Sermon for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost
The Rev. Bob Lowry
Mark 8:27-38

A news item on television caught my eye this week. A group of people were trying to escape from Syria to Greece on a small rubber dinghy. The boat was severely overcrowded, causing it to be right at the waterline. The people who were sitting in the boat were below the waterline. Luckily the water was fairly calm, but there was still lots of movement in the boat. Everyone had on life jackets, that I understand was sold to them just before they left shore. This was tragic because I understand each had paid 2 to 3 thousand dollars just to get on the boat. These people had lost everything they owned, and were now looking for a secure spot to live and be a family again. What really caught my eye was a little boy about 5 years old. I don’t remember if he was wearing a life jacket or not. The camera man gave us a close up of his dark eyes, and you could see stark fear reflecting back at the camera. Next to him was his father and he had a very tight grip on his arm. The reality of this struck me, why is this child made to suffer the grave consequences of our lack of ability to have peace in our world?

After the small rubber dinghy left shore and had made about two miles of a five mile journey, a boat allegedly Greek, roared up to the smaller boat and a man cut the gas line on the dinghy’s motor. Panic immediately set in on the passengers of the rubber raft. They were at the mercy of the movement of the sea with no steering mechanism. The boy must of seen the fear in all the others eyes. Some people jumped in the water to lighten the boat, and to stabilize it, others sat real still. Then seeing their plight another boat tied on to them and drug the dinghy to shore. You have to ask yourself, where was Jesus during this time. Could he have been the 5 year old boy looking at the world, eyes begging for help. Eyes reminding us that we must care for each other, or do you see what war as wrought? Jesus said to us when someone strikes you turn the other cheek. Jesus brought a new law into the world, an eye for an eye is the old law. Peace is the new wish for you, and his children expect you to bring them peace.

Maybe Jesus was in the rescue boat, but we would have to ask, then if he was, why have so many died trying to reach a safe shore? He is either all in, or not at all. Then who is responsible for the children, the adults with no dog in this fight. We explain away the troubles in the middle east as problems that have existed for thousands of years. War heaped on war, genocide, tyranny, and war lords who have ruled territories for centuries. Is it possible to change this mindset? If so how?

We all have been told that Jesus is love. Is it the answer for today’s turmoil, the fear that permeates our lives. War upon war has not worked. Total annihilation has been ruled out by right thinking people. Billions of dollars in the machinery of war has not stopped any one from attacking another. The only option we have left is love. How can we use this weapon to change the world. Here a suggestion from Richard Rohr, noted author and champion of Christ’s love.

Richard says “you can give all the pious Christian teaching you want, but without a transformation of consciousness, the Christian doesn’t have the energy or capacity to carry it out”. Here is Richards steps to loving kindness as paraphrased from Pema Chodron’s practice of loving kindness.

  1. Recognize the place of loving kindness inside your self, it is there. Honor it, awaken it, and actively draw upon it.
  2. Drawing upon the source of loving kindness from within, bring to mind someone for whom you feel sincere goodwill and tenderness, someone you love very much. From your source, send loving kindness toward this person and bless them.
  3. Awaken loving kindness for someone who is a casual friend or associate, someone not in your inner circle, , but a bit further removed, someone you admire or appreciate. Send love to that individual.
  4. Now send loving kindness to someone you feel neutral or indifferent—for example, a gas station attendant, or a cashier. Send your blessing to that person.
  5. Think of someone who has hurt you, who has talked evil of you, whom you find difficult to like or you don’t enjoy being around. Bless them; send this would be enemy your love.
  6. Bring all the first five individuals into the stream of your flowing love, including yourself. Hold them here for a few minutes.
  7. Finally, extend this love to embrace all beings in the universe. It is one piece of love, one love toward all, regardless of race, religion, culture, or liability.

    I will post this sermon on the church website, so you can practice what I have preached. I shall practice this all week. When we do this we can truly answer Jesus’ question, “who do they say that I am”. They say you are love, deeper than anything we can understand, but we can remember your teaching, “love one another as I have loved you”.