Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Drenched in the Waters

So last week my mom came home after being on a mission trip in Haiti.
I was talking to her on the phone and hearing all about her wonderful time there and all the people she met, and all the life changing experiences she had.
I had gone on a similar trip in Seminary to El Salvador.
And we were talking about how hard it is to express to people when you return about your experience.
There are really no words to this type of thing.
And it is hard to get people to understand how it really affects you.
To be with people experiencing poverty on an everyday level and to see their hope, their faith, and their perseverance is really a remarkable thing.
And once you return you really feel a little out of place.
Especially when you hear some of the ways that people in the United States talk about people living in poverty.
Your perspective is just totally different.
You don’t see the world in the same way.
Because poverty is not an issue, used by people to score political points, or balance a budget.
Poverty becomes a face, it becomes a person, or many people that you met and now know and respect.
You also realize that your responsibility to be part of the solution is not just about giving away some old clothes you have, or maybe doing a couple of things for people, but it is about justice.
It is about how I take for granted so many things in my life, that so many other people in the world don’t have like running water, a bed, a toilet, a stove…and a million other little things.
You realize how spoiled you are, because you go about your day without really having to think that hard about how you will eat.
And then something else happens even when you talk to people you start to feel like you are condemning them because they are well off.
And so you stop talking about it.
What my mother went through was going to a different place than she has ever known and coming back into a world that is totally different from that place, and having to try to put into words the experience.

That is how I sometimes feel about being a person of faith, or how I feel about being a Christian.
I feel that I have been to some other place, I have seen a different vision of what the world can be, should be, and it is hard to explain it to people.
I know that many of you feel this way too.
Because I have heard you express it in different ways.
About how hard it is to talk to coaches of sport teams that want kids to be at a game on Sunday morning.
Or how kids find it hard to explain to their peers why going to worship on Sunday morning is important.
Or how it is hard to talk to your co-workers because they will think you are weird for even bringing up faith in a conversation that is just about “common sense”.
How it is hard to have these discussions within our families because it will sometimes mean getting into a fight about it.

We have been hearing for the last three weeks the greatest sermon ever given, and it hasn’t been by me, but by Jesus.
In the Sermon on the Mount he has been teaching about what it means to be a spiritual person, a person of faith, a follower of Jesus Christ.
And for most of those three weeks I have been thinking to myself that what Jesus is saying is really out there.
It is like Jesus is from another country.
“Don’t be angry”, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “blessed are the peacemakers”.
And it is hard to reenter the world and apply those things, but is also hard because they fly in the face of so called, “Common sense”.

Today we have another example of that.
Jesus is asking us not to seek revenge, not to act in violence.
Jesus is asking us to love our enemies, and pray for those that persecute us.
If you think that this is common wisdom that you forget what life was like in the United States after 9/11.
I remember I was at a Bible Study and I made a woman cry because I suggested that going to war may not be the answer.
I suggested we needed to pray for the people that did that horrible act.
I suggested that we needed to find a third way.
You know after 9/11 there was an uptick in church attendance.
What I believe is that people came to church to find the answer.
But when they heard the way to heal, the way to move forward was to forgive, was to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
I think they left shortly thereafter.

Today Katie will be baptized.
And I guess I want to warn you about it.
Baptism comes with two things.
The first is the unconditional love of God.
Our baptisms are a reminder that God loves us no matter what.
When we rise in the morning and throw water on our face we can remember that God has claimed us as his children and loves us through whatever we will face.
The second is that knowing this love, knowing Jesus Christ messes us up.
It changes us, because we want to know what it means to serve this God of love.
And it means wanting not what we want, but what God wants.
It means being holy because God is holy.
And that changes how we view ourselves, our neighbors, and the world.
What I pray for you today Katie is that you continue to deepen in your relationship with Jesus to learn about what he desires and wants from your life.
That you know of God’s forgiveness of you, so that you can forgive others.
That you know of God’s love for you, so that you can love others.

That is what Jesus does to all of us.
Jesus makes us see things that maybe others don’t see.
I am not saying that we are better people than other people.
We simply have been taught a way to live that doesn’t always go along with what the world sees as a way to live.
Every week when we come here to this place we receive something from God, and then we are sent out into the world to share it.
That sounds nice until we realize what God is asking of us.
God is asking of us to be different than everyone else.
Jesus is asking us not to get what is only best for us, but to also struggle what is best for other people, some of them not very easy to like.

In Jesus day, it was common understanding that if you were wronged you should get retribution for what you got.
It was common thinking to love your family and friends, just as it is in our day.
But to love our enemy, to pray for them, to act on their behalf is something all together more radical.
It should be noted that love here has nothing to do with how you feel about someone, and everything to do with how you act towards them.
Love is an action here not a feeling.

So how do we act in love?
How do we go into the world and explain ourselves?
We go out drenched in the waters of our baptism.
We can only be in the world as God’s beloved Children.
We have no chance of being holy without God’s holiness.
When we trust God’s love we trust that God is with us in those difficult conversations.
We trust that God is already in the world with us.
And we trust that we don’t have to win an argument only that we act out of love.
It is in the waters that we are drowned in that make us able to live out the difficult teachings of Jesus.
That is both the gift and the responsibility of knowing God’s love.
It is the gift and responsibility that Kaye you get today.

It is the gift and responsibility that we all have received.
It is our prayer that we continue to grow and act in love.
May we by the power and grace of God be able to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy.

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