Monday, November 16, 2015

The Jesus Movement

Homily notes for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost  (Proper 28B, 11/15/2015)
with the Celebration of New Ministry for Deacon Ray Perica
(I rarely write my sermons completely so I don’t have a precise script of what I said during my homily. What I offer here are “Sermon Notes,” recollections of what I said, wanted to say, or should have said, all in retrospect.)


On November 2, 2015, the day after his consecration and installation as the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Curry gave a stirring video message to the Church. Watch the video or read the transcript that follows.

"God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the Way. He came to show us the Way to life, the Way to love. He came to show us the Way beyond what often can be the nightmares of our own devisings and into the dream of God’s intending. That’s why, when Jesus called his first followers he did it with the simple words, “Follow me.”
"Follow me," he said, “and I will make you fish for people."
"Follow me and love will show you how to become more than you ever dreamed you could be. Follow me and I will help you change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. Jesus came and started a movement and we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

"Near the end of Matthew’s Gospel story of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Mary Magdalene and some of the women go to the tomb to anoint his body. When they get there they find that the tomb is empty, the stone has been rolled away and there is no body there. Then they see and hear an angel who says to them, “This Jesus of Nazareth whom you seek, he is not here, he has been raised as he said he would be and he has now gone ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. It is in Galilee that the Risen Lord will be found and seen for he has gone ahead of us.”
Galilee. Which is a way of talking about the world.
Galilee. In the streets of the city.
Galilee In our rural communities.
Galilee in our hospitals.
Galilee in our office places.
Galilee where God’s children live and dwell there.
In Galilee you will meet the living Christ for He has already gone ahead of you.
"A few years ago I was in a coffee shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a few blocks away from our Diocesan House there. While in line I started a conversation with a gentleman who turned out to be a Mennonite pastor. He had been sent to Raleigh to organize a church in the community on the streets without walls. As we were talking over our coffee, he said something to me that I have not forgotten. He said the Mennonite community asked him to do this because they believed that in this environment in which we live, the church can no longer wait for its congregation to come to it, the church must go where the congregation is."
THE JESUS MOVEMENT
So, what does it mean to be in the Jesus Movement. That is, indeed, the question of a lifetime, isn’t it? It is, at least, the question of the Christian lifetime. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to be in the Jesus Movement?

I must thank Bishop Curry for his bold witness and for reminding me of the theme that my preaching should take. He has, indeed, given me a framework for decades to come. I say “remind me” because, of course, the Jesus Movement (though I never framed it in so few yet precise words) is what drew me to ordination in the first place. Sometimes it’s good to have a reminder.

What does it mean to be in the Jesus Movement? That will be fodder for many sermons to come and, I am sure, Bishop Curry will elucidate his understanding as time passes. For now, let me stick with the obvious. Being in the Jesus Movement means following Jesus, not in a moralistic sense or dogmatic sense but in a way that emulates Jesus – in a way that moves like Jesus moved. Again, that is a big topic which we will explore together over the coming weeks, months, and years.

For today, I would like to address Deacon Ray, for whom we are having the Celebration of New Ministry at this Eucharist. So here are three ways that the Deacon can and should be an example of what it means to be in the Jesus Movement.

WELCOME EVERYONE 
First, welcome everyone. Our Gospel narrative is the beginning of Mark 13, the so-called “Little Apocalypse,” in which Jesus is revealer of the coming future and heavenly reign. Apocalyptic literature is full of stark imagery and metaphor, symbols for the coming future. It is often called the literature of the dispossessed, arising out of an oppressed or alienated people. The Book of Daniel (our first reading today) came out of a Jewish group circa 165 BCE who were under the oppressive thumb of the Seleucid kings. The book of Revelation (the quintessential New Testament apocalyptic) came out of Christian persecutions during the reign of the Emperor Domitian circa 95 CE. Mark uses his apocalyptic to address Christians who have undergone suffering in the name of Jesus and will expect even more. The first Christians constituted a tiny minority of the Roman empire and necessarily placed their hope in God’s vindication, finding a reason for Jesus suffering and their own suffering in the 'soon-to-be-glory'.

Moreover, it is no accident that this “Little Apocalypse” comes immediately before the passion and the resurrection of Jesus, the one who himself was dispossessed of freedom and life to show us the way to find it. As well, the “Little Apocalypse” comes after Jesus' ministry among the people. Jesus could have told the apocalyptic story earlier in his career but he chose to wait until the very end. He waited, I think, until after he had invited all the other dispossessed to the party.
  • Remember the four women we talked about last week: one an enemy, one in a state of unholiness, one a widow, and one who dared enter the men’s club to honor Jesus. Jesus welcomed them all. 
  • Remember the man with the unclean spirit, the leper, the paralytic and blind Bartimaeus. Jesus healed them and welcomed them. 
  • Remember Simon, Andrew, James and John, all poor fishermen. Remember Levi the despised tax collector. Jesus welcomed them.
The point is: Welcome everyone. Welcome the highest and the lowest. Welcome the shy and the outgoing, the young and the old, the bold and the timid. Welcome them all because Jesus did. Welcome them all because we all need to be reminded of God’s love and the soon-to-be-glory.

PRACTICE LOVE AMONG THE OUTCAST
Second, practice great and wonderful love among the outcast. Bishop Brewer called upon you at your ordination "to show Christ’s people through your life and teaching that in serving the helpless, they are serving Christ Himself." This doesn’t really need a lot of elucidating, does it? It’s constant in the message of Jesus and the Letters. Moreover, if you will serve at this church you will be reminded of it every time you step foot in the sanctuary. You see the murals on the walls surrounding us. Dowing Barnitz has created beautiful reminders of the commission in Matthew 25: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, welcome the stranger, and comfort the sick. 

This kind of activity is exactly what Jesus did. When the five thousand were hungry, Jesus didn’t take the apostle’s advice and send the people away. Instead, Jesus had them sit down and, with seven loaves and two fish, Jesus fed the crowd. When the sick and hurting came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t just wish them well and send them on their way. Instead, Jesus healed them.

Find out who in our community is in need of healing, who is in need of being made whole. Bring their needs to our attention and, as the author of Hebrews wrote, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.”

TELL THE STORY OF LOVE
Third, tell the story among us. When Jesus came among us, Jesus proclaimed the good news of redemption and release. Jesus came among us to tell us the story of God’s love for each one of us. Ray, tell the story among us of how God loves you. It’s good news and we want to hear it. Deacon Joan, tell the story among us of how God love you. It’s good news and we want to hear it. All of you gathered here, tell the story among us of how God loves you. It’s good news and we want to hear it.

And then tell the story out there in the world. Tell the story of God’s love. Tell the story of our love. Tell the story because its great news and you want to shout it from the mounttops.

NOW IS THE TIME TO GO
Bishop Curry finished his video message of November 2, 2015, with this challenge.
"Now is our time to go. To go into the world to share the good news of God and Jesus Christ. To go into the world and help to be agents and instruments of God’s reconciliation. To go into the world, let the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love can set us all free.

"This is the Jesus Movement, and we are The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal branch of Jesus’ movement in this world.

"God bless you, and keep the faith."

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