Posted by: dacalu | 12 January 2020

Everything is Holy

Today, I had the joy of worshiping with the people of St. Michael and All Angel’s Episcopal Church in Tucson, AZ. Here is the sermon I shared.

Prayer for the Baptism of Jesus

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Readings from Scripture

Isaiah 42:1-9 (“I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”)

Psalm 29 (“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”)

Acts 10:34-43 (Jesus Christ is Lord of all)

Matthew 3:13-17 (John baptizes Jesus in the River Jordan)

Sermon

Shall we get in trouble?

I think I know you well enough

            and Brother Dave well enough.

Let’s give it a try.

You see, one of the challenges of preaching

            is that it involves speaking to many people at the same time.

No matter what you say, everyone will understand it differently.

Everyone has a different context and a different language.

Everyone has different priorities.

And that makes it very tempting for the preacher

            to say as little as possible,

            to make no grand claims,

            and to avoid, if at all possible,

            recommending concrete courses of action.

I confess to doing this myself.

It’s not quite as cowardly as it sounds at first.

A congregation is a complex system,

            and a very small force

            can cause a very large change

            with unpredictable results.

So, it’s usually wise to go one step at a time.

Looking back, you’ll remember the major course corrections,

            but it is the accumulation of individual steps,

            putting one foot in front of the other,

            day in and day out,

            that gets you somewhere.

Remember that.

Still, every once in a while,

            we have to shake things up.

So here it is.

Everything is holy:

            from the altar to the street,

            from the human mind to the lowest bacterium,

            from a drug addict to the president of the United States,

            saints and sinners,

            human and inhuman.

There is no cavern so dark that God is not there.

There is not a single thing in the wide cosmos

            unworthy of our love,

            and in which we may not see,

                        if only very faintly,

            the image of God.

This is what it means for God to see that all things are good.

This is what it means for Christ to be the logos of the cosmos,

            the reason and pattern and order of the universe.

There is no war, for Jesus is the alpha and the omega,

            the all in all of all there is.

If this does not deeply offend you,

            I suspect you have not fully grasped it.

It offends me, and I’m the one saying it.

Anyone can see that the world is profoundly messed up.

We have harmed one another,

            wounded our nation,

            wounded our planet,

            and weaponized theology.

How could we possibly say that everything is holy?

What does that even mean?

It means we have an existential choice to make,

            a fundamental decision about how we approach the world.

I cannot defend it on any other grounds,

            it is the first choice and perhaps the last.

Either God is in all things, or God is not.

And if God is not there, this place,

no matter how small, and dark, and cramped

becomes a God of its own.

It exists for some other reason,

            has some other purpose,

            witnesses to some other truth.

And suddenly, there is a war in Heaven.

            Good A and good B.

At best, we call this Dualism,

            a war of equals.

At worst, it is an excuse for the powerful to oppress the weak.

And that is how it usually appears,

            in stories and theology.

We are told to ignore, to hate, to conquer, to destroy,

            that which is not God.

You can find it in scripture; I don’t deny it.

You can find passages to support Dualism and Conquest

So deep is the choice, so central to our view of the world,

            that once we have chosen it, we can find it anywhere.

No one can make us see what we refuse to see,

            know what we refuse to know,

            love what we refuse to love.

To choose a divided universe,

            to make our god less than God,

            is to adopt moral blinders,

            that blot out everything else.

A person who is not “of God” is a disposable person.

            I cannot accept this.

Even a rock which is not “of God,”

as tool if not as an object of love in its own right,

is a negligible rock.

I cannot accept this.

It does not fit with the God of Genesis and John,

            the God we meet in Jesus,

            the God who not only lived and died for us,

                        but returned for us after we had killed him,

            the God who permeates Creation.

And yet, we know that the world is messed up.

            Creation groans with the weight of malice,

                        sickness and death and separation.

            We deny God in one another and in the world God has made.

How do we reconcile the two insights,

            the goodness and the unsatisfactory-ness of our surroundings?

