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May 28, 2017

Unite as One

Passage: 1 Peter 4:12-5:11

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Series: Summer 2017

Category: Christian Responsibility

Summary:

A two part sermon: The first for our children about uniting together as one as Jesus prayed in his farewell discourse in John 17. The second about the Christian responsibility to step into conflict from a faithful core in order to transform the world. Both are about building bridges to make the world better.

Detail:

Jesus was a very important teacher. He taught things that people back then thought was crazy. Jesus is now known as one of the most important people to have ever lived. People read about him all the time. I would imagine that if you counted the number of times that Jesus’ name was written throughout history that it would be the most of any other person. But his teachings are still very challenging today. In today’s Gospel lesson, we heard Jesus praying. He was praying for his disciples. He wanted them to be together. He wanted his people to unite together to make the world a better place.

You may have noticed when you arrived at St. Patrick’s this morning that there are signs like this one out in front of our building. These signs are an expression of what Jesus means by uniting with one another. Humans (and I am including you, your parents, and myself) often want to divide into groups. We feel better living with people who think the same as we do or look the same as we do. But that is the challenging thing we pick up from Jesus in today’s lesson. Jesus wants us to bring about a world filled in love. And the only way to do that is to erase the things that drive us apart. This week our Muslim brothers and sisters begin their holy month of Ramadan. I am not going to explain to you everything about this holy season, but I am going to share with you what Jesus would do. Jesus would wish them well in their celebrations and would respect them for finding a moment in their busy lives for God. He would seek to find what brings us together into one.

Islam (the religion of Muslims) and Christianity are both religions of love, worshiping and understanding God, and seeking to serve our neighbors. Even though I am not a Muslim, we hold these things in common. I hope that you will remember to celebrate the differences you have with your friends. And, let them know that you honor them for their special gifts.

Thank you, kids, for being here today.

 

Now, I want to talk a little bit about the attack in Manchester almost a week ago. This was a tragic event which continues a pattern of events instituted in hate around the world. In just the past several weeks, hundreds of people have lost their lives in Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan.

Events like this wear on our emotional integrity. These terrorist attacks along with the rancor of our political dialogue, an almost every day occurrence, wears on our ability to function as people. For some, this is evidence that God doesn’t exist. How can there be this much violence, vengeance, and hate in a world of love?

The lesson from First Peter begins: do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal. Now, the passage is not pointing to the events of the past week. But, the thing is, there are no periods in the history of the world that are free from fiery ordeals. The crazy thing is that even though we are bombarded almost hourly with catastrophic events, this era is the safest and most peaceful era in the known history of humans.

But that fact doesn’t change how we feel. We feel beaten down by everything happening around us and to us. That feeling is part of human nature. It is universal. When we are pushed to the limit, we find ourselves either fighting back (in a way that we are often sorry for after the fact) or returning to join our pack (where we know that we will be accepted with open arms). Both solutions, although natural, fail to address the issue at hand.

Living a Christian life, means confronting those things that make our blood boil, so that we can move beyond and so that we can live together in one community. It is not about living together as Episcopalians or as Christians, but as human beings in a world that continues bringing us closer and closer together.

The passage from First Peter provides a list of things to do to bring about this kind of transformation.

Humble yourself – Get off your righteous platform

Cast your anxiety on God – Acknowledge in your prayer and in your community what you are feeling

Discipline yourself and keep alert – Don’t get distracted by the many other things happening around you. Stay engaged.

Resist the power of evil – In a constructive and measured way, speak out about what you know to be true and right.

I’m confident that practicing these four steps will open yourself to something amazing. It will allow God, that power that exists in everything and between all of us, it will allow God to raise you up and to bring more people together.

This work is not easy; it is challenging. We are the ones charged with making this dream a reality. Just as I told the young people, Jesus called us to be one. To engage others, spread the good news, so that we can initiate God’s kingdom right here.

The world is a dangerous place with plenty of horrific events. We are instruments of the Holy Spirit to change the world for good. That is the work that we have before us. It is our collective responsibility and it is why we organize around a community called Church.