Jeff Mortimer 50th birthday party
When Storms Come
2Cor. 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
2Cor. 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(sing) And the people pray, One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright. One love, One heart, give thanks and praise to the Lord and it will be alright. One pulse, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright. One pulse, one heart, give thanks and praise to the Lord and it will be alright. One light, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright. One light, one heart, give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright, Let’s get together and feel alright. (Bob Marley)
One week ago, we awoke early to a tragedy that was unconscionable, and the news would only get worse. Forty-nine innocent lives lost. Why? Pick your poison as to where to place blame. Religious extremism as the shooter pledged allegiance to Isis? Homophobia targeting a gay bar? Race, as it was Latino night at the Pulse? Mental Health as there is enough information to suspect that the shooter was struggling with acceptance of who he truly was? While so many may focus on one of the above, the first answer is only a bigger question of despair—how could anyone do this? And the second answer is that it is a combination of all the above…and more. What I do know is that this is happening too much. Numb…
God, following the great flood, gave us a rainbow. But before the rainbow, after creating all of this, God named it good. God then creating us, and God named us good, followed by God asking us to be co-creators—to care and tend the garden. God granted us dominion to care for all of creation—but something went wrong right away. Rather than thanking God, being grateful for all that we had, and responding by caring for the garden, we wanted more. And the violence escalated—and finally God had had enough! Our creator wanted a do over, wipe the slate clean. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But God mourned the destruction—the violence of the flood, the tragic loss, and God made a new covenant—in the rainbow.
“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
Never again. Whenever we see the rainbow—we are reminded of those words, never again. Now the flood is one of all of our tears. The violence is not that of God—but of a broken humanity.
How are we to respond? Let us look for the rainbow. The beauty that is in all of the colors—distinct, vibrant, and beauty in each individual color. While the colors may blend as one gets close to the other, each is distinct. As our Scripture today reminds us, From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view. And knowing Christ from a human point of view, he disrupted our lives—seeking for us to put others before ourselves, to be a servant of all rather than being served, to go the margins to include, to seek the lost so that all were included—this all along was what God was trying to say to us—and we did not get it.
But in Christ, our call is to be a new creation—to see all things new—to see the rainbow—and appreciate each for who they are created in the image of God. Our LGBTQ neighbor—created in God’s image, just as they are. Our Latino brother and sister, just as they are, made in God’s image. Our immigrant neighbor, made in God’s image. And we continue—that the beauty is not in getting others to think like me, to be like me, to look like me—for if we were to try to blend all of the colors of the rainbow to make one—we would take all of the beauty of the colors and have brown. Life would be pretty dull if this is all we had. We would have dirt. But God reached down into the dirt, and forms each individual, and breathes new life. In Christ, we are a new creation. All that is old has passed away, and we see life through a new lens.
This is not magically going to end the violence as our tears will fall again. There will be blood shed. But we do have control over how we are going to choose to live. We have a choice to make? Are we going to choose fear, or are we going to choose love? May we choose to hold love—but not hold on to it so tight that we don’t share.
I say this with sensitivity that there is a place—that I too understand hunting, and I understand hobby. And the fact that I have to premise this with sensitivity to even talking about guns, in the context of Scripture and Jesus Christ, should be a warning sign. The fact that there is an unwritten code that we should not even talk about it speaks volumes. Jesus defied every time culture, even all following who thought his revolution was going to be through violence and the sword, with his defiance fought with the weapon that is love. A love that is disarming. When it escalated to the highest point, Jesus said, Enough! And he healed the ear of his enemy. And he said to the disciples, put down the sword, for to live by the sword is to perish by the sword.
The trajectory of our story has been, and continues to be, that it is going somewhere. This trajectory is that swords will be turned into plowshares. Guns will be turned into plows to till the soil, good soil that is life giving.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
For all. Period. Christ died for all, to reconcile us to God. And to reconcile—in literal terms—is that whatever it is we think we owed, it has been paid. Our debt has been paid.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So now we are ambassadors…
Now we are ambassadors, to go into those places foreign to us, different than us, to see the other colors and know the beauty. To go into the hard places—and through our best efforts so we can live free. So our neighbors can live free.
To be confident, and I say this carefully—respecting how in the aftermath of tragedy that has done violence and trauma to all of our LBGTQ brothers and sisters. I say this carefully with eyes open to the amount of violence not just this last weekend, but throughout history of the persecution in the name of God to our LGBTQ neighbors. Of the abuse, name calling, and murderous acts that have made even the church not a sanctuary. Of people who have been denied the freedom to feel safe holding hands in public, or denied full participation in our churches. And if it has not been said, in the name of Christ, I am sorry.
Chris Singleton, the son of Sharonda Singleton who was slain one year ago in the sanctuary at Emanuel AME, says, “No matter how much hate there is in the world, it’s no match for love. Love is always stronger than hate.”
This is what our call is ambassadors. To be love, and to be the color that God has made us—and to add to the beauty…that the rainbow is what we see following the worst storms. To be love. For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That we might become the righteousness. And righteousness is a fancy word for right relationship. That we might live rightly in relationship with each other—seeking most those that need inclusion, welcome, hospitality. For that is what we all need. To be love, and to be loved.
One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright. One love, One heart, give thanks and praise to the Lord and it will be alright.