Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 28 Sermon

By what authority are you doing these things?
Hundreds of students marched Thursday in the fifth day of demonstrations against the Jefferson County school board, which oversees the second-largest school district in Colorado. Protests began last Friday after members of the board called for a review of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum to see whether it promotes "respect for authority" or encourages "civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law." By Thursday, the protests had grown to include nearly 1,000 students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools. [Huffington Post]
By what authority are you doing these things?
Legions of demonstrators frustrated by international inaction on global warming descended on New York City on Sunday, marching through the heart of Manhattan with a message of alarm for world leaders set to gather this week at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change. Coursing through Midtown, from Columbus Circle to Times Square and the Far West Side, the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big, and it was joined, in solidarity, by demonstrations on Sunday across the globe, from Paris to Papua New Guinea. [NY Times]
By what authority are you doing these things?
Hundreds of children joined students demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong on Friday, capping a week-long campaign that has seen a large cut-out depicting the territory's leader as the devil paraded through the city and calls for him to resign. Secondary school pupils launched a one-day class boycott, supporting the university and college students who began their own class boycott on Monday with a rally that drew about 13,000. [Reuters]
By what authority are you doing these things?
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"
It is the question that is often asked by those in power, when people rise up, when they speak up, when they protest and refuse to follow along.

Jesus pushed the envelope. He taught in the temple. He healed on the Sabbath. Gentile or Jew. Male or Female. Rich or poor. No one fell outside his love. And it provoked a reaction from those in power.

By what authority are you doing these things? After Jesus asks them a question, he turns the tables on them & tells them a parable…
"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."
The tax collectors and the prostitutes will go in the front of the line into the Kingdom of God. The chief priests and elders, the religiously righteous, will head to the back. It is not what we expect, but Jesus points out the truth in his parable, the ones deemed dirty, the sinners, they listened to the message, they heard John and believed. The righteous ones, did not listen, failed to follow through with their yes, they didn’t change their minds or their hearts.

It is Jesus who is protesting. He is walking the line. He is carrying the banner. Do we see it? For Jesus will not be confined to our ideological boxes nor will he be left only in the Church to be found each week. He is outside. Waiting for us. In the midst of our lives. In the darkness and in the light. His life laid bare before us, his authority through what he said and he did.

Will you follow me? Will you listen? Will you go out as I have asked?

In the early 1960s, when the racial struggle was white-hot, an interracial retreat was held at a Benedictine monastery, Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas. One participant was a recent college graduate at work in voter registration in the Mississippi delta area of eastern Arkansas. He was asked, "Isn't that dangerous work you're doing? We hear the reports of hatred and violence."

"It's true," he said. "The hatred is vicious, and the punishment is violent.’ "Have you ever been hurt yourself?" The young college grad replied: ""Yes, I've been spit on, beaten with fists, with pipes, with chains and left a bloody mess." "But you're pretty big," the brothers said. "Weren't you able to protect yourself sometimes, to fight back?"

"Yes," he said. "At first I did fight back. I made some of them sorry they had attacked me. But then I realized that by fighting back I wasn't getting anywhere. The hatred coming at me in those fists and clubs was bouncing right off me back into the air, and it could just continue to spread like electricity. I decided I would not fight back. I would let my body absorb that hatred, so that some of it would die in my body and not bounce back into the world. I now see that my job in the midst of that evil is to make my body a grave for hate." The monks were deeply moved by the young man's story. "We were all shaken by what this young man said," one brother recalls. "But what he was describing was the Gospel of Jesus." [From "The Good Fight: How Christians suffer, died and rise with Jesus," by Abbot Jerome Kodell, O.S.B., America, April 25, 2011.]
Jesus’ parable of the two sons places the will of God in the middle of our busy, complicated everyday lives. All authority we need was given to us at Baptism, to live our lives as followers of Jesus. But to do that, we must say Yes and follow through. For as St. Paul reminds us, “it is God who is at work in us.”

Compassion, forgiveness and mercy are only words until our actions give full expression to those values in our relationships with others; our identifying ourselves as Christians and calling ourselves disciples of Jesus mean nothing until our lives express such Gospel values.

The words of the Gospel must be lived; Jesus’ teachings on justice, reconciliation and love must be the light that guides us, the path we walk, the prayers we work to make a reality in our lives. Discipleship begins within our hearts, where we realize that Christ is present there and in the lives of others and then honoring that presence through meaningful acts of compassion and charity in the world. Amen.

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