Rob Gieselmann, Pentecost 8C, June 26, 2016
I don’t always understand what it means to follow Jesus.
And I’m pretty sure I don’t do it very well. I’m all three of these - I’d bury my parents first, I’d say good-bye to my family, before following Jesus - into the Peace Corps,
or to Bolivia, or wherever. Truth be told, I probably
wouldn’t leave them in the first place, and if I did, I would
definitely buy a return ticket. At least for the holidays,
I’d come home for the holidays. *Home – they say home
is “where the heart is,” You’re loved at home
just because – not because you’ve done something important. You are special at home, just because you are special at home. Or, as the old saying goes, Home is where the great are small, and the small are great.
But there is no home for Jesus – foxes have holes and
birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. No bed to, lay me down to sleep, no pillow for, the soul to keep. Just a rock and a tunic. And the kingdom of God. I really don’t think I follow Jesus all that well. **Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the funeral
director, the one who was just a little bit too late in his proposal? His best friend John had died. John was rich,
and he left behind a rich widow - Mary – and Mary had no children, no heirs. John was driving Mary home from the funeral, in one of his black funeral cars. On the way, he confessed his undying love to Mary – I’ve always loved you,
he said, but because John was my best friend, I kept these feelings to myself. But now that John’s gone, well – if you ever think about getting married again, would you consider me? Mary smiled ever so sweetly and answered, Tom, I appreciate your lovely offer - I really do,
only you’re a little late – John’s doctor already asked me.
Sometimes you shouldn’t wait. Some matters require urgency. Jesus practically turns would-be disciples away
because they have more important things to do.
They don’t appreciate urgency.
Elijah tells Elisha, you must observe me as I leave – pay attention – otherwise, you’re on your own. This discipleship stuff is not easy. Now is the time, today is the day,
Scripture says. But for you and me – these twenty centuries later – the urgency of discipleship seems obscured by the routine of daily living. Following God intensely is – well, too intense. *A young monk once confessed to one of the older monks his desire to follow God completely. I just want to give myself to God. He assumed the older monk would be fatherly and gentle, but he wasn’t. Instead, he shouted at
the younger monk, Now. He shouted it again, Now!
Then he followed the young monk all over the monastery,
with club in hand, Now. Now. The old fellow still
chases the young monk. Now. *Let the dead bury
their own dead. And I wonder, what is Jesus’ rush - now?
And for what? **I became curious last year, following the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston.
At Dylan Roof’s bail hearing, the families stood-up in court and said to the murderer, Dylan Roof - who was completely unrepentant, and not at all self-reflective - I forgive you.
They said it as a matter of faith, I forgive you. Now, had they asked me, as a priest, I would have advised them otherwise.
I would have told them, it takes time to forgive. You have to work through your emotions, your grief – Plus, forgiveness – though it is a choice, it is also not a choice. You can choose
to forgive, yet the freedom of forgiveness often requires
years of hard work.
An open wound must first scab over, then heal – and even then, you’re left with an ugly scar. Two – three weeks –
not enough time. But the families didn’t ask me. It all started when Judge Gosnell – the unpredictable and irascible
South Carolina jurist - told the families that yes, their relatives had died in cold blood, but their grief was no different from that of Dylan Roof’s family. They are victims, too, he said. His words were scandalous, and there is no way to compare the grief of one with the plight of the other.
But the families ignored Judge Gosnell, and when Ethel Lance’s daughter, Nadine Collier, stood to speak – Ethel – by the way - liked perfume and Etta James, and listened to Porgy and Bess over and over again. Ethel and Nadine, mother and daughter – were best friends – they spoke and texted multiple times each day – Nadine grabbed the edges
of the podium, in front Judge Gosnell and all the world –
and she said to Dylan Roof, “I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to [my mom] ever again—but I forgive you, and [may God] have mercy on your soul … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.” Now remember, forgiveness is not reconciliation. It is not a waiver of justice. It is a spiritual matter, bound by psychology.
Which is why, as Christians, there is urgency to forgiveness.
You have to pay attention. And, Nadine didn’t ask me – thankfully - it is almost as if she heard the haunting curse
of the old monk, and listened to him, Now.
Now. Raw emotion dripping from her soul, she forgave. Without waiting for her psychology to catch-up. In fact, I’m guessing Nadine to this day chooses every day to forgive Dylan Roof – waiting for her psychology to catch up
with her faith. But she did it. And, I’m sure by now, you see where I am going – today is the day of salvation.
Now. And I’m wondering, whose sins you hang onto too tightly? The disciples hung onto the sins of the Samaritans
too tightly – They wanted justice, fire from heaven. Jesus rebuked them. Against whom have youhoped for fire from heaven? Perhaps you’ve heard Madeline L’Engle’s
response to Jesus – Remember when Jesus said,
whosever’s sins you forgive are forgiven, whosever’s sins you retain, they are retained – Madeline L’Engle asked,
If you do retain [someone’s sins], whatever will you do with them? Forgive us our sins,as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Now.
So, no, I’m not a particularly good disciple – my bags
are not packed. I have a cozy bed and a comfortable pillow.
But I am aware – that there is an urgency to the soul –
with regard to forgiving of others. But thank God for Nadine
– if Nadine can choose to forgive, Now, well, then, so can I.
So Can I.