Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday, July 19 2015, 10:30 am
Leigh Kern, Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields, Toronto
2 Sam 7:1-14a; Ps 89:20-37; Eph 2:11-22; Mk 6:30-34, 53-56

In the Gospel reading from Mark today we see people literally pouring
into the desert, seeking out healing, reconciliation and forgiveness
we can’t imagine what needs propelled them to walk kms from their
but we can witness to their perseverance, their commitment. . . their
in their stories we receive a message about human need
human crisis
that part of what makes us human- is our need.
Need of love, community, support, others.
A robin knows how to build her own nest, how to dig for worms
how to feed herself
she doesn’t spend a long time in the nest before she is ready to fly out on
her own
yet humans- we come into this world weeping, in a state of total
vulnerability, utter dependence !
as we grow up and into ourselves we are almost at odds with our own
we spend all our time with own person, ourselves- yet many of us feel as
if we do not know ourselves
our own desires can be opaque to us. We desire to be kind, loving and
supportive people, but in reflection realize that we often fall short of
this- stuck in patterns of selfishness.
we are a species that spends 82 million dollars on hosting the panam
while 100,000 Canadians do not have a place to call home
and over 20,000 Indigenous people live without access to running water
in their communities- some communities not too far from Toronto.
As humans we exist in utter need of justice
in dire need of healing, reconciliation, equity and freedom.
We are a people in need of the peace of God.
We need a force beyond ourselves, we need one who is greater then
We are a people who cannot thrive off of isolation or competition
but we live in a web of radical dependence on one another and our Creator.
Yet we so often abuse this dependence, exploiting the needs of others to secure ourselves.
When we look at the violence and inequalities in our communities we see that we are a people in need.
And what do we find when we turn inwards upon our own hearts? I know personally I see woman who has a deep desire to be accepted, who needs the approval of others, who deep down in some way feels inadequate. Though I also see resiliency and strength within- I find insecurity and pride muddled together in the center of my being. I need God here.
Recognizing our own weakness and neediness is fundamental to being in touch with our humanity.
It is the recognition that we are but dust, indeed the word human is connected to the term humble which comes from a word that means earth.
We must face the frailty, gentle precariousness, and fragility of being human. When we pull off the facade and mask of our independence, our “I got-it-all-together-ness”, our pride, our “know it all” mentality, we find a people in need.
It is then, with honesty and connection to our humble state, that we are able to bend the knee of our hearts and say “we have not loved you with our whole hearts, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” Sometimes apologizing can be one of the hardest things for us to do. Taking responsibility, owning up to our own brokenness, saying I am sorry.
Our arrogance and selfishness block us from entering into sincere, loving and healing relationships with one another, and God.
It is when we are in tune with our own neediness that we recognize our need of God—and those walls come tumbling down.
And in God we find one who knows the depth of our pain, the root of our selfishness and wall erecting self protection, a God who sees behind our stubborn defensiveness, a God who has heard our every cry, listened
to each restless sigh, sees our pain and calls us beloved
desires to be near to us
desires to be with us
touch us, heal us, transform our mourning into dancing and walk with us
as we struggle to confront the selfishness that strangles all humble,
human love.
We find a God who in the person of Jesus, comes out to deserted places,
desires to be near to those who are suffering and heal them.
A God who is not restricted by human made walls of taboos, who is
clean and who is unclean, but touches the untouchable, embraces the
sick and transforms the boundaries of human community.
We are a people in need. and we need God to be Emmanuel, with us.
In recognition of our needs
of our desires
we find that they
meet the desires of God:
which is to be near us
to tabernacle in our midst
to pitch God’s holy tent amongst mere mortals.
To dwell amongst us.
And as testified to us in our first reading from 2nd Samuel today- “I”
God says “have been with you wherever you went.”
God was with the first woman when she gave birth to cain and able, God was with Hagar wandering in the desert, God was with the people under slavery in Egypt, God was with them as they were liberated from their bondage and fed them in the desert manna from heaven, in the exodus God led the people like a mighty cloud through the wilderness, God was with them and God is with us now.
Yet as humans, in recognition of our need of God, desire physical, tangible signs and symbols of the presence of God in our midst.
So we erect Churches, synagogues, buildings and tabernacles to house the presence of the Creator of Eternity, that we might gather there to encounter God as a community more deeply.
And here God transforms common matter of bread and wine, to be the vessel of God’s body and blood- to become the real presence of the holy one, to dwell in our bodies. Healing medicine, bread of heaven, manna in the midst of the wilderness of our lives.
At the sacrament of the altar we meet Emmanuel.
For God desires to be near.
and in response, we find within ourselves a desire to encounter God in a material way.
King David in our first reading communicated this desire for relationship to God, as he said “I finally have some rest and am living in a house, let me build a house for God!”
And God replies “are you the one to build me a house to live in? … I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. . . I have been with you wherever you went.”
yet still the temple is built and God extend’s God’s presence to dwell there in the midst of the people.
This presence in Hebrew is described with the word Shekinah meaning the personal, intimate presence of the Eternal One that dwells in the sanctuary, in the holy place of the people.
in the midst of the city, in their hustle and bustle, in their selling, in their business, God pitches a tent- because, we need God here.
As the book of Leviticus communicates the voice of the divine: “I will make my abode amongst you. . . and I will walk amongst you and be your God”
Yet God is not tied to buildings of wood and stone. As the Maker of the Worlds proclaims in Isaiah “Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool: what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made.”
And indeed when Jerusalem was invaded, the walls of the temple were torn down by war, and the people dragged off into exile, God went into exile with them.
For I am with you, wherever you go.
Sacred buildings can be a blessing when we use them to encounter God
more deeply and gather as a community to be fed that we might feed
Yet they can become a stumbling block.
And the trouble with buildings is that they have walls.
It is all too tempting to use these walls to maintain boundaries
create insiders and outsiders
and unspoken rules of who is welcome and who is not- like letter to the
Ephesians tells us.
too often hospitality is conditional- I only invite the relatives over for
family meals or sit beside people in Church that are sober, or
heterosexual, or liberal, or whatever.
Paul’s letter comments on the looking down our noses at each other that happens in communities, that creates walls that block our hospitality. God desires a community of authentic diversity. Where being welcome isn’t conditional on you becoming like me. Where people are free to be our imperfect and broken selves.

For as theologian Sally Brown comments: “The new household of God is not a purely spiritual reality that we visit briefly on Sundays — a weekly “time out” in which we pretend peace is possible by sitting next to people we scrupulously avoid the rest of the time. The church is the daring practice of a new politics — a different kind of power, the self-outpoured, boundary-crossing power of Christ’s cross. We trust this power, letting it undermine every wall, until we are “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (verse 22).

True community is rooted in recognition of our shared humanity- our shared need of God and our leaning on each other in the struggle for healing.
the spirit of hospitality is rooted in the reality that whoever comes through that door is a human being, dependent on others, in need of relationships, in need of healing, just like each one of us.
Being connected with the humblesness of our own humanity, the gritty mess of our own lives, can help us open up to the needs of one another,
help us extends arms to each other, seeking help, support, encouragement, prayer and solidarity that we might indeed become living stones who together make a strong foundation
a holy temple
in whose midst, the loving, fire and transformative power of God is felt
tasted, taken in the form of bread, broken in the hearts of the hurting and shared between members of one body of Jesus Christ. Let us love with humility:
For indeed we are all made of dirt, that is sustained only by the breath of God.