The Sunday Sermon: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – February 17, 2019
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
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Like the lawyer in the parable, I am searching for answers. We (motion to youth) are searching for answers. Hopefully you are searching for answers. Answers to questions that may never be answered but are no less important.
“Why is this happening?”
“How can this be happening?”
“What do we do now?”
As an 18 year old, I have already seen enough violence in this world to last me a lifetime. Enough violence to make me sick. Enough violence to break me down. Enough violence to question my faith. Enough violence. And why? How? What now? What good possibly comes out of violence? The answer is none, but fortunately good can come out of how we react to violence.
During my freshman year I learned the terms centripetal and centrifugal force. A centrifugal force is like a merry-go-round, if you and others are holding on and let go while spinning, you’ll fly off in different directions. It is an occurrence that divides the people affected. A centripetal force is like a whirlpool, where you spin into the center and meet with everyone else. It’s an occurrence that unifies the people affected. In our class discussion, we talked about 9/11, an event I immediately categorized as centrifugal. But my teacher explained it as a centripetal event because of the unity it inspired among the world. People came together and shared their love and support with one another. (beat) 9/11 was a centripetal force. This got me thinking: no matter how awful the act of violence, domestic abuse, drug overdose, hate crimes, terrorism, or school shootings, we still have the power to view these events as centripetal, as occurrences that unify us as humans who share in the disturbance and fear of the darkness in the world. As scared as we may be, we have the opportunity to speak out with love. To not remain silent and stagnant in this fear, in this sorrow. We cannot stand idly by while our world hurts. We cannot blow these acts of violence off as “unfortunate events,” especially when they become commonplace.
I understand I am preaching to the choir, even though they’re not in their usual spot. Every one of us here and all who are a part of this church hurts for our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ. But I believe that makes this conversation even more relevant and more important. We feel the pain of those suffering, and we pray for them. We send our thoughts and our love and “let God heal.” But what if that is not enough? We cannot simply stand by and “let God” because God works through us. God sends healing power to us, through us, so that we may give it to the rest of the world. If we do not act, and do so as God would, as Jesus did, the world may never feel God’s saving love again. It falls on our shoulders, not as a burden, but as a responsibility to show the world that no one is alone. That we are with them. We have the power as faithful Christians to give hope to those in desperate need of it. We do this just by standing with them, by standing up for what is right and using our voices and our votes and speaking out against what we know is wrong, what God knows is wrong.
We must show up in love. Even when the most heart wrenching events happen, we must choose to shed the darkness and spread the light. To commit acts of love instead of contribute to the acts of violence. How we react and come back from violence is what defines us as people. God says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with a blessing…” We are taught this all our lives. Treat your neighbor as you wish to be treated, even if your neighbor is a bully. Show everyone mercy and love, even if you strongly disagree with them. Is God telling us to accept the culprits of violence? That question has many responses depending on who you ask. But one thing I hope we all can agree on is that the only way to heal this world is with love. Redeeming love for all.
Last week, Lucas and I had the privilege of singing in the Allstate choir. We were a part of the mixed SATB ensemble, and along with almost 200 students, we sang to heal. One song in particular stood out. “We Can Mend the Sky” by Jake Runestad. The story behind it is that his sister teaches at an International Middle School in Minnesota primarily populated by East African Immigrants. She began a poetry club to encourage writing as an outlet for students. Jake asked the students in this club to write about their experiences as refugees who left all they knew to escape the violence in their country. He was inspired by all 100 poems he received, and included a poem by Warda Mohamed in his composition. She writes,
In my dream, I saw a world free of
violence, hunger, suffering. A world filled with love.
Now awake in this world. I beg, let my dream come true.
These are the words of a 7th grader. Jake also includes this Somali proverb:
If we come together, we can mend a crack in the sky.
No words have rang more true to me than these.
(Sing “If we come together, we can mend a crack in the sky” and have congregation join in)
What can happen, what does happen when we come together as one force and fight what is hurting us and our neighbors…we mend a crack in the sky. We must stand together. We must fight for and with each other, never against. Our world is hurting, and it is our job as Christians to heal it with God’s everlasting, saving love.
Ann Weible, Youth Elder / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / February 17, 2019