2 Corinthians 13. 11-13
It’s all about the grace, the love, the community!
Tuesday morning, when I woke up, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck! By a very, very large truck! Or maybe an avalanche! Or tsunami! So much has happened in such a short time. And we’ve just been swept up and carried along to god-only-knows where! No time to catch our breath! No time to get our footing! And right when we think we will … Along comes another truck … or another tidal wave … or another avalanche … And we’re off, again! Oh, for the good old days! When the only thing we had to worry about was ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill tribalism of politics! Red vs Blue! Conservative vs. Progressive! Us vs them; them vs. us! Life was so much simpler then! Back – what … three … four … months ago?
And then, along came a novel corona virus. A million-and-a-half infected, here in America. A hundred thousand plus dead. I don’t know if you noticed … we’ve stopped reporting the daily body count! Social distancing! Flattening the curve! Stay-at-home! Shelter-in-place! Face masks! That led to tens of millions unemployed! A crash in the stock market! A bust in oil prices! And now, once again, racism! Not that it ever went away! Each week, when you think it can ‘t get any worse … it does! One more layer added to the cake. It’s hard to keep up with it. Sunday to Sunday. Sermon after another. And still be thoughtful. Relevant.
I think that’s the reason – or at least, one of them – why I like doing this on Sunday mornings. Getting out! Getting away! When it feels like everything’s closing in on us, we can be in places like this and be reminded that there’s more to life than four walls and empty chairs. Coming out here gives us the chance to take a deep breath, relax, and realize life still goes on! Goes on, pretty much, like it’s always gone on! Sun bright! Sky blue! Trees green! Birds singing! And of course, the gentle West Texas breezes! Life happens! In spite of everything else!
But being out here, also, gives us the chance to remember what’s important! To remember what matters! Out here, we can consider – can reconsider – the things we, usually, overlook! The things, more often than not, we ignore! That get lost in the helter skelter of living! Things … like the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the love of God! And the communion of the Holy Spirit! Unfortunately, at times like this … at times when we need them the most … those are the things that get kicked under the bed … that get hidden away in the closet …
It dawned on me – a couple, three weeks ago … those three things – grace, love, community – are the very things we need, at this moment. The greater the adversity, the simpler the message! Grace, love, and communion! This isn’t the time for words. At least, not for a lot of them. This isn’t a time for manifestos. For explanations and clarifications. This is a time for promises. A hundred forty characters or less. Short. Sweet. To the point. This is a time to get back to basics. To things necessary. Things essential. Things that we’ve heard so often, before, that we don’t have to think twice about them. Things that we’ve heard so many times, we take them for granted. Things that have become so much a part of us, they’re, now, a reflex, an instinct.
Things like the words that begin each and every Sunday morning! Second Corinthians. Chapter thirteen. Verse thirteen. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with all of you!” The grace, the love, the communion is yours! You possess it! All of it! It belongs to you! All of you! Those are the first words of worship because they’re that important! And they’re the last words of Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth for the exact same reason! They’re that important! And I don’t think it’s because of the Holy Trinity! I don’t think Paul had in mind the one-in-three or the three-in-one! For him, it was about the basics! It was all about the bottom-line! It was about the grace and the love and the community! The grace that saves! The love that creates! The community that cultivates, that nurtures. That’s what – for Paul, at least – was real! What is for us – as it was for Paul – just as real! especially … ESPECIALLY … ESPECIALLY … at times like these … When we’re worn down. When we’re worn out. By the changes and by the chances!
When people charge us … When they condemn us … We can forget we’re loved! When we’re killed, day-after-day … When we’re accounted as nothing more than sheep to be slaughtered … it’s difficult, nearly impossible, to believe our lives matter. And so, we sigh … and we groan … and we shout and scream … Until we hear god whispering in our ears! Until the words seep deep into our souls! “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is yours!” And hearing, we believe! Hearing, we believe! Because, you see, the greater the adversity, the simpler the message!” Christ! Charity! Community! Faith can’t get any simpler than that! There’s nothing more we need to know! And there’s, definitely, nothing less!
From beginning to end, from start to finish, it’s love! Love without apology and love without excuse! Love without limit and love without measure! Being loved, loving, with an entire heart! Being loved, loving, with an entire mind! Being loved, loving, with an entire being! Love to the last breath! Love to the last ounce! Love to the last drop! Love like the Spirit! Love like the Father! Love just like – exactly like – the Son!
So another week begins. And god alone knows what this one will bring. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a chance to rest and recuperate … if only for a moment. To get our balance … to catch our breath … to watch the waters recede, the dust settle … But maybe, at the very least, I’m hoping and praying for a smaller truck … or a smaller avalanche … a smaller tidal wave … Something that doesn’t leave such a big mark, afterwards … But even if something should come, I hope that after the whirlwind passes … I hope that after the earthquake rattles … I hope that after the inferno turns this world to ashes … I hope we hear that still small voice. Whispering the promise in our ears, one more time. Reminding us what’s important. Reminding us our life matters … My friends, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you all!