Sermon 6/12/2016 “Dealing with imperfection”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: Luke 7:36-8:3
Day: 4Pentecost, Proper 6, Year C

“Dealing with imperfection”

20160612_bulletinToday is the day we celebrate Resurrection Children’s Center. For 46 years, RCC—our preschool—has modeled Christ’s love by being a place of welcome and inclusion for all. Through RCC, which is an outreach mission of Church of the Resurrection, we collectively have welcomed in the name of Christ, without speaking Christ’s name, every single child whom God has sent to us. Over the years, this has included both “typically developing” children and children with special needs. Our specialty has been inclusion—and love—although, truth be told, whole-hearted inclusion might be rarer in our world than love, especially the type of love that is actual rather than theoretical.

So inclusion, which is to say love, has been our mission. And today is the day we have chosen to name and celebrate our success. Today is the day when RCC ends and, by the end of the month, merges with Fairlington Preschool over on King Street.

WHY are we doing this difficult thing? Because we have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams: RCC’s mission is so mainstream that inclusion is desirable, and Fairlington Preschool is ready to embrace our mission so hugely that our mission of inclusion will get shared in a larger setting within the West End of our city. We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams: Church of the Resurrection’s mission of being the hands, voice, and hearts for doing God’s work in our world has given us another huge undertaking to accomplish, that of providing our community with much-needed affordable housing (not to mention food, direct financial assistance, and love in other forms, as well). And we want to ensure the continuation of the RCC mission while we accomplish these new tasks that God has given us to do.

So today we are declaring success on both fronts: school and church. And, as much as our hearts grieve change, we have to acknowledge that through cataclysmic changes such as these, new life, new mission, and new ministry occur. I expect you all know this reality, that God brings new vitality into existence through death. After all, the word “Resurrection” is embedded in both our names: Resurrection Children’s Center, and Church of the Resurrection. Resurrection—new life born out of death—can only happen after a death, such as the death of our preschool. I can’t wait to see the vibrant new life at Fairlington Preschool that awaits this particular resurrection!

Having said all of that, having acknowledged the day that is today, my job as today’s preacher is to find in the scripture lessons appointed for today some Good News, some hope, for us today. This was particularly difficult a task this week because today’s lessons are all about sin.

Yes, today’s lessons were all chosen to teach us what to do if (or should I say “when”) we royally mess up our lives.

  • In our first lesson, King David (that hero of Jews and Christians even to this day as a model man of God and national leader) THAT King David had badly messed up his life. He has murdered Uriah the Hittite so that he could marry Uriah’s beautiful wife (who oh-by-the-way was expecting David’s child). David had badly disordered his life. What this story teaches us, in a nutshell, is that we can confess our errors, even the most grievous of our errors, and be assured of forgiveness. As today’s Psalm says, “Happy are they whose disordered lives are put right!” David’s story teaches us two things: that no sin is beyond forgiveness, and that there might be serious consequences.
  • Our epistle lesson continues the sin theme. The short version of ITS lesson is that there are no actions on our part that can fix the mess we make of our lives. The only thing we can do is to have faith that Christ Jesus can forgive us and put our lives right. That is my testimony to you today, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all disorder.”
  • Then, there is our gospel lesson, the story of a notorious sinner who throws herself at Jesus’ feet. The women, who is not named, finds condemnation in the home of a righteous man, but finds no condemnation from Jesus, who “merely” forgives her and welcomes her into her new life.

Now, if this were not RCC Sunday, we would look at this story for more clues about what to do if (or when) we have really messed up our lives. But today another angle presents itself. We are going to see what to do when dealing with imperfection.

We know, today, that illness and disease or not being “typically developing” are NOT due to sin. We know, today, that being “typically developing” (which is to say, being part of the so-called “norm”) is NOT a blessing from God, any more than the opposite is a punishment from God. We know today that reality includes a “norm,” and that there are exceptions all around the norm. We know that the purpose of exceptions is to highlight both the breadth of all creation AND to teach us that God loves each and every one of us for who and what God created us to be. If we were all the same—HO HUM—what would we ever know about being human?

So let’s see what our gospel lesson can speak to us through THIS lens: “What do you do if your beautiful child is not ‘perfect’?” Because, of course, everyone’s child is beautiful, and no one’s child is perfect.

And when we begin to shed our normative view of the world, to shed our false views of what is sin and even what is “normal,” we begin to see that our own lack of clear vision has limited our thinking. When we realize that there is a gift of grace given to us by every exception to the norm, only THEN can we appreciate the great gift of life that God has given us all. And THEN, when we do the math, only then do we realize that we have been short in love and thus we are the ones who need forgiving (more, even, than the so-called notorious sinners of the world, who need to do their own confessing).

Those who learn this lesson, the lesson of recalibrating our judgment and valuing every single person, learn what I call the “Simon lesson.” This is the lesson that Simon the Pharisee had to learn in today’s gospel lesson when he invited Jesus to dinner and when a notorious sinner crashed the party. Simon had to learn the mathematics of love, and that he was short in the love department (as Jesus pointed out to him).

Our lesson today names a few of Jesus’ women disciples, whom Jesus had healed, who carried out his work in the world—not so that Jesus would forgive them their sins, but because Jesus HAD forgiven them.

So what do any of us do when we realize that our beautiful child is not perfect, and that our beautiful child is US? We throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet, ask his forgiveness, form a community and share the love Jesus has taught us with the whole world.

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