Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Some wounds we can't hide. Some wounds we learn to hide really well." -- a sermon for Advent 3

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, December 15, 2013.

Some wounds we can’t hide.

Mary is 12. She likes climbing trees almost as much as she likes teasing her younger brother. She’s great at math and hates to clean her room. Mary is also bald. The treatment for her leukemia made all her hair fall out.

Steve is 58. He can make the keys of a piano sing and tell jokes that would make Chris Rock blush. But people don’t like to be around him because he doesn’t smell too good. But there’s not much he can do about that because since he got kicked out of his apartment, he doesn’t have a place to sleep much less take a shower.

Some wounds we can’t hide.

Some wounds we learn to hide really well.

There’s 9-year old Lauren, who is being sexually abused by her stepfather for the past 3 years but has learned never to tell anyone because he said she’ll get taken away from her mom if anyone finds out.

There’s Kris and Rebecca, whose marriage has turned from passionate partners to disengaged roommates even though everyone thinks they’re the perfect couple.

There’s Dave, who at 45 finds himself in a job he hates with no idea what else to do with his life. He’s perfected the smile he flashes when he says “Things are great!”

Some wounds we learn to hide really well.

Some wounds we can’t hide, and some wounds we learn to hide. But all our wounds have two things in common.

First, we all have them. Every one of us has some wound, some pain, some brokenness in our lives.

And second, one of the worst things about each of these wounds – seen and unseen – is how they can divide us from each other.

The wounds we can see make us conscious of our differences. We don’t know what to say to Mary or her parents so we treat them differently or smile and walk away. Steve makes some of us feel uncomfortable – not just because of his odor, but because we feel guilty and don’t know how to help.

But the wounds we don’t see separate us from each other, too. Silence isolates. Silence is the lonely killer The more we hide those wounds, the more we distance ourselves from others, the more we believe we have to put up a front and the more we end up living a lie and pretending to be someone we’re not.

Some wounds we can’t hide, and some wounds we do. We all have them and they can tear us apart.

And then there’s Jesus.

In this morning’s Gospel, John the Baptist is asking about Jesus, and Jesus says,

"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

Jesus says … John wants to know if I am the one you’ve been waiting for. Check this out. Wounds are being healed.

We spend this season of Advent preparing for what we experience every week when we gather together – the transforming, healing presence of Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. God with us. Emmanuel.

God come to take all of our wounds and bind them, all of our brokenness and make it whole.

We’re used to hearing these words of Jesus “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers cleansed, deaf hear, dead raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” We’re used to hearing them and thinking that Jesus is talking about someone else. That what we do as Christians is to go help “those people” in Jesus’ name.

But deep inside, in those places we don’t talk about, we know different. We know “those people” are us. That we are blind, lame, sick, deaf, poor and even dying or afraid we are already dead.

We are all broken and wounded. And most of us spend 167 of the 168 hours in a week either trying to pretend we’re fine or trying to pretend the obvious ways we’re not fine don’t need to matter that much.

And then we come here. And for one hour … OK, a little more than one hour … we have a chance to be different. We have a chance to hold our heads high and take all our wounds – the ones we can’t hide and the ones we have gotten so good at hiding. To take them and give them to Jesus, and have him make us whole.

The Eucharist is an amazing gift. It is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. During the first week of Advent, we heard about how we begin our service with the liturgy of the Word … catching glimpses of God’s epic love affair with humanity and seeing us as God dreams us, as one people, together united and turned toward God.

Last week, we talked about the confession, the absolution and the peace. How after hearing that story, we realize all the ways we have fallen short. We name all the ways we have misused creation and broken relationship with God, creation and one another. And then in the absolution and the peace we proclaim that there is no us and them, only we. And that we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord and we dedicate our lives to being that one people, together united and turned toward God.

