Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Courage, Compassion, Connection - My Last Sermon at Holy Spirit

5 June 2016
Proper 5C
Luke 7:11-17

Heavenly Father, who blessed us with the gift of community, help us to live lives of courage, compassion, and connection in the carrying out of our mission as the church on earth, through your Son our Savior Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today marks my last Sunday as your curious, coloring, cycling curate. My time here has been a blessing to me and I have been so grateful to be able to be your curious, coloring, cycling curate. 
I like themes, so I am going to stick with the c word theme today. 
We are going to talk about courage, compassion, and connection. 
Courage, compassion, and connection are the guts of the Christian life and practice. If you’ve ever read anything by Brene Brown, you know she has a thing for courage, compassion, and connection. She calls them the “Gifts of Imperfection.” She even titled a book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which has a whole chapter dedicated to Courage, Compassion, and Connection. Her book and that chapter were what I immediately thought of when I read this story for today. Jesus exhibits all of those traits in the story. The first two sentences of her chapter goes like this, "Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. The key word is practice." And this is what Jesus is doing in this story. Practicing courage, compassion, and connection. He reaches out with courage to talk to the woman in the procession. He has compassion on her; Luke specifically points it out. And he makes connections with both the widow and her son. Jesus acts with courage, compassion, and connection in this story. Brene Brown talks about these things because her research has shown that they get rid of shame in our lives. However, this is not the only reason to practice them. Unlike in our lives, where shame enters all too often, we have no accounts where Jesus is said to be ashamed, but he still practices courage, compassion, and connection.
If forgiveness is the heart of Christianity, then courage, compassion, and connection are the guts of the Christian practice. I say this because linguistically when we talk about courage, compassion, and connection, we are using the ancient Greek understanding of our emotions being seated in our guts. Many times we use the phrase, we want to get to the heart of the matter, but no, not today. Today I want to talk about the guts of Christianity: courage, compassion, and connection. 

In the gospel passage, Jesus speaks out in courage. I don’t know about you, but I would not have had the guts to do what he does. Not many people would have the courage to completely stop a funeral procession to talk to the family of the dead. We are usually socially polite enough to wait for the greeting line at the reception. Jesus, however, he goes for it. He knows the situation and knows what he can do to help. He is, after all, Jesus. 
God calls us to be courageous as well. Of the multitude of stories in the bible, not one tells of people doing simple, easy tasks where they know all of the risks and have complete security that everything will work out perfectly. Not one. God asks us to step out in faith, to make that leap, to trust Him with everything, and that takes courage. 
In my time here, I have been blessed by your courage to follow Jesus as you have each been called. Through different ministries and groups, through difficulties, loss, and flood, your courage to continue on towards God has been a source of strength for me. 

In the gospel passage today, Jesus has compassion for the grieving widow. He knows her situation and what she is facing without any other family, and feeling what she is feeling, he exhibits compassion. Jesus may have never run into this woman before, but he did know her. He felt for her. The widow would be destitute without her son, no one to care for her or provide for her.  This is not the only story in which compassion saves the day in the Bible. Jesus didn't need to do more wondrous works; he didn't need to raise the man from the dead. How many times do we hear of Jesus having compassion on someone in the gospels? Five times in Matthew alone. Four times in Mark, and three in Luke. Jesus was noted for his compassion. Jesus was a man of God's heart. 
The good news is that no matter who we are, Jesus has compassion for us. 
God also calls us into compassion. Compassion is itself a miracle. Compassion extends further than we ever know. Compassion is feeling what someone else is feeling and it changes our hearts and minds. It is powerful. It is a being with and not a doing. It can be difficult to have compassion, but it is truly worth the effort that goes into it. We don't go around doing things like raising people from the dead on a regular basis... Or ever. But we can imitate Jesus' miracle of compassion. “We are able to raise up those who are in the figurative death of depression, sadness, dejection or despair.  When we have compassion for these people we suffer with them, bringing angst to our souls, rending our hearts, only and for no other reason than that they are suffering.  We suffer with them; we bleed with them. That is no less a miracle than the son of the widow of Nain sitting up in his coffin.” (preachingtip.com)
And the world needs more of that. 
In my time here, as I have been in the midst of growing and learning, trying new things, and dealing with life’s disappointments, you have been compassionate to me. 

In the gospel passage for today, Jesus reaches out in connection to the woman, by having compassion and talking to her, by talking to the dead man whom he raises, and then by reuniting the newly alive son and his mother. Jesus rebuilds connections between the man and his mother and between the man and his community. Jesus knows how important the connection between the woman and her son is for both their well-being and he offers that connection renewal. 
God calls us into connection as well. Our God is a God of connection, united three persons in one, the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God knows about connection. God even continues to reach out to humanity despite our fallen-ness, our sinfulness, for a deeper connection with Him. We as human beings are biologically wired for connection. We group ourselves into families, even when we are separated from our biological families, and we group ourselves into communities to learn from each other and help each other. We long for connection with each other and we feel bad side effects from being too long in isolation. Jesus was always looking for ways of connecting with the people around him, to make sure they understood the connection between themselves and God.
In my time here, I have benefitted from your connection to God and your ability to reach out to me in connection. You have been interested in my life and my development as a priest, and have included me in your gracious hospitality. 
Courage, compassion, and connection. They all go together all the time. Having compassion is itself a reaching out in both courage and connection. Connection with another human being requires courage and compassion. They go together all the time. Its extremely hard to have one without the others. 
This is how I have tried to live with all of you, reaching out in courage, compassion, and connection. Because we continue in God's work as we continue practicing these acts. I encourage you to live into these practices, they are physical, emotional, and spiritual practices. These practices bring new life among us. Not the resurrection of the last day, but the new life that the son experienced with his mother after Jesus entered their lives. Every day is a new beginning and a new end for someone in this world, and it is so for us here today. 
Walking the Christian journey with courage, compassion, and connection is like saying, "I'm all in." Jesus was definitely all in. He invites us to be as well. 
Thanks be to God for His gifts of courage, compassion, and connection in our lives!