Let me suggest that the sacraments and the church

            are not our response to God,

                        or not just our response to God,

            but God’s response to us.

We cannot see that the whole world is holy,

            so God uses the church

            to set things apart

            and says, “look at this; this is holy.”

All bread is holy. All bread is miraculous.

            What could be more amazing than our ability

                        to take that which is not us and turn it into our very bodies?

            What could be more miraculous than our relationship

                        with wheat and micro-organisms

                        that turns sunlight into nutrition,

                        manna from heaven?

            But we forget,

                        and so we set aside this bread,

                        and say “look at this; this is holy”

                        in hopes that one day,

                        we will see God in all bread.

All people are holy. All people are divine.

            What could be more amazing than memory, reason, and skill,

                        our ability to see and understand and change the world?

            What could be more miraculous than our ability to repent,

                        to change our minds,

                        to be more than the product of our environment?

            But we forget,

                        and so we accept those who come to us,

                                    and come to God with us,

                        and we baptize them

                                    in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

                        in hopes that one day,

                        we will see God in all people.

Jesus did not go to John in order to receive some perfection he lacked.

            God’s grace is not a commodity.

            Baptism is not certification of holiness,

a get out of Hell free card, or ticket to Heaven.

Jesus went to John, so that he could be seen to be holy,

            and perhaps so that he could see himself as holy.

Jesus went to John to enter into a relationship of grace,

            where two people recognized God’s will in one another.

Theologians call this sanctification: to set apart, to declare holy, to consecrate.

            The common invisible holy becomes specially, visibly sacred.

If that were the whole story, it would not be enough.

If John baptized Jesus and no one else…

            If he did not speak truth to Herod…

If Jesus did send out his disciples…

            If Jesus did not return to Jerusalem…

Then the story would not be told.

When we set apart the sacred,

            so that we may, ever and always,

            ignore the secular,

            we blind ourselves to the holy.

We end up worshiping a god who is less than all in all,

            less than the alpha and the omega,

            less than God.

Sanctification that stops is idolatry.

Turning to God and not walking forward is not true faith.

The process of sanctification starts with bread and wine,

            but it will not be finished until everyone is fed.

It starts with baptism,

            but it will not be finished until we respect the dignity of every human being.

It is not magic, but neither is it only psychological.

            It is an act that participates in the grace it recognizes.

            It is a mustard seed that grows into a tree.

            It is a truth that reveals other truths.

And we become one with Jesus Christ,

            God from God,

            light from light,

            true God from true God,

            begotten not made.

We join the body of Christ.

I am here this week for a retreat,

            joining with the Society of Ordained Scientists,

            to renew our commitment to God, to one another, and to the aims of the Society

  • 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.

Because there are not two worlds,

            one sacred and one secular,

            one scientific and one theological,

            one material and one spiritual.

There is one world.

And God who made all things

            invites us to see and know and love all things

            as confusing as that may be.

God invites us to search out unknown, invisible, abundant grace,

            to make it known, to make it visible, to make it common place.

It will transform us, and it will transform the world.

You need not be ordained, and you need not be a scientist.

You need only be willing to look for the truth, no matter how uncomfortable,

            to seek light amidst the darkness,

            to be open to love amidst strife.

And you will need to make this commitment,

            to know and to love one more thing tomorrow than today.

Can you do that?

Can you find one person you have ignored and talk to them?

            Can you see God in them, when they do not see God in themselves?

Can you find one new and wonderful fact and share it?

            Can you look for the miraculous in the mundane?

These are not abstract recommendations, by the way.

            I mean to tell you to say hello to someone new, someone different.

                        It seems small, but can be very hard to do.

            I mean to tell you to find a source of information that you trust

                        and learn something new every day.

I am not perfect at these disciplines,

            but I try, day by day, to make the sacred circle larger,

            in hopes that I will, one day, grow into the Cosmos God has made.


Responses

  1. Lucas: Greetings! I just read your sermon – it brought to mind a global sense of Community in Christ. We are all children of God! Amen!


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