Sunday October 26, 2014
Jeremiah 45:1-5; Psalm 7:1-10; Acts 11:27-12:3; Matthew 20:20-28
“You are so loved” said Barbara Winters to Nathan Cirillo in a moment between life and death, full of surprise, horror, pain and compassion. This is just one small vignette in a large drama that played itself out in the centre of our city this week, but it stuck with me because it is a story we know in other settings for millennia now.
You are so loved – The story of Jesus is of one who came not to be served, but to serve – a serving which ultimately included his death. The Apostle John, referring to Jesus wrote, “God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus to bring us new life.” In today’s passage from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life he is teaching his disciples – including James – how to relate to each other so that they would be working for the common good and not each for his own glory.
You are so loved – In the story from the Acts of the Apostles about the very earliest version of the church, we read that at a time when all Christians were being persecuted and running for their lives, those who were taking refuge in Antioch did what they could do to help out the followers of Jesus living through a famine that was especially affecting the area of Jerusalem. Not everyone survived either the famine or the persecutions – James, one of the first disciples of Jesus, was executed.
You are so loved – For 138 years, since 1876, the church of St James the Apostle has been a visible part of Manotick as it has changed from a mill site to a village to part of a complex suburban community. Properly so, the expression of Christian ministry has been different generation by generation.
This week we have all been reminded of our vulnerability. We have been reminded that not everyone who goes out to serve, or even to cross a parking lot, comes back. None of this is new, though it is often shocking. It is someone’s reality every day in the communities we serve.
Let us be the ones who say to our community, “You are so loved.” This is not sweet sentimentality but gritty reality; not Gothic romance but a real lawyer in her work clothes, covered in blood, working with people she does not know to save a life and speaking a universal truth while she does it – “You are so loved.”
This means many things for us, among them, remaining true to who we are at our core, that which makes us unique among faith communities; it also means having the courage to make ourselves uncomfortable and to stretch so that the message is clear and hopeful whether folks are celebrating life’s achievements and joys, reeling from a succession of disappointments and disasters, or learning how to understand (yet again) who others are.
“You are so loved” is not a promise of glorious, happy outcomes; it is a statement of immediate presence. That is one of the key aspects of the Christian gospel, and it is our call as people of faith to be present in real time serving as required.
That takes courage. In another time, in a slightly different context, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: ‘God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.’
We know how to do this; it may not be pretty and it won’t be perfect, but we have this capacity built into us by God’s healing presence.
So today, I affirm with you and invite you to make this known to those you encounter this week, no matter what their circumstance: “You are so loved.”