Monday, June 7, 2010

ONE (a sermon from the U2charist)

I have a confession to make I don’t always like the Church.
I can trace this back to my youth.
Sunday mornings was always tough on my parents because they had to drag me to church.
I remember getting upset because I had to go to confirmation instead of basketball practice
One of the things that I didn’t like about church was that it was really boring.
Church became more interesting as I got older then something else bothered me about the church there was sometimes, what I thought was, a disconnect between what the church should be about, and what it is about.
Sometime the Church is about other stuff, what color to paint the bathrooms, what hymns we will sing at worship, who sat in the wrong pew on Sunday Morning, who did not do an adequate job of preparing the coffee hour, who said what to whom at the last council meeting.
It seems at time that the church is about the building, worship style, or petty arguments instead of what it is suppose to be about.
I wonder if some of you feel that way?
What the Church is supposed to be about is very simple.
It is suppose to be about love.
Love of God, and deeply connected to that is our love of one another.
In fact, in first John it tells us that, “Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars.”
We cannot love God if we don’t love one another.
What I like about the One campaign is that it is about loving one another.
It is all call to all of us supposed disciples of Jesus Christ to live out our faith in concrete action of love for each other.
It is about caring for the poorest in the world, and loving them by helping them to have justice.

The One campaign comes from the U2 song, One. (Which we will sing together at the end of the sermon)
The lyrics are this,
Love is a temple.
Love is the higher law.
We get to carry each other.
The words are we get to carry each other.
It does not say we have to carry each other.
It says that we get to love one another.
We get to share each other’s heartaches and pain.
It is a privilege and a gift to be able to care for aand love one another.
It is not a problem to overcome, nor a nuisance we have to face, but we get to love one another.
Thanks be to God.

Because the question we should struggle with is why does the person in Africa, Iraq, El Salvador, or Haiti matter to me?
Why do I care about people who live half way around the world?
The One campaign is about being an activist for the millennial goals.
Those goals are about eradicating extreme poverty, curing HIV/AIDS, getting every child a good education, caring for our environment, helping women around the world (who often feel the effects of poverty and war the most) obtain a sustainable life.
Why should you care about millennial Goals?
Why should you who live in New Hampshire, you who are relatively rich in comparison to others in the world care about any of this?

There are many answers to this question.
Some of it is very practical.
The less poverty there is the world the more stable the world is this means less wars in far off countries we have to fight.
When people have their basic needs met they tend to do things like go to school, and learn, they tend to grow in their understanding of the world.
In getting rid of poverty we create fewer extremists and help our own defense.
So there is a practical reason to help those who are the poorest in the world.

But there is a deeper reason.
There is a spiritual reason.
Without caring about others we are stuck in the miry bog.
We forget the privilege we have in helping others in carrying their pain as our pain.
When the church is simply about ourselves we end up with empty religious gestures.
With empty religious showings we are stuck in the miry bog.
God does not desire for us to give our empty prayers.
But desires from us to love and to have justice.
And love and justice are always tied together.
We cannot say we love someone and then not care if they are fed or not.
We cannot say we love our brothers and sisters and not care if they get bitten by a mosquito that can kill them.
And we cannot say that we love God if we don’t love and care if people suffer no matter where they live.
Love is a higher law.
Love is a temple.
It is greater than anything else to us as Christians as followers of Jesus Christ.

I am curious how many of you here tonight have been in another country?
If you have not I want to encourage you to travel to some other country.
I want to encourage you to go on a mission trip, or an alternative spring break where you serve other people in another country.
I garuntee that your life will be changed by the experience.
You will find something very interesting when you travel.
People are people no matter where you go.
We all share in a common humanity.
We all share a common bond.
It is a bond of love.
We all desire love.
We all desire to be loved.
We are all one!

We might dress different, eat different food, worship different, talk different languages.
But all that is window dressing to what is really in our hearts as human beings.

About 10 years ago I traveled with a group of people to El Salvador.
It was a trip that changed my life.
It changed the way I thought about the world.
It changed the way I thought about poverty.
Before that trip I thought of poor people as people to help.
As people to be pitied because they did not have what I have.
I don’t think that anymore.
I think of the people I met on that trip.
I think of Madardo Gomez the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in El Salvador.
I think about how he had us to his home for a wonderful authentic El Salvadorian.
I remember how he told us about his struggle for justice in his country, about how he was tortured during the war in El Salvador, because he spoke out against the government and it’s oppression of the people.
I think about Miguel a poor rural farmer who sat with us in the El Salvadorian countryside talking about the injustice of the policies of the International Monetary fund.
Because of that trip this is the face of poverty in my mind.
Now, when I think of people in third world countries I think of competent people who need more than our charity they need our voice.
They need us to love them enough to speak out for justice.
Leaving El Salvador the people told us the best thing we could do to help El Salvador was to be a witness to what we had seen.
Tonight I want to be that witness to all of you.
Recently I heard a speech from an activist in Africa at a Christian Conference in Germany.
In his remarks he begged us to stop sending AID to Africa.
He told us that we are dumping our left overs and trash into Africa.
Instead he encouraged us to speak for justice.
I want to encourage you to follow the higher law of love.
That means not merely being charitable.
It means being a voice for the poor and voiceless.

I want to warn you that this is not always easy.
We get lost often in our own agenda.
Our daily lives take over.
In the midst of things that need to get done we can easily forget those not right in front of us.
That is why tonight is such a great night.
It reminds us of what it means to be the people of God.
It reminds of what it means to be the church and to follow Jesus Christ in our daily lives.

As we leave let us commit ourselves to love.
Let us commit ourselves to One humanity, One planet, and One love.
Let us allow Christ love to be manifest in our cries for justice.
In doing we get out of the miry bog and plant our feet securely on the rock of Jesus Christ.

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