A Sermon preached by The Reverend Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, for Corpus Christi/2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 23, 2019
June 23, 2019
“Send out your light and your truth; that they may lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.”
This week I ran into a quote from Anne Lamott that resonated with me:
“When I was a child, I thought grown-ups and teachers knew the truth…It took years for me to discover that the first step in finding out the truth is to begin unlearning almost everything adults had taught me…Their main pitch was that achievement equaled happiness…when all you had to do was study rock stars, or movie stars, or them, to see that they were mostly miserable. They were all running around in mazes like everyone else.”
Anne Lamott’s humor reveals uncomfortable truths. Life does sometimes feel like a confusing maze. Mazes of achievement, mazes of responsibilities; mazes of traffic, mazes of loneliness, or or routine. Our culture says we’re supposed to navigate the mazes of our lives on our own.
But, I wonder this morning, if, as Christians, we can break out of our cultural pattern of thinking and ask if it’s really all up to us. Where is God in the mazes of everyday life? Do we need to seek out God? Or does God seek us out? Does God surprise us? Does God ask us to grow and see the world differently?
In our Gospel story. Jesus meets a tortured soul, “the Demoniac” a man “with demons” who lives shackled in the tombs. Jesus asks him his name, and the man says, “Legion”, for many demons had entered him.” (In the Roman Army, a Legion was a company of 6,000 men.)
We see Jesus in control of the situation: he negotiates with the legion of demons, and gives them permission to enter into the herd of pigs.
If we look closely at the text, Jesus has already “called ahead” to command the unclean spirit to come out of the man before he docks the boat. And Jesus has possibly taken a detour to this side of the lake, in order to heal this man. The next thing we know, we see the Demoniac talking with Jesus,” clothed and in his right mind.”
Jesus seeks out the lost and the tortured to lead them out from their maze of despair.
I’m reminded of our Psalm for today, #43, “send out your light and your truth that you will lead me,” which happens to be the psalm the altar party prays in the sacristy together before every Mass. Whatever anxiety or distractions I have before 8:00 and 10:00 are given over to God when we pray that psalm together, and a sense of calm purpose comes over us.
At the end of the story, we see the townsfolk who are “seized with great fear” and ask Jesus to leave. He’s just too threatening. They were used to the way things were before. The healing of the Demoniac in their midst is too much to handle.
When people are afraid they push away help, they push away newness of life, and growth. Fear prevents us from receiving the healing love of God.
I see fear in many places recently. Here in San Francisco, people are afraid of hosting navigation centers in their neighborhoods.
In other parts of the country, people vote against their own interest out of fear of being “socialist.”
We live in fear of gun violence, but, as a country, we’re afraid of changing our relationship to guns.
Living in fear means we can’t imagine life being any different.
But there is good news. There is progress amidst the chaos. Transformative work is happening all around us.
Here at All Saints’ we have many 12 Step Groups that meet in the Undercroft several nights a week. People come “religiously” because they find community and healing in working through the 12 Steps together. The meetings are spirited and laughter spills out the door.
“Send out your light and your truth that you may lead me,” comes up for me as I meditate on the transformative work that’s happening in our midst, and which deserves our attention.
I recently rediscovered a book called “Breathing Underwater, the Spirituality of the 12 Steps,” by Richard Rohr. You may know Rohr; he is a prolific Roman Catholic writer and teacher, and in this book he draws some parallels between the 12 Steps of Recovery and the Gospel. He says addiction is a modern name for what the biblical tradition called “sin” and medieval Christians called “passions” or “attachments.”
Rohr says substance addictions are merely the most visible form of addiction, but we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing things, and our own view of the world. He mentions the story of the Demoniac because Jesus asks the man, “What is your name?” and the man’s problem must be correctly named before the demon can be exorcised. Rohr says, “you cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge.”
It’s helpful for me as an Interim to consider how we can look at the way we do things at All Saints’ so that we can understand them and ask our higher power—Jesus—to lead us out of the sometimes confusing maze of patterns we find ourselves in during the Interim time. And I want to make it clear that this process of self-examination is not a punitive thing, rather a way to open a space for God’s grace and spiritual growth.
Again, let’s remember psalm 43, “Send out your light and your truth that they may lead me.”
I believe Jesus untangles the mazes of life. Mazes are similar to Labyrinths, but mazes are designed to trap us. That’s why those mazes made of hedges are so fun, we keep getting lost, until we really need to find the exit. Labyrinths have one meditative path that leads us on a pilgrimage of faith.
I believe that is what Jesus turns the mazes of our lives into a Labyrinth, with a clear path towards God.
Today we observe Corpus Christi. In many Roman Catholic Churches, and our Anglo-Catholic neighbor, Church of the Advent, the priest carries a monstrance in procession through the street of the parish. The late medieval feast celebrates the Holy Eucharist and the belief in transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Corpus Christ, the Body of Christ.
The Episcopal Church leaves the mystery of the Eucharist as a mystery.
We affirm that in the Eucharist, God feeds us. We come with outstretched hands to receive holy food to fill an empty space that only God can fill. In receiving the Eucharist, we become the Body of Christ, the Corpus Christi, in the world.
Today’s reading about a frightened Elijah retreating to the wilderness reminds me of how much God cares for us even in our fearful moments. Angels come to Elijah in the wilderness and feed him, twice, so that he will have strength for the journey ahead.
God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” and invites him to stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
After great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, Elijah heard the voice of God in the sound of sheer silence.
May we, like Elijah, hear the voice of God speaking to us in the sheer silence of our hearts. May we come to the altar of God to be fed for the journey we’re traveling together, and for the journey through the mazes of our lives. May Jesus untangle them into labyrinths of faith. May we be transformed into the Body of Christ for the world. Amen.