Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 16 Sermon (2 Epiphany)

At the memorial service held on Wednesday in Arizona, President Obama invited the nation to see our country through the eyes of Christina Taylor Green. In his words:
I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations…we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.
He put it well. We are all called to make America worthy of our children’s expectations, to forge a country worthy of all those gentle, happy spirits, by what we do. The President’s call to civility and to work towards making our democracy the best it can be, is an invitation for all of us to work for our best and help America thrive.

I think of a plaque inscribed near the Statue of Liberty, written in 1883, describing the immigrants who have passed through Ellis Island to these shores:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
("The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus (1883))
It is a wonderful poem that speaks of the symbol of lady liberty who greeted immigrants coming to New York harbor. Who saw the shores of freedom. Who longed for the democracy we have here. Immigrants who had such hopeful expectation of their new life to come. In the days of Jesus, there was a longing for a new life.
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
After the baptism of Jesus, there was a hopeful expectation of what was to come. John knew it and so too would his disciples, God incarnate was in their midst. John the Baptist twice proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God. The second time two of John’s disciples go & follow Jesus. They want to know where Jesus is staying, they want to hear his words, they want to see the Son of God, they have that hope in the messiah, the one they had been waiting for… And Jesus tells them to come and see.

Come and see. It is an invitation to come follow him, to come see what he will say and do. It is a significant beginning for the disciples, a simple invitation and they follow him. And our patron, Peter is named by Jesus in this moment. Come and see and they are changed. In a recent story, it was come and listen and lives were touched:
In a downtown shelter in Boston, the large television set is always on. Shutting it off is like tampering with another country's flag. Lesser acts have led to war. But one humid night, a staff member turned the television off. The shelter's wilting guests - even those who paid no attention to the perpetually flickering images - were stunned. Two women stood at the front of the room, under the dark screen.

Each unsnapped a case, lifted out a stringed instrument and started to tune it. Then they began to play: first, a pair of madrigals, a Mozart duet, some Telemann, a Bulgarian folk tune. The musicians didn't know anything about the lives of their audience. They didn't know who was listening with one ear while hearing voices with the other. They didn't know who was freshly out of prison and who was heading back in, who was momentarily sober and who was never sober. News of the concerts spread and the audiences grew. The musicians - professionals who play in the city's renowned symphony - are not surprised.

One Wednesday a month the television set at the shelter is turned off and the concert begins. Over the months, little windows have opened. The music manages to bridge the unscalable chasms separating people. For a couple of hours - the forgotten, the lost, the desperate, the addicted, and those who struggle to help them - are all the same. [From "The night the television is switched off" by Elissa Ely, The Boston Globe, October 31, 2010.]
Come and see. A democracy longing to be its best even in tragedy, come and see the Statue of Liberty welcoming all to our land and our democracy, come and see lives being touched by Americans reaching out to the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. May our place of worship, St. Peter’s, be a place of such welcome, where people hear about this place and want to come and see, to find God here among these disciples, and find that love and welcome that Jesus sends to all.
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
Rumi’s beautiful poem, is an invitation, and invitation to come, whoever you are. Come sinner and saint. Come wanderer and worshiper. Just come. You are welcome here. Amen.

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