58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
58:13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
58:14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
This passage has always spoken to me. It casts a vision for who the community of God are to be. It comes to us from the ancient Hebrew tradition as a prophetic call to the community, to the nation. Though it was written over 2500 years ago, it is a timely message to hear today.
I have always loved the phrase, “…then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” What is it that causes our light to shine amidst the darkness today? What lifts the gloom and heavy heart that is prevalent in theses times? What fills our being with vibrancy and hope?
I would like to think that we as a community in the heart of our city, do wrestle and contemplate how light shines from our shared life together. We gather every Sunday to set the Lord’s table and make the divine Eucharist, not simply for ourselves, but for the world. The Eucharist is the ancient stream of remembrance: that God so loves, that God still lives in, that God continues to lay God’s life down, for the sake of this world, for all people, for all creation.
I would like to think that our common life together is linked with, and lived on behalf of… others. Because we are together, there is compassion and kindness to others, there is healing and assistance to others, there is an advocacy on behalf of others… in short – – because we are together, there is love.
The prophet, in this morning’s passage, speaks directly to the things that corrupts and breaks community, spoiling any chance for love to emanate from our being together. The pointing of fingers, the speaking of evil, the withdrawal from giving on behalf of others. Where there are factions, judgement, critical spirit, where there is blame and shame casted about, where there are small minds and smaller hearts, where we seek our own comfort and favor and fail to extend hospitality to the least of the “others.” There is no love.
In our work to refresh the parish’s website, Joel Harsh suggested the home page say, Welcome Home. It resonated with me and John Reed and James Ashbaugh who is creating the new web site. Joel said, that that is what he felt when he first visited St.Andrew after many years, even decades, of being away from any church community. His words were familiar to me, I have heard similar sentiments from many others. What makes a community of people whom you have just met, what makes a sacred ritual, one that you may have little previous experience… what makes such a place feel like coming home? I think the only answer is love. For as the first epistle of John declares without hesitation, beloved love one another, love is of God, love is God.
I believe when sacred traditions talk about love, it is not the kind we celebrate with valentine cards or love songs. It is the kind of love that breaks down the barriers that separate people, it is the kind of love that is about creating and redeeming a world from anger and judgement and bigotry. It’s the kind of love that is not only felt by those who belong and who are familiar, but to the stranger at the door or the border. It’s the kind of love that you feel when you cross over the threshold of a place and see it upon the faces all around you. That’s the kind of love that will make a person who has come for the first time, to feel like they have come home. It’s the kind of love that says, “this our home and it can be yours too.”
Throughout my years here, I have heard many testimonies by all sorts of people, how St. Andrew became their “home.” Jack Mapes told me the first time he and Hazel visited St. Andrew it was the glorious worship. I have heard others speak of the gregariousness and friendliness of the people. The fact that people bring food to share every week, that they felt an absence of judgement, the beauty of the church, the quality of the music, the community of Pilgrims, the diversity of thought and perspective.. it was a sum of these things and it was none of these things.. mostly people share it just felt like home.
Our culture is filled with a sense of soul homelessness. People who were never introduced to sacred community, and many who have been displaced and expelled form sacred community. The soul is the breath of God in each of us and all about us. When our souls seek a place to call home it must be a place we experience the love of God, the beauty, the compassion, the justice, the call of God. It must be a place where that love is not only experienced amongst the community but beyond the community. It must be a place that welcomes all who seek a place to call home. And in every language..the most ancient word for home, is God.
As we close the season of summer and turn our attention to beginning again another a new season of living the year of our Lord, may we share this thought of being a home. A home for ourselves, a home for others, a home of love. Amen.