Sunday, October 07, 2018

A Sermon for Sunday, October 7, 2018: “The Fence Between Fear and Possibility”

“The Fence Between Fear and Possibility”
A sermon preached at All Saints Church in Pasadena at the 1:00 p.m. service 

I start this afternoon by being completely honest with you. This has been a tough week to dig through all that is going on in our nation and to find good news to bring buried under all the bad news.

To do it, I had to say my prayers, step away from the “breaking news” of conflict, division and chaos that is gripping our country and search instead for words of both inspiration and challenge.

And I found them in this quote from our former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori … a quote from a sermon she preached back in 2012 as we gathered at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Until we can see the chasm between what is and what ought to be, we don’t have any hope of changing.  Indeed it is the act of crossing that boundary between what is and what ought to be that gets us across the fence between fear and possibility, reconciling division, transforming injustice, urging the lost onto the road home.

Bishop Jefferts Schori preached those words back in 2012 to a congregation of people who love their church and strive to live out the Gospel while not always agreeing with each other about how to do both of those things.

And she was challenging us – and, I suspect, challenging herself (because we know all the best sermons are actually the preacher preaching to the preacher) – to get ourselves together and get over that fence between fear and possibility in order to bridge the gap between what is and what ought to be in our church and in our world.

I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that six years ago the world was far from perfect and we faced a whole list of challenges.

But I think it is fair to say that since then the fence between fear and possibility has only gotten taller and harder to climb and the chasm between what is and what ought to be has only gotten deeper and more treacherous to cross.

That divide has maybe never been in sharper relief than it has in these last few weeks with the drama surrounding the Supreme Court Nomination hearings – and with the midterm elections only 29 days away I think we all know it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

But no matter how bad it is, crossing the boundary between what is and what ought to be is literally our vocation as Christians … as followers of Jesus … as those whose job it is to make that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven not just a prayer we pray but a reality we live. 
In this moment what it “is” is a system that is rigged to give power to the powerful and keep the marginalized at the margins.

What it “is” is a patriarchy that values the career of a man over the abuse of a woman and a nation still so steeped in sexism that women who have been victims of assault become victims again when they dare to come forward and speak out.

What it “is” is a culture of white supremacy that values white lives over black and brown lives in systems of mass incarceration, police profiling and unjust immigration polices … just to name a few.

What it “is” is a gun culture that rejects reasonable gun control laws and continues to value right to own a gun over the right of our children to be safe in their schools and our citizens to be safe in their streets.

And what it “is” is a heterosexist understanding of gender and human sexuality that continues to target LGBTQ people and reduce them to a less-than-human-status … sadly turning texts like the one we heard this morning into weapons of mass discrimination against members of God’s beloved human family.

If we look at that example for just a moment we see that the Gospel starts with the words “Some Pharisees approached Jesus as a test …” – and so we know from the beginning that these were not folks seeking greater understanding.

These were folks who had already made up their mind and were looking for a quote from Jesus to use against him – not at all unlike what we have been seeing going on in our nation for far too long as our politics have descended further and further into the quagmire of division and dirty tricks; of alternative facts and outright lies.

But watch what Jesus does. He answers their question without falling into their trap and then … crossing the boundary between what is and what ought to be … he shows them what the kingdom is supposed to look like saying: “Let the children come to me; do not stop them.  It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs.”

And that my sisters, brothers and gender fluid siblings deserves an “amen.” 

It not only deserves an “amen” but it deserves our best energies committed to getting over whatever fences stand between what “is” – a world where fear dominates our discourse, pollutes our politics and feed violence – and what “ought to be” – that “the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we pray for absolutely every time we gather together.

I have often quoted Verna Dozier and I’m going to do it again.

Dr. Dozier famously said, “Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what difference it makes that you believe.”

And today we gather together in community to be fed by word and sacrament not just because we believe – but because we believe we are called to make a difference.

Called to climb the fence between fear and possibility.

Called to refuse to settle for what “is” but to work together with God to create what “ought to be.”

One more Dr. Dozier quote to leave you with: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong I will trust that if I move by the light that is given me, knowing that it is only finite and partial I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.”

It has been a hard week – and the weeks ahead are likely to be harder yet.

But if we move together by the light we have – knowing it is only finite and partial -- we will move forward together as co-creators of what ought to be; agents of the change we want to see refusing to allow fear to keep us from climbing that fence that stands between us and another world that is not only possible ... she is on her way.

Hear these words of Indian author Arundhati Roy as interpreted by Ana Hernandez:

              Another world is not only possible. She is on her way.
              On a quiet day, you can hear her breathing. She is on her way

Now …

Together let us climb that fence. Together let us claim the future. Together let us make the impossible possible as we work to reconcile division, to transform injustice and to urge the lost onto the road home. Amen.

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