Sermon for the Second Sunday of Christmas: 1st January 2017.

Published on Sun, 8 Jan 2017 14:55

Hebrews 2. I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Giles Goddard

The American priest and monk, Richard Rohr, sends a daily email. To begin my sermon today I want to share with you this morning’s email, for the New Year:

“Our religion is not working well. Another year has ended—a new year begins—in which suffering, fear, violence, injustice, greed, and meaninglessness still abound. This is not even close to the reign of God that Jesus taught. And we must be frank: in their behavior and impact upon the world, Christians are not much different than other people.

The majority of Christians are not highly transformed people, but tend to reflect their own culture more than they operate as any kind of leaven within it.

Let’s be honest: religion has probably never had such a bad name. Christianity is now seen as “irrelevant” by many and often as part of the problem more than any kind of solution. Some of us are almost embarrassed to say we are Christian because of the negative images that word conjures in others’ minds. Young people especially are turned off by how judgmental, exclusionary, impractical, and ineffective Christian culture seems to be. The church seems hostile toward most science (the objective outer world) and thus unable to talk about its inner dimensions with any authority. As we saw in the recent U.S. election, Christians overall showed little prophetic or compassionate presence.

Most Christians have not been taught how to plug into the “mind of Christ;” thus they often reflect the common mind of power, greed, and war instead. The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries—good and bad, right and wrong—and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. This is getting us nowhere.

Throughout the history of Christianity, it would seem Jesus’ teaching has had little impact, except among people who surrendered to great love and great suffering. Could this be the real core of the Gospel? Such people experience God rather than merely having disconnected ideas about God. We need the mind of mystics now to offer any kind of alternative—contemplative or nondual—consciousness. We need practice-based religion that teaches us how to connect with the Infinite in ways that actually change us from our finite perspectives.

We must rediscover what St. Francis called the “marrow of the Gospel.” It’s time to rebuild from the bottom up. If the foundation is not solid and sure, everything we try to build on top of it is weak and ineffective. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that so much is tumbling down around us. It’s time to begin again.

Auspiciously, this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s important attempts at reform.

In the year 1205, Jesus spoke to Francis through the San Damiano cross: “Francis, rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” If Jesus himself says the church is falling into ruin, I guess we can admit it also without being accused of being negative or unbelieving. Maybe we have to admit it for anything new and good to happen.”

Those are the thoughts of Richard Rohr for today.

But if we admit that, then what do we do next?

Perhaps we start by saying that there is nothing new under the sun. This dark gospel, coming so soon after the birth of Christ – Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt, and then the massacre of the innocents - the world was a wicked place then and it’s a wicked place now. But that makes our contribution even more important.

Today is Christmas 2 – also known as the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. And there is hope in the Hebrews reading:

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Today, perhaps, we start with ourselves.

Our own names.

Our individual names, the names we were given when we born, or at our baptism.

That’s what makes us unique, and special, and beloved.

Think of your name, hold it in your heart; and now, turn to the person next to you: My name is Giles Goddard. My name is …..

And remember the words of the book of the prophet Isaiah –

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you.

In the midst of all the fear and loathing, we are called to change the world.

Do not be afraid.

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