Posted by: dacalu | 30 January 2012

Your Fullest Self

I spent the morning with Church of the Apostles, Oro Valley, AZ, today.  Here is the sermon I preached.

Readings:

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 (“I will raise up for them a prophet”)

Psalm 111 (” I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart”)

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (food sacrificed to idols)

Mark 1:21-28 (“A new teaching—with authority!”)

Sermon:

This past week, I had the honor and delight of going on retreat

with the Society of Ordained Scientists.

We are not a very big group, though I’m pleased to say

we added 11 new members on Thursday.

So what is the Society?

For some it conjures up images of a Masonic style secret fraternity—

several friends have asked, quite honestly,

“How do you get ordained as a scientist?”

My banker on Tuesday said,

“Oh, I go on retreats, but they’re religious.”

She was non-plussed when I mentioned we’re mostly priests.

Let me explain.

The Society of Ordained Scientists was founded in the mid-1980s

by a group of priest-scientists in the Church of England.

They believed then, as I believe now,

that the interface between science and religion is particularly important.

We live in a society in which scientific literacy is increasingly important,

and for the church to remain relevant,

we will need to be fluent in issues of science and technology.

If the Gospel must be spoken in every time and place,

this time and place call for this kind of ministry.

So they started the society,

made up of priests, deacons, and other ordained ministers,

who also have experience as scientists at some sort of professional level.

I have a doctorate in evolutionary biology.

Nick Knisely, the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix,

taught physics at Lehigh University.

Mark Richardson, the president of CDSP,

teaches science and religion at the graduate level.

We’re more common than you might imagine.

We now have around 170 members,

mostly Anglican priests, but a few deacons and bishops,

Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Presbyterians.

All with experience in the sciences.

All with a commitment to a common life of prayer, a yearly retreat, and these aims:

“To offer to God in our ordained role

the work of science and technology

in the exploration and stewardship of creation.

To express both the commitment of the Church

to the scientific and technological enterprise

and our concern for its impact on the world.

To develop a fellowship of prayer for ordained scientists

by the following of a common Rule.

To support each other in our vocation.

To serve the Church in its relation to science and technology.”

We believe that one can be called to serve God in science,

even as priests.

This past week, we gathered at Picture Rocks,

just Northwest of Tucson,

to meditate on poetry in science and religion,

to pray and share silence,

and, of course, to geek out with other overeducated people.

It was a blast.

I discovered about 10 years ago,

that a very important part of my calling

is to share the Good News with scientists,

at the university and at conferences.

As I mentioned, when I was here last year,

that does not mean I’m out to make converts,

It means that I find my faith to be rational, helpful, and joyous;

I want to help others come to similarly consistent and happy beliefs,

even if they don’t match mine exactly.

Far too many people have come to the conclusion,

sadly reinforced by man believers,

that religion is a destructive irrational thing.

I also think I have a calling to help the church understand modern science,

and the culture of scientists, geeks, and engineers,

all of whom have a huge impact on the world we live in.

Some of you may wonder whether you are the right kind of people for Christianity.

I know, when I was younger, I worried that I was not that kind of person.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Sunday morning.

I’ve never been zealous about issues of hunger and poverty.

I wondered if I needed to change those things about myself

before I could be what God wanted me to be.

I know now that that’s not the case.

I am a geek.

I love knowledge and learning; I thrive in an academic setting.

And God has called me to work in that environment.

I find that I am zealous about evangelism with young adults.

I am zealous about preaching and theology,

about helping people integrate reason and faith.

I delight in working with people to make sense of the world,

scientifically and theologically,

particularly scientists and engineers.

I am a teacher and pastor.

So, I’m a university chaplain.

I get to wake up late, most days,

and celebrate Eucharist Sunday evenings.

I get to work with students, who struggle with knowledge and faith,

and I get to visit local parishes and talk to them

about things like evolution, astronomy, and technology

as they relate to faith.

