Monday, June 20, 2011

"...and Jesus said, 'Get over yourselves." -- A sermon for the First Sunday After Pentecost (Trinity Sunday)

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, June 19, 2011 

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And Jesus came and said to them, 

“Get over yourselves.”

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN.

What did creation sound like?

Astronomers like my dad talk about “the Big Bang.” And then you get all those “if a tree falls in the forest questions about it.” Was it really a sound? The creation story we heard this morning doesn’t even mention sound at all. It’s all about the visual. Day by day passing. Light coming from darkness. Land from water. Gradually all that we know as creation appearing on the scene.

Well, I don’t know what creation itself sounded like, but if I had to guess what the moment before creation sounded like, it would be something like this:

Isn’t that a great sound??? It is the chaotic sound of potential … of anticipation. When you hear that cacophony of instruments tuning and then the baton tapping ... and the pregnant pause … you just know that something beautiful is about to be created. Because each instrument has finished focusing on itself. From now on they will be watching only the conductor and listening deeply to each other … because that’s the way the beauty of the symphony is created.

If there was a soundtrack to the creation story in Genesis, it would begin with that sound. And the music that followed would be the most brilliant and harmonious ever written.

Because that’s what our creation story is. It is a story of God bringing order, harmony and deep beauty out of chaos. And every step of the way, God echoes the refrain.

And God saw that it was good.

It was good.

It was good.

Until finally God is finished and steps back and says,

yes, Yes, YES! … that is VERY GOOD.

Every time I hear this story, I wish we could just push pause when the reader is finished. Because it all goes downhill from there. But at that moment, that precious fleeting moment, all is as it should be. It’s the “for one brief shining moment it was Camelot.”

God is at the center of all existence, and not only is all creation very good, all creation knows it is very good, in fact knows and believes it so much that it doesn’t worry if anyone else knows it, doesn’t worry about having to individually prove its goodness to itself or anyone else. And like that orchestra, with eyes trained on the maestro and listening deeply to each other, all that is left for all creation is to create beautiful music for all eternity.

The ultimate



But that’s not what happened, is it? Because we know the rest of the creation story. We know how sin entered in with that tempting serpent saying, “but you could be like God.” You could be at the center. You see, the fall isn’t about creation becoming evil. What God creates as very good is always very good. The fall is about us forgetting that.

The fall is about all humanity falling away from a God-centered harmony of believing in and celebrating our goodness -- to a self-centered insecurity of doubting our goodness, of fearfully needing to put ourselves at the center above God and all others. The fall is about the fall from resting in the strong, loving arms of the divine to huddling around the fragile, fearful shells of our own egos.

The problem isn’t that we became evil. The problem is we forgot that we are good.

But God didn’t forget us. God kept reminding us, and God kept urging us to remind each other. And God gave us a beautiful gift of a word. A word of remembrance.

The word … Bless.

Now the word “bless” doesn’t make something good any more than the fall made anything evil. The word bless literally means “to speak well of” … to say “this is good.”

The word bless is God’s gift of remembrance to us. So that whenever we see something that is very good, whenever we see something that reminds us that we are good, reminds us that we can live without fear, reminds us that all we have to do is keep our eyes on the maestro and listen deeply to each other and create amazing beauty. Whenever we see something like that we bless it. We say in the name of God, “this is very good.”

And the rest of the world looks at it and says “Ah … I remember…. That’s what that looks like. That’s what we all can be. Isn’t that beautiful. How can I be like that. How can I remember that I am good, too.”

It’s why we do house blessings. Not to bestow some magical spell of protection but to affirm the holy desire of the people who live there to open their home up in hospitality. And so we bless it and them and affirm, “this is good, this is very good.”

It’s why we bless animals every Feast of St. Francis. To point to the loving, faithful companionship they give and affirm “this is good, this is very god.”

It’s why at this Cathedral we bless unions of self-giving love between two people. To point to the Christlike laying down of lives for each other they are about and affirm, “this is good, this is very good.”

Someone asked me why we stood out there in the sea of 65,000 racers at Race for the Cure blessing them with holy water and I said because where there are people giving themselves up for the sake of love and healing, the church needs to be there saying “this is good, this very good”.

We forget that is our job sometime, but it is. Somewhere along the line someone got the idea that the church was here to turn bad people into good people. Not true. As the church, we are here to remind us that we are already good, and that we don’t need to lead these fearful, hoarding lives of those who doubt their own goodness.

It’s not hard. Here’s how we do it. Here’s how we do our work of blessing.

Get aspergelium and get out of the pulpit.

Who here gave an hour of their time this week to help others? -- You are blessed. You are good. (apserge with holy water)

Who here spent time yesterday playing with a child? - You are blessed. You are good. (apserge with holy water)

Who here did something you don’t like to do to show your spouse or partner you love them? You are blessed. You are good. (apserge with holy water)

Who here gave time or money or prayer to this church or someone in this community this week without thought of reward or recognition? You are blessed. You are good. (apserge with holy water)

Think for a second. What is blessed. What is good in your life? What is blessed. What is good in our lives. Have you blessed someone recently? Have you heard a blessing for yourself?

We are a blessed, beloved community but we are more than that. We are a community of remembrance. Of reminding each other that we are blessed and beloved. Of reminding each other that God made us good and that we don’t need to focus on ourselves but we can live fearless lives focusing on God and listening deeply to each other and creating beautiful, beautiful music together.
And that brings us to the Gospel reading for today. The eleven disciples are with Jesus on the mountain and in Matthew this is the first and only time they will see him after the resurrection so Jesus has to be brief and not pull any punches. And so here is what he says:

“Hey … Get over yourselves.”

Ok, so that’s a rough translation. But that’s really what he is saying. He says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, Jesus says. The battle is over. Christ has risen from the dead. The goodness can’t be held down. You don’t need to worry about yourself anymore. Worrying about yourself is for people who doubt their goodness. Worrying about yourself is for people who doubt God’s love for them. Worrying about yourself is about people who are afraid they will be left without. Get over yourself. That’s not you. You are my beloved – now and to the end of the age. And I am reminding you now and always that you are good. That you are blessed. But that reminder isn’t just for you. As Dahn Gandell said last Sunday, “Transformation not shared is wasted. “

So Go. Get over yourselves and go and make disciples of all nations. Go remind everyone that they are good. You see, there is a whole world out there that lives in fear and that is crying in pain and that has forgotten that they are good. That has forgotten that they don’t have to concentrate on themselves, but that they can take their gaze off themselves and put it on God and listen deeply to each other and create beautiful, beautiful music.

One of the biggest mistakes the church ever made was taking this Great Commission and turning it into a fearful, self-righteous message of “convert or die.” That’s not what Jesus is telling us. He is looking at us with great love and saying, “Get over yourself.”

We’re not sent out with the message “convert or die” but “wake up and live.” We’re ready to play this song. All we have to do is remember that we are very good, and because we are we can set your eyes on Christ, listen deeply to each other and have our life be a symphony. Have our life be the ultimate, eternal, jam.

If there was a soundtrack for the mountain top that day. If there was a soundtrack for us as we prepare to head out from this place into the world, this would be the sound we hear.

Beloved, we are tuned and ready to play. We are very good. We know we are very good because God says we are very good. And because we remember that, we can keep our eyes on Christ, listen deeply to each other, and create incredible beauty together.

The baton is tapping.

What amazing music will flow through us next?


1 comment:

  1. Mike, I loved this sermon, and have forwarded the link to several people (especially the pastors and priests in my family.