Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia.
It’s been fifteen years since the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City, and on the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and since the terrorist attack was thwarted by the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Some of us were not even born yet. Some of us were, like three years old. Some were ten years old. Some of us can tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing that day.
How do you feel about the last fifteen years? What do you think we have learned?
I would like to mention one thing I think we have learned, and one thing we know already.
We have learned is that the world is small. What happens way over there is not just way over there any more. It is right here. There is no such thing as way over there like there used to seem to be. It’s all close.
That’s scary, because we do not control what happens way over there. We can influence it. What we say and do can push it toward the good or the bad. But we cannot control it. And even though we can’t control it, what happens over there still reverberates all the way back here. The world is small. That’s scary.
One thing I thing we knew already, is that we are not going to make it on our own, we human beings, we creatures of creation. Without the grace of God, the power and bauty and integrity and love that moves beyond what we can see, the healing of the world that came through the death and resurrection of Jesus, that still comes, that God sends to the world through us, without the power of the cross, we are lost.
In the Gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells two parables about being lost: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus says that God is like a shepherd who goes after a lost sheep and brings it home. Jesus says that God is like a woman who searches for a lost coin until she finds it.
I thing there have been times in the last fifteen years, also in the last fifty years, in the last fifty-thousand years, when we have felt like God has not found us yet. There may have been times when we felt like God had given up searching. After all, wouldn’t you?
Those are the times that scare me. Because then we begin to think that we are on our own. That there is no power for beauty or life or hope or safety or justice or mercy beyond ourselves. When we forget the grace of God, that’s when things begin to twist.
The necessity of defense pulls away from its moorings, its anchor in the justice and mercy of God, and twistes itself into the impulse to dominate, to seek revenge, to make ourselves superior by destroying our enemy, rather than honoring the goodness with which God made everyone, by stopping our enemy.
The natural experience of fear pulls away from its moorings, its anchor in the justice and mercy of God, and twists itself into cowardice, the impulse to do anything, anything at all to keep our selves safe, rather than working for the safety of everyone.
That’s what I think we need to be afraid of: forgetting the grace of God. That’s what should cause us true terror.
Now, here is good news. Look at how active and energetic God is in Jesus parables. God is like the shepherd goes after the sheep and finds it and lays it on his shoulders and rejoices and comes home and calls his friends and neighbors, and celebrates. God is like the woman, who lights a lamp (Often a peasant’s cottage had one room, a dirt floor, one door and no windows, so you had to light a lamp. Lights this lamp, sweeps the house, searches carefully, finds, calls together her friends, which, in the Greek are all female. I guess it’s a lady’s night, and celebrates.
God is active and energetic, and crazy. What shepherd actually would leave ninety nine sheep in the wilderness to go off and search for one? Wouldn’t he just let the one go to keep the ninety nine? What woman would actually put out the expense of celebrating with her friends and neighbors. Could easily have spent that coin on the party alone.
But that’s the way God is. No matter how lost we are, as individuals, as a species, God will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up searching for you.
This is why we do not give up on each other. We do not give up on the human race. We do not give up on ourselves. We do not give up on the people way far over there. We do not give up on the people around us here.
Not because we think it’s going to be okay. Sometimes we don’t. But rather because God does not give up.
That’s why some people continue to volunteer to serve in the military. That’s why some people continue to volunteer to serve with Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Doctors without Borders and other organizations. That’s why Salaam Arabic Lutheran Church in Brooklyn continues work with the mosques, synagogues and churches of its neighborhood to bring together the many Christians, Muslims and Jews who live there. That’s why of its neighborhood together, just as it did after 9-11. That’s why Lutheran disaster response is working in Louisiana dealing with the floods there, and in the Middle East, dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis there. That’s why St. Matthews Area Ministries works with people in this neighborhood on food assistance, clothing, counseling, baby supplies, back to school, and birthday cakes.
Why? Because there is a power in this world, deeper than we are, beyond the overwhelming weighto fo opposition that we see, a power of love and beauty and hope and healing, that is bigger than we are, that comes to us in the cross, and carries us to the resurrection. There really is.
We are who we are and we do what we do because Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed, alleluia.