Published on 03 Jul 2012
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 1 2012
The Rev. Alisdair Smith
Christ Church Cathedral
Click Here to listen to an audio mp3 of the sermon.
Holy One, for all that has been, thank you. For all that will be, yes.
Happy Canada Day!
To start, I’d like to ask a question. Of the top 10 countries in which to live, where is Canada ranked? Is it in the top 3, the middle three or the bottom 3?
Now, I did a little research and while we used to be able to brag that we were the best country to live in in the early 2000’s we now hover around 5th or 6th place, and the big shock is that the OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) in 2012 ranks the US as number 2 and Canada as number 5?! What?! We beat them for Gold in the Olympic Hockey games last year? We’re funnier, we’re fitter, our healthcare system is less expensive and our homicide rate is substantially lower. How is it possible that we would be ranked 5th? And you know what? Australia is number 1?! They don’t even play hockey!
And now I’d like to invite you to consider your thoughts and feelings right now. What are you thinking, what are your feelings about Canada’s ranking? What do you think of us being 5th while the Americans are 2nd, or even that Australia is number 1! And if you’re American, or Australian, how do you feel right now? Or if you’re from another country, how do you feel right now?
All right, so for many of us Canadians, we might have experienced a level of frustration, a level of discomfort, a certain sense of loss. Or if American or Australian, pride. If from somewhere else, a certain exclusion perhaps?
Now, let’s look at our Gospel reading this morning. We have at first blush a simple story of Jesus doing two miracles almost simultaneously. And isn’t Jesus wonderful, he does one of them without even turning around. Jesus is so cool! But, as many of us know from our explorations of sacred texts this winter and spring, these stories are always much, much deeper than a simple first reading suggests. One reading of this story is actually about equality, rank, status and who’s who in God’s eyes. In this story we see that we might care about who’s number one, who’s number 5, and even who’s number 182. God though doesn’t see it that way; in God’s eyes, we’re all equal, all worthy of love, of respect. We are all worthy of being touched and to touch.
A quick recap of the story. So Jesus has returned to his homeland, after a visit across the sea. Now, back in Judea, a huge crowd has met him at the beach, and one of the leaders of the people begs Jesus to come to his house because his daughter is very sick. Now keep in mind that this man Jairus, as a leader, is recognized by the first hearers of this story as one of the elites; he’s a celebrity. That’s one of the reasons he’s named in the story. And if Jesus had returned to modern day Vancouver in this story, imagine there’s a huge crowd at Kits Beach and among them a resident celebrity like Bryan Adams. And Jesus heads off to help this celebrity out. Now the crowd is following them, perhaps because not only of Jesus, but because of the celebrity of the guy who asked. And slipping into the crowd is this hemorrhaging woman. So imagine, if Jairus is someone like Bryan Adams, who might we say this woman is; she needs to be poor, excluded, perhaps very sick physically, likely living on the street. So in keeping with her ‘status’ she doesn’t even have a name. She manages to work her way into the crowd and touch’s Jesus’ robe. Asking who has touched his robe, Jesus looks for her. In the midst of the jostling crowd, on his way to the celebrity’s house, he stops, and looks around for this woman. And when he finds her, and blesses her; saying, “you took a risk of faith, and that has cured you.” And perhaps most importantly, Jesus includes her in the family; “daughter” he calls her. “Daughter.” Interesting word, given that Jesus is on his way to heal the daughter of the celebrity. And then some of the celebrity’s people come by and say, “sorry, your daughter has died”. And Jesus, in mid stream says, “don’t worry, trust me.” Off they go to heal the celebrity’s daughter. And they arrive at the house and of course the paparazzi are all around, the celebrity stalkers hanging around; sounds familiar eh? And Jesus, demands privacy for the family and he heals this girl as well.
Let us consider the status we experience in the world, and the lack of status that God’s Shalom calls us towards. In our world celebrity is important; it gives status, and it is something to which we might aspire. Part of the reason we look at these global rankings systems is that they give us status. We consider ourselves somehow a little higher than the rest of the world. Thank our lucky stars we’re not in Malawi, or Bolivia. But God’s shalom is for all people. How we treat each other; how we treat the poor and disenfranchised, and how we treat the wealthy and powerful is the question, and what we see in this story, is that all of us are worthy of love and respect. There is a preferential towards the poor; as we see, Jesus does stop on his journey to seek her out first, to ensure that she is in the family, before he does anything else. And that said, he goes to help the celebrity; no one is excluded from God’s love.
And so it doesn’t really matter if you’re Canadian, or American, or Australian. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Sweden or Ghana, the UK or Bali, so called 1st world, or so-called emerging world. It doesn’t matter if your Conservative, Liberal or NDP. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Tea Party or Democrat. It doesn’t matter your faith or spiritual tradition, It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, healthy or sick, black or white, gay or straight, female, male, or gender queer; God loves you.
And here at Christ Church Cathedral we try to live up to that love; we try our best to match that kind of love every day. You are welcome here, from wherever you are. So look around; there are people of high status in our culture in this place; there are judges, and doctors, university professors, and teachers, there are nurses, psychologists, we’ve had our share of celebrities, there are wealthy people sitting right next to you perhaps. And, perhaps right next to you, there are people between jobs, people who have not worked in 20 years, there are people with addictions, and people will all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. There are people who spend much of their day being ignored. There are people who need help to stand on their own, literally and figuratively. And in this place; all are welcome.
And that is a very good thing; because there are not many places like that here in Canada, in the US, or in Australia anymore. And it is absolutely vital that we take this deep and profound love and respect for each other as humans, as sons and daughters of God, out into our neighbourhoods, out into our workplaces, out into our schools. Our world is too hung up on status; our world is too hung up on getting ahead at the expense of the other. Our world is too hung up on difference. And that difference is a fantasy. Look into the eyes of a new Mum, and you see yourself as a Mum. Look into the eyes of a dying person and see yourself dying. Look at young lovers laughing, and see yourself and a lover laughing.
We can pretend that there is a massive difference between us; we can thank our lucky stars that we are more like the rich celebrity and not like the hemorrhaging woman. Or we can see ourselves as closer to her, and shake our fists at the rich, thanking our lucky starts that we are not like them. And if we continue to do that to each other we’ll wind up killing each other. Or we can recognize that each of us is first and foremost a human being; first and foremost a “daughter” or a “son”, we are all one. We need to look after the poor, we need to erase injustice and state and business sanctioned terror. And then we need to know that all people are worthy of love and respect.
In a few moments we will celebrate the Eucharist together. We are all one body. Remember that in the eyes of God you are a daughter or a son. Remember that you are surrounded by your sisters and brothers, and as unique and cool as you are; we have way more in common with each other than we might believe at first blush. Like these sacred stories we hear every Sunday, the real power, the real beauty is in the depths. As unique as we are, our real power, our real beauty is in our deep commonness.
So if you are Canadian, if you are American, if you are Australian, or from Malawi, India, Brazil or Greece, or anywhere else on the planet, let us celebrate the love we share here in this place. Let us then go to the places where God has given us responsibility and let us show all people the powerful equality of love. Let us have courage. Let us hold on to what is good. Let us support the weak. And let us honour the lives of all our brothers and sisters.
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