(Hebrews 12, not read)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is Rally Day. Summer days are changing into school days even while summer is still going on. Welcome! to a new school year and to Sunday School, bible study, choir rehearsals, Brews Blues and News, book studies, service and advocacy work, Family Fridays, Luther League, confirmation class, and soon house churches.
We rally because it is fun to be together, to learn together, and to experience ourselves as part of the body of Christ. Together we can do things we can’t do by ourselves. It’s a good day and good to be here with all you rallied children of God.
The bulletin cover reads, When God comes close to us. This is our motto for the program year. Our children are familiar with these words. They come from the stories of the people of God we tell on Sundays. We think it is a motto that reaches way beyond our classrooms, into the fabric of life here and out there.
God came so close to Abram, and Abram came so close to God, that Abram knew what God wanted him to do. God came so close to Abram and Abram came so close to God, that Abram knew what God was saying: You and Sarai will be parents of a great family. It sounded impossible but that is what God said. And so it happened.
Moses who was leading the people of Israel away from the Pharaoh, when they were at the Red Sea with the army chasing after them, God came so close to Moses and Moses came so close to God, that Moses knew how to take the people through the water into freedom. Same way when Moses was at the top of Mount Sinai, God came so close to Moses and Moses came so close to God that Moses knew what God wanted him to do – write the Ten Best Ways to Live on stones and take them to the people.
When God comes close to us and we come close to God – dear children, dear friends, that is the moment we know, this is when we begin seeing, this is when we know what to do. It sounds so simple, you may brush it off as child’s talk, but – is not this what we spend years of our time on, trying to simply find out, to know, to see clearly, what God wants us to do? When God comes close – it is called revelation, being in the presence of the living God – and all of a sudden, we know, we see.
When God comes close to us. This sentence goes to the center of our faith, right to the heart of Christ’s presence with us. The language of closeness repeats in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ work was to come close to people, especially the people no one else wanted to come close to.
Do you remember how Jesus called to the bent over woman in the synagogue?, and when she approached, he said to her, Woman, you are set free from your illness. And then he laid both his hands on her. When Jesus touched her she immediately stood up straight and began to praise God. (Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name!)
Jesus’ work was coming close to people, especially those no one else wanted to come close to. When Jesus came close to people, they changed. They could see things they could never see before. They could do things they could never do before. They became well.
Sisters and brothers, God comes close to us, when we come close and pay attention; when we pay attention to God and to each other. God comes close when we with our heart, our eyes, our ears, our mind see the other, and actually respond to what we see.
I sometimes wonder, what happens in our homes, in our schools, in break rooms, in board rooms, in teacher meetings, in local and national government? Do we even see each other?, pay attention to those who cry for help, do we employ our capacity for love, our generosity for welcome? Do we even know how to pay attention to our own, whole selves?
When God comes close to us, sisters and brothers, and we listen, allow ourselves to be touched, we become well, and our urge to work toward healing grows large; our capacity for love, our generosity, our will to make things right grow large. People to whom God comes close do not sit around and wait.
There is a lot going on that I find very hopeful. Signs that people are paying attention, signs that allow me to see Christ’s healing touch wake up people and change their ways. I find it actually amazing in this time that seems so much more bent on cracking down, closing to the need of neighbor, dismantling relationships that make for peace, insisting on scare tactics.
Some examples of hope. They are issues we have dealt with for a very long time.
That the climate is changing, glaciers melting, sea levels rising, global temperature rising, and that is has to do with the ways we live – this is so much more widely shared knowledge now than before. People are talking about the environment, how to reduce our human impact. Hopefully you are paying attention, and faithfully fill your green recycling bin, reducing the amount of paper and plastic that you use.
That children and youth were abused in churches by trusted leaders was not unknown; that women have been abused, are paid less, and not that long ago weren’t considered full persons, was not unknown, reported in many cases, but we got away by not paying attention. The unspeakable pain of victims, which Christ has touched and suffered himself, has finally broken the deafening silence and people pay attention, let God come close and come close to God. We are going in the right direction.
Another sign of hope toward the long road of healing is the confrontation of racism. We are, it seems, only beginning to learn how deep seated our racism is. Ironically, as white supremacy and survival theories spread, people start paying attention to racism, wanting to learn how we are racist even without knowing it. The Project 1619 is here to help. It refers to the 400 year anniversary of the first African slaves arriving in Virginia, I am hopeful that not only history will be taught differently but love and humanity will actually grow and we become well together.
When God comes close to us, and we come close to God, dear sisters and brothers, amazing things happen. In circles small and large. Our witness, our presence to Christ, our attentiveness to human need and what is right, changes life; it is felt in classrooms and city hall, changes conversations at the dinner table and in board rooms. When we allow Christ’s healing touch to touch ourselves, we know what God wants us to do and say.
Let us rally then, often, every Sunday, because together love grows large and hope goes deep. Because together we come close to God and God comes close to us. And we become well. Amen.