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to the Question:
John the Baptist had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, "Are you the One weve been expecting or are we still waiting?"
What do you say when some pesky friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker asks, "Are you saved?"
Did you notice that Jesus had something of the same problem? Isnt it interesting that even back then it was the Baptists in the family who were bugging Jesus?
And notice that Jesus doesnt directly answer the question. Instead he answers this way:
"Go back and tell John whats going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
Is that what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!"
(from Eugene Petersons translation, The Message).
I dont know about you, but I find that when my involvement in the United Church of Gainesville comes up in mixed company, theres always somebody asking, "Just what kind of church is that? Are you real Christians?" And if they get very bold, theyll ask, "Are you saved?"
I think we can take our cue from Jesus, and say, "Go back and tell folks whats going on here: All people are welcomed, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and straight, single or coupled, black or white, as equal children of God.
Tell them, "Women are first class citizens who preach, teach, and lead along with men.
Tell them, "While we may not be able to make the lame walk and the deaf hear, the building is accessible and we just added hearing assistance to our sound system.
"We celebrate our children and teach them with care. We cherish our youth and listen to their dreams. We honor our elders and value their wisdom. We welcome our young adults and treasure them as precious gems. We nurture the middle aged through their tears and their fears.
"We stand up for the imprisoned and the victims. We provide shelter for the homeless.
"We nurture our Jewish roots. We listen to and learn from our Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and Native American sisters and brothers.
"We open our hearts to new paths of the spirit and say the prayers and sing the hymns of our heritage."
And we could close, as Jesus did, by asking, "Is that what you were hoping? If so you are blessed as well."
Or we could just say, "Yes, were saved, thank you." But I like the other answer better.
There are three things to recognize about the longer answer. One is that such a list is no small feat. When the Southern Baptists are saying that women cant be ministers, and just about every other denomination says that homosexuality is outside the realm of Gods creation, then to affirm these arenas of justice is crucial.
Second, not a single one of these principles of faith is a resting-place. If you, the new members, dont step up to the plate to take your swings at the dragons of fear and hate that always threaten courage and love, well all be losers. And if we, the continuing members, dont remember that these challenges are oars that each of us needs to keep pulling at to keep this boat moving, well never make it through the ever-present narrows of small-minded faith.
The third thing to recognize is that we do not live these good things alone. We need each other in this community of faith, and we need God, however we know and call upon the holy in our lives. The shadows of our own prejudice, selfishness, and smugness lurk just behind the light of even our most noble actions.
Sandy: Let us pause now to renew our promises to God and to each other in the sharing of this sacred meal. Kathleen Norris reminds us that every act of salvation involves in some way a healing. In fact, when Jesus says to people in the Gospels that their faith has saved them, he uses the Greek word for salvation which means "to make you well." Today, as we come to this table of grace, let us remember that we are all in need of healing. We are all broken, like this bread. Our lives have been poured out, like this cup. And what we need to know more than anything else is that the God whom we have come to know in Jesus is also broken with us, and that Gods love is then poured out for us in a covenant of forgiveness and of healing.
Come away now to this place and to this meal
Come away for a little time apart
For the changing of the heart. Come away.
Come away to a taste so bittersweet
Where hope and heartache meet. Come away.
Here is light to lighten the darkest maze,
Here is song to fill the pathless days,
Here is call among the crowded ways.
Bread of life, wine of happiness and tears,
Faithfulness and fears.
The feast awaits you here: Come away.