Saturday, October 20, 2018

Will you love my people? Year B, Pentecost 22, Mark 10.35-45

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Oh you who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
Will you pray for them?
Will you care for them?
Will you rejoice with them?
Will you cry with them?
Will you celebrate with them?
Will you grieve with them? 
Will you serve them?
Will you not judge them?
Will you accept them?
Will you welcome them?
Will you embrace them?
Will you forgive them?
Will you live with them?
Will you be with them as they die?
You who would walk by my side, will you love my people as I have loved you?
A mother, a father, an unborn child, a family waiting for the most precious gift of all.  Will you love my people?
Incest and a 12 year old girl.  A baby within and desperation without.  A decision made.  A pregnancy aborted.  One life resumes, another ends.  Guilt.  Shame.  Regrets abound for a lifetime.
Will you love my people?  Will you care for her?  Will you forgive her?
Silence where there should have been a heartbeat. A couple grieves the news.  Labor is induced that a lifeless body may be delivered.  Under a tree they buried their lifeless child.
Will you love my people, crying their tears and holding them tight?
One born too soon with insufficient lungs.  5 days of gasping for air.  But no more.
Will you love my people?
A child eager to learn.
A toddler longing to play.
The tender grasp of a baby’s small fingers wrapped around yours.
Water, the Word, a font and some promises.  God’s child.  Our brother.  Our sister.
Will you love my people?
Two young girls, full of life and adventure.  A Mustang.  An unsupervised afternoon.  A joyride gone bad.  Flying through the air.  Another causualty.  More grief.  Baptism in the emergency room.  Funeral.  Lilies blooming at the foot of the cross.
Grief Struck parents.  Angry parents.  Lawsuits.  Vengence.  Opportunistic lawyers.  A judgment that left no one satisfied.
Will you love my people?
There in that cemetery, three boys playing.  Swinging on the rope that hung from the flag pole.  Too much weight.  The flag pole crashed down on one of their heads.
Beeping monitors.  Intensive care.  No brain activity.  Yet the beating heart of one declared dead.  Grieving parents.  Agonizing choices.  A void.  Accusations and investigations. 
Will you love my people?
Homeless.  Mentally disabled.  Shouldn’t have had one child, but they had eight, including the one who died in that cemetery.  Judgements rendered against them by the courts, by public opinion.
We are  homeless, can you help?  Living from handout to handout.  Welfare.  They hate the system that is both their lifeline and their prison.  Counties pay them to leave and go somewhere else. 
Will you love my people?
Anger.  Being treated as a child throughout his life by a father too controlling to let him grow up.  Farmers working side by side.  Sort of.  On the father’s terms.  Resentment.  Anger. 
Too often others bear the brunt of that anger.   Victims of a rage unresolved.
Will you love my people?
A wife abused.  Terrified at night, devastated in the morning.
Yet she will not leave.  For better or for worse.
Will you love my people?
Contentious and conflicted.  Wanting to do what is right but venturing into the unknown.  Misguided.  Rumors and slander.  Vengeful rejection.  All in the name of Jesus. 
Loving and supportive.  Quick to forgive.  Slow to anger.  Wanting to do far more than they are able.  Willing to think the best.  Deeply grateful.  But unable to protect from all harm.
One parish.  Three congregations.  As different as night and day.
Will you love my people?
The “Pillar” of the congregation.  Dedicated.  Generous. A sarcastic wit which was her greatest gift and most evident fault. 
Will you love my people?
A colonel.  Retired.  Still commanding.  Serving.  Bigoted.  A little to the right of Attila the Hun.
Will you love my people?
A young woman who wasn’t a woman inside.  I don’t understand.  Hormone therapy.  Emerging masculinity.  Surgery.  A man.  Peace.  Yet seeking acceptance from a people who don’t understand and who are ready to judge. 
Will you love my people?
Strong convictions.  Seeking the truth and defending their understanding of righteousness.  “If my child were gay, he wouldn’t be my child anymore.”  They left the congregation.  Others did as well.  Unable to accept, desiring to follow Jesus, they walked.
Will you love my people?
For over twenty five years these two women have been a couple.  Twenty five years of loving companionship.  Sex has not even been part of their relationship for much of that time.  Servants of God.  Deep people of faith even though many don’t accept them or who they are. 
Yet week after week, she set the table for communion.  It was a place of belonging for her.
Will you love my people?
Age can be cruel.  Golden years are sometimes golden only because of the gold that is required to live through them.
Alzheimer’s is a living death.  A body still strong, still too strong.  A gentle soul rendered combative beyond recognition.  Where is the man we loved all these years.  We see his body.  Where is his mind and spirit.  That one we knew and loved is somehow now gone even though his body remains.
Will you love my people?

One after another saints and sinners make their way from life to death.
Baptisms.  Weddings.  Confirmations and Graduations.  Vocations and service.  Hospitalizations and death.
People of God on a journey, through every triumph and tragedy.
Will you love my people?
“Lord, grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Will you love my people?
You who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
Intimacy is the greatest gift.  To become one with them in their living and dying.
Vulnerability is the ultimate price.  For as we walk with them, we suffer with them, as well.
You who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
Like James and John, I desired to walk with Jesus, to be at his side.
But I had no idea what was to come.
These are but the tip of the iceberg.
I could spend thirty more years telling you of the thirty years of people I have known and sought, as best as I was able, to love.
People of every stripe and color.
People who succeeded at this enterprise we call life.
People who failed miserably.
Sometimes I responded to them well.
Sometimes I fell so far short of the mark that I am ashamed.
“The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;”
Throughout it all, I have become ever more aware of the forgiveness and love with which Christ embraced me.
Christ only asks that we love, as we first have been loved.
That we serve as he first served us.
And that leads us to this motley crew we call the Church.
You who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
More than anything else, the one thing I least expected was how much grief I would feel for to love is to become vulnerable, and to suffer with those who suffer, and to grieve with those who grieve.
You who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
Jesus suffers with us.  He so loves us that as we suffer he suffers too.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
You who would walk with me, will you love my people as I have loved you?
Are you willing not only to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, but to bear the wounds of those who are afflicted?
This is our calling.  To love Jesus’ people.
God help us.

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