What the World Needs Now
November 8, 2015
The rabbis told this story about how there were two brothers and when their father died they divided up his fields between them – right down the middle. And one brother built his house and his barn and his bins for storing grain on one half while the other brother built his house and his barn and his bins for storing grain on the other half.
For many years, that was their agreement – each brother farmed his half of the fields. And as time went on, one brother married and had children – while the other brother never married
and lived alone.
One day, the brother who’d never married looked around his home and he thought to himself, “I am so richly blessed in so many ways. But I worry about my brother with so many mouths to feed. I wish there was a way that I could help him out, but I know he’d never change our agreement. I know what I can do – early in the morning I will take a measure of grain from my bins and put it in his bins. He will never know, but over time it will add up and really help him out!” And so early every day, he would walk across the field and put a measure of his grain into his brother’s bin.
About that same time, the other brother was sitting watching his family, bouncing a baby on his knee – and he thought to himself, “I’m so richly blessed in so many ways. But I worry about my brother all alone in that house with no family to help him or to be with him. But I know that he would never allow me to change our agreement. I know what I can do – late every night before I go to bed, I will take a measure of grain from my bin and put it in his bin. He won’t have any idea, but after a while it will start to add up and really help him out!” And so late every night he would walk across the field and put a measure of grain in his brother’s bin.
This went on for many, many years. And as the brothers got older – you know – it was harder for one brother to get out and about really early – and he would make his trek across the field later and later in the morning. And it got harder for the other brother to stay up late – he got to the point where he couldn’t even make it to Colbert - so he would get across the field earlier and earlier in the afternoon.
Until one day, when they were each on their way across the fields at noontime. And they met in the middle –on top of a high hill overlooking all of the fields. Both of them stood looking at the other holding a measure of grain in his hand. And immediately they realized what they had been doing.
And they laughed.
And then they threw their arms around each other and held each other tightly.
And the rabbis said that that place where the two brothers met that day is where Solomon built his temple. And that the Holy of Holies – the innermost part of the Temple – the place where God resides is the exact spot where the two brothers embraced.
Because where deep love is expressed and shared – that is where the presence of God is – that is where God lives.
The writer of first John says that God is love – that the very essence of God is love – and in Jesus we see that essence of God – that love – lived out in the world. There’s some pretty significant theology behind this idea. We call it the incarnation – the belief that in Jesus God came to somehow walk in our shoes – to experience our world – with its complications and messiness and blessings and joys – to live in our skin with our struggles and our hopes and our dreams.
The incarnation is what makes God’s love something with a shape – something we can see and touch. That love accepts us unconditionally and opens us up and invites us to something even deeper.
A baby boy was born to a young mother who’d had a really tough life. And he was the most precious thing in the entire world to her.
One day, when he was only a few days old, an old woman showed up at the home of the young mother. The old woman said to her, “I am here to give your child a gift - whatever you ask for him will be given.”
The young mother thought for a second and then she said, “I want him to always be loved, because I want his life to be better – easier – than mine has been.”
And so it was.
As the child grew, he was loved by everyone – all of the other children, his teachers, everyone who knew him, loved him.
But as he grew, his life was not easier. He married and had children – but he felt disconnected
from them. He was respected at his job and everyone loved him there, but he was not fulfilled by it. Everyone loved him, but he was lost.
Then one day, the old woman came to his house. She told him that when he was just a baby she had allowed his mother to ask for one gift for him – and that she had asked that he would always be loved.
“But now,” she said, “it’s your turn to ask for one gift for yourself. You can ask for anything at all and it will be given to you.”
He thought for a second and then he said, “I would like to always be able to love.”
And so it was.
And that was the day his whole life changed.
You see – “When you love somebody, it is no longer yourself who is the center of your own universe. It is the one you love who is.
You forget yourself.
You deny yourself.
You give of yourself so that by all the rules of logic there should be less of yourself than there was to start with. Only by a curious paradox there is more. You feel at last you are really yourself.”
Frederick Buechner said that.
And it is the truth.
Being loved is a beautiful thing – knowing that you are loved - - it makes you feel amazing.
But being able to love someone else – that is the thing that changes your life.
Our writer says that when we love, God lives in us. When we love, we become the incarnation – the living witness of the love of God to those around us.
Yesterday the Church Council gathered for our quarterly retreat. We had a lot of businessy stuff to get through, but before we started all that, we took some time to reflect on the places where we see God here – among us – in this community of faith.
It was quiet for a little while as we all thought about it – but then one by one – all of us around the table began to talk about all of you.
We began to talk about how we see God through the way that you welcome others, your acceptance, your open-hearts.
How we see God in the ways that you stand alongside those who are demanding dignity and respect from our society and our institutions. How we see God in the ways that you give so generously of yourselves to strangers and neighbors – and to one another.
We told stories about the saints of this church – the youngest among us and the oldest – and how being loved by you has made us all more loving too.
We talked about you all – about the love of God incarnated in you -- for over an hour – and there was lots of laughter, and there were a couple of tears – because when you come face to face with the power of God’s love – it’s like the hymn we sang early – we are lost in wonder, love, and praise.
You show God to us.
You show God to me.
And when I see God in you – when I see the ways that you invest yourselves in loving God and loving others - it makes me want to love better, to love more, to invest my life that way - - to order my life according to love.
My dear sisters and brothers, may you know the love of God that is yours without question or hesitation.
But also – may you continue to love in that way – may you enter into the messy, complex lives of those around you and may your love make those lives more hopeful and more peaceful.
May your love be the presence of God for someone – the face of God for someone.
May your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, your witness, be the incarnation of God’s love in this community and this world.