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Mother Ann’s sermon preached Aug. 30, 2020

Posted by on Sun, Aug 30, 2020 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons

The 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Saint Michael’s Kind of Love

August 30, 2020


Recently I’ve been reading a book that my niece recommended. Her teenagers are currently transitioning from high school to college, and she is taking stock of what parenting looks like now. What new roles and relationships are being forged? What gifts can one generation offer another? What is the unfinished business of the family?

As I read I’m realizing that the tie linking generation to generation thrives on give and take. Circumstances change over time, and so the specifics keep varying, but the trusting mutuality goes on. This generative process seems to be what Paul has in mind when he begins, “Let love be genuine.” Listen to Paul’s markers for recognizing genuine love:

Emphasize the good things in life, and avoid dwelling on bad things when you can.
Strive to show one another respect.
Put real energy into your relationships.
Be patient during struggles, and do your best to encourage hope.
Look for ways to make a contribution, and honor others’ needs as well as your own.
Show empathy for what others are experiencing.
Be slow to retaliate when you have been offended, doing whatever you can to keep the peace.

Paul’s list is wide-ranging and comprehensive, but he is laser focused when he arrives at his conclusion: God takes a personal stake in our human actions.  God cares deeply that we learn to live with one another in loving ways. If some remain stubbornly selfish, God, like any devoted parent, will ultimately lose patience. But things really don’t need to come to that, when loving examples abound.

For instance recently St. Michael’s recast its mission statement in terms of love, that is “Illuminating Christ’s love on the Eastside.” That is an amazing mission to be pursuing today, given all the divisions, disrespect, dropped balls, disgruntlements, and anxieties of the present moment.  The Eastside, like everywhere else in America, is literally gasping for a breath of fresh air.  In light of our current situation, listen to Paul’s list again:

Emphasize the good things in life, and avoid dwelling on bad things when you can.
Strive to show others respect.
Put real energy into relationships.
Be patient during struggles, and do your best to encourage hope.
Look for ways to make a contribution, and welcome others’ needs as well as your own.
Show empathy for what others are experiencing.
Be slow to retaliate when you have been offended, doing whatever you can to keep the peace.

As St Michael’s openly embodies genuine love, our witness gives God a resource to work with here on the Eastside. You see, hypocritical love is on offer all over the place, among groups and networks fueled by whatever they are against.  Mutual empathy and exertion get rationed and reserved for insiders who share the energizing hostility.  Outsiders are disdained and dismissed. The tie that binds in this context is fake love. Paul is painfully familiar with this destructive us-versus-them kind of living, and as an antidote he prescribes genuine love.  The word genuine here literally translates “anti-hypocritical,” that is stripping away the pretense to love.  Genuine love is the divine solvent for the toxins of antagonism, and a balm for bridge-burning in combat.   St Michael’s provides a place where strangers and seekers can enter and experience Christ’s healing love in action.

Next week Mother Katherine returns from vacation, and fresh beginnings are always opportunities for growth.  In light of Paul’s urging, perhaps welcoming her back might include talk about more intentional  ways to let our illumination shine on strangers and seekers.  I wonder what would happen if you and I, as we heard neighbors lamenting current times, thought to mention how much we are helped by what we find at St Michael’s.  Just hearing that such a place exists could be encouraging. I wonder what would happen if we were prepared to talk about the difference that our relationships of respect, empathy and hope are making in our daily lives.  Just to feel this vision kindled could bring hope.

Now you pick up my line of questioning and run with it. What other gifts might St Michael’s offer to strangers and seekers on the Eastside? What new roles and relationships might we forge? What unfinished business in God’s Kingdom could we advance?  As Paul has vividly shown us this morning, God’s dynamism of genuine love thrives on the kind of give and take St. Michaels lives every day. Amen.

© 2020 The Rev. Dr. Ann P. Lukens. All rights reserved.


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