Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sermon: January 20

These words were preached by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 in a sermon on the American Dream. (You can find the whole sermon on the web here.)

Oh yes, love is the way. Love is the only absolute. More and more I see this. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South—I’ve seen hate. In the faces and even the walk of too many Klansmen of the South, I’ve seen hate. Hate distorts the personality. Hate does something to the soul that causes one to lose his objectivity. The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right.

And I know now that Jesus is right that love is the way. And this is why John said, "God is love," so that he who hates does not know God, but he who loves at that moment has the key that opens the door to the meaning of ultimate reality. So this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world.

We might seem far removed from the South that Dr, King was preaching about, but we still live in a world that is full of violence, hate, and oppression. So what do we as a community of faith have to offer to our world? Echoing Dr. King’s words, Jesus is right that love is the way and this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world!

What we offer is God’s love, welcoming everyone on their journey of faith. Be they a newcomer, a visitor, a new parishioner or long time member, each of us has a place here where we offer everything we are up to God, where we are nourished by God’s spirit, where we taste and see that the Lord is good.

It is in this community of disciples, that we, together, gather to hear scripture for guidance today.

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Our life as Christians is not defined purely by doctrine or ritual, by conformity or tradition. Our hope, our witness, our belief are grounded in the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is Jesus who brings life, bring forgiveness, who offers all of us to come and see, to come and see his activity in ages past, through scripture, through the lives of saints, but also to see Jesus active today in our world, with the Spirit of God that was always with him. It is that same spirit that is given to us to be bearers of Christ in our world today, in our every day lives…

An eight-year old boy is facing surgery. He asks his doctor, “What’s it like to die?” Neither the doctor nor anyone else on the medical staff can answer his question directly — but one hospital employee can. She isn’t a doctor or nurse or child psychologist. She cleans the floors. One night the boy asks her, “Are you afraid of dying?” She puts down her mop, looks up from the floor and replies, “Yes, I am, but I do something about it.” She talks to the boy as an equal, not as a superior. She tells him that she believes in God and finds comfort in the words of Jesus. The two talk for a long time. She has put the boy at peace simply by listening to him. [Guideposts, December 1990] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

A high school student is struggling with his algebra homework. The frustration builds and the teenager slams the book shut. His father comes into the kitchen and asks if he can help, but the teenager says, “They didn’t even have algebra in your day.” Defeated and angry, the boy goes off to bed. At 4 A.M., his dad shakes his son awake and sits him back down at the kitchen table. The father, who works two jobs as a janitor and a chauffeur, sat up all night to read the algebra book from cover to cover. He worked the problems through until he understood them enough to be able to explain them to his son. With his dad tutoring him, the student finally grasps the equations and completes his homework. That night, a father taught his son much more than algebra. [NPR’s StoryCorps] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

Within a month, she had lost both her father and her mother. It was something neither she nor her husband knew how to deal with. She was devastated; getting through the days was often more than she could handle. He thought he might be able to lessen the blow by being a more attentive spouse or more romantic husband. He felt more and more inadequate at not being able to do something to alleviate her grief. Then the night came for them to see the musical Wicked. The tickets had been bought months before. The two leads sang a song that always reminded her of her mother. That’s when he realized his role: to be there to hold her hand, to have Kleenex at the ready, to let her know he would be there when the music ended and the lights came back on. [The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, November 25, 2007] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

In every selfless act of generosity, acts of humble compassion, acts of loving kindness, Jesus, the Lamb of God walks in our midst and we in turn witness to this fact by what we do and say. No matter our age or profession, our skills or ability — we have been called, as John the Baptist was called, as Andrew and Peter were called, as Martin Luther king, Jr. was called, to point to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who dwells among us and walks with us in our doubts, our hurts, our fears, in good times and bad.

John declared his witness to the Lamb of God in his preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River. Our witness to Jesus, the Lamb of God, may be proclaimed in less vocal ways than John the Baptist, but it does not mean that our witness is less effective or meaningful. As Dr. King said some 42 years ago, “I tell you this morning once more that I haven’t lost the faith. I still have a dream that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well-being for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, and freedom for their spirits.

We are the people today who are welcomed and nourished in this place, who will go out and help make that dream a reality, a dream that came from the heavens, and was proclaimed on earth and given to us to undertake. As we heard from the prophet Isaiah: The Lord said, “You are my servant in whom I will be glorified.” Let us be witnesses today, as God’s servants, of the love that was given to us in Jesus, and make that love manifest in our lives by giving that love to all of God’s children, and helping fulfill the dream of Dr. King’s that all of God’s children can have the fullest of lives.

We have so much to share and offer this morning! Amen.

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