Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Strong Weakness -- A Sermon

Forgot to post Sunday's Sermon.  Here it is:  

There are times when I understand what Jesus says -- but I don't really get it.  Almost any time he says, "Don't be afraid," I can't wrap my head around it.  That's because I'm a coward.

He tells us not to worry about money, and I spend much of my time fretting about the budget.  He says don't worry about what people think of you, and I fret over that.  He says don't fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul -- and I am afraid.

I understand what he was saying to the disciples in today's Gospel -- he's sending them out not only on one preaching mission but ultimately out to the world after he's gone.  Jesus knows what they'll face -- prison, beating, torture, death.  He tells them that the message they bring is more important -- and that this life alone is only fleeting -- they will have joy in heaven.

This life isn't the final story -- it's just the school before real life in effect.

What they do to the body doesn't matter because they can't touch the soul.

Which raises a question:  If what happens to the body doesn't matter, why do we bother helping people to eat?  Or to have clothing?  Or to go to school?  Or to have shelter?  Why are we sending 13 people down to Towel Camp next week

Because of what Jesus also said.  Don't fear what can kill the body but not the soul.  Fear rather him that can kill the soul.  And what can kill the soul?

Aside from fear, what kills the soul is a simple thing:  Not loving.

Loving our neighbors -- doing what is best for them body and soul -- feeds our souls.  Trying to control and dominate others -- or simply ignore them -- kills our souls.  

The reason Jesus could send his disciples into dangerous situations is because it was important for them to share God's love -- it's the same reason he faced the cross himself.  

I am thankful that sharing God's love does not usually mean facing torture and death.  Usually it means just reaching out to someone in need.  Hard enough for many of us.

But therein lies our strength.  Our strength is not in going in with both barrels blazing -- that's weakness.  Our strength is in what the world perceives as weakness -- the intention not to dominate but to serve.

How different our world would be if those in power embraced weakness -- embraced the idea that to strike at enemies -- even those who hurt us -- is meaningless.   Embraced the idea that the best way to be all that we can be is to serve those in need -- that is, asking them what they need and partnering with them to help rather than imposing upon them what we feel they need.

There are many who face death and suffering in order to serve others -- witness Zimbabwe this week with its political assassinations.  But their perceived weakness will be their ultimate strength.  Not only because reaching out in love rather than domination feeds the soul but because those who desire to dominate ultimately collapse upon themselves.  

Don't fear those who can kill the body and then have no more power.  Fear the one who can kill the soul.  Fortunately, Jesus tells us, we know how to strengthen the soul.  The question is and always has been, do we have the will?