Toward A Common Hope

Click here to listen to the entire service

Mark 12: 28-34

Click here to listen to the meditation only

And Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

We listen again for the windchimes of hope, whispering and singing to us, beckoning us into and out from an unseen future.   The chimes ring today in Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.

Scripture:  Gospel

The passages we have read, during worship this fall, in the Gospel of Mark, our earliest gospel, show us in living color what sorts of things were on the minds of early Christians, say in Rome, say in 70ad, say among mostly gentile people.

There is Jesus’ prophetic affirmation of a higher law, of a more empathetic view of women within divorce, along with a command to protect them.  In response to a direct question, he thinks the question through.  Intellect.

There is the celebration, welcome and embrace of children, as measures and exemplars of the faithful life.  They have not yet had their spontaneity squelched, nor their emotion demoted, nor their sensuality sabotaged.  They have an infant, primordial freedom, toward which it could be the rest of us might well lean.  Spontaneity.

There is the warning, the stark recognition of the pervasive omnipotence of wealth.  A camel might go through the eye of a needle before a rich man might go into heaven.  A certain amount of wealth, to support one’s living and work and love makes sense.  More than that harms and hurts, because it corrupts the gift of freedom.  Emotion.

There is the ever present need of the ill, the sick, the blind.  One is made well, made whole–blinded he sees.  Her Mark is about baptism, about seeing a way into a new life, as the language (Son of David), the garment discarded (his tunic), the cry (Lord, KYRIE, which in Matthew becomes KYRIE ELEISON), the eyes opened (the miracle of faith)—all tell us.  Bartimaeus is you and me, an example of a new disciple. Sensuality.

And today, as if to sum up, our passage hears Jesus, again to answer a religious question, bringing focus to the commandments:  love God, and love neighbor.

We know not who wrote Mark, only his name.  He wrote for a particular community, whose location and name are also unknown.  He even mentions by name members of his church, Alexander and Rufus (15:21).  The book is meant to help a community of Christians.  It is written to support and encourage people who already have been embraced by faith.  While it purports to report on events long ago, in the ministry of Jesus, its main thrust is toward its own hearers and readers forty years later.  So it is not evangelist tract and it is not a diary or history.  It is a Gospel.

Gospel.  You have heard the word many times, and know that it means ‘good news’.  It is an old term.  You could compare it to ‘ghost’.  Gospel is to good news and ghost is to spirit, you might say.  Yet Mark calls his writing a ‘gospel’.  He creates something new.  Mark is a writing unlike any other to precede it.  It is not popular today any longer, no longer fashionable, to say this.  It is however true.  Mark is not a history, not a biography, not a novel, not an apocalypse, not an essay, not a treatise, not an epistle.  Examples of all these were to hand for him.  Mark might have written one of any one of them.  He did not.  He wrote something else and so in form, in genre, gave us something new.  A gospel.  His is the first, but not the last.

A wind chime in Scripture.

Tradition:  Unity

My sister in law’s minister in Arlington Texas, Stephen Langford, evokes a tradition of unity:

“Unity in diversity, expressed in community.” The term expresses the idea of oneness that embraces differences. In this way of living, differences are viewed as strengths that contribute to enriched life in community with one another. The term is used describe the pattern of relationship in the Godhead as the Three-in-One, in marriage in which the two become one, and in the church as the body of Christ.
“Uniformity is not unity…Perhaps it would be helpful to remember the words of John Wesley from whose ministry the original Wesleyan movement began. In his sermon entitled “A Catholic Spirit,” Wesley asked, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” In that same sermon, he went on to say, “If your heart is as my heart – if you love God and all mankind, I ask no more – give me your hand.” Wesley is also credited with a saying that originally came from Thomas a Kempis and was a part of the Moravian movement that helped shape Wesley:
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity (love).” For Wesley, a common commitment to love God and others (the heart) was the grounds of relationship, not agreement. Love, not agreement, was the determining factor in relating to one another.”  Langford Blog, Arlington UMC, Texas.  Supplied by Rebecca Steimle.

