Great Joy and Great Sorrow Borne
After Holy Communion, when all have returned to their seats, settled in and satisfied from the heavenly meal we have shared together, we all rise as one and say:
“Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with the spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Do you see the letters in bold above? Read them again.
Those words always make my heart sing. My heart literally swells, it is so full. Today, I am thinking of those words and I see them as I have never seen them before:
“…grant us strength and courage…”
And I am filled with wonder and awe and fear. Why fear? Because if I am going to need strength and courage, then there must be something to fear. When you go out into the world in peace to love and serve the Lord, you aren’t going out into a field of daisies to sing love songs to the crickets. It’s a rough, hard, broken world out there. You know that. I know that. The knowing doesn’t make it easier, it makes it harder.
If you have found great joy in the Love of God, then by that same Love you are bound to DO something to show your love in return. It is not enough just to talk about your love, you have to show it. Do you tell your child you love her? Do you tell her how much she means to you and how proud you are of her? But then, when your little girl falls down, do you let her lay there cry, hurt and alone? Or do you run to her and gather her into your arms and tend to her scraped knee and frightened spirit?
In today’s gospel reading (Luke 18:9-14) we hear the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. Which one are you? Which one am I? If I was ever that Pharisee, I don’t want to be him any longer. Today I want to beat my breast and cry out, “Lord have mercy on me! Help me, a lowly sinner!”
There is so much pain in this world. There are little girls who have fallen down, who have been pushed down. They are crying, they are bleeding, they need someone with strength and courage to love and serve them. They need you to pick them up, to brush them off, and to feed them with the spiritual food of a new and unending life.
Listen to what I listened to yesterday morning. If you can listen to this sermon by Becca Stevens of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt University and not be moved into action which requires “strength and courage”, then…then I am without words to help you. Please, click on that link, listen to the sermon. I haven’t been the same since I heard it.
Before you go to listen to Becca’s sermon – and I know you will – please know that the story she has to tell is not an easy story to hear, but I will be praying for your strength and your courage to hear it.