O Gracious God, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The toughest part of being a Christian, I believe, is trying to live our faith in our daily lives. It’s easy to say we are a Christian & proclaim our beliefs. But it is much more difficult to live our beliefs, to show by our actions how we embody the truth of our faith in Jesus Christ.
"Religion is not ours till we live by it, till it is the Religion of our thoughts, words, and actions, till it goes with us into every place, sits uppermost on every occasion, and forms and governs our hopes and fears, our cares and pleasures."
These words come from William Law who was a priest in England in the 18 century, who lost his position at Emmanuel College, Cambridge when his conscience would not allow him to take the required oath of allegiance to King George I. He reminds us that our religion, our faith, is not ours until we truly own it in our lives and live it in every place we go. It is how we embody it, even when we may be criticized for it or suffer for it.
Consider the Gospel reading from this morning.
Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus (whom he had raised from the dead) & Martha & Mary. & there they offered hospitality –they gave a dinner for him, their friend. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. & Mary, didn’t just wash his feet, as was the common & hospitable thing to do, she took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But Judas criticized Mary for wasting such expensive perfume and not selling it and giving the money to the poor. But Jesus tells him to leave her alone for Judas is missing the point.
Mary is offering to Jesus love and thanksgiving and faith by using a very expensive item, so she could anoint the feet of Jesus. She embodied the love that he had taught. She was criticized for doing the right thing, but Jesus pointed out she was right in what she was doing. What a beautiful act!
Such faithful living is what I hear in this poem by Edgar Guest:
I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are those who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong one stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.
One good person teaches many, they believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with those of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to everyone is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I'd rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.
Now, I disagree with him about sermons, but his point is well taken. It’s how we embody, live out our faith, that truly speaks for each of us. We have to practice what we preach. Such living out of faith is what I saw in a story from Canada last month:
Ehab Taha, a 26-year-old from Canada, was riding public transit in Metro Vancouver when a large man he described on Facebook as “suffering from drug abuse and\or mental health issues” became aggressive in his train car.
The man was alarming fellow passengers “with erratic movements, cursing, shouting” until a 70-year-old woman decided to reach out and help him by extending her hand and grabbing his.
The sweet gesture soothed the man. Eventually he sank to the floor of the train as tears flooded his eyes.
"It was quite incredible how much he calmed down in a split moment,” Taha told HuffPost Canada. “It was the most touching thing I've ever seen.”
Moved by “the incredible display of humanity,” Taha snapped a picture of the two holding hands and posted it to Facebook.
“I spoke to the woman after this incident and she simply said, ‘I'm a mother and he needed someone to touch.’ And she started to cry.” Although the woman felt a great amount of empathy for the man, like most, she was initially petrified to interfere.
"She was very brave. She even mentioned that she thought about what would happen if he stabbed her with the pen -- because he had one in his hand -- but she said it was more important he didn't feel alone."
At the end, he said 'Thanks, Grandma,' and walked away.” (from Huffington Post)
In the end, what Jesus asks of us, is to be like Mary & offer ourselves, to embody that love that Jesus shares with us even if we might be criticized. To be that gentle touch that someone needs as that mother did on the metro, even when it involves risk. Such beautiful acts of love!
Our faith calls each of us to offer ourselves in the Spirit of Jesus to a world hungry for love and kindness. Such faithful love & compassion is a fragrance that fills the world with the glory of God. Amen.