Monday, April 29, 2013

A New Thing, Love Everyone

          Take a minute to look around the sanctuary. How many different shoe sizes do you think there are? How many different shades of hair color do you see? How would you group the different ages represented here? Look around at the clothes we’re all wearing. How many different styles do you see? How many different colors?
          There’s quite a bit of variety here this morning, different colors, different ages, different shapes and sizes, a lot of diversity. Yet, we’re all here to worship our God…and he doesn’t discriminate because we’re different. He loves us one and all because we’re his creation, his children.
          It hasn’t always been like this…and it’s still not where it should be. Look back in time to the Civil War that divided this country…and remember the racism of the 50’s and 60’s. Remember when women didn’t have the privilege to cast votes. Remember when women were first elected elders.  Remember the first women ordained as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament. And what about the discussions today, about same sex marriage and the civil rights associated with those…discussions that have and are dividing churches and denominations and families. And racism has it been totally eradicated? What about those coming across the borders looking for work so they can support their families back home? Is our nation making them welcome here?
          How does our reading from Acts speak to us now? Are we living the gospel we heard read today? Or…are our hearts convicted by these lessons?
          Changing our paradigms isn’t easy. Look how long it’s taken us to get where we are today and we aren’t anywhere close to where Jesus asked us to be.
          So, how do we get from where we’re at today to that place Jesus spoke of, that world where we all love each other, that place where everyone is accepted just the way they are?
          God sent a vision and an angel to Peter and Cornelius…and they listened and believed. Jesus spoke directly, face to face, to his disciples instructing them to love each other as he loved them. For the most part I think they did that. So, what’s happened?
          Where’s the love today? Where can we find examples of this total inclusion God showed to Peter?
          I believe there are people working to bring an end to racism, genocide, and prejudice and bigotry but doesn’t it seem to you like they’re fighting a losing battle? Why?
          Friends, we need to look within for the answers. We need to ask ourselves, “What am I doing to spread the love of God in the world?” What am I doing to end racism, prejudice, and injustice in my community, in my church? How am I supporting those who are in the frontlines of this battle?
          Friends, it’s no longer “us and them.”  If we truly believe what we say we do then it’s all of us together, one people, one church, working to share God’s love with the world no longer believing that these folks are where they’re at because that’s what they deserve.
          They deserve our love. They deserve a place here in our sanctuary. They deserve a place at our table.
          Christ died for them…and us. We’re all his children and we don’t deserve such love yet he loved us anyway. He loves us anyway. That’s grace.
          We’re asked by Jesus to love one another as he loved us. We’re asked to share the grace of Jesus Christ with everyone, not just those we think have earned it. No one can earn God’s grace.
          That’s really what these scriptures are about, grace, God’s grace. And we’re so miserly we can hardly part with even a little bit of it. Yet God still loves us.
          God’s love doesn’t have any fences around it. He doesn’t have any laws that prevent us from receiving his love so why do we think some don’t deserve it?
          Just think where we’d be today if the old laws were still in place, the Law that God gave Moses. That’s not a pretty picture. The priests would be busy full-time, 24-7, offering sacrifices for our sins.
          Jesus said that his yoke was easy. Isn’t it easier to love one another than to try and keep all the commandments? Yet, when I listen to the news apparently it isn’t.
          Friends, if the world is ever going to be a better place to live then it begins right here in this place today with you and me. If not us, then who?
          I beg you right now this very minute make a commitment that you will love every one you encounter this week, everyone. Even the ones who are like sandburs in your sock. Love them unconditionally. We can with God’s help. We can with Jesus. The Holy Spirit reminds us all the time what Jesus said, “Love one another as I’ve loved you.”
          If there was a law against being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict any of us? This day, this week, let’s begin to change the world beginning right here in our church, in our community.
          God loves you my friends. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

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