I know what it feels like to experience what Blanche DuBois hallows with her heartbreaking line from A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” In fact, the story of how I became an Episcopalian begins with the kindness of a stranger who pitied me when I, like one of the foolish bridesmaids, was found lacking at the last minute.
I have witnessed how conflict has been faced in healthy ways and in not so healthy ways in a variety of faith communities. I have been in healthy conflict and I have also been in unhealthy conflict. Unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict, like triangulation – complaining to people about a person we refuse to speak to directly – avoids the hard work required of love. Erich Fromm famously writes, “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, love is a practice.”
This morning’s sermon will consist of three short reflections on today’s Scriptures. The first involves a story about my favorite classical pianist. The second my favorite pop song. And the third is one of my favorite prayers.
Do you ever look at a person and imagine what they were like as a child? This is a skill I try to cultivate when I am faced with people who are difficult. And, of course, the most difficult person I have ever met, is myself!
A sermon by the Rev. Craig Lemming for Pentecost Sunday: “As we renew our Baptismal Covenant together, in this intimate space, we invite the Holy Spirit to be in our voices, to create beautiful memories, to hear the sounds of new life, to feel God’s healing in all of our bodies, to be reconciled in right relationship with the multiplicities of peoples and races and creatures in this land. Come, Holy Spirit, and translate us into the language of Christ’s love.”
When we walk through clean pain; into and through that sea of terrifying chaos; We need each other. We need God and community. We cannot heal by ourselves. God heals us through relationships in community. Communities just like this one.
Today’s sermon is about how spiritual practices like prayer, study, and worship cultivate our spiritual awareness of Holy Synchronicity. Sacred events when our inner and outer lives suddenly align in encounters with The Holy in particular places and times with particular people – people very different to who we are – that change our lives. Holy Synchronicity is life-changing not because we magically get what we want, but because we suddenly see ourselves anew within an interconnected web of sacred human relationships knit together in spirit and in truth.
What we share in this sanctuary tonight brings us into Dr. Gabor Maté’s definition of healing: “a natural movement toward wholeness.” In a toxic culture of greed that fragments and separates us, these sacred and ancient rituals bind us together in God’s love again. This is sacred and revolutionary ground we stand on where authenticity and agency and truthfulness and acceptance and compassion heal the wounds deep within our minds, bodies, and souls, so that we can become conduits of God’s healing and loving and liberating presence to others.
To connect deeply with one another in communion with God’s Word and Sacraments, to go deep within our bodies to do the hard quiet spiritual work of somatic healing so that we can continue to be Christ’s agents of hope and healing, courage and compassion as we serve others through today’s apocalypse. The word apocalypse or revelation names the fact that we are seeing with new eyes painful truths that have always been there, and now all of us are seeing these devastating truths for the first time. As we face hard truths which can set us all free, Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel “do not be terrified; for these things must take place first.”
Just as the Prophet Elisha instructs Naaman to immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan, we too might feel as angry as Naaman when we realize that healing actually requires us to go to inconvenient places to participate in sacred rituals we might not feel like practicing. And yet, when we immerse ourselves, sometimes seven times, in healing work, we not only find ourselves becoming well, we also become agents of God’s healing for others and for our world.