Below are notes from last Sundays sermon, a response to the Orlando tragedy. If you prefer to listen to the audio version you may find that here.
According to the Washington Post, during a court appearance this week, the man charged with the death of Jo Cox, a popular British lawmaker, when asked by the judge, gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”
Filled with hate; filled with rage, he forgot who he was.
What is your name? Jesus asks the man who has been roaming naked among the tombs.
“Legion” he responds A Legion is“A regiment” of Roman soldiers, could be up to 6000 soldiers..
The man has lost himself to the cacophony of the voices of his troubles..
We have lost ourselves in the cacophony of horror—49 dead in Orlando; a stabbing in Britain; tornadoes, earthquakes, politicians on the take, refugees scrambling from bombs onto overflowing boats,
No wonder some of us pine for the good old days when our troubles were not legion.
Or is that even true? Do we want to return to WWII when bombs rained on London from Sept-May? Do we want to return to the times when women and people of color could not vote?
Do we want to return to the days when the Cuyahoga River was so polluted it caught fire?
Perhaps we have a tendency to romanticize the past at the risk of dealing with our present. Memories are often inaccurate because they are emotion-driven. Pining away for the “good old days” distracts us from living in the present moment.
This is the time in which we are born. This is the place where we stand. Each time has had its own trials and troubles. We can learn from the past, we cannot live in the past.
To live in the past is to squander the gift of what is here right now. To live in the past is to give up on the future.
And yes, we stand at a time when our troubles are legion—the troubles in the world; and for some of us, the troubles in our hearts and in our homes.
What is your name? Jesus asks… What is your name?
When we become lost in the despair of the day, we forget who we are…we forget whose we are—children of God, united with Christ in our baptism. We are God’s own beloved children, whether we remember that or not.
The man was naked, unclean—among the tombs
ostracized, sometimes chained
internal turmoil of battling
external turmoil of social pressures
“People were afraid of him, but Jesus faced him calm and unafraid” (Barclay 128)
There is no place Jesus won’t go…no person Jesus won’t touch—not the Gentile slave, not the sinful woman, and not a man running naked among the dead.
Jesus is present with love where there is suffering, he moves into the suffering with LOVE…He is in a nightclub turned horror hall, with those who are wounded, those who are dying—what is your name? I am with you. You are mine.
He is with refugees on boats and in squalid camps—what is your name? I am with you. You are mine.
He is with families living far from home in the hopes of a new life—what is your name? I am with you. You are mine.
He is with politicians who have sold their souls for cash—what is your name? I am with you. You are mine.
He is with you; he is with me in our suffering and confusion and pain—“you don’t need to stay in the tomb of despair”,
you don’t need to isolate and hide—You are mine…my beloved, I am with you in all things all ways.
This was a horrific week and this was a gorgeous week…
Tragedy—the shooting of a promising young singer, the massacre in a nighclub, and an innocent boy snatched in a freak accident.
And at a time when courageous leadership might offer comfort our state is embroiled in spending our time and resources investigating those in power at every level.
This is too much too much our hearts cry for respite from the tumult. We pray for peace…
If we chose to hole up in homes who would blame us?
But so many of us did not. Refusing to be paralyzed by fear. Refusing to be locked away in despair, we gave out beans and rice; we stuffed sack lunches and books in our vans and we drove less than a mile away to be received by the joy-filled faces of children and grateful mothers.
We transformed the parish hall into hogwarts.
Every act of generosity, every act of love is a defiant declaration that hate won’t win.
A grateful declaration of thanks for what God has done for us.
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Jesus told the man he had healed.
He didn’t guarantee that nothing bad would ever happen again.
Just yesterday Malcolm and I were in Cullman for an engagement party for a dear friend’s daughter. On Thursday of this week, the father of the bride-to-be buried his little sister.
In one week their hearts held the tension we all hold—profound grief and sadness from loss, hope-filled joy and expectation in new life.
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Jesus told the man he had healed. He did not guarantee nothing bad would ever happen again.
So the man went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
But beware, healing can cause fear—the people of the town, when they saw what Jesus had done, they were afraid. As much as they liked to complain about the naked, raving man in chains—they knew what to do with that.
Give them a man who has lost his sense of self to such a degree when asked who is he can only answer “legion.’ We know what to do with that.
But healing—can we stand the healing? Can we believe in it? Pray for it? celebrate it? trust it is possible for ourselves and for others? Believe it is true for our country? for our world?
I hope so—-because cynicism is the genesis of apathy which leaves a vacuum that can be filled with hate. We are to be counter-cultural beacons of hope in a world in need of healing. Our hope is not in ourselves, but in one named Immanuel, God is with us.
What is your name? God claims us and calls us by name in our baptism. beloved children of God.
When we forget who we are, who’s we are we leave ourselves open to cynicism and hate.
When we remember who we are; who’s we are, we are given the strength and courage to hold the horror and the hope.
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”
Declare it by showing your love of God and love of one another and love for all people everywhere.
Remember who we are, whose we are, we belong to God and we belong to one another, have hope, give thanks, even in the midst of our troubles. Amen.
Sermon Proper 7C June 19, 2016, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan
Isaiah 65:1-9, Psalm 22:18-27, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 8:26-39