October 2, 2016
Two weeks ago I was in Detroit for the Fall House of Bishops meeting. Since I happen to be a fan of the music of the 60’s and 70’s, when I am in Cleveland I go the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being in Detroit, I had to go to “Hitsville, USA,” the nickname of Motown’s first headquarters and now a museum.
While there, great music was resounding through the halls and I heard the words of the prophet Marvin Gaye, Motown musician from 1971, when he asked in the song’s title, “What’s Goin’ On?” If you do not recall the lyrics, allow me to remind you:
There’s too many of you crying.
Brother, brother, brother
There’s too many of you dying.
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today.
We don’t need to escalate.
You see, war is not the answer.
For only love can conquer hate.
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today.”
What’s goin’ on is this: Our world is starving. For what you might ask? It is starving for a more transcendent vision of itself that is able to see beyond politics, policies, new technology, ideologies, violence, or stock market fluctuations. The world’s hunger appears in every news service every day, whether it be the recent event right up the road in Townville as this country’s epidemic of gun violence continues unabated, or as seen in the record number of refugees fleeing their countries in an attempt to find safe haven for their families. Too many crying. Too many dying.
The transcendent vision for which our world longs is about a new heart – a transformed consciousness. Our world is longing, right in the midst of the horrors we see on CNN, to see human beings fully alive, fully awakened to our humanity in the highest and best sense of what it means to be truly human. It was Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon who said way back in the second century: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” It is what our own hearts long for even when we don’t recognize it. It’s about finding a way “to bring some lovin’ here today.”
That was the mission of Jesus. It follows then that because it was the mission of Jesus it is our mission – to become a people who embody ever more fully and radiate ever more clearly that pure and unbounded love, who is God. Yet we often don’t get it just as Jesus’ disciples don’t get it. In the Gospel today they are struggling with what it means to be faithful and have asked for an increase in faith in order to be able to resist the destructive and oppositional forces swirling all around them. Jesus uses the image of a mulberry tree that has an incredibly extensive root system and therefore would be nearly impossible to uproot much less replant in deep water. The point being: Genuine faith can bring about quite unexpected things. What we cannot do is presume upon God’s graciousness as if we deserve it. It is all gift. Then out of the pure joy that comes from a grateful heart, we put our faith into action.
To be a part of a Christian community, like here at Calvary, it is going to cost us something if we are looking to live our life deeply, faithfully. Too often we travel through life seeing too narrowly, thinking too small-mindedly, loving with limitations, even as we long for something more transcendent and more grand. Jesus dared to see bigger and beyond himself. He took risks to put his faith in God into action for the deliverance of us all and so must we.
In our day, study after study of American religion is telling us that the time for casual Christianity is over. I quote from the recent report of The Pew Research Center: “Casual Christianity, the kind that is not lived deeply as a pattern of life, is losing legitimacy among young people because many Christians only speak the truth and fail to DO the truth.” . “Increase our faith!” can be our cry along with the disciples of Jesus’ day.
Perhaps we need to metaphorically be uprooting some mulberry trees as bold ambassadors of Jesus. As a parish community, we are called by God because we have a mission to celebrate and a love to share. Every Eucharistic celebration reminds us that our life as a Christian community is not primarily about the maintenance of an institution, nor about the management of an organization. It is about the profound and challenging transformation of God’s people into the mystery of divine love in order to change the world. It is what it is to be a part of the “Jesus movement” as our Presiding Bishop likes to call it.
Hear St. Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy today to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you...for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self discipline.” Paul reminds that community of the faith that had been handed down from Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. I heard from some of you the other night of the faith you received in a similar way, handed down by those years ago in the school, meeting in the parish hall right next door.
Go again into the neighborhood of Charleston full of faith. Wherever we can bring forgiveness, justice, release and reconciliation, there is Christ and then we are being a people of God that God can use to bring about his Reign “on earth as it is in heaven.” For what is Jesus’ purpose? “To bring some lovin’ here today.”