Monday, July 30, 2018


What you think of our current political leaders
         depends mostly on which tv news channel 
         you choose to watch. 
It’s like that with the kings of Israel.
On one hand, the prophets did not think higly of the kings. 
On the other hand,
a lot of 2ndSamuel and all of Chronicles appear 
         to have been written by the royal press secretary. 
A couple of weeks ago we read how David gathered a crowd
         and fed them all a decent meal. 
He was an impressive benefactor. 

But then, in today’s lesson, it’s as if a reporter from CNN
snuck onto Fox or vice versa.
The prophet Nathan shows up and points out 
that the King is feloniously corrupt.
It isn’t just the adultery. It’s the murder of Uriah. 
It’s a story about power fatally misued.

Israel’s first king, Saul was crazy as a coot. 
Next, David was a narcissistic murderer. 
Next, Solomon, a greedy tyrant, taxed half his people into ruin
         and forced the rest into involuntary military service
         so he could expand his empire.
After that the kings got bad. 

Flash forward a few centuries to our Gospel lesson. 
Jesus had been teaching about a new kind of Kingdom,
         the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom built on love
instead of dominating power, 
a Kingdom of peace, justice, and mercy.
It sounded like he was campaigning for office. 

Then Jesus gathered thousands of people as David had done
         and fed them as David had fed them. 
The crowd figured, if it walks like a king and quacks like a king,
         it must be a king.
So, they started planning an insurrection to put Jesus
on Granddaddy David’s throne.  
But that isn’t the kind of kingdom Jesus had in mind.
When they were coming to take him to a throne,
         Jesus high tailed it.

As Jesus saw it, the Romans were a gang of thugs
         but another gang of thugs overthrowing them
                  wouldn’t change anything. 
The road to peace isn’t war.

Jesus didn’t want the dominating power of an earthly throne.
So, when he heard they were going to make him king,
         he skedaddled.
He knew we didn’t need that kind of a king.
We needed a savior who moved the world with love. 

We are apt to underestimate love. 
We think love is soft and won’t really do much.
But Francis Spufford, author of Unapologetic, says:
         “The universe is sustained by a continual 
and infinitely patient act of love.”
Dante wrote about the 
         “love that moves the sun and all the lesser stars.”

Lady Julian of Norwich had a vision of a hazelnut
         and asked God what that little nut was.
God answered, “That is the entire universe.”
Lady Julian said, “How can it exist? It is so small.
         What keeps it from falling into nothingness?”
God answered, “It exists because I love it.”

There are so many things we cannot compel
         with guns, tanks, and armed drones.
We cannot create life with the means of death.
Only love can do that. 
Jesus would not wield the worldly power
         of domination – only the heavenly power of relationship.

Our Epistle lesson tells us what that means for us.
Paul says, 
         “I pray that God may strengthen you in your inner being
         with power . . . and that Christ may dwell in our hearts
         as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”//

I hardly know where to begin saying why I love this text so much.
First, it is about strengthening us.
Our religion isn’t about being nice and namby pamby.
It’s about being strong – not a brittle surface strength –
         but deep strength.
“That God may strengthen your inner being with power.”

Now look where that power comes from.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts.”
Our religion is about a Christ who isn’t just up in heaven
         helping us out when we are in a fix.
Christ rejected the worldly throne
         because he wanted to live in us instead.
Linda and I used to live with a Christian community 
         of musicians named The Fisherfolk.
They sang a very simple little song with these verses:
         “The Lord desires a throne not of gold nor of silver.
          The Lord desires a throne in you.”

This Christ who calmed the raging sea,        
healed the sick, the lame, and the bind, lives in us.
This Christ who looked Pilate in the eye blinking,
broke open the gates of hell
and conquered death lives in us.
That’s power.
And he lives in us.
That power is in us. 
God puts it there. 

But it’s a different kind of power than we usually think of. 
This power grows inside us, Paul says,
         “as we are being rooted and grounded in love.”
It isn’t the life crushing power of violence and dominance.
It’s much bigger than that. 
It’s the power that sustains the universe 
“by a continual and infinitely patient act of love.”
It is the power that Dante’s says,
         “moves the sun and all the lesser stars.”
It is the power that God told Lady Julian
         holds the fragile cosmos in being.
It’s big power. Really big.

The other words I love in our lesson are 
         “rooted and grounded.”
This love isn’t an airy-fairy thing.
It isn’t a passing feeling, a mood, or an emotion.
It’s deep and solid as the earth, only more so. 
An Episcopal priest named Becca Stevens 
         has founded 22 Magdalene Houses
         to shelter, educate, and heal 
         drug addicted street prostitutes.
Becca took one such woman, Doris,
         to the ocean in Florida.
As a Nashville streetwalker, 
she’d never seen the ocean and was just amazed by it.
Standing in the water as the tide was rising,
         she threw her hands up to the sky and said,
         “Has this been happening my whole life?”

Becca said, “Yes, Doris, as long as the moon has been
         going around the earth, these tides had been moving.
         But long, long, forever long before that,
         a greater power was moving – the power of God’s love.”
We are rooted and grounded in that power.

When we confirm a new member,
         we don’t pray, “Oh God make this person nice.
         Oh God teach this person the rules and scare her into obeying.”
We pray “Strengthen O Lord your servant with your Holy Spirit.
         Empower her for your service, 
         And sustain her all the days of her life.”

We embrace this faith, we receive these sacraments, 
         we study God’s word to be “rooted and grounded in love”
-- “O the deep, deep love of Jesus,” another hymn says.
and that’s the love God instills in us. 
That love will get us thorugh the hard times of life – Praise God –
         because we all need that.
But it’s not just for getting us by.
It’s for becoming a force that will change this broken,
         fallen, suffering world into the Kingdom of God.