Colossians 1:1-14 and To Live in the Mercy of God by Denise Levertov
Sunday July 10th, 2022
By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning again! I missed you last Sunday and thank you Tim for sharing a word with the church!
I am finding that in this time, it makes a big difference to start with gratitude and all that is good, to take even just a few moments to notice the beauty that abounds and the kind people all around. We give thanks for our heartbeat and our breath, letting ourselves arrive here a bit more fully. And as you are moved, I invite you to hold a space of prayer with me. Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
For the first time in my life I woke up on the Fourth of July and felt sad, heavy, a feeling that was new to me, like it had freshly landed in my heart showing up as an unwelcome guest.
I realize it is grief, a grief that was and is coming from the loss of a sense of where I fit, as a woman, as a religious person in the United States of America.
I am grieving the fact that bodily autonomy of women is up for debate in the year 2022, I am grieving that some educated, well respected people really do believe that old, so called “original” ideas are the better ideas, even when that means not everyone was counted as fully human then, and I am grieving that some really do believe that what matters more than justice and speaking the truth is maintaining positions of influence and holding onto places of power.
It's hard to hear what some people really think about what the rest of us should be entitled to, should have a right to…or not.
I have found myself wondering what we are called to do when we are living in a time like this, a time when other people’s religious concepts are imposed on all of us collectively in ways that are actively causing harm? Whether it’s about guns or clean air or women’s bodies…
What can and should we do?
One of my answers to this question recently and over this season has been to look back, to remember that those who came before us struggled too and they have wisdom to share with us. And this week this led me back to an essay I read long ago from a book called Sister Outsider, written by Audre Lorde in 1984, where she wrote this, “… survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change...”
The Master’s Tools seem to be things like being nice and being civil, following the rules, ensuring that any solutions don’t upset the status quo too much, but these tactics haven’t worked and I am not sure we can vote our way out of this.
What should we do?
More specifically where can we put our energy in terms of where it will be useful? In biblical terms, the question is: What will bear fruit? What can we do that will genuinely bear fruit?
That is the phrase we hear in the letter to the Colossians. In this pericope that Karen read, the word fruit appears three times. In the writer’s framework, there is a way to live that creates goodness, abundance, faithfulness -fruit. The author says that the Gospel lived out properly will in fact produce fruit, “Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves...”
What does fruit look like for us?
What can we do that will genuinely bear fruit?
Yesterday 16 of us gathered here for half of the day to listen to the trends in the wider church and to explore together how these trends are impacting us here at CUCC. We learned that for the first time in American life, less than half of people identify as being affiliated with religious institutions and in this year alone 22,000 churches will close. The pandemic delivered a convergence of challenges that sped up what was already happening and I believe in some places it actually has revealed the shallowness of Christian community and the inability of the church to produce people willing to evolve and grow, to be inclusive and to be actively engaged in making the world better. Maybe those churches should die? And here is another question we explored: what if in some places Jesus has already left the building? If we understand the church to be an organism that is alive and moving, what if Jesus leaves the building when there is no fruit?
Because it’s clear to me that in some corners, there is more love and acceptance outside the church than in it. And like the poet Denise Levertov says, perhaps right now the mercy of God can be felt more easily in the multiple silences of trees instead of among people.
And yet I know and I am hearing how much people need fruit! The fruit of kindness and radical love from showing up for one another and tuning into the Spirit. We need the taste of justice from collective action and that cannot be found in the woods, rather this comes from “where two or three or gathered in my name, there I am…”
We all need fruit like this and I want to make sure you see the fruit that is already here! There is fruit here! I know that with conviction! I have heard what is happening in our sister churches in this region and around the country. Things are shifting rapidly and I think we should celebrate! Over this time we have grown our Small Group Ministry, grown a nationwide Guns to Gardens movement, grown our garden to feed those who are hungry here in Boulder County, grown our expressions in worship, grown in our presence outside these walls, trying harder to share our message of radical love. I have watched you be open to growing and learning from the frustrations of ongoing experimentation that has demanded us to be agile and flexible. I think this will serve us beautifully! I am seeing fruit among us and it is spectacular to see and I want to make sure you see it too.
So what can we do that will genuinely bear fruit? I think part of the answer is to keep on doing the things that we are doing that Jesus modeled for us, even when the world is doing something else. I believe that us living the Kin-dom of God right here on earth scaled up, is what is needed.
Recently, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez shared an exchange she had with a hopeless constituent who was reaching out wondering what we could possibly do with all that is wrong. She said, “the world we are fighting for is already here. It exists in small spaces, places and communities. We don’t have to deal with the insurmountable burden of coming up with novel solutions to all of the world’s problems. Much of our work is about scaling existing solutions, many created by small, committed groups of people, that others haven’t seen or don’t even know are around the corner. So while we can’t change the world in a day, we CAN and do have the power to make our own world within our four walls, or our own blocks. We can from there with the faith that somewhere out there, everywhere, others are doing the same…”
What if us living the Kin-dom of God right here like this does matter to the whole wide world? What if what we are modeling is exactly what needs to be scaled up? What if the fruit from our work can be shared in such a way that inspires others to begin to plant their own orchard? And what if the fruit from the work of others can inspire and nourish us?
Beloved of God, know that God’s love for the world is vast and a flood of mercy is already here, remember the the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, so let us keep standing even when it seems like we are standing alone, let us keep on planting seeds for trees whose fruit we might not get to taste, let us learn to make common cause with others outside the structures; let us keep learning how to take our differences and make them strengths, because there is already fruit… we can’t change the world in a day, but we CAN and do have the power to make our own world, our own heaven and taste our own fruit right here. You are bearing fruit among yourselves and it is delicious and delightful and others need to be fed like this too. Carry on in hope! Scale up in justice and love! May it be so. Amen.