Sermons

"The Way of Love," Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

"The Way of Love," Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Jul 08, 2018

Passage:Mark 6:1-13

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Pentecost

Category: Love

Keywords: relationship, "the way of love, " right, "rule of life"

Summary:

You can be right or you can be in relationship. Or maybe we can be right through relationship if we are following in the way of Jesus as he spreads God's message of love. As the people of Jesus' hometown closed their hearts and minds to the possibilities of his message, we, too, can get stuck in the perspectives of our own worlds. Jesus is offering us "Good News" that calls us to follow him. This week Presiding Bishop Curry unveiled a "rule of life" called "The Way of Love." This is a rule of life that frees us to love and live in peace with God, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

There’s a saying that goes something like this:  “you can be right or you can be in relationship.”  The assumption is that relationships can’t survive if we always have to be the one who’s right in a disagreement.  Sometimes we have to give up our position of being “right” in order to preserve our connections to one another.  Maybe this saying is true..., but maybe it’s also not entirely accurate.  Maybe there’s more to it than just being right or saving the relationship.

This past week, I had the privilege of attending General Convention for two days.  Remember that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church meets for two weeks only every three years.  It is filled with wonderful worship, prayer, fellowship, and discernment about the current state and future of the church.  This year, our Episcopal brothers and sisters are meeting in Austin.  And you can even follow them online to see what’s happening.

My observation of this process is that it’s hard work!  Committees, deputies, and bishops often start at 7:30 in the morning and don’t complete their daily meetings until 9 or 10 at night.  Of course, there are breaks and times to enjoy one another, but these people squeeze every minute they can out of those two weeks to make sure that they’re making decisions for the whole church that are loving and just.

And let me tell you this is a lot more complicated than it sounds!  Before convention, I read many of the resolutions and thought I knew what the implications would be and whether I supported them or not.  But...once I got there and started listening to all of the different voices from around this very diverse church, I became much less sure of myself. 

I sometimes think of the whole Episcopal Church from my point of view here in the Diocese of Northwest Texas.  But at events like this, I’m reminded that the church and its worship can look very different despite sharing a Book of Common Prayer.  If I live in Southern California vs. New York City vs. Birmingham vs. the Virgin Islands vs. Dallas vs. Amarillo, I will see the church from very different sets of eyes.

And because we’re a church of the via media, the “middle way,” we’re called to hear and make room for the voices from all of these different churches.  As I discovered, this takes a lot of listening with an open mind and an open heart.

It’s part of the struggle that’s going on in today’s passage from Mark.  Jesus has been traveling the country, teaching and preaching and performing miracles.  He has thousands of followers. 

Then he comes home....  He comes back to his hometown...the place he grew up.  Everyone knows him and he knows them. 

They watched little Jesus grow up at Mary and Joseph’s house.  They’ve known him since he was a little boy, since he used to play with his brothers and sisters and other children in town.  We have no reason to believe that he grew up isolated in his parents’ home waiting to become “Jesus the Man.”  He was surely as much a part of the community as any child.  The people of this town most likely witnessed the ups and downs of his growing up. 

Now, here’s Jesus, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joses and Simon and his sisters.  Mark is clear that the people know Jesus and his family.  They’re part of this community. 

Jesus begins teaching in the synagogue.  He’s teaching to these people he’s known and loved his whole life.  “Many who heard him were astounded.”  Then they start to question...wait...isn’t this Jesus, our Jesus?  Their faith begins to waver and they become offended at Jesus.  They start off allowing themselves to be open to Jesus’ teaching.  But then reject him.  They can’t see beyond their own perspectives, their own little corner of the world.  How can “little Jesus who grew up here” teach us anything worth knowing?  This is way outside their comfort zones!

Their hearts and minds close.  Jesus recognizes this and admonishes them that “prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kind, and in their own house.” 

They can only see him from the perspective that they have always seen him.  They can’t open their hearts and minds to the possibility that he brings them the “Good News.” Their own stubbornness is the obstacle to receiving the love and healing that Jesus is trying to give them.

At General Convention this week, one of the highlights was hearing our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry preach at the opening Eucharist.  Many of us heard Bishop Curry when he preached right here at St. Andrew’s two years ago.  And many others heard Bishop Curry preach at the royal wedding a couple of months ago.  He is such a gifted and passionate preacher!  He has a way of opening our hearts and minds to the powerful love of God.

As part of his sermon, he addressed the many voices and perspectives that people are bringing to convention in order to discern the needs of the church.  Each of these voices has a story to tell.  Each of these voices has a reason for his or her opinion.  Each of these voices loves the Episcopal Church and wants what’s best for it. 

And when there is this kind of diversity and passion, there is disagreement.  Discerning the needs of The Episcopal Church is complicated.  It’s hard.  It’s messy.  It’s uncomfortable. 

And it should be.  This is important work.  It impacts our lives and our faith now and for generations to come.  It impacts our worship.  It impacts our evangelism.  It impacts the world—how people understand God.

And this isn’t just the work that happens at convention.  This is the same work that we do in our daily lives as we try to follow in the way of Jesus.  When we get up each morning, we face hard, complicated, messy, uncomfortable challenges as we try to live as Christians. 

We know this.  But what we really want to know is...how? How do we do faithfully follow Jesus each and every day?

In his sermon, the Presiding Bishop said that we, as Christians, already have the tools to walk this path as followers of Jesus.  The Christian church has as one of its earliest practices the best tool to help us live lives of Christian love—it’s the “rule of life.”

Now some of us may be familiar with “rule of life.”  We may have read or attempted a rule of life that can be very structured and sometimes feels overwhelming.  But Bishop Curry introduced a new “rule of life” for the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.  It’s called “The Way of Love.”  The Way of Love gives us a framework for organizing our lives by putting love at the center of everything we do.

Bishop Curry outlines seven practices that we’ll be talking about more about in the future.  But I want to present them briefly for us today.  These practices help us walk in this way of love:

  • Turn—pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus.
  • Learn—reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings
  • Pray—dwell intentionally with God each day
  • Worship—gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God, especially joining in the Holy Eucharist whenever we can
  • Bless—share faith and unselfish give and serve
  • Go—cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus
  • Rest—receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration because we need rest, our souls & bodies & minds need rest to continue in the work of God

When we adopt these practices, we’ll have to step out of our own comfort zones.  We’ll have to move beyond our own perspectives to see ourselves and each other through the eyes of God’s love.  But following these practices will  give us a renewed sense of strength and hope as we try to walk in the path of Christ each and every day. 

It will still be hard.  It will still be complicated.  It will still be messy.  And it will definitely be uncomfortable.

  • .. what if it helps us grow into the people that God is calling us to be?
  • What if it leads us to a life that’s filled with purpose and meaning?
  • What if it frees us to give love and receive love in ways that are beyond our imaginations?

Maybe it’s not always a choice of being right or caring for our relationships.  Maybe the Good News that Jesus proclaims about God’s love asks us to be right through our relationships. 

Maybe allowing ourselves to be soaked with the life-giving and liberating love of God is what’s right.  Maybe sharing in that life-changing love with others is what transforms us and the world.  This is the Way of Love that breaks open every possibility for a world that is filled with more love and peace than we can imagine.  Amen.