A Revolution of Love
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, November 13, 2016
Today I want to give you some things to contemplate and to begin I want to recite some of the basic teachings of Jesus.
First, let’s hear from the prophet Micah, a familiar and timely verse. “You have been told…what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Three things: justice, mercy and humility. To that I would add to walk humbly with our fellow human beings.
The Lord Jesus (and I think we should contemplate what the word “lord” means) says many things in keeping with Micah and takes it to an even higher level.
“This is my commandment that you love one another,” and he expands this in another place adding, “as I have loved you.” That means even to death. Here are some more you might remember. “Love your enemies,” “do not return evil for evil,” “Give expecting nothing in return,” “Go the second mile,” “turn the other cheek,” “do unto others as you would have them do to you,” . Feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked and visit those who are sick and in prison. These are the Lord’s commandments and, just to point out the obvious, commandments are not suggestions. Now what about St. Paul?
“Let everything that you do be done in love.” We could also quote the entire 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians which I am sure all of us have heard and read, but have we considered using it as a guide for how we live?. And this: “Let no evil words come out of your mouth, but only those things that build up… in order to impart grace to those who hear.” No evil words. Not even on Facebook! Some postings there by Orthodox clergy and laity are laced with hatred and anger. It is so sad to see this. So many hearts are closed by fear.
Of the things that have been happening this past week the one that disturbs me most is the increase in acts of racism. It is an old and infected wound. Some call it America’s “original sin.” It is also a sin that has often subverted Christianity. Come and read some history with me. I will show you. So, now l must say a few things about this and what our response should be.
There have been many recent and terrible examples. I will give you just a few. In Cambridge last week a USPS driver abused a Latino man telling him, that he didn’t belong here. Children as young as middle school are being taunted in class, by fellow students and even by teachers. A frightening increase of attacks on Muslims are being reported, especially women. Swastikas appeared on a burned out black church in Mississippi and on college campuses. I have received phone calls and text messages from people who are very frightened. Brother and Sisters, we must wake up and pay attention. Complacency in the face of the suffering of others is not an option. Many of these racist acts are committed by people who call themselves “Christian.” They seem to not know that these actions place them outside the Faith. Complacency and complicity are two sides of the same coin.
A follower of Jesus cannot be a racist. We are light, warmth and grace, healers, if we follow the Lord. In whatever form it appears, public and noisy, or quiet and subtle, racism is evil and we must resist. It is sinful and must have no place among us. If our hearts have grown cold, then we must allow the warmth of God to enlighten us. We must never engage in the hatred or persecution of anyone or to watch silently while it happens. “Silence gives consent” and we simply cannot be silent.
Our response to hatred must always be love. “When they go low, we go high” is a beautiful Christian sentiment. “They” means anyone who hates and acts out on it. “We” means those who follow Christ. This is not a political statement. Folks, we need to talk with one another and care for one another. Jesus overcame the world by going high that is by humility. We must go high, very high, as high as humanly possible and when we reach the limits we can reach we must ask God to give us the power to go even higher. “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for a friend.” Yes, perhaps, even that.
Kofi Annan describes the Christian response perfectly: “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission…is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance and isolation with…generosity.” Racism must be met with creative and courageous and loving action.” And that is how it must be done so that hatred is ripped out by the roots and does not grow back. We must offer an alternative to hate.
No propaganda. Only Truth. No hatred. Only love. No violence. Only Peace. No bigotry. Only Tolerance. We desperately need to foment a revolution of love.
Humility and service are not weaknesses. I point to Christ who assumed the position of absolute weakness. I point to Gandhi whose doctrine of nonviolence brought to an end British rule over India. I point to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the great martyrs of freedom and nonviolent resistance. I could easily point to the saints who gave their lives for the sake of others. I fervently hope that our children and grandchildren can look back at us and be proud of how we stood up and worked to the best of our ability to make things better.
One more difficult point. Studies have shown that young people are leaving the church to the tune of 60%. And not just young people. Many adults as well. Karl Rahner suggests one reason succinctly, incisively and soberly, “The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim him with their mouths and deny him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.” As Brian McLaren points out and others as well, we’ve done pretty well worshipping Jesus and yet we do not do so well following him. The first is easy and the second is hard. If Christianity is not revered, we must look to ourselves and see how much of it is our fault.
So, I ask you please. Do not let anger and hatred rule you. Stay vigilant. Help and do not hurt. Some Orthodox in New York have signed up to accompany people on the subway who are afraid to travel alone. How lovely and creative! The Holy Spirit is always lovely and creative. And let’s follow Christ who cared for the oppressed and gave his life for them. We are called to do the same. Let’s help to build in our country a movement – a revolution of Love -- so that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.