Listen to this sermon here.
This passage from John has always sounded like a vague threat to me. Maybe because I have been in the church for most of my life. I have in the past, heard this passage interpreted as: God gave their only child for us – the messed-up followers – and if we don’t get our lives exactly right, then it was a complete waste and we have let God down. And God only had one, so how could you?!’
Now this particular interpretation was generally offered through the lens of a church that was for the most part controlled by men who were very interested in control. And I am sure that we have all heard similar versions of that sermon – and thankfully we have also now heard sermons that counter that particular understanding – thank God.
For the most part, through most of my life – I have generally avoided this passage because I don’t actually need help with knowing that I mess up and I’m very good already at not feeling worthy. Also, I don’t like to feel threatened. So, I just paid
attention to most of the rest of the Bible.
But I don’t actually feel like I need to do that anymore.
Because now, I really like this part: 7 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
That part actually feels pretty true for me. Because of my relationship with Jesus through community and in particular this community, I have been saved and I do not feel condemned.
I have been saved from a narrow understanding of God, of gender, of sexuality, of what community looks like, of what justice can look like, of believing that my opinion is the most important one or that I am the most important person in the room. You have saved me from that.
And that happened because you risked continuing to be in relationship with Jesus by showing up here.
I used to say that this was the best/worst/hardest/most beautiful job I have ever had.
Starting a church is really, really hard work. And I think even harder in a Diocese that doesn’t have a clue what that means or what it will take.
But with the support of the Bishop and this Cathedral, Andrew and I were encouraged to give it a go. And slowly this congregation began to form – so slowly.
I can remember getting to so many Sunday evenings after agonizing through the week about what we would do, what words we would use in the liturgy, how we would set the space- the sleepless nights, the many, many texts and arguments between Andrew and I – and I would arrive here with my heart in my mouth, convinced that no one would come. And Doug Toews, of Blessed Memory, member of the first St. B’s Discernment group, would sit across from me and say, “It’s fine Marnie. It’s all fine, people will come and it will be fine.” And he was right. It was fine and so much better than fine.
We have celebrated births, marriages, baptisms, gender transitions and chosen names, we have grieved and ate, and served hot chocolate and painted and danced and cut stars and hung stars and packed up and then released the Alleluia’s, and so much more together.
And it’s been hard, and we have messed up, more than once. I have made mistakes and had to come back and try again.
We have moved from downstairs to up here, then out of the building entirely and into another, then back again, then down into this space, then online and here we are again.
All because you continued to risk being in relationship with Jesus by being a part of this
I don’t hear the line in verse 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" as a threat anymore.
Sometimes we need actual teachers to show us how to do things in a new way and we need concrete examples for how to do it well. God gets that about us and so we were offered Jesus, who showed us that we have choice. That we do not have to live as the world around us might prescribe. We don’t have to choose the dominant culture that still seems to insist that some get to have most of the power, that white skin is the most important colour, that money matters most and that I matter more than you.
Rather, Jesus insists that we turn to see who our neighbour is and to listen to what they are saying they need – to hold ‘us’ over ‘I’. And then to act on it. Jesus teaches us to listen in order to act. You showed me what that can look like.
Other words for eternal life can be enduring, perpetual lasting, boundless. Maybe it’s not about living forever, so much as it’s about creating a legacy that changes the energy around us – that offers another way and gives people more choice for how
they want to live and for that to be ongoing.
And I think that Jesus shows up for us again and again in each other and teaches us new ways to live over and over again.
The Bible is full of stories of people taking risks, trying a new way, getting it wrong and needing to start over again. The Gospels are full of examples of the people around Jesus needing to ask clarifying questions. This is not a story about a people who got it right all the time – in fact it’s a story, or a book of stories of a people who live out their full humanity by just trying new ways of being, going on journeys, getting lost, lamenting what they had, wishing they could go back and figuring themselves out so that they can go forward.
And in many ways, that has been our story too. Or at least mine as I have learned how to be your pastor.
And I really pray that this will continue to be your story as you carry on, as you consider who and how you want to be now.
And I want to say Thank you to you for teaching me that staying in the church is possible, that creating new communities is important and that it’s not just me who needs it.
I know that the bulletin says that I will bless you a little later on in the liturgy, but I actually want to do mine now.
So will you pray with me?
You have called us into being through love.
You have joined us to one another in love.
You have taught us what love looks like in our full humanity, in our Queerness, in our
bodies, in our friendships, in our disagreements and in our coming back together.
You have taught us that it’s possible to find love through you and in community.
Shine your light upon these people so that they can see the glory of the life that you
offer here in and through these people.
Bless what happens here. Give them the courage to continue to risk new ways of being, new gatherings, new language for you, new ways of blessing each other.
May they continue to grow in numbers, in friendship and in faith – so that they can live more deeply into the example that you set through Jesus Christ. Help them to remember what we learned together but not to stop there and help them to
continue to learn together and to invite new people into their learning.
Bless all that happens in this place. May the people of St. Brigid’s continue to tend to the fire of your love that burns within them and within this community.
Help them to follow the example of their patron Saint and continue to offer healing to
those who need it, to those who are told that they are not good enough or don’t belong.
Help this continue to be a place of belonging.
Keep them always mindful of your presence so that they might hear you in their speaking and in their listening and in the spaces in between. And may love always have residence here so that all who come are reminded of their
own belovedness and worth.
May they continue to shape and be reshaped by one one another so that this community might be fuller in glory and joy, transformed and ready for wherever they may go next.
In the name of the Holy Trinity, One God now and forever.