I’ve been thinking about the symbolism of clerical robes, such as this one I’m wearing this morning. The founders of Protestantism replaced showy liturgical vestments with this rather boring scholar’s robe because they wanted the focus to be on the teaching of the Word – not on what they saw as vanity and spectacle. They wanted their congregants to focus on the internals, not the externals, of our faith.
This emphasis on what is being preached vs who is doing the preaching (or what they looked like) is rooted in the early Church’s determination to not make an idol of the person of Christ. This is why we do not know what Jesus the human being looked like. Every image we have of him was created long after all who actually knew him were gone.
John makes this same point. He tells us Jesus said to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Everyone in that room believed because they saw Jesus alive again, in person. But Jesus is warning them that his physical presence is actually an impediment to their ministry.
He said those who came after them would believe without seeing, and would be blessed. Jesus’ words, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive through Him, are what matters – not his physical form.
This morning I’m also reflecting on John’s beautiful summation of Jesus’ entire ministry: “Peace be with you all.” …I also see it as the shortest complete sermon in the Christian Scriptures, so perhaps I should just stop right here.
If the government dictates that we must close down the economy, then it is incumbent upon that same government to ensure that the people – ALL the people – can survive that shutdown, and have a reasonable hope of returning to fruitful and stable lives afterwards.
When I hear and read of these protests to end the COVID-19 Lockdown and re-open the Economy, what I mostly hear is fear: particularly the (well-founded) fear of losing one’s home and livelihood in the current economic shutdown.
I hear a desperate cry to return things back to the way they were, even though that is not possible. I hear the fear of people who do not have the resources they need to survive this plague for an indefinite period of time. I hear the fear of people who are grasping for hope. These protestors are yelling for “Freedom.” To me, it is clear what they mean is “Freedom From Fear”. But, they can only imagine that Freedom on their own terms: not within the context of being a member-of, and dependent upon, the society around them. They believe that Freedom from responsibility to their neighbor is the only way to survive.
Is it the Muslims? ISIS? Gays? The NRA? (Well …) Maybe Mr. Trump?
Blaming assumes we can have winners and losers; but nobody ever wins. How long will we continue this mindless charade?
Look: 50 people died, and another 53 were hospitalized. Uncounted others lost loved ones, many more will be dealing for the rest of their lives with the physical and emotional trauma they experienced that night, or caring for others forever scarred by that attack.
We see pain erupting from within the LGBTQ community because of this. You can understand why: places like Pulse are a refuge from the painful judgmental world they deal with every other moment of every day. Such refuges are now no longer safe. LGBTQ people have become a new target of domestic terrorism just when we finally seemed to be on the verge of forever setting aside homophobia.
For an LGBTQ person, this attack was very personal, and very scary: a very real threat to their own individual and communal existence, carried out against them purely because of who they are. I can’t imagine feeling like I’m living with a target painted on my back, but I’m sure many of our kindred within the LGBTQ community feel exactly that way right now.
50 people died. Thousands more will never escape the pain and fear planted within their souls that night.
This is a true story from my own life that I’ve used a couple of times for Sermon illustrations. Here it is presented as a longish “Message for All Ages”, but would also be suitable for a youth group session, or a Bible Study. The scripture reading is 1 Kings 19:1-15a, which is about Elijah’s fleeing Jezebel’s wrath and then being confronted by God while hiding in the cave on Mt. Horeb.
A helpful prop for this story would be a 6 foot tall aluminum stepladder, or perhaps a good sized photo of one.
I once had a home with a huge backyard. Since I didn’t want to spend all my time mowing the fenced back yard (and couldn’t afford a bigger mower), I bought some sheep to eat the grass. The male of the three was named Fuzzball by my daughter.
One Sunday, I decided to trim the some dead branches on trees near the house; but quickly realized that my ladder [just like this one] was far too short for the job. It was getting late, so I left the ladder leaning against a tree and went in for the night.
The next morning I opened my bedroom window a bit as I got ready for work, I liked hearing the sheep bleating to each other as they grazed on the grass.
Suddenly, a rather surprised bleat sounded through the window. No big deal – I figured one of them had gotten themselves in trouble again, which they always seemed to be doing. I figured I’d check into it when I fed them before leaving for work, and so kept tying my tie.
Then came a tremendous clatter. Running to the window, I looked out just in time to see Fuzzball running at top speed from the near corner of the yard, where the trees were, to the far corner, where his shed was.
Back in the mid 1990’s I worked for a well known conservative Christian organization. All employees of that organization were periodically required to spend a day ministering to those in need, in various ways. My role in one of those efforts was to be part of a crew that distributed food to those in need.
One of the people that I encountered that day, a very slightly built black woman, lived several blocks away from the place where we were handing out our boxes of food. The box I gave her was very heavy, so I offered to help her carry it back to her home. She gratefully accepted. She said it was only a block or two, so I didn’t worry about telling anyone what I was doing, since I figured I’d be back in just a few minutes.
We chatted as we walked along, she was quite an interesting person – but as we went on, I steadily became more and more nervous, Here I was, getting further and further away from my team, several blocks, in fact, in the middle of a one of the worst neighborhoods in the Tidewater region of Virginia. I was the only white anywhere in sight, and a red head at that! I knew that no one would be looking out for me when it was time to pack up and head back. So, I was likely to be stranded if I didn’t get back soon. I felt conspicuous, I felt alone, and I was afraid.