Benediction Online

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

“As I have loved you…you also should love one another…”
Mary Elizabeth Pratt-Horsley

Jesus’ words to us are pretty clear – Love others with the same type of love Jesus has shown …. to others… and to you…
It seems clear – yet I think we need to unpack those words just a little bit – to grasp the fullness of their meaning.
The love that Jesus is talking about has nothing to do with sentimentality … or with Hallmark cards. It is a love that can be enfolding, affirming, uplifting… and it is a love that can also be difficult, demanding, not always joyful…
Love can mean taking a risk – having the courage to do what is right – even when that means being countercultural…
One group that demonstrates love in just that way is the Border Angels. Founded as a Non-Profit in 1986… the Border Angels are a group of volunteers who want to stop the unnecessary deaths of men, women and children traveling as immigrants through the desert and mountain areas near the border of California and Mexico. Throughout the desert, where summer temperatures have been measured as high as 127 degrees… the Angels have provided 340 watering stations.
In mountain areas near the border, where freezing winter temperatures have killed immigrants – the Angels have provided storage bins…containing winter clothes, food and water.
They are energized by the passage from Matthew’s Gospel – where Jesus declared: “I was hungry and you fed me – I was thirsty and you gave me drink…Whatever you did for the least of one of my brothers or sisters you did for me.”
We are all called to live in the borderlands – We are all called to live in the borderlands -not the geographical borderlands of our country – but called to live in the borderlands of our culture – and of our personal lives…we are called to move beyond the comfortable limits we have placed on our lives … into areas where change and positive transformation are possible – not only for ourselves, but for others.
It is in the borderlands that Jesus meets us and challenges us… It is in the borderlands that we are invited to look seriously at the way our culture treats different types of people… It is in the borderlands that we are challenged to speak up for those whose voice is never heard…
God asks us to move into the borderlands …beyond the edges of our comfort zones … beyond: “This is the way I’ve always done it” – beyond feelings of inadequacy… or feelings of self-satisfaction.
The borderlands is a place where differences can meet – and exist in mutual respect …
It is a place where all may find acceptance – where all may experience God’s love for the whole of creation – God’s love that crosses all boundaries and barriers…
In today’s lesson from Acts – Peter met … and crossed … his borderland…
In First Century Judaism – ritual and the law were everything… At that time it was much more a matter of right action than right belief… The Apostles and Christian leaders in Judea were taking Peter to task because they heard that Peter had eaten with Gentiles in Joppa, just South of present day Tel Aviv.
Peter traveled to Jerusalem to answer his critics. He explained his dream of every kind of animal, bird or reptile … how God’s voice told him: “It’s OK…it’s OK …eat! Peter assured them that the Holy Spirit fell on these Gentiles…just as it had fallen on the disciples. And he finished by saying: “Listen…if it’s OK for God … it’s OK for me!
Through history … and in this time and place… the Spirit falls on us … challenging us to love beyond our self-made or culture-made borders and barriers… The Spirit falls … urging us to carry the message of God’s compassion…love….and justice… beyond our comfort zone … into the borderlands.
Love is dismantling the unjust or artificial barriers that our culture…individuals… and we ourselves… put up to separate and de-value certain individuals and groups.
Love is breaching borders which perpetuate injustice and oppression…
Love is refusing to stand by, go along or collaborate with – the voices and messages of the dominant culture – when they are spoken by groups and individuals who absolutely will not see the damage caused by economic and social inequality and injustice – the damage caused by racism – the damage caused by the attitude which implies that for you to succeed in our society that means I can’t… so I better make sure I’m ahead of you.
The passage we just heard from today’s Gospel – comes at the Last Supper. Before he left them to be crucified… Jesus was trying to help his disciples understood the meaning of his life and ministry … and what it meant for their lives.
Jesus had just finished washing their feet … and he says to them: “Love one another as I have loved you” He’s not talking about reciprocal love – he doesn’t say “Love me as I have loved you”. He’s talking about love that is directed outward in service to others, in advocacy and support for the powerless and voiceless in our midst.
Good servants are a vanishing breed… They’re mostly found on Masterpiece Theater or in Regency novels. If they perform their work properly…no one notices them. They do the work that needs to be done without fuss… often they do the work that no one else wants to do.
This is the kind of service and love that compelled Jesus to spend himself for the outcast and marginalized, for the mentally ill, for the belligerent and for those who rejected him. It is the kind of love to which we are called: a love offered with an open hand and open heart… a love that moves us into the borderlands beyond our comfort zone… a love that is without question, condition or limit.
The late Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, who was assassinated as he distributed communion in the cathedral… once said: Ours is not a sky God…who only looks down at us from a distance…Ours is not a pocket God- who can be manipulated to sanction whatever our heart or the culture desires… Ours is a real God who lives within the blood and guts experiences of our daily lives. Ours is a living, loving God who is truly present.
We can love and serve others as Jesus did…not because we are virtuous of ourselves. Rather we can do this because we have deliberately opened our lives to the active, living God in our midst. We have made a decision to let God love others…through us.
And of course, we are challenged to love ourselves as well… and to understand that we are all loving and working with our own imperfections and frailties as we serve and love others.
All of us…without exception…have at one time or another been held captive by our fears…by our thoughts…by our prejudices. God through Jesus wants to set us free from all that. Once freed…we can love authentically and serve with real commitment.
In freedom, we can live in the borderlands… crossing barriers that divide… We can envision…proclaim…. and work towards … a new future – following in the footsteps of Jesus, Peter and Paul… following the path of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, the Border Angels, the volunteers at Habitat for Humanity, or Doctors without Borders.
As followers of Jesus, who loved unconditionally… we are not to be known by our creeds, by our rituals, or by our Canon Laws. We are to be known by our love for others. That will be the sign that we are children of the living, loving, transforming God who brought us all into being.
A wise man once said: “The only Gospel some people will ever read…is the way we live our lives.” Amen.


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