Does this mean that I don’t care about the poor, the widows and the orphans?

By no means.

Issues of economic and social justice are still very important,

particularly in a border state.

I give money to Episcopal Relief and Development,

and I try to help homeless people.

It does mean that each of us is called to a specific time and place,

the community in which we find ourselves,

and the community that holds our heart,

while seeking to serve Christ in everyone we meet,

and in the larger world.

If you wait to be the “perfect” person,

no matter what your definition of “perfect” may be,

you will never get a chance to serve.

God asks that you love right now and right here.

God asks that you serve were you are,

those who normally surround you.

There is a time and place for missions;

you’ll know if you are called,

but most of us have sufficient opportunity to love those around us.

How many of your neighbors suffer in silence,

from economic hardship, loneliness, or despair?

How many worry about purpose in life?

How many do you even know?

The type of person God wants you to be,

is exactly the type of person you are –

just the best, most compassionate, humble, and joyous

version.

Nowhere in the world is love not needed.

No person exists who cannot use a kind word, a smile, and inspiration.

Never forget the poor.

Never forget to fight for justice and peace,

nationally and internationally.

But always start with what needs being done right here.

In Corinthians, Paul gives us the example

of Christians who don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols,

and those Christians who know that idols are meaningless.

Elsewhere, he speaks of vegetarians,

who refrain from eating meat for the sake of purity,

and other Christians who follow Jesus in thinking God

cares more about what comes out of one’s mouth

than what goes into it.

Different communities have different ways of expressing

love for one another and devotion to God.

We have a responsibility to help one another,

and not hinder other expressions of Christianity.

But there is also a great need for each of us to

be examples and agents of grace in our own context.

No one is too familiar or too common for our care.

The hardest parts of Christian right behavior require daily practice,

compassion, forgiveness, empowerment.

Who are the people in your life that need these things?

Co-workers, perhaps?  Family?  Friends?

Who do you know that needs someone to listen?

Who needs help with their work or their house or their kids?

We know these things instinctively.

I know that each one of you has someone in mind,

at least one someone…

How many people to you pass on the street or in the hallway,

whom you know nothing about?

How many people have been dismissed as uninteresting,

or obnoxious, or just different?

Those people need your love –

genuine love, mind you;

no doing things for people until you know

what they actually need.

I think that’s why everyday kindness seems so hard.

It requires paying attention,

taking time to truly know and understand people,

but that’s what we’re called to do,

love our neighbors –

near as well as far,

familiar as well as foreign.

Jesus says this to his disciples in John’s Gospel:

“Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

We cannot be the church God asks us to be

until we are known more for our love than for our judgment.

We will not be the people we were meant to be

until love is not an willed action, but a constant habit.

That means practicing, day in and day out,

with your family as well as strangers.

Do you know the people around you?

Do you know their hopes and fears?

Do you know their family stories and present struggles?

If not, why not?

Listen without judgment.

Serve without charge.

Share without fear.

That’s how we build the kingdom of God,

one relationship at a time.

Are you the type of person God wants for the church?

Yes.

Precisely so.

You are exactly the type of person that makes the kingdom of God.

And there are souls out there that need precisely you.

Most of them you know already.

The trick will be to be the fullest, best you possible.

Put your joy to work, and your zeal.

Frederick Buechner, the Presbyterian theologian, put it this way.

“The place God calls you to

is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Never forget that you are responsible for both,

knowing your own deep gladness,

and knowing the world’s deep hunger.

Only you can put the two together.

Only you can be Christ where you are.

And only you know what Christ is calling you to be.

God doesn’t ask you to be someone else.

God calls you to be yourself, in the fullest way possible.

This week I invite you,

in the spirit of Epiphany

to truly see yourself, who you are and where you live.

I invite you to see the need of those around you,

and remember that you may be the only

opportunity those people have to experience Christ today.

And love can become a habit for you too.

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