Thursday, July 26, 2012

Proper 11B, 2012, Sermon by Miriam Elizabeth, n/OSH

2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
June 22, 2012
Preached in the chapel of the Order of St. Helena, Augusta GA

“Love one another as I have loved you. Start with the people in this room.”  We heard those words from our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, at General Convention several days ago.  I heard her words and thought, “I think I need to start smaller.  Maybe with the people in my family or the people I live with.”  Then I thought, “I think I need to start smaller than that.”
So I began to wonder what might happen if we started with ourselves – loving ourselves – loving parts or wholes of our own selves that are difficult or different; parts that we think are disappointing or ugly or even contemptible?  What might happen if we start with the parts that we’ve circumcised from ourselves?  You know, the bits we’ve left behind because claiming them and carrying them around is too much trouble, too much work, too dirty or just too much.
What if we gathered up those bits of ourselves, those bits we’ve declared alien and unwelcome– the prejudice we left in the grocery line, the anger we dropped in the laundry room, the grief from the house meeting, the fear from the dark night – what if we gathered them up in a crowd and had compassion on them?  What might happen if we loved those parts of ourselves?
And what if we gathered those bits along with the other bits? You know, gathered the bits that are easier to name and claim – the compassion we left sitting in the refectory, the song we dropped in the cloister, the joy in the dance, the authenticity of heart laying on a prayer desk?  If we gathered up all the pieces we hold dear, and the pieces we hold with disdain or contempt, and even those we’ve intentionally cut off and left buried someplace; I wonder could we love them all together?  And what might happen if we do?
What if we trusted Jesus to join all the bits together into a holy temple, a dwelling place for God?  That IS the promise, but our trust is the question.  Can we love ourselves and by doing so love God?
I believe we can.  And when I forget that; when I lose track of the depth of the mystery that makes that possible, I reach for the stories and I remember.  I remember a young girl whose “yes” changed the world.  I remember one who knew the heat and loneliness of the desert and the cool waters of baptism.  I remember one who had compassion on the crowd.  I remember one who proclaimed peace to those far off and those near.  I remember the One who revives my soul.
And in that remembering, I also begin to be re-membered of my own self, and the bits I’ve left along the way become part of me again and hope rises in my heart; hope that in loving ourselves we might better love one another and live into the fullness of the reconciled life. 
So, love yourself – all of yourself; for when we do, we will love God, in whose image we are made; and when we love God, we cannot help but treat our neighbor differently.  And that is Good News.