July 10, 2016 — Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Rev. Alison Quin
This Week’s Readings:
Rescue From the Power of Darkness
The last several weeks have brought an onslaught of violent incidents, in our country and in the world. There were the 50 people killed at the Pulse club in Orlando, the terrorist attacks killing 42 in Istanbul, 140 in Baghdad and 28 in Dacca. Then the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, and then the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas.
We may as well be at war, receiving daily casualty lists. There are many underlying causes for the violence both here and abroad, ranging from systemic racism in our society, to the aftermath of colonialism and competition for scarce resources around the world.
It is a popular but false belief that violence is a solution to our problems. Violence is not a solution for crime, it is not a solution for racism, it is not a solution for allocating the world’s resources and it is not a solution to longstanding grievances. As Jesus taught, “those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.”
To be a follower of Jesus is to believe that there is another way. To be a Christian is to have faith in the power of love, even in the face of hatred and division.
We who have been redeemed by Christ know firsthand his power for healing and transformation. And we dare to believe that he is healing and redeeming not just us, but the whole world.
The Letter to the Colossians is an amazing statement of faith in the big picture that God is at work, healing the whole world. “You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.” God’s word is growing and bearing fruit, not just in us, but in the whole world.
It is worth remembering that this letter was written from prison, not from a place of comfort or security. In the midst of the fear, isolation and uncertainty of prison, the writer still expresses his deep faith in God, who has redeemed us in Christ and is redeeming the whole world.
To be a Christian, according to the writer, is to “be rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.”
Stop and take that in for a minute: “we have been rescued from the power of darkness.” There is still violence and hatred in the world, greed and corruption, injustice and oppression. There is still a widespread belief in the redemptive power of violence, both in our nation and around the world. We are living in a dark time in many ways. But we have been rescued from the power of darkness.
We cannot be held captive to fear, hopelessness, violence or hatred. We are citizens of the US, with all its flaws and also all our ideals which have from time to time enabled us to transcend our flaws. We are citizens of the world, which every now and then experiences unity amidst all our divisions. But most fundamentally, we are citizens of the world to come—the world as it God intends it to be, a kingdom of light and peace, healing and forgiveness.
It was the knowledge of their redemption in Christ that enabled so many of the families of those killed in Charleston just over a year ago to forgive Dylan Roof for killing their loved ones.
Here are quotes from two of them:
Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance
“I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”
Relative of Myra Thompson
“I would just like him to know that, to say the same thing that was just said: I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that He can change him and change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be okay.”
Those are the voices of people who have been rescued from the power of darkness, and live in Christ’s kingdom of love and peace. No matter what happens, they will be okay. And not only that, they are a force for good in the world. They will bear fruit in every good work, and grow in the knowledge of God, as they take part in healing the world.
We must be able to name wrongs, to stand against injustice and with the victims of injustice. Our mission is always to stand with those who lie naked and bleeding by the side of the road, as the parable of the Good Samaritan makes clear. But we don’t have to close our hearts to anyone. We can continue to love others even when they do wrong, just as God loves us even when we do wrong. We do not have to give in to the power of darkness.
Jesus’ teaching in this parable is clear: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbors whether they are Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, Buddhists or Wiccan. Love them whether they are black or white, rich or poor, healthy or sick, stable or unstable, undocumented or citizen. Love them regardless of their political beliefs, even when you argue with them, especially when you argue with them.
The extraordinary gift that we have to give to the world is the gift that we have received from Jesus Christ—the good news that love has triumphed over fear, sin and even death. We have been rescued from the power of darkness, and we live transformed lives in Christ. God is counting on us to shine with the light of Christ in the present darkness, to be beacons of love and hope and healing and forgiveness.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
(Prayer attributed to St. Francis, Book of Common Prayer, page 833)
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.