the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

coreValue #2: Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is grace made real!

According to the dictionary, coreValues are the fundamental beliefs – the bottom lines – for a person or a people. They’re the guiding principles that make us who, that make us what, we are. And we all have them. For instance, as United States of Americans, are things like liberty, and freedom, and independence, individualism, competition, consumption, and – on a good day – maybe, even, diversity! The things that inspire us! That call our better angels! But that’s where we being as we get ready to cross over and enter a new place.

That’s where the designTeam began it’s work, a couple months ago, now. What are our coreValues? As a community? As a congregation? That first night, we filled up an entire white board. Dozens, scores of ideas! We listed things we believed in! Things we lived by! That’s that gave our life together meaning and purpose! Then, for the next two weeks, we let them steep, simmer. At the next meeting, we simplified the list. To something we could remember. And frankly, I figured we’d be lucky to get it all down to a dozen-or-so items. But by the end of the meeting, we had three.

CoreValue # 1 we talked about last month, at this time. Grace! God’s respect and god’s reverence for everyone and for everything! No strings attached! Push comes to shove, that’s what we’ve here! Who we are! What we’re about! God loves! Unearned! Undeserved! Unconditional! Without measure! Without limit! Without apology! Without excuse! Without exception! God’s love for each and every! God’s love for one and all! Period! Exclamation mark! End of sentence! That’s grace!

And the second coreValue is, naturally, like the first! JesusChrist! JesusChrist! You see, it would be easy to treat grace as if it was nothing more than an idea! A great idea, but an idea, nonetheless! To treat it as if it was, simply, a philosophy, a concept. Just another do—it-yourself project. Following the instructions, completing the project, one step at a time. One problem? Grace doesn’t begin with a thought or a theory. It begins with a person. With a life. CoreValue # 2: JesusChrist! For us, jesusChrist is grace incarnate! For us, jesusChrist is god’s love in flesh and blood! JesusChrist is what grace looks like! JesusChrist is what grace sounds like! JesusChrist is how grace acts, what grace does! We look at jesusChrist and we see god’s commitment and god’s devotion to the world! We look at jesusChrist and we see god’s reverence and god’s respect for all creation! No exceptions! No exemptions! No exclusions! Without grace, there is no jesusChrist! Without jesusChrist, there is no grace! Not without the person, the life, the relationship, that starts it all!

I think that’s what John was saying at the beginning of his gospel. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” I’ve always thought he was talking about creation. Genesis one. Genesis two. I realize he’s talking about love! About charity! About grace! It’s like the words in one of Kris Kristofferson’s songs. “Love is the reason we happened, at all!” And it’s all there. In that second coreValue. JesusChrist is grace! Grace we can see! Grace we can hear! Grace we can touch! Love, for us … charity, for us … grace, for us … isn’t a concept! is not an ideal! It’s a person! A life! A relationship! Conceived by the Spirit! Born of a virgin! Suffered! Was crucified! Died! Was buried! Descended and rose! That first coreValue is important! But it can only be because of coreValue Two!

It’s grace that creates us! It’s grace that saves us! It’s grace that makes us new! Grace came to us! Comes to us! Will forever come! In, with, and through jesusChrist! Christ is the means of grace! Christ is grace itself! I think that’s why the love of my youth didn’t last. The world had gone crazy, back then. The mid- to late-60s. The early-70s. “The Year that Shattered America!” That’s what the Smithsonian Magazine called 1968. Riots. Marches. Demonstrations. Assassinations. Nowadays is just a dim reflection, a faint echo of that time. Anyway, we sang a lot about love. What the world needs now. Guiding the planets. Steering the stars. But it was all in our minds! And when our thoughts drifted on to other things, love vanished. It faded away and became just another memory.

But for us, here, today, love, charity, grace, is jesusChrist. And jesusChrist is grace, charity, love. And when jesusChrist is buried, he always rises! And love! Love rises with him! It’s all a gift! No prerequisites! No expectations. No conditions before; no conditions after! Just grace and jesusChrist! Just jesusChrist and grace! Those two things comprise two-thirds of who, of what, we are. God loves us! God respects us! God reveres us! With all god’s heart! With all god’s mind! With all god’s being! And if you wonder if that’s true, just look at Jesus! Because love isn’t an it! Love is a he! Love is a person, not a thing! For us, love is jesusChrist! Without him, love has no face! Without him, love has no voice! Without him, live has no heart! Does that mean only we love? Does that mean only Christians are loved? No! Not when god loves all creation! Not when god loves the whole cosmos! But it does mean, of all people, we have no excuse, no alibi, not to love. No. We believe in love! We believe in charity! We believe in grace! We trust it! We stake our lives on it! And we believe in, we stake our lives on, we trust in jesusChrist, as well!

So, my friends, our first coreValue is love! Charity! Grace! And our second coreValue is like the first! Our second is jesusChrist!