A sermon by the Rev. Craig Lemming on August 14th, 2022.
In the name of God who calls us to love, to heal, and to serve. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, affectionately known as “Dr. B,” preached a sermon on my first day at United Theological Seminary that made an indelible imprint. Dr. B told our incoming class of seminarians, “Sometimes you have to leave what you know to get what you need.” “Sometimes you have to leave what you know to get what you need.”
I believe this is one way to make meaning of Jesus’s challenging words in today’s Gospel about baptism, division, and interpreting the present time. For the followers of Jesus in the first century and for us today, choosing Jesus’s Way of Love means that we refuse the ways of Rome. In the time of Luke’s Gospel, the so-called “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace” was an invention of Roman imperialism marketed by the colonizers as a “golden age” of so-called “peace,” “law and order,” and “prosperous stability.” For the poor, humble, and needy, however, the “Pax Romana” meant violence, exploitation, poverty, slavery, and death. To be baptized into Christ meant that you had to leave the ways of Rome to follow the Way of Jesus. They had to divide themselves from the “Pax Romana” in order to get the “Pax Christi.” The Peace of Christ requires us to leave the things we know are not healing, to leave the things we know are not loving, to leave the things we know do not serve the most vulnerable. We need to leave what we know is unhealthy to get what we need to be well.
We need love. We need healing. We need to do what we spoke in today’s Psalm – we need to:
Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
Like those who heard Luke’s Gospel in the first century left the ways of Rome and their family’s ways of worshiping Rome and its idols in order to follow Jesus, we also need to stop worshipping ideologies and leave the idols of power, money, pleasure, and prestige to get that deep Peace of Christ who is made known in loving, healing, and serving others.
The question today’s Gospel asks us to ponder is this: “What do I need to leave to get to the love, healing, and service God is calling me into?” As we prayerfully contemplate that question, know that the work of healing from the trauma caused by the ways of Rome may make us feel a lot worse before we begin to feel better. So, I close with the words of local psychiatrist and trauma healing specialist, Resmaa Menakem:
“Paradoxically, only by walking into our pain or discomfort – experiencing it, moving through it, and metabolizing it – can we grow. It’s how the human body works. Clean pain hurts like hell. But it enables our bodies to grow through our difficulties, develop nuanced skills, and mend our trauma. In this process, the body metabolizes clean pain. The body can then settle; more room for growth is created in its nervous system; and the self becomes freer and more capable, because it now has access to energy that was previously protected, bound, and constricted. When this happens, people’s lives often improve in other ways as well… experience that clean pain in order to let yourself heal.”