- January 31st, 2016
- Jeremiah 1:4-10
- Psalm 71:1-6
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
- Luke 4:21-30
The prophets had, historically, and uneviable task. They came to bring bad news to powerful people, and good news to the hopeless. They served as advisers to the king and leaders of people. They were often scorned, mocked, derided, and banished. Elisha and Elijah are classic examples of this. They were sometimes really well respected members of the court, like Nathan and Isaiah. But they were always uncomfortable, and they had to wrestle, all the time, as their loyalty to their kind and people jutted into their loyalty to God. They had to love their people enough to be hated by them; they had to love their people enough to tell the truth. They had to love their people like God did—to love and risk everything on that love, and continue to work through love until the people responded in kind.
The people we elect to office have try to be both prophet and king and revolutionary war hero, all at once. They work in alchemy, mixing the elements of inspiration, fear, loathing, apathy, and anger. There are 390 million of us in this country, and none of us think alike. I don’t know if it’s this election or not, but it seems like people are more scared than usual, maybe more tired of the race than usual, maybe just too fed up. And, of course, we have a highly monetized and insatiable media machine that profits on keeping things tense and dramatic, and we have to tweet our feelings and rage on Facebook, and read endless headlines about how these of those 25 things are reasons why Bernie Sanders can win or why your cat actually hates you, and none of them are based on anything real, on anything than a passing spasm of feeling. I wonder if our intensely media-saturated lives prevent us from taking a breath and apply the cold mind and warm heart that citizenship requires, but I also want to know how to test that hypothesis. There is no glory, and little profit, it seems, in the union of reason and love, even when it seems that we require it.
I do not, as far as I can tell, have the gift of prophecy. This is the day of our annual meeting, and as our Pastor, I am privileged to give a report on our church. Some people call these reports, jokingly, “State of the Parish” reports. But there our politics creeps in, and I would hate to talk for 45 minutes and bore you all to tears. In my report, I try to take some stabs at things we could do as a congregation. I will try to tell you where I see God working among us and what I think our gifts as a community are. And we have many exciting things going on here, and many exciting possibilities for the future, especially when we finish our capital campaign. But I say all this knowing that the important part of our life together, the most important thing we can say, is that God loves us, and has gathered us here so we can love one another and the world God has made, no matter what happens, no matter what. The best thing we can do as a congregation is continue to focus on the work before us, the gifts that God gives us, the good news of Christ Jesus for us and for all. Whether it’s Trump or Hillary or neither, God has brought us to shine like lights in the world, reflecting his glory, offering his love.
I think Paul has it right, when he says, “Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part, but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.” Love never stops working. The English translation here does not make as clear as it might that Paul believes love is active and busy—it works. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
As a community, we bear with one another, we believe together, we hope together, and as many of you here know, we endure together. We can do these things together because God’s love among us keeps working. It works in us and through us, and because God loves us so much, we can continue working in love for one another. God’s love never ends—it never stops. It keeps on going, no matter what the prophets of our day will say.
And so, when we have these times in our country and in our nation, I think it’s important to remember that God is still at work: God’s love never stops working. God’s love never ends. And when you feel afraid or scared or just plain bewildered by the world, remember that love abides. You can have faith in that. You can place your hope in that. And you can build your life around that—God doesn’t stop working, God’s love never fails, it never ends. And it abides among us—love doesn’t stop among us either. As a community that calls upon God, we will find our calling in the work we do to love one another, to care for one another, and to care for all that God has made, in dark times and in light. Amen.