Wednesday, 3 August 2016
Sermon July 31, 2016 10th Sunday after Trinity
What a bunch of losers! I hope that didn’t shock you too much. It may have gotten your attention but it probably didn’t make you more open to my message this morning. Perhaps I was channeling Donald Trump on his show The Apprentice. Well you’re not fired. Let me put it a different way that may work better. Congratulations you are all losers. Did that work any better? Well let me try again. Congratulations you are all human—we are all human. We are God’s greatest creation, created in the image of God.
Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God the Father. Do you know what that means? He is fully divine and fully human. The church tends to down play the human part of that formula. They qualify his humanity. He may have been fully human but he was without sin. Given that, it is surprizing that he was baptized by John in the Jordan who was baptizing for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus was fully human. In that he had all the attributes of a human being. He must have had all the emotions and feelings that humans experience. I really appreciate the parts of scripture that give us a glimpse into that aspect of Jesus. Today’s Gospel is one of those accounts. The Gospel passage begins with Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. That is a truly human reaction.
Jesus is foretelling the coming destruction which will befall this beautiful city that he has been travelling to ever since his public ministry began. I was fortunate to participate with fellow clergy from the Diocese of Huron on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about ten years ago. When we arrived in Jerusalem we participated in a ceremony for pilgrims who arrive at that Holiest of cities and given bread and wine.
We were told of a Jewish saying about Jerusalem, ‘God gave ten portions of beauty to the earth. Nine of them were given to Jerusalem’. Jerusalem is a truly beautiful city and wonderful in many ways. It is a very human reaction to weep over its coming destruction.
The Gospel passage ends with Jesus casting out the money changers from the Temple. He could see that the House of God had become den of thieves. Again this is a very human reaction. It does seem go against what he had taught—turning the other cheek; loving your enemy; doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. But here he has a very human reaction. Apparently he is overwhelmed with righteous anger and takes action to cast out those who are desecrating this holy place.
So what does it mean then to be human if Jesus is fully human? It means most of all for me that I am not perfect. I certainly at times wish that I was and for many years I had a desire to be perfect. When I made mistakes I did not wat to admit it to myself much less to others. I found it humiliating if that mistake became known to others. Indeed as hard as I try I still find it hard sometimes to admit I made a mistake or I was wrong—especially on things that truly matter to me—things that are essential to my self-image.
However, being human does mean that we are not perfect. We will make mistakes. As we confess in our service, “we confess our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed”. It does not say any sins that we might have committed; It say those we have committed. It is part of our human condition.
We are going to make mistakes. We are going to be losers. That is our human condition, thank God. I thank God because it is through our mistakes—our sins—those things which we do and do not do which separate us from God that we will learn to be more fully the people that God intends us to be. We learn much more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Richard Rohr speaks of this very aptly:
The only perfection available to us humans is the ability to include and forgive our imperfection. But the ego doesn't want to believe that. The ego doesn't want to surrender to its inherent brokenness and poverty. Yet the truth is, realizing your imperfection is the beginning of freedom and grace. There is such freedom in no longer pretending to be something we're not.
So I say to you again, congratulations, we are all losers. We do not want to admit our humanness—our imperfection but that is what we are called to do as Christian. We are followers of Jesus Christ who was fully human. He showed us what it means to be human. Jesus was by the world standards a loser who died a horrible death on the cross with his closest followers betraying him, denying him and abandoning him.
I will close with a quote from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities for the mentally challenged:
I will tell you a true story, he said. “A young man with disabilities wanted to win the 100-metre race. And he got to the finals. And he was running like crazy to get that gold medal, and somebody in the next lane tripped and fell. And he stopped, picked this guy up, and they ran together, and both of them were last”.
“That’s a true story,” Mr. Vanier confirmed. It’s the deepest lesson the disabled have to teach. “It’s not that they can become like us—but how can we become like them and have fun together. And lift up the chap who has fallen on the other lane, and come in last. There’s in us all an ego we have to conquer. You kill the ego so that the real person may rise up. And the real person is the one who’s learning to love.”
That is what it means to be losers in the eyes of the world. It is where Jesus calls us where we are called to lose in seeking to follow Christ. We are called to the place where we will learn to love one another as he loves us.
We can follow him as best we can, knowing that we will stumble and fall at times—we will fall into sin. Thank God we can pick ourselves up; we can repent and turn around and attempt to follow Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer. Thanks be to God.