A reading from the Gospel according to Luke.Jesus said,49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
The Word of the Lord.
(Luke 12:49-56 NRSV)
A Sermon for Monday, June 13, 2016 byR. Harrison West forHOML 611: The Art in PreachingThe Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor
Gospel for Proper 15C: Luke 12:49-56
It was a bad weekend in Orlando:
On Friday, Christina Grimmie, a promising young singer, was shot as she signed autographs for fans.
Then, very early Sunday morning it got worse: Shortly after 2 a.m., just before last call at Orlando’s popular Pulse nightclub, shots were heard; the DJ thought perhaps firecrackers were going off; he turned down the music; and then he saw people falling and blood flying. A man with an assault-style rifle had entered the club and opened fire. Before the gunfire finally stopped 103 people were shot, 50 of them died.
Friday’s murder was bad enough; the scale of Sunday’s carnage, shocking beyond words. Orlando now becomes the latest and deadliest addition to the American litany of slaughter: Aurora, Binghamton, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Washington Navy Yard, Roseburg, Chattanooga, and Charleston. We hear of these places – this catalog of death, and we experience anew the compounding trauma of mass killings over the last decade in the United States.
The setting and the timing of the Orlando shootings seem to have been chosen to terrorize us – to undermine, what seems to me, to most of us I assume, as progress. Since the uprising against police oppression by the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969, June has become a season of Pride celebrations for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and allies. At the end of last June, there was another cause for celebration when a Supreme Court decision made Equality of Civil Marriage the law of the land. Orlando’s Pulse nightclub celebrated and encouraged that progress; Pulse, and clubs like it, have long served as safe harbors for solidarity and renewal in the ongoing struggle for full participation in society; like the Stonewall Inn, Pulse and other clubs, also serve as a refuge from bullying and gay bashing.
Whether it is the massacre of 50, the murder of one, or the 91 victims of gun violence on average on any given day in this country, I believe [a cliché, I don’t care, I believe] that God’s heart is the first to break for every one of these deaths. God became incarnate in Jesus that his human creatures might have life and have it in abundance. So why would Jesus say something as seemingly heartless as, “I came to bring fire to the earth … Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He said it, because his proclamation of God’s reign drawing near, was creating violent opposition. Folks had been out to be rid of him since he was a baby, and from his first sermon in Nazareth. Religious authorities did not welcome his easy way with the accepted standards of righteous behavior and proper conduct. He did not scorn the outcasts who turned to him for help, did not ridicule women who were abused and rejected; instead he ate with “sinners and publicans,” – fun people like those at Pulse.
Jesus came to heal the lost sheep of Israel, and when Gentiles also wanted to meet him, he perceived that his time was drawing near. The time for his baptism by fire, his death on the cross, was approaching. Religious and political powers were going to kill him for preaching peace, healing the sick, welcoming those on the outside, for challenging their understanding of the good and the right, and upsetting the delicate balance by which they maintained their privilege and place. All that proclamation, challenge and upset was going to exact a deadly price from Jesus, and he was willing to pay it. The Body of Christ has continued and continues to pay that price. Families are divided; religious councils are divided.
Suffering and death have also been the lot of the LGBT community; but not willingly. Again, families are divided; religious councils are divided. Yet such opposition and division should not be unexpected; those who “know how to interpret the present time” will understand that any movement recognizing the dignity of every human being will face opposition – sometimes violently so.
That the patrons at Pulse could be happy, living their lives openly and freely, not cowering on the margins, not being treated as sick and diseased, is unthinkable to some. The shooter did not know what to do with so much happiness; so he tried to kill as much of it as he could. We may never know for sure what prompted him, but he phoned-in his loyalty to the so-called Islamic State, and we know – because it cynically brags about its brutalities – that ISIS cruelly stones and hurls to their death people accused of homosexual behavior. Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando was surely intended to terrorize the movement to openly and fully include LGBT people in the human family, and to terrorize a society that has only recently begun welcoming sexual minorities to openly and fully participate in civic responsibilities and benefits.
The terrorists will be disappointed; their evil will not prevail. As distraught and furious as people were and remain, they/we refuse to be terrorized. Instead we were doing the very things Naomi Shihab Nye writes about in “So Much Happiness.”
With sadness there is something to rub against,
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth;
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
So yesterday with the world falling-in, people gathered in solidarity on-line and in person. In Orlando they massed at blood donation centers, and brought water and snacks for the blood donors. While doctors and nurses tended to the wounded with lotion and cloth, people gathered again outside the Stonewall Inn to rub against history. Participants in yesterday evening’s Tony Awards traded their ticket stubs for silver ribbons of solidarity. My hunch is that Gay bars across the country did an incredible business yesterday evening; people wanted to hold onto something, to pick up the pieces together. Vigils, organized and unorganized, sprang up all over the country; I trust you have read or heard there’ll be one this evening at 6 pm in All Saints Chapel. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
There were several helpful quotations from William Temple here on the board last week. Here’s another, a favorite of mine, for a day like today:
“Prayer adds to the sum total of love in the world.”
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!