Sunday, May 13, 2012

"We will see you ... tomorrow night.... and the next day ... and the next!" -- a sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, May 13, 2012

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

 Stay standing for a moment. If you can’t stand. Try this sitting or just watch.

Bend down and curl up. Crouch down. Turn into yourself.

Now hold that for just a second.

Now slowly open up. Arms raised. Head upward.

What did the first feel like?
What did the second feel like?
What did the transition feel like? OK … you can sit down now.

 On a Thursday night late last October, the Cardinals twice were down to their last strike. And if you hadn’t gone to bed, you were rewarded with a moment that you will remember forever. In the bottom of the 11th inning of Game Six, David Freese stepped to the plate at Busch Stadium and it sounded like this:

 How many of you saw that?

Now when you saw that, how many of you went like this (crouch)? NO! The entire city of St. Louis was like this (arms upraised).

For this whole city it was a moment of pure unadulterated joy. Man, Schroedter, Hayden and I almost destroyed part of our house we were jumping and dancing around so much! It wasn’t just that the Cardinals had won. It was that twice it had seemed like it was over. Twice it looked like this great impossible ride that began when we were 10 ½ games out in late August was going to fall just short.

And then Freese hit his triple in the 9th and his homer in the 11th. And we knew not only was it not over. We knew that dreams could come true.

And we went like this (arms upraised). Do you remember? Do you remember not just with your mind? Do you remember with your heart? Do you remember in your body?

 In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus says “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

There’s a refrain from an Indigo Girls song that sings “the hardest to learn was the least complicated.”

Man, that is so true. You know, we can learn the most complex things. We can build supercomputers and perform microsurgery. We can learn to hit an inside slider and dance the Lindy Hop. If you stop by Pi Pizzeria on March 14, you will hear people who can recite from memory pi—you know 3.14159 – who can recite that to more than 200 digits … for a T-shirt!

We can learn just about anything. We can remember just about anything. But somehow it is so easy for us to forget what Jesus says here.

 “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

It’s so simple. It truly is the least complicated. But still over and over again, we manage to forget.

We forget that this is all supposed to be about joy. We forget that God’s dream for us is all about joy. We forget that following Jesus is all about joy. We forget that being the church is all about joy.

And that’s not a criticism. Sometimes it’s hard to see how we could remember. We are surrounded and consumed by so much that pulls our attention from joy to fear. The media brings anger and conflict into our lives 24 hours a day. We are told to fear everything … fear the economy, fear crime, fear each other – particularly those who are different from us. Fear for our children. Fear for our parents. Fear that we are just one strike away from it all collapsing down. Fear that if we swing away, that ball won’t connect with the bat and instead we’ll hear the thud of horsehide in a catcher’s mitt while we flail helplessly with the whole world watching.

And in our fear we start to believe that the posture for life is this. (curl up).

But we come together in this place to hear a different message. We come together here to remember and learn the simple truth that Jesus brings us. That we don’t have to be like this (curled). That we can be like this (uplifted). That Christ’s dream for us is joy. Christ’s joy in us. And our joy being full.

 So how do we do it? How do we remember? How do we embrace? How do we go from this (curled up) to this (arms raised)?

Jesus says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

That’s how we do it. We love one another. We lay down our lives for one another.

 Lay down our lives. Now that sounds like a chore, doesn’t it? That sounds like obligation. It’s not. It’s about joy. It is our greatest joy to lay down our lives for each other.

 It’s all about going from this (curled up) to this (arms raised).

And the way we do that is to give ourselves away.

And we already know this. We know this because the greatest moments of our lives come when we have done this. Everyone who shows up on Saturday morning to serve at Miss Carol’s breakfast or heads down to the Bridge for the Sunday lunch does it not out of obligation but because there is something in giving ourselves away that puts Christ’s joy in us and makes our joy full. We give our lives away as spouses and partners, as mothers and fathers, as teachers and friends. And when we do sometimes it is painful. Sometimes it is hard. But those are also the moments, those are also the relationships that bring us the deepest celebration. The deepest joy. The deepest this (arms upraised).

 And in those moments we know that our lives are a gift not to be jealously and fearfully guarded, but to be extravagantly and joyfully given away.

We are entering an exciting season as Christ Church Cathedral. In the coming weeks and months, our Chapter will be inviting us to gatherings where together we will imagine what God dreams for us to be as not just a Cathedral congregation but a Cathedral for the city of St. Louis. Where we will look at scripture, at our history and tradition and at the world both within this Cathedral and without and imagine who God is calling us to be as Christ’s body today and into the future. How exciting is that?

 I’m not going to presume to guess what that dream might look like, or what specific Christian values are going to emerge that have us raising our arms and saying “Yes, this is who we are!” “Yes! This is what makes God do this (arms up) when we embrace.” But I will guarantee us one thing, ‘cause it’s right here in the Gospel.

I guarantee that whatever we realize God’s dream for us is. Whatever Christian values we believe we are called to embody. Whatever mission we commit to undertake it will not be for ourselves but for the world whom Jesus loves.

Our destiny as the Cathedral for this diocese, our destiny as the Cathedral for this city and this region is not holding on tightly to what we have, not curling up into ourselves, but throwing open our doors and giving ourselves and this glorious space away in love. Throwing open our doors and going out into the streets. Throwing open our doors and inviting the world in here. Throwing open our doors and living out loud our faith in one who looks deep in our hearts and reminds us that our lives are not possessions to keep but gifts to be given away.

We’ve been through a rough few years together. And we have gone through it together. We have had times of great pain and fear and moments of deep beauty and joy. And we still have a couple big strikes against us. We’ve got a $70,000 deficit that we’ve got three years at the outside to erase. We’re still too staff dependent and have newcomers, hospitality and children’s ministries that are suffering greatly because of it.

But, you know, this is St. Louis. And if last October taught us anything, it’s that two strikes means we’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em. And we’ve got a big swing left in us. A swing of loving the world as Christ loves us. A swing of rejecting fear and throwing open our doors and laying down our lives. A swing whose sound when it connects will echo throughout this city and this region and signal that Christ is alive at Christ Church Cathedral. Come one. Come all. We will see you tomorrow night … and the next day … and the next…. and the next … and the next.

We’ve got a big swing left in us. But we’ve gotta get the bat off our shoulder. How is Christ inviting you to be a part of it? How is Christ inviting us to throw open the doors of this Cathedral and love the world more extravagantly?

How is Christ inviting us to go from this (curled up) … to this (arms raised)?

Amen. Alleluia!

No comments:

Post a Comment