Pentecost – Proper 24
Isaiah 53: 4-12; Psalm 91: 9-16; Hebrews 5: 1-10; Mark 10: 35-45
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Several days ago a friend of mine from seminary posted an article about Pope Francis on Facebook. The article was from the Washington Post and it was about the arrival of Pope Francis to Philadelphia, one of several stops on his recent visit to the United States. Included with the article was a video that showed Francis as he walked down from the American Airlines jet at the Philadelphia airport, and stepped into the back seat of a small black Fiat. The backseat windows were rolled down, and Francis waved as the car drove away.
As the Fiat passed a group of people, all of a sudden, it stopped. Francis opened the door, got out from the back of the car, and walked over to a crowd of people where he embraced a young man with cerebral palsy who was confined to a wheel chair. The name of the young man was Michael, and Francis blessed him, and then kissed his forehead in a gesture of honest and sincere compassion and love.
The image of Francis embracing Michael in his arms was a complete and perfect summary of the Pope’s theology of disability and inclusion in the kingdom of God. That image, of the Pope embracing Michael, says more about the Pope’s love of God than any amount of words or concepts ever could. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, understood images have the power to awake within us an epiphany, an awareness, that often words fail to do.
So I want to give you an image. I want you to think about a person who consistently has irritated you, someone who has violated your trust, someone you disagree completely with, a person who you are envious of, someone for whom you have no room in your life for. Do you have that person in your mind? Now I want you to imagine Jesus, holding that person who has done you wrong somehow, in his arms. I want you to imagine Jesus embracing that person, kissing their forehead, blessing them. That person is in need of God’s love and forgiveness as much as you are. God, I believe, has forgiven that person. Have you?
Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” That means that Jesus came to serve not only you, not only the poor or disenfranchised. Jesus came to serve your own enemy, because as hard as it might be to imagine, your enemy is God's friend. If Jesus came to us as one who serves, then our work is to do the same. Our work is to bless and love others, especially if you disagree with them!
Several weeks ago at Rhythms of Grace, a weekly service for children with special needs, a ten year old boy with Autism received his first communion. His mother was in tears. The other day a man living on the streets in this neighborhood came to our front door because he was hungry, and had nothing nothing to eat. He was greeted with a smile and called by his name, and a lunch and bottle of water were handed to him. These are simple acts that will never attract the publicity of the Washington Post, but they are just as significant, just as holy.
To love God means that we affirm the worth and dignity of every human being we come in contact with. To love God means that we do to label others, we do not dismiss them with a category and demean their humanity. Loving God also means loving, and blessing, our enemies. Who is in the crowd today waiting for you to pass by, who is that person waiting, in need of your healing, compassionate embrace? Pray that God will help you find that person, and love them. AMEN.