Letting Our Light Shine: The Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement
In the name of the loving Father, the liberating Son and the life-giving Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is wonderful to be with you today. This weekend we will be celebrating not one but two Sunday baptisms—Julian Whipple (son of Brandon and Chelsea) and Simon Guldjord (son of Marie and James.) We will once again witness the glory of God’s plan for creation.
And we will have the opportunity to recommit ourselves to living lives that will support these two, young people and their families as they continue to grow in the Lord.
I have to admit that it was also a truly wonderful thing to be away from you for the last two weeks—but I hurry to add that the reasons for my gratitude are far different than you might imagine.
As a result of my absence I am able to bring you the most energetic greetings from our Presiding Bishop Michael J Curry and from your brothers and sisters in the Atlanta branch of the Jesus movement
And greetings from your brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Kansas who gathered last weekend for our annual convention–—from parishes as large as St Michael’s and All Angels in Overland Park to parishes as small as St. Timothy’s in Iola.
I bring you greetings and prayers from your brothers and sisters who live with persistent and severe mental illness and are served by Breakthrough Club at Episcopal Social Services here in Wichita
From Your brothers and sisters who are homeless who have come to be served a free hot lunch at ESS every Monday through Friday for the last 30 years.
And I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters of the St. Johns Wichita branch of the Jesus Movement—
All these amazing, glorious brothers and sisters—from Branches large and small—as varied, diverse, colorful and beautiful as the entire body of God’s human creation–and all of these bright blooms connected/brought together by the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.
But, some of you may be asking—what exactly does our presiding bishop mean when he talks about the Jesus Movement?
Very simply, Curry wants us to turn and refocus our lives so that Jesus becomes the very epicenter of our consciousness.
He likens it to that moment in many church services—when the music starts playing and we all stand up and begin singing—and then the gospel—the Word of our Lord is raised high above us all and carried into the very midst of our worshiping body
–that moment when we all physically turn our bodies, our very beings, to face the gospel—to hear what our God is calling us to do and be.
And today we heard again, this time, in no uncertain terms, exactly –what that call is.
Once ages– back, God offered us operating manual for life—10 commandments to guide us.
God must have thought these were pretty clear—
but humans being humans—we had to send them off to our lawyers and to political subcommittees and to our ecclesiastical bodies for interpretation and development
and we ended up with over 600 Levitical rules—
and we spent the next 1000 or so years fighting over who could do what and when–with whom and how.
So God decided on a new plan—Why don’t I just become incarnate—you know—go down from the mountain–do a little mixing and mingling with my constituents—maybe then I can show them how I want them to live.
And upon becoming incarnate—Jesus got up close and personal with what it means to be human.
Heck, Jesus must have said to himself, these are a people cannot remember which pasture they left their donkey in just a few minutes before
—these are a people who go into a room and then ask themselves—“Now, what did I come in here for?” These are a people who after breakfast put their cereal box back in the frig and their milk in the pantry cabinet.
I guess that tells you what kind of week I have been having!
So —Jesus gets what it is to be human:
“These folks need a Cliff Notes version of the 10 commandments—a cheat sheet”
And to make matters more interesting in our lesson today—the pharisitical debate team rolls up and engages Jesus another round of argumentation, and one of them asks—”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Now this was a trick question: the Pharisees knew that four of the ten commandments make reference to honoring God.
And six of the commandments make reference to loving our neighbors.
SO, the Pharisees are pushing: “Jesus, which is it? Is loving God most important, or is loving our neighbors most important?”
And, Jesus responds,
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like unto it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now wait a minute—why didn’t the opposing team debate this point further? “We asked you for one commandment, Jesus, and you’ve given us two. Which is it?”
But they did not persist. They did not press this point. I think that something in what Jesus said to them—how he said it to them—made it clear that these two things are not different.
I think Jesus was making it clear that Loving God is inextricably connected with loving others as ourselves. It is not possible to love God, if we do not love others.
Our treatment of others is the record for how well or how little we love God.
For loving God is not an emotion. As much as I would sometimes like it to be so, It’s not sitting at home in my prayer room feeling filled with the spirit.
The test of our love for God is in the way we interact with everyone we meet, every day of our lives, every minute of those days.
This poses a particular challenge for us—when our world, our society, and some of our own family members have become so divided, so antagonistic, so strongly polarized.
But, Jesus is telling us: Love alone will save us.
Because no matter how much we argue, debate, cajole, scorn, or attempt to illuminate—only love will ever have the power to rejoin us in relationship with one another and hence with God.
After the home of Martin Luther King Jr. was bombed, with his wife and baby daughter inside (fortunately neither of them was injured)–
Dr. King went out into front yard, where distraught and angry blacks had gathered. Dr. King told the crowd—that they could not react out of anger
“We can not respond to violence with more violence.”
Dr King said, “The goal of the civil rights movement is not victory. The goal of the movement is reconciliation.”
My brothers and sisters, the goal of the Jesus Movement is reconciliation—reconciliation with our God through reconciliation with one another.
When we find ourselves in the throes of disagreement or in the gripping pangs of rage or pain, we must pause, and look deep into the soul of the other to see the face of God: because behind the masks of frustration or fury, or fear there will always be a child beloved of God.
Every human being—has that light somewhere deep within. We have to work to let it shine.
like that children’s song written by Harry Dixon Loes—”this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine let it shine . . .
My brothers and sisters, every day my prayer for myself and for each and every one of you is the same: “May our light so shine before others, that they may see the good work and glorify our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NKJV)