Sunday, February 17, 2013

Unveiling The Gospel By Faithful Participation In The World

After Moses had drawn close to God on Mt. Sinai,
                        his face radiated a holy light.
But when he met his people at the base of the mountain,
            that light made them uncomfortable,
                        so he put a veil on to hide the holiness.
St. Paul did not think that was the right thing to do. Paul said:
            “Since we then have such a hope,
                        we act with great boldness,
                        not like Moses who put on a veil.”

After we bask in the light of Christ,
            we naturally radiate his holiness.
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus said. Mt. 5:14.
He goes on: “No one lights a lamp
            and puts it under a basket.
            You put the lamp on a stand
            So it gives light to the whole house.”

After we have been blessed to dwell in the light of Christ,
            our mission is to radiate that light
                        into a darkened world,
            to share some hope with people in despair.”
What does it mean to be the light of the world?
Jesus told us straight out.
He said, “Let you light so shine that people
            may see your good works
            and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

In theology, that’s what we call a “dominical injunction” 
-- meaning Jesus said, “Do it.”
He said, “Let you light so shine that people
            may see your good works
            and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

There are verses that say we should pray in secret.
There are verses that say we should give alms in secret.

But when it comes to active, hands on doing good in the world,
            Jesus says, “Let you light so shine that people
            may see your good works
            and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
And Paul says, “Do it boldly – no veils.”

We, however, have been well taught to wear veils.
Nice people are modest.
If we do something good, we don’t want anyone to know it.

But here’s the difference.
Christians don’t do good works so people pat us on the back.
When we go about doing good while keeping quiet about our faith,
            the danger is people will just thing we are naturally heroic.
The reason is all-important.
Jesus says to do good boldly and publicly:
“so that people will glorify your Father in heaven.”
When we do something right, we redirect the credit to God.

Jesus shows us how this works in today’s Gospel.
Like, Moses, he drew near to God in prayer on the mountain
and like Moses he glowed with holiness.
When he got back down the mountain,
            he showed people the light,
            not by physically glowing, but by healing,
                        by setting a child free from bondage to a demon.
When he did  it, the people saw it, and the glorified God.

Setting children free from oppression
            and doing it in the name of Jesus
      that’s shining the Christ light into a darkened world.
Tomorrow morning 35 people of faith will fly from this Valley
            up to Reno and drive over to Carson City
            to talk with our legislators.

We’re going to tell them who we are.
We are people of faith.
And we are going to ask them to pass the Human Trafficking bill,
            to set our children free of the sex traffickers
                        who exploit them here in our state.
That is shining the Christ light into some serious darkness.

Whether it’s Jesus setting a child free from a demon
            or a follower of Jesus setting a child free from a pimp,
            that’s shining the Christ light
            so that people may glorify our Father in Heaven.

James Davison Hunter’s  book, To Change the World,
is about how Christians try to make a difference here and now.
It’s a hard facts study of what works and what doesn’t.
Trying to seize power and make people do what we say doesn’t work.
It hasn’t worked for the Christian Right
or for the Christian left.
But when we participate in our community,
            when we get involved with the place where we live,
and we do it honestly in the name of Jesus,
            it does make a difference.
Hunter calls it “fathful participation.”
People see Christ acting through us;
they are touched by it, encouraged, inspired
– they are  changed.

Hunter says the problem with modern Christians
            is that we are wearing veils.
Mainline Christianity has withdrawn from the culture
taking refuge from the modern world inside our church walls.

We have handed over the universities, sold the hospitals,
stopped making art and literature,
and entrusted social services to government bureaucracies.
We have abandoned the field.
When Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp then puts it under a basket,”
he hadn’t met us.
But I see signs of hope.
There are green buds on the bough of our faith.
Here at St. Timothy’s, you have been stubbornly Christian
in your work with Friends in the Desert,
            serving the poor and the hungry
even when it offends your neighbors.
That’s what Paul called “acting boldly.”

I am very encouraged by Michele Turner’s stepping up
to make connections between St. Timothy’s
            and Nevadans for the Common Good.
Fr. Mike recently went to the 5-day community organizing training
at our seminary in California.
He is the second non-Hispanic priest in this diocese
get that training.
There are stories like that all over this diocese.

Congregations who had not been involved with their communities
are getting involved.
Congregations who have always been involved with their communities
are doing more.

This MLK Day,
         St. Catherine’s, Reno, visited a homeless shelter
         to teach people how to use crock pots.
The homeless people saw that. But they weren’t the only ones.
The next day, it was in the Reno Gazette-Journal,
         because when Jesus shows up, that’s news.

Will our good works shine light in the darkness?Let me share a few simple stories.
After my mission trip last year,
I met a young man at the luggage repair shop.
He asked me what I had been doing in Kenya.
I told him about Melvin Stringer’s work to save young women
         from genital mutilation and forced marriages.
He said, “Where is your church? That’s a church I’d go to.”

When I went to help clean up a community center in Las Vegas,
         several young people said, “Where is your church?
                  If you’re here, we want to be there.”

I went a community organizing training in Texas this year-
- the same training Fr. Mike just did in California.
All of us trainees who were over 50 were church folks.
The ones under 30 were not.
But two of the young adults said, each in their own way,
 “if I’d known Christians like the ones here
         I’d still be in the Church.
         In fact, I’m going to give it another try.”

“You are the light of the world.
No one lights a lamp and sets it under a basket . . .
Let you light so shine that people may see your good works
         and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”