Monday, February 4, 2008

Sermon: Souper Bowl Sunday & U2charist

And from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. And they all went down the mountain.

One reason I think Jesus didn’t stay up on that mountain with Peter and James and John was that he knew he had more work to do down the mountain. It would be nice to stay in some booths and revel in that glorious moment, just as Peter had wanted to do. But Jesus has more healings, more teachings, bringing Good News to the people. It was a wonderful moment of clarity for those three disciples to really understand that Jesus is God’s son, and that they do not need to be afraid of what happened or what is to come. It would be important memory for those disciples, especially after Jesus’ death, to pass on to the other faithful disciples.

But this is no hallmark moment to stop in, for the ministry of Jesus is always among the people, in the valley, in the city, Jesus may go off to a mountain for a short retreat but he never stays there long. His ministry is now our ministry, and we too cannot stay on the mountain top, build our little booths and try to keep our faith away from the grit and dirt of our everyday lives. No. Our faith is meant to be there in the earth, in our lives, in this messy world, in all there is…

I am reminded of St. Teresa of Avila and her words: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.” –St Teresa of Avila

It is we who embody Christ in this hurting world. It is not enough for us to be sympathetic for this world as a missionary in Africa said, we must be active!

“This is our moment, this is our time, this is our chance to stand up for what is right. Three thousand Africans, mostly children, die every day of mosquito bites. We can fix that. Nine thousand people dying every die of a preventable, treatable disease like Aids. We have got the drugs. We can help them.” -- Bono

We gather today for a U2charist because it is Bono and others who remind us that this is our time, our moment to do what is right. To reach out and help our brothers and sisters around the world who are hurting, who are in need, for we can help them. As Bono and BB King sing in When Love Comes to Town (our postlude music),

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when the pierced his side
But I've seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that train
When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that flame

It is that love that came down to us in Jesus, a love given to us by the Spirit of God, a love that is so much a part of us that we are called to give it away To catch that flame, the love that conquered the great divide, and what we do is share it with the world.

Today is the Souper Bowl of Caring, reminding us even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game and a great Patriot victory, it is the Lord who helps us be mindful of those who are without even a bowl of soup to eat on this day. The soup pots at our doors, the offertory plate, our food basket provide us the opportunity to help those who are in need of help this season. In a time when the economy is not doing so well, with foreclosures up and jobs down, there are people going hungry everyday, and we can help them.

But what we do is not just for today, we can help tomorrow too, and we can look beyond to distant shores. In the year 2000, leaders from the United States and 190 other nations came together to develop a plan to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015. To guide this critical work and measure its success, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were created. In 2007 - at the midpoint of this historic effort - Episcopal Relief and Development, Jubilee Ministries and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church launched the MDG Inspiration Fund to highlight the urgency of reaching these goals.

You all will receive information on the MDG Inspiration Fund and you all are invited to participate. The income generated from the MDG Inspiration Fund will be primarily used to fight malaria, which is an objective of MDG #6, along with HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases. Malaria is an easily treatable disease and is a high priority for many of ERD’s partners in the Anglican Communion. The fund supports of ERD’s NetsforLife program, a partnership for malaria prevention in 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our children supported this program last Spring with their Pennies from Heaven cans.

NetsforLife is important because the malaria prevention program uses long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets to protect people, teaches basic techniques to prevent malaria, and how to identify symptoms early and what medicines are truly effective.

So why do we do it?

Because Jesus went down the mountain, to walk among the lowest of that society, the forgotten, the castoff, the sick, the lonely, orphans and widows too. Jesus offered Good News and healing took place and people began to live new lives. What we can offer is our love, our prayers and our support to help heal this world, provide supplies that will help families be free of Malaria, so they can tackle other things, like fresh clean water or education for their children. When we do it to the sick, the poor, the needy, it is Jesus who reminds us that we are doing it to him.

Or as Bono put it…

“The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with the virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble and the cries we hear during war time. God, my friends, is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with them. This is not a burden. This is an adventure. Don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty.” -Bono

Amen. Amen.

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