Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost: God did not make us for death but for life

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Preached by Barbi Click at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 28, 2009.

Do you remember those times when you were a kid and you had just pinched your little sister or brother, some adult leaned over and wagged a finger at you saying menacingly, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and you just stared, big eyed at the finger waving in front of your face totally unsure of what she meant? At some point, we learned that this was the Golden Rule and it basically meant Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

Scripture is not much different – Love one another. It can and often is used to chastise.

Both are so easy to ignore or just simply misunderstand. Until we work at understanding these sayings, we also run the risk of misunderstanding the word Just or even justice.

What does a “just” world look like? How do we make it just?

Because that question was an important one to me, Christian Ethics was a major part of my master’s dissertation. In that study, I learned that the Golden Rule has a big fancy name – the Ethic of Reciprocity.

This ethic of reciprocity states that not only do we all have the right to just treatment but each one of us also has the responsibility of ensuring justice for other people.

Love One Another is a lot easier to say, but it is also far too easy to address that command to others – YOU love one another..YOU do unto others…There isn’t very much ME involved in the use of that YOU.

Yet if we are charged with the responsibility of ensuring justice for others, the idea of YOU and ME has to be readjusted. What is the relationship between You and Me?

Somehow, we have to create this process of reciprocity. If we treat others the way we want to be treated hopefully that they will do the same, not just to us but to others also. Sort of like the bumper sticker Commit a Random Act of Kindness on a regular basis. This is the idea that we want to foster.

Wisdom tells us God created all things so that these might exist, regenerate and be wholesome. All of these are very good things and we, as a part of that creation, are also considered good. God created us with life and for life and for the good of life – a healthy balance between receiving and giving. We are not meant to be separated from God or each other; we are meant to be reflections of God’s love. That balance means Right Relationship.

We can too easily relate to the Church of Corinth. They are having problems. Whatever all those problems are, mainly, these cause them to draw away from each other and from others who need them. They lose their healthy balance. They fall short of their promise for monetary support for the church in Jerusalem and because of that, the church in Jerusalem has problems. Paul reminds them that their faith is evident in the abundance of their spiritual gifts and that those gifts are to share.

Their fear of not having enough causes them to hold back.

Paul tries to calm their fears by reminding them about the Israelites gathering up the quail that God sent them – those who had much did not have too much and those who had little had no need of more. By the gift, all had enough. The gift is measured by what they have rather than in what they lack.

In Mark, two stories are jammed together; the stories of Jairus and his 12 year old daughter and an unnamed woman with the flow of blood for 12 years.

Jairus appears to have much. He is a leader in the synagogue. Not one to ask favors; rather, it is more likely that others come to him seeking his favor. He is a man in high standing. Yet he lacks one thing – his 12 year old daughter is near death. When he sees Jesus, Jairus falls at his feet and begs him to lay hands on his daughter that she might be made well.

But before Jesus can follow him too far, a woman who does not even rate a name comes up behind him. She has been bleeding for 12 years. She is an outcast due to her unclean condition; destitute because she spent all she had in hopes that doctors could heal her; she struggles through the crowd so that she can come up behind Jesus and merely touch his cloak. She has no intention of asking Jesus for anything. Jesus didn’t even know she was there until after she touches his cloak. She believes so strongly that if she touches only his clothes she will be made well. And she is. Immediately. Before Jesus even sees her.

These two stories share several things – the 12 year old daughter and the 12 years of bleeding; Jairus’ daughter and the woman to whom Jesus gives the name of “daughter” but more, far more to me, these are stories of acting in faith and how the level of our faith may vary but each and every level is accepted where it is at the time. And in that acceptance, the faith becomes a gift.
Jairus’ and the woman’s faith became a gift to all around them because they shared it even though there was risk in doing so.

Jairus risks his reputation and his position as leader in the Jewish community to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. The woman is an outcast and not supposed to touch anyone yet she touches this man. The cost could have been her life but it was one she was willing to risk.

Both believe that Jesus can help them. Jesus treats them alike – with love. He knows their fear and he knows their faith. To Jairus he said, Do not fear, only believe. To the woman he gives the name, Daughter, and tells her, “Your faith has made you well.

I would like to believe that Jairus was witness to this healing. Whether she knew or not, he received the gift of the woman living out of her abundance, her faith. Whether others knew it or not, they received the gift of Jairus risking all for the belief that Jesus could save his little girl.

“The one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.” It might seem to many that Jairus is the one that has much and the woman the one that has little. Paul tells us that our gift is acceptable according to what we have – not according to what we do not have.” Both Jairus and the woman are willing to risk everything for that belief in Jesus.

In many ways, we are all like Jairus and the woman named Daughter. Some of us appear to have much; some of us appear to have little. Yet we all have gifts to share.

Regardless of the gift we have been given – music, money, time, energy, spirit, enthusiasm, just plain old love – these are not ours to keep but to share with others so that they might in turn do the same. These gifts do not come to us out of our goodness but out of God’s good giving.

God gives us life that we might live it fully, deliberately, holding faithfully to the idea that all we have to do is seek and we will find; believe and we will be made well. By acknowledging our faith and our love, we give to others. Failure to use that abundance of gifts results in the failure to share God’s love. Just like the Corinthians, our failure to share results in the failure of others to do the same. That failure becomes our own.

This is the Ethic of Reciprocity – living with the love and faith that allows us to share these gifts, we give to others, even when we do not realize it. When we deliberately work for this good, we ensure that justice will be done and in the doing of that justice, our own just treatment will be sure.

Are these texts today about Justice? Maybe I just read justice into these because this weekend is Pride Fest. Or maybe, more to the point, these texts are about Right Relationship – that healthy balance between receiving and sharing.

I think that this Cathedral family is working on that healthy balance. Those gifts that are received from God are shared by the people of this family. My family and I are witness to that. We are the recipients of your gifts.

Most of you know that we came from a place that was not very welcoming…they did not want the gifts we had to share, nor were too many of them willing to share what they had and like the Corinthians, this was motivated by fear.

So we came here to this place. It seemed like a risk at the time – leaving all that we knew to walk into the unknown. Yet you welcomed us with open arms, not only giving but allowing us to give in return. Even when you did not realize, by accepting our gifts, you gave us so much.

This is an example of living out of your abundance. This is an example of acting in faith. This is an example of thriving in that healthy balance of right relationship.

So, yes…to me, this is working toward and for a just world – living in our space and time in faith to accept and to share the Gifts that God has so graciously given to each one of us.

This is an example of Love One Another and Do Unto Others. And I give thanks for that.


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