Our BUTS Are Too Big

On May 2, 2010, in Morning, Sermons, by Robert

Easter 5 The Good News Written Revelation 21.3-4 …See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them… they will be God’s peoples, and God will be with them to wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the […]

Easter 5

The Good News Written

Revelation 21.3-4

…See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them… they will be God’s peoples, and God will be with them to wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

Acts 11.2-4, 12a (NRSV)

When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying… “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us…”

John 13.34-35 (NRSV)

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. 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.

The Good News Proclaimed

Preached by the Reverend Doctor Durrell Watkins at the Sunshine Cathedral on Sunday, May 2, 2010.

Our Acts reading is a little uncomfortable for the more reserved among us. The bible speaks very frankly about bodies. In our society, one does not often speak of circumcision in mixed company, but the bible is not a product of our time or our culture. Circumcision was an important sign of distinction in antiquity. Men from “those” communities were not circumcised, but the men in “our” community were. Peter, at least initially, thought that distinction was important and needed to be maintained, Luke tells us in Acts that he comes to see the matter in a new way. Peter says, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

Think of all the dividing lines in our lives:
A couple of weeks ago a British guest at a well known hotel in Naples made a request that he and his family not be attended by any hotel staff who were non-Caucasian or who spoke with an accent (meanwhile, I did mention he was from the UK… in the Ouachita Mountains, we would have thought he had an accent). Unfortunately, the hotel honored his request and told a 15 year employee who was African American to not wait on the customer’s family in the hotel restaurant. The employee, insulted by such a dehumanizing request, filed a discrimination suit. Since then, I’m glad to report the hotel has issued a public apology to the employee and has admitted they should not have accommodated the customer’s racist request. As far as the unenlightened customer who made such an outrageously insensitive and pointless request, I hope at least once in his life he hears these words and takes them to heart, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

The governor of Arizona has recently rescinded domestic partner benefits that were put in place only last year. The governor, as we all know, has also recently signed legislation meant to reduce unlawful border crossing, but the new law could easily be used to harass and oppress legal residents and citizens for no other reason than the color of their skin. I hope religious people in Arizona who support these draconian measures will recall their own scriptures, especially the words from the Torah that say, “Do not mistreat or oppress an alien, but remember that you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22.21). And I hope the governor will hear and take to heart these words attributed to St. Peter, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the US military has been delayed again. I hope those who continue to delay what is just will hear and take to heart these words from the book of Acts, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

Jamaica remains one of the least safe places in our hemisphere for same-gender loving people. I hope the pugnacious preachers and politicians who continue to stir up such lethal homophobia will one day hear and take to heart these words, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

For the 19th consecutive year, the Florida legislature has adjourned without passing a single piece of pro-gay legislation. In matters of LBGT equality, Florida has dropped to number 49 out of our 50 states (Arkansas being number 50). The state of my birth and the state of my current residence… maybe it’s me! I hope the leaders of every state will one day hear and take to heart these words, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

Denominations imploding under the weight of their own sexism and homophobia will surely one day hear and take to heart, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritan’s were ethnically, geographically, and religiously different from Jesus’ community. There was prejudice against the Samaritans, and yet in Jesus’ tale, the Samaritan is the hero, the one who demonstrates the love of God to a stranger in need. The Good Samaritan was the good neighbor… in God’s realm, everyone, no BUTS, everyone is our neighbor.

St. Paul said, “God shows no favoritism” (Romans 2.11). St. Peter, it seems, eventually came to the same conclusion. He said, “I now realize how true it is that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10.34).

You see, when we find our value only in being better than someone else… if how we feel good about us is by feeling misanthropic toward others and then celebrating that we aren’t those lowly wretches, well, when “those people” start demanding their rights, or competing against us, or taking their place among us, then we will feet threatened, insecure, and we will behave in ways that neither honor God nor advance the cause of Christ.

We know that God is everywhere, BUT maybe not with THEM… when we feel that way, our BUT is too big and it’s getting in the way of our own spiritual health.

We know that God is love and that love dwells in every human heart, so God must live in all people…BUT maybe not in THEM… when we feel that way, our BUT is too big and it’s getting in the way of our own spiritual health.

We know that God so loved the whole world… BUT God must surely love us best… when we feel that way, our BUT is too big and it’s getting in the way of our own spiritual health.

When our BUT is too big, it means our God is too small, and if we who are made in God’s image are letting our experience of God be too small, how could we ever feel anything other than small. When we feel small, we are easily threatened, and when we feel threatened we behave in ways that are sometimes reprehensible. When our God is small, and any notion of God that limits God to our community, our tradition, or our experience is much too small… when our God is small, we are small, and our BUTs get too big, and our big BUTs keep justice and compassion… the kin-dom of God from being made manifest in our world.

All three of our readings this morning are crying out for us to embrace and live out the gospel message of inclusion today.
In Revelation we hear, “…See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them… they will be God’s peoples [all peoples of the earth], and God will be with them to wipe every tear [caused from injustice] from their eyes…”

In Acts we hear, “When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying…’The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us…’”

And in the gospel we hear Jesus say, “This is my mandate for you… Love one another….”
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you hate all same gender-loving people.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you fear the people on the other side of your borders.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you perpetuate racist policies and actions.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you silence or refuse to hear the voice of women in the pulpit
.

Of course I’m being ridiculous. And it is ridiculous when people who claim to follow Christ perpetuate injustice in the name of Christ. THIS is Jesus’ mandate to us, “Love one another… by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” …goodwill for all people, of all races, all religions, all languages, all ethnicities, all gender expressions, all people no matter what genders make up their mutually loving adult relationships…

If we believe we are the children of God, made in God’s image, filled with God’s gracious spirit, part of the creation that God calls very good… then we’ll know that to be true for all people… no ifs, ands, or BUTS about it. This is the good news. Amen.

The Good News Affirmed

Thank you, God in me, for all that I am.

I choose to see you in all people.

I trust you to fill my life with hope and happiness.

And I as I am blessed, I will bless others in your name.

Amen.

The Good News Repeated

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” Napoleon Hill

Audio   readings  and sermon Audio readings and sermon (http://sunshinecathedral.org/sermons/audio/20100502_1.mp3)

 

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