Sermon – February 17, 2019 – 6th Sunday after Epiphany

V’ahavta; you shall love the lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.

  • And love your neighbor as yourself

 

How do we cultivate a sensation of compassion in our bodies, before our judgmental brain

Makes decisions about whether it is deserved or not?

What does compassion FEEL like in your body?

As opposed to disdain or judgment?

 

From “12 Steps to a Compassionate Life” by Karen Armstrong

“We are addicted to our egotism. We cannot think how we would manage without our pet hatreds and prejudices that give us such a buzz of righteousness; like addicts, we have come to depend on the instant rush of energy and delight we feel when we display our cleverness by making an unkind remark and the spurt of triumph when we vanquish an annoying colleague. Thus do we assert ourselves and tell the world who we are. It is difficult to break a habit upon which we depend for our sense of self.”

 

 

At some point during college or maybe after my mom shared with me

the universal parent truth that as a parent

you are only as happy as your most miserable child.

As I experience that as a child of my parents, I do not want to be that one.

I am the youngest of 4 kids, which gives me slightly better chances of every so often

Not being the most miserable child in the family.

And now as a parent of 2 small children I see how it works from a different angle.

When one is really struggling with something they need my attention, patience,

And love in a different way than the other. But, you would never want the one who isn’t

Miserable to feel neglected or unloved.

 

  • Or throw a tantrum in a store because they aren’t getting anything

But it can get complicated.

In the best of family dynamics I would hope that the siblings are able to love each other in such a way to be part of that network of love, grace, and community for the one who is struggling.

 

I don’t love to preach the Beatitudes.

It feels like Jesus is way too direct about our strained family dynamics.

He is not subtle. He is not much of a peace maker ever.

He is not making sure that we all know that we are special and beloved in our own way.

He is not making sure that we all get a little something special from the store.

 

There are other versions of the Beatitudes that aren’t quite as searing and can be

Understood with a little more nuance.

 

The Beatitudes or the sermon on the Mount in Matthew does not include

The WOE to you in the end.

And the Matthew version can just be heard a little softer as it reads

Blessed are the poor in spirit

And Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

 

The Beatitudes in the gospel of Luke are plain and painfully honest.

This is Jesus singing his Mother Mary’s song

– when she understood that she

– a truly poor, peasant, unimportant, unprepared, unmarried, unqualified young woman

  • This is nearly like the next verse of the Magnificat – proclaiming the glory of the Lord — that Jesus continues… Remember

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. …..51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

 

I think that in theory this all sounds wonderful.

And we are so used to this that it is without question.

And yet, it is also kind of offensive to our ears.

We who are comfortable are judged harshly.

And when we are judged harshly or feel guilty about our wealth,

, we are apt to start defending ourselves and listing all the ways we suffer too.

Or sharing all the ways that we are helping someone who is “less fortunate”.

 

When I was in college I took a Liberation theology course and learned all about the work of

The most radical Catholic priests and nuns in Latin America working with the

poorest of the poor.

Proclaiming the core of their belief was God’s Preferential Option for the Poor.

 

I learned that this was so radical, people were killed and banned from the church.

Because if God has a preferential option for the poor,

Then how does God feel about all the money I’m making?

Are you calling me BAD for working hard and making good money?

The Roman Catholic Church – and all the churches frankly — are judged harshly

If the core belief is that God has a preferential option for the poor

 

Yet you do not actually align yourself with the poor,

Nor do you want to.

 

And you’re maybe a lot offended that despite how hard you are working

How much money you are making — you’re telling me I’m not God’s favorite?

Is this a rejection and exclusion of God’s love because you aren’t poor?

 

To me, God’s preferential option for the poor is kind of the truth of parenting;

Your only as happy as your most miserable child.

 

And if I’m not currently God’s most miserable child – nor do I ever want to be –

How am I acting, as one of the children of God?

Am I whining and complaining about God giving so much attention to that other

Sibling who always seems to need your help!

 

Mother Teresa famously said “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

 

So, how on earth can we shift this dynamic in our brain about God’s love?

How can we get in line with and recognize our place in the family of God?

 

How ON EARTH do we practically, humbly, and faithfully ReMember our communities

And stand with – not just Pray For – the most vulnerable in our family.

  • How do we align ourselves so that WE TOO have a preferential option for the poor
  • For whomever is the most miserable in the family of God,
    • Knowing that it could be you next.

 

This past year I read a small book called “On Kindness” by Adam Phillips

  • And he was writing about this distinction of rich / poor, “less fortunate?”,
  • How churches serve the poor but are not often of the poor or so closely

Aligned with the poor – we keep a sort of safe distance.

 

“Even though our alienation, our distance from one another, may make us feel safe, it also makes us sorry. As though loneliness is the inevitable cost of looking after ourselves.”