Ephesians 1: 15-23
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Good morning! I bring greetings to you from the Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC where I serve on the pastoral staff and from the National Capital Presbytery. Many of us have traveled many miles to be here this morning and it is good to gather in the house of the Lord, to be here in this place, on this important weekend here in Portland, to worship our God of Love. Paul’s words express my feelings best to you, More Light church, when he says – “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” I am grateful to be worshiping with you today.
This was a hard week – I don’t need to tell you that. I don’t need to stand up here and add to the cacophony and choir to tell you that it was a week full of emotions – emotions bouncing around like pin–balls in the machines of our hearts. I don’t need to tell you about the experience of being hyper-aware of where and when the tears can flow as a low-level hum of sadness and anger simmer just below the surface. I don’t need to tell you that this is mourning – that this is what mourning this kind of loss in our community feels like and looks like – how it unsettles us; how it makes us sad and makes us angry; how it makes us want to run away and cover our ears with our hands so that we don’t have to hear it anymore; how it makes us want to set the world on fire and how it makes us want to work like hell to make it better. I don’t need to tell you that you’re not alone, even though sometimes it feels like it. But, what I do need to tell you this morning, dear church, is that there is hope in our calling.
Before I do, I want to invite you to take a moment and look around. See the people around you. I’m grateful to have this magnificent vantage point but I want for you to take in as much as you can so look around you – see the faces of those gathered here with you. ——- The evidence of the hope of our calling is right here, in this room.
Everyone in this sanctuary is here because at some point in their lives, they have experienced the power of God’s love and grace. Of course, there have been experiences of struggle. There have been times of loneliness, times when it felt God had jumped ship; like God abandoned us. But, if you are here today, my assumption is that you are here to worship a God who is present and evident to you. And, isn’t that miraculous?
I invite you to reach out and touch someone – shake a hand, offer an awkward side hug, place a loving hand on the shoulder of
someone near you. Feel the sensation of the touch – this is the touch of someone who has known the love of God. Whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, whatever the ability of the person touching you is – this is the touch of someone who has known the love of God. It feels good, doesn’t it? It feels good after a long, hard week.
It feels good because we have had our fill of hearing that not all people have the right to claim the love of God. It feels good because this week, we have been acutely aware of the heavy hand that has sought to declare that anyone who does not conform to the cis-gendered, hetero-normative way of being should be shunned, should be punished, should “repent,” should not be granted full membership of the church or full rights as a citizen. But, with that touch of someone who has known the love of God – we experience the love of God again – do you feel it? It feels good because it is full of hope – it’s full of hope because it makes us aware again that the experiences of the love of God are not few and far between; the encounters and engagements with God are not off in distant places but is right here next to you; hope because God is for all of us and not reserved for only a few; hope because this touch reminds us again that God has a purpose for each one of us – every single one of us in this room – as Christ calls us to follow him.
Dear friends, the hope of our calling is that we have heard the call of Christ to love God and to love our neighbor. And we have a responsibility, as Christians, to go out into the world and share our belief in our God of Love, our God of Mercy, our God of Grace and of Justice and of Peace, our God of Abundance, our God of Joy – the hope of our calling is that we are called to go out into the world by our God of Hope.
Our work is cut out for us and it won’t be quick job. The hope of our calling is not to start another program or attend another meeting at church in our own community. The hope of our calling is to get out into the world; to use the voices we have to tell of this magnificent God we adore. Don’t just speak of love. Do as Christ commands – love God and love your neighbor and tell others about the well of love from which you draw. Don’t just speak of forgiveness – live as a forgiven child of God. Tell others about your experience of God’s grace, about the redemption which Christ alone, offers. Don’t just speak of justice – live fairly and walk humbly with God. Tell others that if I am a created and beloved child of God, so you must be. If I am worthy of mercy, so you must be. Don’t just speak of hope – orient yourself as a co-creator of the kingdom of God.
The hope of our calling is that we are called to be followers of Christ, children of God, beloved, cherished, forgiven and equipped to serve. As gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex, as questioning and as straight ally Christians, the hope of our calling is that we are enough for the work that is to be done. There is deep need in our world – deep divisions to overcome – sometimes, it is difficult to see the work that needs to be done through the darkness of violence, vitriol and venom. But, dear More Light Church, the hope of our calling is that darkness is not even dark to the one who calls us, night is like the day to our God of love and mercy. The hope of our calling is that we can go out into the world and be bearers of God’s loving light.
Friends, we have a Christian message to share. We need to support one another in community but we need not create for us an echo chamber. We, as faithful Christians, we are needed – desperately – to tell of our experiences of God’s love for the world. For those still in the closet and struggling to come out, for those who wrestle with internalized homophobia and for those who suffer from bullying or abandonment, for those who fear the choice of their family or their authentic self, for those who have been shot, beaten, abused and battered – we can be brave, we can stand tall, we can shine God’s light into the darkness to let them know that they are not alone, that they are good, that they are beloved, that they are created in light.
And, for those across the metaphorical aisle, we can reach out our hand and say that we, too, have been called to love God and to love our neighbors – now, I know, this one may be more difficult, but Jesus didn’t come into this world to tell us to judge one another. He commanded us to love one another, to show mercy, to lavish kindness on one another while we can, just as the woman with the jar of pure nard did for Jesus. The hope of our calling is that while God is at work bending the arc of the universe towards justice, we are needed within our generations, to live our lives pointing to God’s work in the world, pointing to God’s love in the world, pointing to God’s mercy in the world and we are to live joyfully, with pride in God’s creation, and hope for God’s kingdom here on earth.
Friends, the hope of our calling is right here in this room. Look around. Grab hold of the hand next to you for reassurance. And then go out of here to tell of God’s love for the world. The hope of our calling is that that kind of Christian is needed and you are enough. Amen.
This sermon was preached at the Rose City Park Presbyterian Church in Portland, OR on June 19, 2016. The worship service was planned by More Light Presbyterians.