Politics is downstream from culture.  Culture is downstream from religion.  Religion is downstream from faith.  Faith is downstream from a word spoken and heard.  In this discreet moment:  Do you know God to be a pardoning God?

Granted that your opponent is wrong about everything.  But is there something maybe about which he is right, just maybe?  If that were so, what would that be?

A wind chime in tradition.

Experience:  Consanguinity

 North of Boston you come close to the Dominion of Canada.   We served two churches on the St. Lawrence river, an hour plus south west of Montreal.  You could see the river from our back bedroom.  Our friends and parishioners had farms all along the border, a couple of which had land on both sides.  The hay looks just about the same, north and south of an utterly invisible border.  One autumn my lay leader Earl Friend, one of those with land on both sides, shot a bear near his cow barn.  He had strung up the bear to have it drain, so it was hanging between two trees to the left of his front porch.   Our daughter Emily was four, and for some lastingly strange reason, I thought she would like to see the bear, so we drove over in our old 1973 Mustang convertible, which had only a few more years in it.  Earl took our photo in  front of the bear.  From the bear to Canada was maybe 30 yards, a stone’s throw.  Then, as now, just over the fence, you could have free health care, whatever your annual income, and free education through college, including at globally fine Universities like McGill.  Just a stone’s throw away.   Our middle class in this country deserves and needs what on the other side of the cow barn they would already have.  Education and health care, in a free society, for the sake of the freedom in the society, are far more right than privilege, especially for poor children.  Most Americans agree.  It is, by reason, a step on toward a common hope.  As are full rights for sexual minorities and women.  As are fulsome and loving support for churches and community groups. Volunteerism in a free society is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Or listen to our own victorious Boston Red Sox this week, bringing clear reason to a full moment:

 

Alex Cora:  ‘I was young, inexperienced, and still learning, and I still am’.  (Humility)

JBJ:  ‘you just need to focus on your preparation’ (Discipline)

JD Martinez:  ‘this is not about any one player, this is something we do together, as a team’ (self-giving)

Nathan Eovaldi:  (on pitching 6 of 18 innings)  ‘I expected to pitch one inning, and one became two became six;  that’s the thing about baseball (and life) it is just unpredictable’ (flexibility)

A wind chime in experience.

Reason:  Hope

Most reasonable people would agree:

We await a common hope, a hope that our warming globe, caught in climate change, will be cooled by cooler heads and calmer hearts and careful minds.

We await a common hope, a hope that our dangerous world, armed to the teeth with nuclear proliferation, will find peace through deft leadership toward nuclear détente.

We await a common hope, a hope that our culture, awash in part in hooliganism, will find again the language and the song and the spirit of the better angels of our nature.

We await a common hope, a hope that our country, fractured by massive inequality between rich children and poor children, will rise up and make education, free education, available to all children, poor and rich.

We await a common hope, a hope that our nation, fractured by flagrant unjust inequality between rich and poor children, will stand up and make health care, free health care, available to all children, poor and rich.

We await a common hope, a hope that our schools, colleges and universities, will balance a love of learning with a sense of meaning, a pride in knowledge with a respect for goodness, a drive for discovery with a regard for recovery.

We await a common hope, a hope that our families, torn apart by abuse and distrust and anger and jealousy and unkindness, will sit at a long Thanksgiving table, this autumn, and share the turkey and pass the potatoes, and slice the pie, and, if grudgingly, show kindness and pity to one another.

We await a common hope, a hope that our decisions in life about our callings, how we are to use our time and spend our money, how we make a life not just a living, will be illumined by grace and generosity.

We await a common hope, a hope that our grandfathers and mothers, in their age and infirmity, will receive care and kindness that accords with the warning to honor father and mother that you own days be long upon the earth.

We await a common hope, finally a hope not of this world, but of this world as a field of formation for another, not just creation but new creation, not just life but eternal life, not just health but salvation, not just heart but soul, not just earth, but heaven.

Most of us would agree.

A wind chime in reason.

We listen again for the windchimes of hope, whispering and singing to us, beckoning us into and out from an unseen future.   The chimes ring today in Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.

And Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

 -The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean. 

Leave a Reply