And the peace ends with a sentence. When I preside at the Eucharist, I stand in front of you and say

“I appeal to you sisters and brothers, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

That sentence describes perfectly what happens next. The bread, the wine and whatever we put in those baskets that gets brought up to the altar is a mere placeholder. What we are really laying on the table is ourselves, our souls and bodies. The sacrifice God wants is our lives – we are a living sacrifice. But it is not a sacrifice of appeasement to a vengeful or angry God. It is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to a God who adores us so much God was born as one of us and died rather than stop loving us.

It is taking our whole lives … all our joys and yes, all of our wounds, and laying them on the table. And that sacrifice of our lives is holy. And it is acceptable. It is how we worship God. We worship God by giving our lives to God. By laying our lives on this table.

But we do not lay our lives on this table alone. Because someone else’s life is on this table, too … the life of Jesus the Christ. And our lives get mixed up with one another’s and with Christ’s. And the job of the priest is not a zap. It is not a presto-chango, hey look over there … voila! The job of the priest is to lead the people in laying their lives on the table with Christ, in telling the story of how in the same way Christ laid down his life for us, and then to direct our attention to all those lives lying mixed up together – my life, your life, Christ’s life … and to say “do you see that?” Something new is happening!

You know those wounds that you have? They’re still there. But they aren’t just yours now, they’re ours. Maybe when you walked in it was Mary with cancer and Steve who needed a shower and Lauren who was being abused and Kris and Rebecca whose marriage is dying and Dave who feels like he is slowly dying too … but now we all carry those wounds. Because we’re not just individuals anymore. We’re the Body of Christ. And as Thomas helped Jesus teach us in that upper room after the resurrection, the way you know it’s Jesus is “show me the wounds. “ No wounds. No Jesus.

And so when we come forward to receive the Eucharist, what we receive isn’t just a piece of bread, and it isn’t even just a “piece of Jesus.” It’s a piece of all of us. We offer our lives on the table – wounds and all – and we receive new life in return. And the new life we receive is a piece of each of our lives and a piece of Christ’s.

And why I say at the presentation of the gifts each week “be what you see, receive who you are” is because it’s true. What we are receiving in the Eucharist is the Body of Christ we become. We become the living embodiment of the love of Christ that destroys the “us and them,” leaving only the we.

We become the Body of Christ, wounded but not separate. Together in all our pain and together in all our joy.

We become the body of Christ, the living enfleshment of the healing power of love, the most powerful force this universe has ever and will ever know.

And of course the wounds don’t magically disappear in the Eucharist because this isn’t magic. This is love. And yes, love heals like no other power in the universe, but we all know that love takes time. Jesus said “Lo, I am with you always” because sometimes the healing power of love takes a long, long time.

But love does heal. Love heals absolutely. And when we take that bread and when we drink that wine, we are proclaiming that we are in it together and that Christ is in it with us for as long as it takes for the healing power of love to do its thing.

That’s why as former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says, when we come to the table together, we need to have excellent peripheral vision. We need to not just concentrate on us being fed but see the person on our right and on our left being fed and ask ourselves, how can I be a part of the healing power of Christ’s love in their life. After all. There is no us and them. There is only we.

And that is the best news ever. And if you want to know the attitude we should have when we approach the table, all you ever have to do is watch some of our youngest members of Christ’s Body. A couple weeks ago, I was standing behind the rail and Lorne Trolard practically jumped out of his dad’s arms with a grin so big I thought it was going to explode off the sides of his face, hand outstretched unable to contain himself he wanted the Body of Christ so bad. And I said to Anne and Perry … THAT KID GETS IT! He was reaching for that bread like it was the best thing in the word and like his life depended on it. And you know what? It is and it does!

Some wounds we can’t hide. Some wounds we learn to hide really well. But in here. At this table. We don’t have to hide any wounds.

In here, at this table, there is no such thing as your wound or my wound.

In here. At this table, we are all blind, lame, lepers, deaf, dead and poor – each of us and all of us together.

And we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

We lay our lives down and just like in the stillness of that Bethlehem night for which we wait, the true Christ enters in.

And the angels sing.

And love heals.

And we are bound together in Christ forever.


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