Karin Liebster, Pastor for Faith Formation
(2 Corinthians 13:11-14)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Inside me, in the pit of my stomach is a knot. It is similar to the feeling that settles deep inside, when something happens to my/our children. Something that might change the course of life forever, but hopefully, surely, please not, please turn out ok.
I have heard this week mothers and fathers whose children God created in God’s own image with black and brown skin. From the beginning they fear for their children: for the time when they first will know the racism that is all around. How mothers and fathers teach their children not to wear a hoodie, not run in the street, not turn up their music in the car, what to do when the cops come. And it doesn’t help: The fear that twists the insides from the moment they are born becomes reality. And another person’s life is taken and another of God’s children turns into a name with a hashtag. -Hashtag and cross are one and the same. George Floyd and Jesus both died of asphyxiation.
I am white and I know nothing about how it is to live black. I am afraid that already what I have said is hurtful, because I do not know how it is to live black. What I know as a pinch in my stomach concerning my children, must be daily fear and terror in my sisters and brothers of color.
In times of crisis, like ours is one – beset as has been said this week by the COVID 19 virus and the 1619 virus of racism – our Christian faith is tested.What does it help hold fast to the God of love and continue to preach God’s love when nothing changes? Is it all empty words?
The last time the disciples and the risen Jesus meet, when they see him, they worship and they doubt. In the moment Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” the disciples worship and doubt.
That is a window. I read this as an encouragement for our moment. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, but you, disciples, keep asking, keep questioning, keep doubting. Probe it, drill deeper, stay open for the “what if the risen Lord does not have all authority in heaven and on earth.”
Constant questioning keeps us open for the possibility that we might not have it right. It is easy to believe ourselves secure in the Christian faith. Invincible. It is easy to feel safe in the promises of the risen Lord bestowed on us in baptism, forgiven and loved and secure. It is a small step from feeling self-secure to becoming blind for all who are not the same, and it is a small step to confuse Christ’s authority in heaven and on earth with our own authority.
Questioning, doubting ourselves, our own ways, our own dogmas, our own teaching keeps at bay fist pounding ways of authority; considering doubt, considering being wrong keeps us open for the possibility of learning more, going deeper, being let in deeper to the mystery of our God who meets us Three-in-One and One-in-Three.
Honesty, openness, vulnerability, humility are asked of us in how we practice our faith these days and the days and years to come. We need not fear losing our faith in this crisis, the multiple crises. We need not fear, we are not in control of it anyway; faith, like grace and like love, is God’s gracious gift, and it comes and it goes and it comes back.
We need not fear, we need not fear people, we need not fear protests protesting conditions that do not line up with any of Jesus’ teachings that he commands us to obey in baptismal living and instruction. We need not fear to lose our faith, our image, or control.
Authority, Jesus says, has been given to him. Authority, not authoritarian rule of law, not domination.
Sending these disciples into the world, Christ has conferred on them the fullness of God’s real presence. Through them, baptizing and teaching while worshiping and doubting, the power of God works its way through people’s fear and hope and dreams changing them from the inside out. God’s power turns people from their insides out to the world that so yearns for God’s fullness of love and grace and communion.
How beautiful that is. God created the heavens and the earth, with God’s spirit/wind assisting; Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. And we, worshiping and doubting, are invited to taste of this mystery and are invited to share in God’s fullness.
How can it not change us from the inside out, rub off on us, make us new, make us hopeful, make us reconciling people?
To be let in to God’s fullness means to see how vulnerable and open God is. See, God takes on this huge risk to make humankind in God’s image. What all have we done, in God’s name, humans bearing God’s image?
Next, in baptism God invites us to share in God’s willingness to die on the cross, a name with a hashtag. How can we resist the love that is offered, shared, poured out in creator, redeemer, sustainer, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, that spills into the world?
Look at the image of the Trinity on our cover today. Andrei Rublev wrote this icon in the early 15th century. We have before us an image of the mystery of God. Do you remember three guests showing up at Abraham’s and Sarah’s tent, dining lavishly in the heat of the day, promising a baby, a new generation? Mysterious beings, the visitors in the desert, here as Holy Trinity, angels with wings, two overlapping, one not, wings forming a circle, a table between them. Is the table tilted? Is it an altar? A dish on the table, a bowl, a chalice, who knows. A roasted lamb or eucharistic wine? There is an open seat at the table, waiting for the circle to complete, for you and for me, for all children of God, all colors, all pains, all hopes, all dreams.
Come join, complete the circle, catch the love outpouring from the circle of the Trinity, the goblet sliding off the table toward you, catch it, be nourished by love and grace and communion, and join the dance. The dance of the Trinity that is changing us from the inside out and, consequently, the world.
Worshiping and doubting we dance, wings touching, overlapping; believing and not believing, we dance, nourished by God’s food of the body and blood of Christ.
The fears we know we shall not suppress. We need to name them, express them, understand them, so they don’t control us. We are dealing with COVID and with racism. People are suffering and people are tired.
There is already much good happening in an effort to tackle both these pandemic viruses, a lot of expertise and creativity employed. It is not hopeless, it is a matter of will.
The life infusing, creative, sustaining, redeeming power of our God is fueling us so we will listen, come alongside, stand back when we need to, and we pray that God will keep us all together in the face of adversity.
For God created us in the image of God, all of us, and blessed us.
“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Amen.