Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rise Up...Reach Out! NOW! Pentecost 23

On the occasion of our
Rise Up...Reach Out Stewarship Campaign Commitment Sunday

Pentecost 23 Matthew 22.34-46

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42‘What do you think of the Messiah?* Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit* calls him Lord, saying,44“The Lord said to my Lord,‘Sit at my right hand,until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


There is a progression in relationships that is expressed in language.

When does an acquaintance become a friend?

When does a friend transition into that inner sanctum of a handful of people with whom you'll share the totality of your life because you know sanctuary with them?

Or, what of relationships that are of a different sort? Dare we say, the romantic side?

You have interest in someone, they in you, what language you use to refer to them...especially in the company of others? Whether it's the first time you ever had to deal with such questions, or, even if you find yourself in such a position later in life, the stress of language is the same?

What to say about her? him?

When to say it?

How to say it?

Are we dating?

Going steady?

Seeing one another?

What is this...THIS?

In such a relationship, there comes a point, if it in fact gets there, when "like" becomes "love.” It's a pretty distinct line, and we don't drop the "L" word hastily because there's really no going back once you've done it.It's not as if you can say,
"you know, I realize I said 'I love you" for the first time a couple of weeks ago, but I'm new at this, and I've reconsidered, I just like you."
Our cultural understandings of the "L" word, are wrapped in emotion..feeling, not to mention a good dose of “eros.” And whatever chemical processes occur in the brain that brings about the giddiness, euphoria and makes you want stand up and sing –

"I've got the world on a string, sitting on a rainbow, I've the string around my finger, what a world, what a life...I'm in love!"
Yea, well that pretty much makes me sick!

Maybe that's because once the "love drug" wears off, you're left with a decision. That being, will the love I claim that no longer sits me on a cloud now be lived out from the standpoint of my commitment?

Feelings wax and wane, and too often, due to the business of life and its stresses, wane more than wax. But what do I do with that?

We come to realize, there is no love without commitment. And commitment cannot be words only, and will not be emotions only, it is love that hangs on.

Paul had it right in his letter to the Corinthians.

"[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
And he wasn’t talking about young lovers. He was talking about Christian community needing to be in covenant commitment to one another no matter what.

It’s a love that knows something of maturity. Later in that chapter Paul talks about how he was a child and thought of life from the standpoint of immaturity. But when he became an adult, he started to understand that there was something deeper at stake.
The kind of love Paul talks about in this Christian community is not contrived, neither is it based on how you "feel" about it. It is a love lived out obliged by the self-giving love of God through Jesus for the world.

But make no mistake...this love in community is one of purpose and intent.

In every relationship...there is a decision…that line of demarcation, and we are left with the decision to Rise Up..Reach Out and meet love's language with love's commitment, or turn away from it.

Your relationship with partners...

with friends...

with God...

with your church’s present vitality and prophetic future …

It’s not that much different. It really isn’t.

What is the nature of your relationship with Jesus of Nazareth expressed in the practice of your discipleship here at Saint John's? Is love's language matched with love's commitment? This is the a moment where we approach that line and make our choices.

That’s what today is.

As we prayerfully seek God’s vision for our future at St. John’s. As we long to dream God’s dream for our work to practice Gospel hospitality as radically as Jesus, it’s time for us to RISE UP…REACH OUT and do it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

The reading for today constitutes what Martha Greene, in her article in The Christian Century calls Jesus’ final exam. After all the tests, tricks, and his parable responses…it comes down to this. The thing that would, in the minds of his critics, concretize the quest to pursue Jesus' demise, was a recitation of that which always was, is and will be the measure of enacted faith against the emptiness of religious speak.


Love of God and love of neighbor.

How could it be that basic? How could over 600 commandments from the Torah be reduced to these two? The radical word of Jesus to those who confronted him, a word that at once confounded and enraged them, was that the son of David is the fulfillment of these words and unless at least the love of God and love neighbor are paramount, the rest is just religious "busy work."

Love of God and love of neighbor. Love of God expressed through love of neighbor, loving the "other," whoever that is, as if they were your own kin. This is not a matter of emotion, or warm fuzzies. No, the “love” to which the Scripture refers is of a specific sort.
"In an age when the word 'love' is greatly abused, it is important to remember that the primary component of biblical love is not affection but commitment. Warm feelings of gratitude may fill our consciousness as we consider all that God has done for us, but it is not warm feelings that Deut.6.5 demands of us, but rather, stubborn, unwavering commitment. Similarly, to love our neighbor, including our enemies, does not mean we must feel affection for them. To love the neighbor is to imitate God by taking their needs seriously.” Matthew Hare (Matthew Interpretation Commentary)
This is what defines us...this is who we are. Our quest to live as disciples of Jesus is measured not by our words, or our emotions, but our “stubborn, unwavering commitment” to those things that Jesus said matters most, and making those things the central planks of our gathered community’s agenda, and, by faith, doing everything within us to rise up..reach out, and meet those challenges.

We’re endeavoring to do that and be that here at Saint John’s for no other reason than that we see ourselves as Christian community seeking to be made perfect in Love.

And if this is who we are, sisters and brothers, it’s time to Rise Up…Reach Out and take the next steps into the community of faith God dreams for us. If we dare.

If we claim this as the central theme of our being, what does that look like here?
What is Saint John’s?

Of all the places we could associate ourselves, even practice our discipleship, why here? And why are we called to commit our loving commitment to this our common quests?

It is simply this…

We will not be the largest church on the block, but there will be no equal in our faith commitment to live out the Gospel and to makes it precepts the authentic expression of what brings us into community.

We will not build a gym, we will not be all things to all people.

But we will be the place where all those who’ve tasted the mega-church and found it bitter will find home.

We will be the place that needs the totality of your presence.

We will be the place that needs the maximum of your gifts.

We will be the place where those disenchanted, disenfranchised, and disinherited by it will hear the word of the Lord proclaim, “I have called you by name, and you are mine.”

We will be the place of new life. The place of the butterfly. Resurrection. The place that announces that what we’ve been is not nearly as important as what you’re becoming.

We will be a people continually gathered around the Sacramental life. Our frequent practice of the Eucharist will be for us but a metaphorical expression of the loving servanthood we take upon ourselves.

We will be the place where your desire to love and God your neighbor is the label you wear that matters most. All other labels will subject you to no harm here, except that we know that in Christ Jesus that we are healed and made one.

We will be the place where, when the Gospel challenges are placed before us…we will Rise Up…Reach Out to meet them.


Not unlike Jesus being tested once more by the principalities and powers of the religious order of his day, so too, are we. There’s far too much in the politics of the religious establishment that would prefer that we just “go away.”

But we will not…when faced with the questions of our future, we will RISEUP..REACH OUT!

As we face the financial realities of our congregation and it’s mission to be more than we are, to invest in Gods work in this corner through faith by creating the ministries now that we aspire to tomorrow..we will RISE UP… REACH OUT!

And we do this not because we are great, but because we’ve come to know that Grace is amazing, love is real…and this day, everyday, we will RISE UP…REACH OUT! There is no real "love" without commitment. And as you live out this great commandment, as we live it out together, the time to make that commitment has come.We are called to love God and love our neighbor …let’s rise up…reach out and do it. NOW!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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