This morning, just before the post scrolled off their front page, I discovered via An Inch at a Time that Bishop Gene Robinson preached at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena this past Sunday. Click here for the video of the sermon. Lots of good stuff there, so I transcribed most of it
Well, that would all be very nice, except that's not what Micah said. Micah said we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. And it strikes me, maybe you're like me, we just looove to love justice, don't we? And even an astounding witness to justice, like All Saints Pasadena can so love to love justice, and sit around, and form committees, and talk about it all day, that we forget that what Micah said is that we must do justice and walk humbly with our God. I think that what Jesus is teaching in this story about the Good Samaritan is that it's not enough to be good. It's not enough to know the creeds and say you believe all the things that you're supposed to believe.
Remember that our baptismal covenant, which is as close to a purpose statement as we have in the Episcopal church, are all action verbs. Right? They're all action verbs. It's not about which doctrines you ascribe to, but will you love and serve one another, will you respect the dignity of every human being, if you make mistakes, will you repent and come back to God? It's all about doing. It's not about ascribing to the right tenets and the right doctrines. That stuff is dry. It's important, but it's not the most important. Because what we see in the story of the Good Samaritan, is the danger of loving God separate from doing the work of loving our neighbor.
So it seems to me, that the real question, the challenge, really, of this story for you and me, is whether or not we want to be admirers of Jesus, or disciples. It's easy to admire Jesus--to think he was a nifty guy with really wonderful ideas. Following Jesus is a whole lot harder. Doing the work of ministry and doing justice--getting into some "Gospel trouble" is what we are meant to do.
You know, this Lent, I realized for the first time that this symbol, this cross, is such a political symbol. Now, let's be clear: the Jews did not kill Jesus. That's a bunch of anti-semitic stuff that runs throughout some of the Gospels, especially John, and it is not true. The Romans killed Jesus.
Now, the Romans killed lots of people, but they saved crucifixion for a very specific kind of criminal. And it was the one who challenged the Powers That Be. Who took on the government, who threatened the Pax Romana with their notions of turning the world upside-down like Jesus did. And they didn't put them all high and lifted up like Cecil B. DeMille--I realize that criticizing Cecil B. DeMille in Los Angeles is...(laughter). But, crosses were actually quite low to the ground, so that as people died and began to rot away, the dogs could eat their flesh, and there would be almost nothing left to bury. They wanted to make a real example of anyone who challenged the Powers That Be. And it is an indictment of you and me that we can wear this symbol around, and it doesn't threaten anybody.
When we wear a cross, it ought to scare people to death! And the more powerful they are, the more it ought to scare them. We should be being followed around by the F.B.I.--I know you're being followed by the I.R.S. (laughter). You've got a good start on this one! But really, really--shame on us that this doesn't threaten anybody! When we put this on, when we put on the cross of Christ, we are saying that it's not just religion that we are about. We are about changing the world, as Jesus changed it. We are about loving the people that Jesus loved--those in the margins. And it doesn't mean sitting in a committee room somewhere talking about loving those people, but actually loving them, and doing the hard work of justice.
Are you and I going to be admirers of Jesus only, or are we going to be disciples?
You know how an innoculation works, right? You don't want to get chicken pox, so you go to the doctor, and they give you just enough chicken pox to make your body form antibodies to it, so you never get a full-blown case of chicken pox. God help us if we come here on Sunday mornings just to get enough religion to keep us from having a full-blown case. It is so easy, isn't it, to come here, isn't it? It feels so good, and you see people you know, and the music's great, and the preaching is good. It just all works! But if we leave here, and it causes us to not do anything any differently, then this is nothing but a religious theme park. Really! We have to be out there doing the work that God has given us to do, or else it is all ultimately just self-serving.
And it'll be hard work! When Jesus says "Take up your cross and follow me", he means it's going to be tough. It's going to be very hard--it means taking risks, it means loving that costs. But the miracle, the miracle is that when we do that, and we face that trouble, we come to know the very God who is at the center of all that is. It's the only way we get to know him--we don't get to know him by memorizing the creed. We get to know him by doing the work that he did.
So, you and I can do that--especially if we do it with him, that he can work in and through us, to do the work that he has given us to do. So the question for you and me today is, do we just come here for an innoculation? Or do we come here for a full blown infection of God's love? Because it's only when you are fully infected yourself with the love that simply know no bounds, can you go out there and love the world, and God's children, in God's name. And this God promises to be with you and me from now on! There is no better news than that, on this, or any Sunday. Amen.