5 Epiphany 5 Feb 2016 There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work's in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, "He died for all." It looks like Paul. It looks like Paul could have a copy the words of or written the song There is a Balm in Gilead. Here is Paul talking to those supposedly sophisticated Corinthians. I'm sure he was greatly frustrated. And what is Paul say to them? What does he say to them? He said I speak to you not it lofty words or in wisdom, but I speak to you about Christ crucified. At this point I could and did say “huh?” What is this Christ crucified thing as Paul says it? What does God know that we don’t? Well as it turns out, a whole lot. It seems that things are turned upside down by the cross. Do you consider yourself a success? Did you do in life the things you hoped? Make all the money you wanted, or at least enough you feel you can retire safely? Time to have a come to Jesus meeting with Paul. You know I am not sure that is something I would want to have happen to me. Or maybe it would be the best thing that ever happened. There is really only one place from whence wisdom comes and that it from God, not from me and all my schooling or from my teachers and certainly not from my government. No, I need to look elsewhere. In fact, I need to find a whole nuther way of looking at things. If you are someone who can’t see without your glasses, you know what I mean. You look out at what is far away and it is all a blur (think about the blind man in whose eyes Jesus rubbed spit.) Then you put on your glasses and it is all clear. Paul says we need to see through the eyes of the spirit in order to see God and what God has given us. But these glasses are not like glasses for the far sighted or the near sighted; they are more like 3D glasses that give an entirely different view of the world. Forget everything you have been taught about how the world works!! Paul says in Christ there is a completely new way to live in the world. And just what is that new way to live in the world? What it is not, I tell you, is sacrificing a hypothetical cow or ram on the alter or singing the loudest songs and banging the tambourine or fasting to show our piety. Being a Christian is not a state of being but rather an action verb. You do Christianity. You do this new thing that Paul talks about. Hebrew scripture says it plainly: you fast when you loose the bonds of injustice, let the oppressed go free, share your bread with the hungry and house the homeless in your own homes. My friends, do you think of yourself as the salt of the earth? When I was growing up the expression, which I had no idea came from the Bible, let alone the words of Jesus, meant that you were not uppity and that you did the right thing. Are you the light of the world? Yes, you are. You are salt and you are light. That means that you are essential; you are what makes the reign of God possible here and now. You are the love which undergirds all of what Jesus is preaching to us. Are you willing to give yourselves the credit you deserve? Everyday God’s realm is nearer than the day before when we spread that love. Words preached don’t cut it, knowing all there is to know doesn’t cut it. All that matters is that we turn the world upside down, yes upside down. Yet we make is so hard. Once I was on a high ropes course and at the end was a kind of bungee jump. I was about 75 feet above the ground and all I had to do was jump off the platform while holding a rope, rather like in an old Tarzan movie. I was secured by two sets of safety ropes and, in addition, had a helmet on. Did any of that matter at that particular moment? Not one bit to someone like me who has significant acrophobia, or fear of heights. I am not sure how long I stood there; seems like it must have been an hour but I suspect it was more like a minute. In the end I was able to jump and in doing so had one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. For a few minutes, as I fell and then swung, I experience a feeling of complete freedom. There was nothing else to do but swing. Since then I have many times lost myself again and again, forgetting that life is not that complicated and that something that seems so risky is instead completely liberating. But I am in recovery. And in the next few months we have an opportunity to relook at our faith and how we put it into action as we engage in renewal and revival. Revival is not doing CPR; it is rediscovering the core message of Jesus all over again. That message is very personal and it needs to permeate the very center of our being so that we live holy lives. But that message is also communal. The saying goes that you cannot be a Christian in isolation. We are a community, we are a community that is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Yet you as an individual are also the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And that is what I hope you discover in the next few months, or rather rediscover. Maybe you are at a point where it is a rekindling of what you have already discovered. Regardless I am asking you all to listen for an alter call and answer it. (Being Episcopalians I suspect many of you will take that figuratively and not literally). I hope you will join in the Revival in some fashion. I listened to Bishop Curry deliver a powerful homily today as part of this revival. His words were far more stirring than anything I could ever hope to say, but the message was clear. We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement and, while we will do some things in our most peculiar way, we live out the Gospel message and that message is simple: love. We live out a real, tangible, worldly love that can change the face of the earth.
Now go you people who are the salt of the earth and let your light shine, really shine. Amen