ISAIAH 5:1-7

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is coming to town.  The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry will be with us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  He will preach, teach and preside at worship.

Bishop Curry used to be the bishop of North Carolina.  In 2015 General Convention elected him to serve as our 27th presiding bishop.  He is the first African American presiding bishop and this is his first official visit to our diocese.

What is a presiding bishop?  Simply stated, the presiding bishop leads The Episcopal Church.  He or she is our primate.  Now, be careful how you say that word.  It’s spelled p-r-i-m-a-t-e, but it’s pronounced pri-mut, not pri-mate.  The last time I checked, most primates were not eligible for ordination.

Bishop Curry is an author.  In his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, he writes: Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.

Changing the world from our nightmare into God’s dream: in the aftermath of last week’s Las Vegas massacre that phrase really hits home.  What a nightmare we’ve just experienced.  But this nightmare really happened.  We are not going to wake up and breathe a sigh of relief.  This was not just a bad dream.  Fifty-eight are dead, and hundreds more are wounded.  Thousands more are emotionally traumatized, and the entire nation grieves.

In the ancient words of today’s lesson from Isaiah, “the Lord expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”

We’re a long way from God’s dream.

So what can we do to help this world that God so loved: the world God loved so much that God gave his only Son?  What part can we play in changing our collective nightmare into God’s dream?  What does it mean to be a Christian in these days?

I think it means pretty much what it’s always meant.  In the words of Bishop Curry, it means following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, and letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives.

For me, it means both loving this world and engaging this world.  It means resisting the temptation to be pessimistic or cynical (like, “there’s nothing I can do to make a difference; so why bother?”)  And it means recognizing my limitations. 

I will not fix the world’s problems, but I can help those around me and sometimes those far away.  I’ll keep plugging away, doing what I can do, not giving up, not being overwhelmed, not being cynical.

Maybe the most important thing each of us can do is to be a messenger of God’s dream, to explain in word and deed that there is indeed a better way of being in this world: God’s way.

As Isaiah taught us so long ago, God expected justice and righteousness, not bloodshed and tears

Years ago I came upon a little book by accident.  At least, I thought I came upon it by accident. Since then I’ve come to understand that things don’t happen by accident.

The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Dr. Kent Keith.  He wasn’t a doctor back then.  He was only nineteen years old.  But his words inspired many, including me.  Years later someone found his words on the walls of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta.  The Paradoxical Commandments teach us how to make a difference.  They sound an awful lot like the teachings of Jesus and the way Jesus lived.  See what you think (there are ten Paradoxical Commandments, by the way.)

#1.  People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

#2.  If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

#3.  If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

#4.  The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

#5.  Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

#6.  The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

#7.  People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

#8.  What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

#9.  People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

#10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

Understanding fully how the world really is, we choose to serve the world anyway.

We make a difference by being people of character and integrity and authenticity.  If you, with God’s help, will strive to be a person of character and integrity and authenticity, you will make a profound difference in this world that God loves so very much.

We cannot fix the world.  But, by God’s grace, we can make a profound difference.

Choose to make a difference.  Follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Take his teachings seriously.  And let his Spirit take the lead in your life.


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