The Worlds Where God's People Dwell
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA; 1st Sunday after Christmas, 29 Dec. 2013
Year A RCL: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7; John 1:1-18
My husband & I had a world of unexpected experiences last week in Washington, DC, where we flew Christmas morning to visit our son.
As we walk through the airport to baggage claim, a woman up ahead suddenly sneezes without time to cover her face. It happens so fast, we cannot avoid entering the World of Germs she has created. I hold my breath & hope not to get sick.
This is the world we live in:
the world of the human condition,
the world of sickness & vulnerability,
the world Jesus enters to heal us.
Our first night there, we enjoy the hotel's hospitality beside the water feature teeming with colorful fish that soothe us and delight the 7 children from 2 families, who are traveling together.
These 2 families radiate love & unity. These families are of 2 different cultures: 2 races of people who – not so long ago – hated & conquered each other, imprisoned & killed each other. Yet the several generations of these 2 families radiate deep, mutual respect, love & great joy.
We see them united: children, parents, grandparents, maybe great-grandparents. They laugh & play & take plenty of photos. Even the youngest skillfully operate a phone camera to record their love.
These families dwell in a
World of Love.
Their love surrounds us.
You can almost feel it in the air.
It's like that airport sneeze you can't
My heart feels light & saturated with
their contagious love & joy.
I will carry this love always.
These families witness the truth: We dwell in the World of Love – God's love. These families show forth light – the Light of Christ – the light Jesus brings into the world. This love lightens the darkness, and as our Gospel says:
the darkness cannot overcome it.
I wonder when I will have an opportunity to share this love. I don't have to wonder long. The next morning we stand on a street corner waiting for the traffic light to change as we walk to go see our son. I have just realized that I have forgotten to bring any cash on the trip. I don't usually carry cash, but I do like to when we travel to DC so that I have something for the homeless beggars we encounter.
Feeling sad that I forgot, I notice something move in the breeze. At the base of a tree near me are two $1-bills. I pick them up & remember I have just told you: God blesses us in unexpected ways.
Good, now I have something to give a homeless person. As we walk a few blocks, I wrestle over the gift: Do I give both dollars to the first person? Do I give one & save the other for the next person?
Suddenly we encounter the 1st beggar. I stop & look him in the eye & tell him I don't usually carry cash. “God has blessed us this day,” I say, holding out the 2 bills & explaining how I have them. “You have a choice,” I say. “You can keep both bills as a blessing or you can keep one & leave the other to bless another person who needs it. What do you want to do?”
He returns my gaze. His eyes tear up. He smiles & says: “I'll take this one. Please bless another person with the other one.”
I put my hand on his shoulder & assure him I will & that I will tell the other person that he has shared God's blessing. Then I ask God to bless him. He grasps my hand & holds it, looks me in the eye & asks God to bless me. We shed tears.
Together we have entered the
World of Blessing.
Together we experience unmerited
grace & the truth of God's blessing:
Love that surpasses all
God's love is for each human being.
Suddenly I realize Jesus never just drops a coin or a healing into someone's outstretched hand without looking at them1. Jesus always interacts with those seeking help, always engages hose seeking his blessing – even the woman who tries to sneak up behind him just to touch the hem of his coat.
God's love lights the world & breaks
through our darkness to bless us.
Darkness cannot overcome the
Light of God's blessing.
A few blocks on sits a toothless, lame man, extending the cup he holds to receive cash. I stop, look him in the eye & repeat my story, adding the detail of the blessing from the other man. With my hand on his shoulder I tell him the generous man down the street is sharing God's blessing. As I give him the dollar, I ask God to bless him.
This man tears up, clasps my hand &
then reaches up to touch my head in a blessing.
In this moment, we dwell in the
World of Blessing, the World of
This is the world God creates
in the beginning.
We corrupt this world,
the germs of our self-focus
that can spread & sicken others.
On the Cross, Jesus restores the
Jesus relies on us to continue his
work, shining God's Light
in the darkness.
Jesus relies on us to work with God
in the on-going work of
transforming the world.
If two simple pieces of paper money
can unintentionally bless strangers,
what can our intentional evangelism do?2
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 23 Dec. 2013.
Merriam-Webster. Smartphone Dictionary app. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2012. Accessed: 27 Dec. 2013.
Voyle, Robert J. “An introduction to Appreciative Inquiry”. 2013 Clergy Leadership Institute. Presented at Diocese of Georgia Fall Clergy Conference. www.cleergyleadershio.com. firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Question my husband asks.