to make a type of pilgrimage. He left everything he had back at home and journeyed through several states, depending solely upon the generosity of others. He had no real plan, other than his destination would be a Catholic church in another state. Throughout his journey, he had to depend on strangers hospitality. He would share his story with them, with the hopes they would provide for his basic needs: foods, clothing, shelter, even transportation. He carried nothing with him. All he had was the clothes on his back and faith that God’s people would provide what he needed.

This young man on this journey was striving to live out our Gospel text for this Sunday which speaks to Jesus’ call for the twelve. He sent them out, two by two, with only the bare basics. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. Jesus called for them to live with the bare necessities and to trust that their needs would be met through the kindness of strangers.

It is interesting that this text should show up this week. We have just celebrated as a country our Independence Day; a day in which we remember the sacrifices others gave on our behalf so that we may be a free country. It is a weekend we remember the gift we have in being able to raise our families in a country where we can get an education, where we can vote, where we can worship freely.

It is indeed interesting that this text falls on Independence Day weekend, when the call we are given here in Mark is the pure opposite of independence. In this Gospel reading, Jesus is calling us to a pure dependence; dependence upon not only God but our neighbors. Here, the disciples are told to leave everything they have behind and live in a way that is dependent upon the hospitality of the children of God.

Jesus is calling us to move out of our own comfort zones and into a life that is dependent upon Christ and Christ’s body. We are called to be witnesses, which literally in the Greek means truth tellers. We are to be the ones who tell the whole truth in word and deed, that Jesus Christ has come into this world for the salvation of all people. We are to fulfill the mission given to us in baptism, being dependent upon God and God’s people providing for our needs, in turn bringing the Body of Christ closer together.

We are to be truth tellers whether or not the people will listen. Everyone here today knows how difficult it is to proclaim the Gospel when others do not seem to care to listen. As a congregation, it has been many years since St. Luke was filled to the brim with people. Our community can at times feel burned out and too tired to hear or experience God’s Word lived out. At times one can wonder where God is in the midst of the suffering people that surround us.

And yet here we are, called to be truth tellers no matter if people will listen. We are called to be faithful proclaimers of the Gospel even if people scoff, even if people get angry with us, even if people walk away. We are to be faithful proclaimers of the Good News, inviting people to church, reaching out when they are in need, voicing God’s love for them even if they struggle to love themselves. And if they don’t listen, we simply shake the dust from our sandals and move on.

God has called us to move beyond ourselves and into a world of need. We are to move beyond our own wants, hurts, and desires and to see those whose suffering is greater than our own. We cannot live solely for ourselves as individuals or even ourselves as the body of St. Luke. We are to see the wider church within Mt. Union, within Huntingdon and Mifflin County, beyond the borders of the Allegheny Synod and into the world. We are to be visionaries, always looking for new ways in which our Redeeming God is calling us to serve.

We are called to take the risk that God has prepared us to do, what God has called us to do. We are to love. Love beyond what our minds can cognitively grasp. It is the unconditional, unyielding love that breaks down all walls and barriers. It is the redeeming love of God lived out in the body of Christ. It is the love that calls us to mission in the baptismal waters. It is love that is in the bread and the wine that nourishes and strengthens us in our journey. It is the love that leads us to leave our worldliness behind and to live out the Gospel in its purist state.

There are so many ways in which God is calling us to serve. We are to serve in the ways we have been for years; through providing quilts to those in need of physical comfort, in providing meals to those seniors in our community in need of food and fellowship. Through the foodbank, through the pregnancy center, through the outreach we offer as we generously give of our time and talents throughout the week.

And then there are new ways, ways yet to be discovered. God is always calling us to grow in our vision and in our outreach. We are to be dependent upon each other and our neighbors whose needs may be greater than our own. The call for us is to come together, to meet the needs of others and to have our own needs met. It is the call for us to be united as God’s children, striving to proclaim the Good News and to grow stronger in our faith and outreach.

As I think back on the young man who left everything behind as he made his pilgrimage, I cannot help but think of all the people who reached out to him. It is easy to think of all the walls people build up. I for one worried as this young man began his pilgrimage as I didn’t think many people would open themselves to reaching out. Yet so many people did. Everything this young man needed God provided through his children. Total strangers, all with different backgrounds: young, old, rich, poor, black, white….they all reached out to help this young man.

What this story made me realize is the great potential we have as a community. To continue growing in our faith, in our outreach, in our love, and in our dependence upon each other. God has called us into a life of dependence upon Christ and Christ’s body within the world. May we recognize together the ways in which we need each other and the ways in which we can reach out to those in need. Thanks be to God. Amen.

1 comment:

Brown Family said...

Wonderful! I look at how people are at Christmastime and often wonder what the world would be like if people lived like that (giving/caring) year-round.

My parents are awesome examples of service and have given so much to those around them. They will be wonderful missionaries out there seeking to help others come to Christ.

You also give me good thought for my lesson Sunday, which is on charity -- the pure love of Christ. :)