A sermon preached by the Rev. Lind Harrison
Lent 4; 2017
1 Samuel 16.1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-41
Cast out for being born blind – because surely those parents were great sinners – and then cast out for being able to see … this poor person can catch no breaks.
Jesus sees the one who is blind from birth and who must beg.
Jesus hears that the one who can now see has been cast out of the synagogue precisely because that one can now see – both literally and figuratively.
Jesus finds that person and invites that one into relationship and belief.
Jesus then names the one who can now see a disciple, that is one who, coming to belief, now witnesses to that belief and follows Jesus. (You have to read the entirety of the story through 10.21 to find out that Jesus calls the one born blind a disciple.)
…from outcast to welcomed.
For the writer of the Gospel of John, belief is synonymous with relationship. Sin, also, is a relational category. In the Gospel According to John, sin is equivocally not a moral category; sin has everything do to with being, or not being, in relationship with God. Reconciliation and healing, then, are a matter of healed relationship. One cannot be whole, as it were, without being in relationship with God and Jesus.
In the beginning of this gospel, Andrew finds his brother Simon and announces that he has found the Messiah. Jesus finds and calls Philip, then Philip finds Nathanael and says they’ve found the one about whom the prophets wrote. Finding invites relationship, relationship invites belief, and belief then manifests as discipleship – witnessing to and inviting others. We are found by God, we nurture our relationship with the God we find through Jesus, we witness to that relationship and our belief, and in so doing, we become disciples.
Being found is no small event.
Being found is the first step in being called to discipleship.
Being found is life-giving and life-changing.
Many of us who are here at Emmaus Faith Community felt rejected by other religious communities or denominations. Lost, lonely, cast out, searching and yearning for relationship …
Some of us have been outright shunned by former communities because of our theology, politics, sexuality, or sexual identity. Some of us self-selected out; who would want to stay in a community that, at best, would not take the time to understand you, or at worst, vilified your very existence? Why stay in a community that would not embrace you for who you are in God, but felt you must conform to their image of who you ‘should’ be in order to be ‘correct’? Nonetheless, it is no less traumatic than a literal casting out.
Lost, lonely, cast out …
… and God found us through the Old Catholic Church.
I do not think any of us came to the OCC accidentally. It’s not like any of us were born OC and therefore were looking specifically for an OC congregation. Unlike United Methodist churches in this area, OC churches are not found on every main street. The OCC is not a known entity like the Lutheran or Episcopal Churches.
Lost, lonely, cast out, we heard God calling and we kept listening and following. And God found us; Christ found us. We have heard Christ’s call and we have responded here, in the OCC.
To be found and welcomed is to begin healing. To be found and welcomed is the beginning of relationship.
When I left the denomination where I answered God’s call to ordained ministry, I felt lost. Yes, I self-selected out; I told the Committee on Ordained Ministry that I felt it best if I withdrew my candidacy. After years of struggling with the hierarchy and years of hearing how I must change to fit in their model of ministry, I finally left. Even though I was the one who voiced the withdrawal, it was no less a casting out. It had been made abundantly clear for years how I did not and could not fit in.
Lost, lonely, cast out … and I kept hearing God calling … and God found me when I offered to help a seminary friend and colleague with an OC parish start-up. I was welcomed and I began to heal from the hurts and battle wounds and rejection and self-doubt.
What is your story of being lost or cast out? How did God continue to call to you? How did God find you? I truly invite you to share your stories with me – write it down, e-mail it to me. This is your call story, like Andrew finding Simon and Jesus finding and calling Philip, and the Samaritan woman at the well, then Philip calling Nathanael and the Samaritan woman calling to her neighbors and townspeople.
Your call story is sacred and it is the first step in becoming a disciple of Christ. Being found is the first step in being in relationship with God in Christ.
We have found welcome here in the OCC; I, personally, have found healing here in the OCC and I pray that is true for each of you as well. I have nurtured and deepened my relationship with the God I find through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ here in the OCC. I pray that is true for each of you as well, and that I, as your priest, have facilitated that nurturing.
And as ones called by Christ, found by Christ, we now are charged to find others and call them and share with them what we have found in Christ. That is what being a disciple means – sharing the love and welcome and healing you have experienced through God’s abundant mercy and steadfast love.
Discipleship does not mean you are charged to convert anyone; you do not have to be a street corner preacher on a soapbox. You merely share with others the love you freely receive from God. By your actions and your grace-filled words, you witness to the welcome you have received.
Belief is a relational category; it must be shared to be fully realized. We share our belief by sharing our love and in this way we become true disciples of the One whose gracious life, passion, and death showed us what true love really is.
Blessed be God forever.