Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for June 26, 2011
Cups Filled for Sharing
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
June 26, 2011
Today’s gospel can be a little challenging if we only read it from the surface. To be honest with you, I like the Psalm better, as the Psalmist writes in chapter 13, How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, Oh my God. 5 I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing my God’s praise, for God has been good to me. I like what that says to me about overcoming evil and oppression and discrimination. I know some of you will agree with me that we’ve already waited far too long. I love what the Hopi elder has to say, that we have been proclaiming that this is the eleventh hour, that some things are about to change and that our situation is about to get much better. He says now we must go back and tell the people that this is THE HOUR. And still me know that it is God’s will for us to overcome, so we do sing God’s praise, knowing that God has always been good to us and that God always will be good to us. So having now preached a mini-sermon, let us turn to the Gospel for this morning. Pray with me;
God we thank you for your word spoken to us through the prophets, through the elders and through wise women and men throughout the ages. And so, we ask you to speak to us. We know that this is THE HOUR to which we have been called. Make all that we do pleasing and acceptable to you, O God. AMEN.
Do you know how common Biblical Ignorance is in our society today? Rev. Dr. Mel White, MCC Pastor and Founder of Soulforce says, A study quoted by [the recently departed] Rev. Peter Gomes…found that 38% of Americans polled were certain that the Old Testament was written a few years after Jesus’ death. 10% believed Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Many even thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles. In case you are not aware, all of those assumptions are WRONG. Absolutely wrong, Do not pass go, do not collect $200, WRONG.
It is important for us to understand how amazingly blessed we are today. I want us to leave here this morning knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt how full our cups are, how much we have to share and that it IS God’s calling on us to share those gifts with others. My friend the Reverend BK Hipshire says that hospitality is a fragile art. Like any other art we have to practice hospitality, try it on in many different ways and see what works for us. What I also know about hospitality is that we have enough of it within us, and that our cups are so filled with gifts to share, no matter how good and extravagant we get with it, we will never run short on either hospitality or on God’s gifts given to us.
Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, Bishop of our Sister denomination, The Fellowship writes, “An authentic ethic of inclusion must reach from the center to the farthest margin and work its way back. When we reach for the ones who are the least accepted, we give a clear message of welcome to everyone, Jesus modeled this type of radical inclusivity when he openly received those most despised by society and the religious establishment.”
Do you really remember what Jesus did? Jesus asked a sinful woman at the well for a drink of water. How dare he? Jesus ate with the most despised people in society – tax collectors – the IRS – how COULD he? Jesus touched and thereby healed women who were considered ritually unclean. Why? Jesus healed lepers, the furthest outcasts of society? How dare he touch them? Jesus loved poor people; in fact he preferred them over their wealthy neighbors? Why would he prefer THEM? Jesus honored the offering of a widow’s mite over the largest offerings in the collection. Does that make any sense to you?
Well of course it does, because He’s Jesus. He is our wonderful savior. He is our Prince of Peace, he is our wonderful friend, he is the reason for our existence. And when we really decide to follow him, we will move even deeper into our radical hospitality toward everyone who comes our way. We will welcome the stranger, in Jesus’ name. We will welcome the dirty, in Jesus name. We will welcome the gender queer person who’s still trying to figure it all out, in Jesus name. We will welcome the trans person who might struggle to pass (not that he or she needs to pass), in Jesus name. We will welcome the reader dressed in leather, in Jesus’ name. We will welcome the singer dressed in lace, in Jesus name. We will welcome the straight person trying hard to understand us. We will welcome all of them, in Jesus’ name. Young people, old people, poor people, rich people, healthy people, sick people, fully able and differently able, short people, tall people, those who fit in and those who do not will be welcomed because, my sisters and brothers, that is the way we welcome the presence of the Divine one, that is the way we welcome the presence of the Holy Creator, Son and Holy Spirit here in this place. Are you with me?
Rocco Errico, to whom you have heard me refer before, says in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel that this passage is about the act of generosity. He writes, “When receiving anyone whether good or bad, the reward remains the same; it is the act that counts. It is just like God, who sends…rain upon the just and the unjust and lets [the] sun shine on the good and the bad.” The focus isn’t on the reliability of Jesus or his disciples but on the goodness of the one who takes a chance that they might be the real deal, and who knows they are worth acts of kindness or hospitality in any case. The one who gives is a giver, and we are told that whatever we sow is what we can expect to reap. Being generous affirms our goodness, just as prejudging or excluding others shows that we are not yet as spiritually mature as we aspire to be.
Just one note about little ones; Rocco points out that that “little ones” has a double meaning. It can mean either “child” or someone without status. In some ancient cultures (and, frankly, in our contemporary world as well), it was common for people to only do favors for people who could return the favor. It was (and is) less common for people to extend generosity to those who are unlikely to be able to ever repay. Children, the poor, the chronically ill, and all who might find themselves in the margins would be such “common” or “little” folk. Often, the “little” people were not welcome in the presence of the wealthy, the government leaders, or highly regarded spiritual teachers. But in Jesus’ theology (and social outlook), every person is a child of God and therefore every person has merit and worth. Kindness, compassion, and goodwill should be extended to everyone regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, age, and by extension of the reasoning, sexual orientation. To Jesus, justice isn’t a privilege, but a universal right.
So, Trinity MCC, let us be a welcoming people, a hospitable people, a gracious people toward prophets, toward the righteous, toward those still on their way and even to the little ones. Our cups are indeed filled to overflowing…for sharing. That’s the Jesus way so let it be our way, too.
God bless you this morning. AMEN.
A Reading from the Wisdom of a Hopi Elder
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is THE HOUR. And there are things to be considered…Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”