June 25, 2017
3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling
She said it would change my life. I had seen it in the case for months: A Caramel Bar.I’ve avoided it for a long time, figuring that if I’m going to La Patisserie, the little bakery around the corner, for a sandwich, that’s enough of an indulgence.
But on Tuesday, it was Bible School week. There were snacks everywhere in the building. I had already resisted all morning. The children filled the place with laughter and joy. Everyone was happy. “Wow, God!” we said at every turn. It seemed like the right time to stop being sugar sober.
So. I. Got. The. Caramel. Bar.
It’s a great metaphor for the gospel, right? It lures us in, its sweetness beckoning us. Something that fills us with joy; something that makes us smile and laugh, something that makes us feel good deep down in our soul.
Truth be told, that’s probably why most of us come to church. We yearn to hear God’s invitation to come, to be fed, to be healed, to be reminded that we are loved and that we live in a creation that never ceases to inspire us to “Wow, God!.”
So if you came to the Gloria Dei bakery this morning for a sweet word or for some honey bread at communion, donut holes by the coffee, and a smile to welcome you to church, aren’t you just as pleased as punch to hear the gospel lesson for today.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
I’m going to turn father against son. (Good thing Father’s Day was last week.) Mother against daughter, mother-in-law against daughter in law.
Take up the cross and follow if you want to be worthy of me.
If you want to gain a life that is deep and good, you’re going to have to lose another.
This one of those gospel text where you wonder if maybe Jesus should have gotten the caramel bar. It might have calmed him down. Or maybe he already had the caramel bar and he’s having a sugar crash; a little grumpy. This does not sound like the Jesus we like to imagine.
Ready for this?
The sweetness of the gospel and these challenging words of Jesus are actually connected to each other. If love is, indeed, the organizing principal that matters, it’s going to change our lives, AND send us out into a world that is NOT organized by love. The gospel doesn’t lead us to accommodate to the world as it is. It compels us to go out and challenge its very foundations.
Just as in Jesus day, we live in a world that’s much more comfortable building walls than bridges. (Don’t hear me as making a comment about Trump, lest we get off the hook for all the walls that we all build.) We live in a world that is structured so that those with the most get even more, and those with the least are blamed for being poor. We live in a world where the color of your skin matters even when you have tail light out. We live in a world that says you better have it all together, not admit that you have a problem.
When the love of God captures you, you end up being compelled to bring what has been hidden into the light, speaking what is whispered behind closed doors, announcing truth from the rooftops. You find yourself being compelled to speak up in the market place. You find yourself turning against family who say unkind or false things. You find yourself compelled to show up with those who are on the outside. You say no to abusive behavior and violence. You end up marching down one of the main streets in town with queer people. You stand with Native peoples on their holy ground, which has been stolen from them. You find yourself in hard places with no clear answers, uncomfortable places that would be so much easier just to keep avoiding.
God’s love is no sugary delight. It has an edge like a sword. Not the kind of sword that kills, but more like scalpel that saves.
When Jesus speaks these words, he’s trying to reassure his followers. He’s telling them that if they are rejected, judged, dismissed—told that they’re crazy–it’s a sign that they’re being faithful. Earlier in Matthew, he says, “If you’re being persecuted for living gospel value,, Rejoice and be glad because you’re being faithful in the right things.”
Jesus, in Matthew, is not speaking to the church stands at the center to confirm the status quo. He’s speaking to the church that has chosen to live at the edge, near to those who suffer. He’s talking to a church, not willing simply to put on bandaids or serve an occasional meal. He’s talking to a church that’s compelled, driven, forced by sheer conviction, to change everything.
And to that church, the one that’s willing to risk everything to be faithful in the right things, he says, “Don’t be afraid.” God is for you, another one of the VBS messages, “Wow, God.” God sees what you’re up to and will not let you fall to the ground. If God sees the one sparrow, even fall to the ground, how much more does God see you. How much more does God see you. Every single one of the hairs on your head has been counted. (Clearly, God has to work harder with some of you than with others of us.)
Over and over again: Don’t be afraid.
This good news of love, which captures us, will take us to the edge, and then raise us up on eagle’s wings.
This good news of love. It will change your life.