Throughout history there have been challenging times. And today we live in a challenging time, don’t we? A time in which we are seeking truth and justice, a time when we are trying to stay safe. A time of constantly washing hands…a time of coming to terms with and to own racism and injustice… and a time in which we hear Jesus say, “Listen and Understand.” What goes into a person’s mouth does not make them ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of their mouth, that is what makes a person ‘unclean.’ Of course, you and I know that what comes out of our mouths is but a reflection of what is in our hearts…and our minds.
You know as well as I that Jesus is not worried about dirty hands. He is concerned about priorities. Do you find it amazing how hung up, how concerned people can become about stuff we can celebrate…and turn it into something majorly bad? Skin tone…diversity… becomes dangerous, the length of a skirt or the exposure of body parts is compared to adultery. Walls are built to exclude people who God sends in mission with and to us. A drop in the stock market leads to even further ignoring the plight of our neighbors…and of creation. Too often we hear: “If you are not like me, if you do not believe what I believe…then you are dangerous to our society, our culture, our future.” It is so sad. It is so dangerous. It is so filled with sin.
Of course, it is easier to be divisive and exclusive. It is easy to build a wall. It is harder to be inclusive. It is harder to build a bridge. But we are called to do so. Christ calls us to do so…to reach out in equity and love to and with our neighbors…and our enemies. To reach out and ask for help from the same. To listen to our oppressed neighbors. To raise up their voices so they can be heard. Yes, that is hard. Yes, it is, and we are uncomfortable doing so. And Jesus says, listen and understand.
I cannot speak for you, but I like to be in control. I like to be independent. I like to be safe…whatever that all means. But I find as I grow older, I have become more vulnerable. That is hard for me. It troubles me that my family, my neighbors, and my congregation are starting to more and more look out for me…my kids tell me to no longer climb on roofs, a neighbor recommended I get one of those buttons you wear that you can push and call for help….not if but when I will fall. Members of this congregation ask me to no longer risk driving on icy roads across mountain passes just to get to church…they can proclaim the Good News with or without me. Of course, that is true.
Come to think about it, perhaps vulnerability is a gift.
As I grow more mature, and as I learn to better listen… I have come to better understand the world that surrounds me is filled with sadness and with celebration, with injustice and with justice, with abundance…and yes, with scarcity… I greatly appreciate a prayer by Peter Marshall: Peter shares:
“I do need you, Lord. I need you now. I know that I can do without many of the things that once I thought were necessities, but without you I cannot live, and dare not die.
“I needed you when sorrow came, when shadows were thrown across the threshold of my life…and you did not fail me then. I needed you when sickness laid a clammy hand upon my family, and I cried to you…and you did hear. I needed you when perplexity brought me to a parting of the ways, and I knew not how to turn. You did not fail me then, but in many ways, big and little, did indicate the better way. And though the sun is shining around me today, I know that I need you even in the sunshine, and shall still need you tomorrow. I give you my gratitude for that constant sense of need that keeps me close to your side. Help me to keep my hand in yours and my ears open to the wisdom of your voice.
‘Speak to me, that I may hear you giving me courage for hard times and strength for difficult places; giving me determination for challenging tasks. I ask of you no easy way, but just your grace that is sufficient for every need, so that no matter how hard the way, how challenging the hour, how dark the sky, I may be enabled to overcome.
‘In your strength, who has overcome the world, I make my prayer. Amen.“
Friends, listen: yes, this is a challenging time…and let us continue to share God’s love which we understand constantly and completely surrounds us. We proclaim the Good News with our ears, by our words, and by our actions. We have been called to do so. Now and forever. Amen
Christ’s Peace ~ Pastor Steve