At long last, the links for worship are up! Or at least, ready to go live at 10am, June 14th.
The worship bulletin, which now includes all the words for the liturgy, is found here.
Communion will be celebrated in this service. If you want to participate, please have some food and drink ready for that portion of the service.
The sermon manuscript is found immediately below the video. Peace be with you!
Lord God, by your Spirit teach us to obey your voice and keep your covenant so that we may resemble a priestly kingdom, a holy nation, your beloved children, in the name of Christ. Amen.
This is the 14th Sunday for us since the pandemic hit. This is the 14th Sunday of worshipping online, hoping for something familiar that resembles what once was. This is the 14th Sunday of trying desperately hard to come up with a sermon topic that isn’t related to self isolating, social distancing, and not getting a haircut (which by the way, I have an appointment later this week and I couldn’t be more excited… literally could not be more excited).
And today, on this 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, the news finally has focussed on something else. On this 24th week of 2020, the media and thus our world has shifted gears. On this 14th worship service in the season of COVID-19 pandemic, we can finally talk about something else. And if you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you know what I’m talking about. And you know it isn’t an easy subject. You know it isn’t comfortable. As nice as it is to switch those gears, you know it is just difficult to talk about racism.
Wait, you might think, didn’t we talk about racism last week? Wasn’t that enough? Well, technically I was talking about masks and how Ninja Turtles are so awesome with their masks that cover their eyes and not their mouths. But even if last week was about racism, is one sermon really enough? Is one Sunday devoted to abolishing this systemic sin in our society really enough? Is one service that could be a little awkward and maybe uncomfortable in digging out those racist tendencies that are embedded deep in our North American culture enough?
If anyone said yes, then I’m afraid that is the problem. If anyone made a joke and said one is too much, then that is the exact reason why we need to continue this work. If anyone even thought of just stopping this sermon right now to go do something else, then we are failing as a church, as a society, as a human race.
And what scares me even more, is that if I weren’t up here talking about this right now, I’d probably be saying yes, one is enough… I’d be making that joke saying that one is maybe even too much… I’d be the one thinking about how can I better spend my time this Sunday morning than to hear a rehashing of what has been said all over the news, all over social media, all over the signs of the protesters that are disrupting the otherwise peaceful lives of the law-abiding citizens of our country. So I guess I’m saying that we need to continue the work of dismantling racism, because I need work in dismantling that within myself.
So now you might be thinking, you?!? Aren’t you a visible minority? Aren’t talks about racism for your benefit too?
It’s true, I am a visible minority if you haven’t noticed. By definition, at least, as we also know that I blend in pretty well into the landscape here in the Lower Mainland. But I guess what I’m saying is that I’m tired. My heart is tired. My soul is tired of feeling the guilt of not being able to accurately describe to you all the love of Jesus; not being able to, through my actions, fully display the love of Jesus; not being able to, because of my very many shortcomings, love people like Jesus loved people. All people.
Today’s gospel lesson has Jesus feeling compassion for the harassed and helpless, and he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. And what does he do? He sends out his 12 disciples, his 12 apostles that constantly misunderstand him, inevitably fail him, and will eventually betray him. He chooses these 12 misfits and sends them to do the work that he intends to do himself. Basically, he sends those 12 untrustworthy, uneducated, undesirable nobodies to essentially be him for them.
Maybe this is why I feel so tired. Maybe this is why we often want to give up before we even start. Maybe this is why every time we see something that needs to be done we come up with a half dozen excuses as to why we just simply can’t.
We don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough money. We aren’t good with words. We aren’t good with people. We don’t have the skills or talents or knowhow or knowledge. We are but sheep being sent in the midst of wolves, so we can never be successful let alone survive. I admit, this is scary stuff.
But Jesus doesn’t send his disciples alone. He sent them as a group, a team, a community… a family. He gave them authority, gave them gifts, and gave them a purpose. He told them to go into the world with intention, with meaning, with love. And some of you with keen eyes and ears also would have noticed that he sent them specifically not to the Gentiles or Samaritans.
Weird, huh? Isn’t that the point? Where else would they go if not to those who are different from them?
No, Jesus kept them in the nation of Israel. Jesus kept them in the same house. Jesus was basically saying before you go out there, make sure you’re good in here. See even in our ranks we have people who need to be loved. Even in our midst we need people who need our care and service. Even in the church, we have people who are acting like lost sheep in desperate need of a shepherd.
And you know what the kicker is? It is probably us. If your reaction to this was “oh, I know someone who needs this kind of help”, then it’s probably us. If your automatic inclination is to think “I bet he’s talking about so-so and not about me” then it’s probably us. If your solution to the racial problem was to simply say “I’m not a racist”, then it’s probably us.
The thing is we often think everyone else is the problem that we have to solve. We think everyone else are the ones in need that we have to do something about. We think everyone else is the bigot and we’re the innocent bystander or the completely uninvolved or maybe even only the powerless victim. And maybe that is why Jesus’ mandate for us is so scary. We can’t fix everyone else. But maybe Jesus isn’t saying that at all. Maybe Jesus is saying we need to fix ourselves.
Maybe Jesus is calling us out. Where are we failing? Where are we the problem? Where are we acting like the bigot, the intolerant, the racist? And what can we do about it?
I don’t say this to make us feel bad or guilty, although that is what it might trigger. But rather, I say this to point out the fact that even though we can be failing, we can be the problem, we too can have the fatal flaws that we frown so strongly upon, that Jesus still calls us to act. Jesus still empowers us to serve. Jesus still trusts us to be him for them.
So, see the racism around us and in us. Recognise the privilege we have and use it to ally with the oppressed. Look at how we can speak love and life to all people, including ourselves. For we, as disciples, as followers of Christ, as people learning from the Living Word, are called forth in mission in spite and because of our flaws, so we can give and experience grace, love, and service.
And we aren’t called to do this alone. But we are given a community, a team, a family upon which we can draw strength, rely, and serve as we all work together with our traits and flaws for the good of God’s kingdom. Still, I know it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to look within ourselves to see how we are broken. It isn’t easy to admit that we could be the problem. It isn’t easy to dig deep and see how we are the sinner. But let’s not forget that it was in our sin that God showed us love, grace, and forgiveness and has given us people to serve and to serve us.
That was the theme of this week’s photo challenge, how have you been served (I mean in a good way) or how have you served others. This hopefully will remind us of how we can live as a community, broken but saved, sinful but forgiven, flawed but loved. Here are the submissions:
In this season after Pentecost, let us recognise our privilege and our faults and use that to serve and ally with those who are harassed and oppressed, that we together can reflect God’s kingdom of community and family in spite of diversity, by the teachings of Christ by the power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God. Amen.