Sermons

Sun, Nov 20, 2016

What the world needs now...

Christ the King AND a blessing of a marriage
Series:Sermons

An elderly gay man in Florida…

who wraps Christmas presents at a local store…

was pulled from his car and beaten…

the assailant proudly proclaiming,

“My new president says we can kill all you faggots now”.

Sadly, that is not an isolated incident.

There have been hundred of verbal and physical attacks on gay people since Donald Trump’s election.

Nor, sadly, is that restricted simply to the LGBTI community.

At numerous schools and universities throughout the country…

anti-Semitic, racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant graffiti have been spray-painted onto walls.

In California, a Muslim student had her hijab pulled off…

before her attacker tried to choke her with it.

In Georgia, a Muslim primary school teacher received an anonymous note from one of her students…

telling her, “Your headscarf isn’t allowed anymore”…

and that she should “hang yourself with it”.

In Maryland, a church that offered a Spanish-language service had its banner defaced:

“Trump nation whites only”.

In Colorado, a twelve-year-old African-American girl was approached by a white boy, who announced,

“Now that Trump is president, I’m going to shoot you and all the blacks I can find”.

Many Muslim families have woken to find their homes graffitied;

and many businesses owned by immigrants have been vandalised with slogans such as “white pride” or the word “Trump” combined with a swastika.

Welfare and support organisations have been inundated with thousands of such reports.

And all this before Trump’s inauguration…

and long before he implements any of his overtly racist policies.

Fear and hatred, it seems, are on the rise––

and not just in the United States.

There are reports of a new wave of ethnic killings in South Sudan…

while the Burmese military have unleashed yet more violence on the Rohingya.

Meanwhile, in Australia, there are reports that one in five students experience racism at school.

 

What the world needs now…

more than anything…

is an outpouring of genuine love.

But what does that really mean?

What, really, is ‘love’?

 

‘Love’ is, arguably, the most overused and abused word in our culture today.

Almost every popular song nowadays seems to speak of love.

Trashy magazines are full of celebrities falling in and out of love.

Romantic novels fill the shelves of our bookstores.

And reality shows like “the Bachelor”…

or relationship-self-help shows like Dr.Phil cram our TV screens.

We talk about love––

and often––

but we don’t necessarily know what it really means.

And when we attend a wedding of a beaming young couple––

or offer our congratulations to Andrew and Melissa––

it can be easy to resort to tired clichés or sentimental schmaltz…

like a Michael Bolton song…

or a Helen Steiner Rice greeting card.

In celebrating a milestone in a young couple’s relationship—

surrounded by feelings of excitement, joy, and hope––

it’s hard to stop and, seriously, to contemplate ‘what is love’.

What is this love that binds us together––

as a couple?

And what is this love that binds us together as a nation…

or simply as fellow human beings?

 

So it is that Paul’s words to the Romans—

which we heard read this morning––

are so important.

Genuine love, he suggests, is not an emotion…

nor a feeling.

Genuine love is about what we do.

And most of the injunctions in our reading are trying to flesh that out.

On the surface, it’s full of good advice:

cling to that which is good;

show affection to one another, and respect;

be patient;

be hopeful;

don’t be arrogant.

Admittedly, to that point, it does sound rather like a cheap Hallmark card.

But, bear in mind, these words were written to a group of people who were experiencing conflict.

And, let’s be honest…

being patient, hopeful, and affectionate…

are not easy when we’re angry, hurting, or locked in mortal combat.

Indeed, they’re usually the last thing that’s on our mind.

It goes completely against our natural tendencies to defend ourselves…

to strike back…

to repay evil for evil…

to trade harsh word for insult.

 

But Paul says, “No”.

That’s not what it means to love.

And that’s why genuine love isn’t easy.

That’s why it takes a great deal of work.

Love, isn’t about being a doormat.

But neither is love about getting your own way no matter what.

Rather…

love is about forgiveness;

love is not allowing what the other person says or does…

to shape how you respond to them or how you treat them;

love is focussing on what is good, and affirming, and life-giving for you both––

regardless of how you might feel at the time…

but especially when you disagree…

when you have hurt each other…

and when you’re tempted to say something that you know that you will regret;

love is concentrating on my own responsibilities…

rather than demanding my rights;

love is respecting our differences…

and not expecting or demanding the other person to change.

 

Today, as we try to juggle two seemingly incompatible ideas––

celebrating the recent marriage of Andrew and Melissa…

along with the liturgical recognition of Christ the King—

what holds both of these ideas together is, indeed, ‘love’.

Because, as Christians, we affirm…

that we recognise the true nature of love in the way that it was embodied and incarnated in Jesus Christ:

love takes risks;

love is vulnerable;

love reaches out with open arms––

which often means making the first move;

and love is willing to make sacrifices in order for there to be healing and new life.

Indeed, more than anything else, love is embodied and incarnated in Jesus Christ…

upon the cross.

The cross––

insofar as it manifests the nature and love of God––

demonstrates that God does not respond to our violence with violence;

that God is not interested in revenge or retaliation;

but that God responds to our violence only with love and forgiveness;

and that love and forgiveness is the only way…

with which to counteract the violence of our world…

and our instinctual natures.

As Martin Luther King jr once said…

“Jesus eloquently affirmed from the cross a higher law. He knew that the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy would leave everyone blind. He did not seek to overcome evil with evil. He overcame evil with good…Only goodness can drive out evil and only love can conquer hate”.

 

Despite the way that we bandy the word about, love is hard.

It isn’t easy.

It demands all that we have to offer––

and, sometimes, even more than that.

Love goes against our most primal instincts of self-preservation.

But without it, we cannot sustain a relationship––

such as a marriage––

nor can we sustain a society or nation.

As the cross so powerfully proclaims––

love…

and only love…

is powerful enough to change the world.

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