May 8, 2016

YOU are a Child of God

Easter 7, Year C

On a warm, clear, picture-perfect Monday afternoon just two weeks ago, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, took to this pulpit to walk with us, teach us, about the Jesus Movement. He’s been on this theme of Jesus Movement for a while, so he’s had plenty of time to hone the message and adapt it to whatever audience might be listening. His sermon was probably the most energetic and lively and dynamic that this pulpit as seen in a long, long, time (if ever). George Wakefield, the well-known preacher from the Great Awakening, preached here at Christ Church in 1765 and might have brought as much thunder as Bishop Curry. Maybe. Wakefield had the reputation, but of course we don’t have a recording. (Click here for a recording of Bishop Curry's sermon.)

The Most Rev. Michael Curry
A fair number of you came up to me (and later I found out to Bishop Skirving, our bishop) and said to one or both of us: “Wow! Wasn’t that amazing! Wasn’t that just the best sermon you’ve ever heard!” (Preachers love to hear their parishioners rave about other preachers, by the way… J). It turns out that Bishop Skirving & I had a similar response: “Yes! It was a great sermon. Now what are we going to about it? Where are you going to go with it?” And not unlike the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal live, that answer did not sit well with all who asked. There is an energy and a spirit that God has blessed Michael Curry with, an energy that is infection and invigorating. It is not for our entertainment or a flash in the pan. Woe be unto us if we were to hear Bishop Curry’s message of the Jesus Movement, of evangelism through reconciliation, of living a life that reminds the world of God’s love for all of humanity (black, white, straight, gay, natural-born, immigrant, Democrat or Republican). Woe be unto us if we hear that message and do nothing about it!

Our culture and our society have dissolved to a point where too many people are hesitant to lend aid or even an ear to someone else if they have differing view or perspectives on that thing that could be so incredibly minuscule. Too often, we are more concerned with every other label someone might have and if we like those labels then we might give more credence to what we hare or see. If we don’t like those labels, then, well, might we even give them the time of day?  All of this division and partitioning and fracturing has caused us to put these different labels over the single most important identifier we have. We are all a CHILD OF GOD.

If there is a message the world needs to hear from Christians of all branches of the Jesus Movement, that’s it à That no matter what other label we put on ourselves or others or what label others try to put on us, the one that says CHILD OF GOD is the one that must show first.

During this Easter season, we heard highlights from the Book of Acts about how the Jesus Movement was spreading throughout all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth. In that process, in that movement, the disciples of Jesus who have been left to carry on his message without him have found that God, as they came to know God in the person of Jesus, could have an impact on people they never thought possible. God does this sort of thing throughout all Scriptures, using imperfect and unexpected people to accomplish the divine plan. We hear stories in the Epiphany season where Jesus reveals who he is to some unexpected people who may or may not have even been looking for the Messiah.

Beginning with the 3rd Sunday of Easter this year, where we heard the story of Saul’s Damascus Road conversion in Acts 9, we begin to see how the disciples are carrying the Jesus Movement beyond the Jewish Community to some who were known as God-fearers, like the story of Lydia we heard last week, and others who were outside that tradition, most likely like the jailer and his family in today’s reading from Acts 16. These conversions were not without controversy. Devout Jesus followers were more than a little nervous about Saul (now Paul) because he had been persecuting Christians mercilessly. Faithful Jews were more than a little concerned about Gentiles becoming followers of The Way because they understood this as a Jewish thing and questioned whether or not God could speak to or work through those born outside of the Covenant. That gets (mostly) resolved in Acts 15, if you want o tread a little more about it.

Living into the Jesus Movement, both then and now, is not without it’s costs. Followers of Jesus were beaten and jailed and disowned by their families. It cost them prestige and prominence in their communities because they took a rise to share and to be the love of Christ in a broken world. They took a risk to share Jesus’ message, not to bring more into the fold as a Child of God, but because they already were a child of God and they needed to hear it!

That’s the essence of the Jesus Movement à Not that there’s a whole world waiting to become Children of God, but there’s a whole world full of God’s Children who need to hear it, experience it, believe it. And it’s not Michael Curry’s job to tell them. At least, it’s not his alone. It’s yours. And it’s mine. And it’s ours together. And it starts with the simplest of steps. It starts with you yourself knowing that you. Are. A. Child. Of. God..

It is my inmost prayer each week that you leave this place empowered to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in the world. Today, as you go back to your seat from receiving Communion (or a blessing if you choose not to receive), you will be handed two stickers that say “I am a Child of God.” One is for you. 

Wear it as a reminder of who you are and whose you are. Put it someplace where you will see and remember that YOU are a child of God. The other one? Guess what. You get to give it away. I challenge you to give it to someone who needs to hear it, maybe for the first time. Maybe for the 300th time. Maybe your mind is already churning with who to give it to. Maybe you’re going to wait until a time that God might put someone in your path who needs that reminder.

The Jesus Movement started with small steps, too, many, many years ago, and look where we are today. Only God knows where the small steps of today’s Christians will lead.


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