April 28, 2013, 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C
The Rev. Dr. Brent Was
“See, the home of God is among mortals.”
I can be accused of a lot of things: being overly optimistic about the state of the world, the human condition and our temporal future is something I am not guilty of. I am completely optimistic, I am filled with deep and abiding faith that eschatologically, in the most fundamental way, it is going to be OK, that what will be will be and we have nothing to fear, or at least nothing to worry about… I take Jesus Christ’s words of assurance to heart, but between here and there… it often looks bleak to me and like it is our fault.
I am not exactly sure why I focus on the darker nature of our beings. Growing up, my family always loved a good tragedy story. It was not simple schadenfreude, but sort of like Woody Allen’s hypochondria, always, always talking about our aches and pains and ailments, about who messed up and how, and how terrible x, y, and z was, is or will be. I grew up terrified of being a Pollyanna, glossing over the discomfort, blowing sunshine before the darkness has been accounted for. I took on the ethic of the popular media, bad news is hard news; good news is fluff. Or at least, we can’t be praising ourselves for the good with so much horror afoot.
And there is horror afoot, goodness gracious, but what I forget sometimes, too often, is that that is only part of the story. Grace and love are also afoot, and in legions. Maybe it is just the weather. Maybe it is just that it is spring and life is reemerging. The volume of life happening drowns out even the events of last week. We’ve been camping out the past few nights, and on Thursday we heard a cow calving out in the distance. Calves are just bouncing all over the ranch where we live. And Violet, Hazelnut, Daisy and Clover, the kids born to our two does these past three weeks… We were all there for two of the births. Miraculous. And now we have baby goats gamboling about. Lilacs are in bloom, the Azaleas are at their height, the rhododendrons are about go. The hay is up, the Pink Moon has just passed and May Day, with ancient roots and modern strains of the joy of human labor bred into it is upon us. Life, taken at this level, is good. Very good.
Within the human economy, I have to admit, things aren’t all bad, either. At a lecture recently, I was introduced to the feminist economist Hazel Henderson. There is a lot to her work, but in a week where the calculation of GDP will change, one of her economic principles stands out: the love economy. Imagine the economy as a cake, a layer cake. The icing on the top is profit. The next layer, is where all economic transactions in the private sector: for profit and not-for-profit, anywhere money or goods change hands and is accounted for. The next layer is for all transactions in the public sector, governments in all their glory. There is a small layer of the “underground” economy, places where money changes hands but is unaccounted for. Those categories are the things we generally accept as our economy; that is what counts, right? And what counts? Quid pro quo transactions only. But the next two layers down, the biggest layers, the foundation of the whole cake, those aren’t accounted for at all. First is the love economy, then at the base, Mother Nature. Mother Nature, the natural economy is the rain that waters a crop reducing the need for irrigation. The natural economy is the latent fertility of soil, the presence of oil or coal or old growth forest (non-renewables). It is the sun that makes photosynthesis happen. It is the wind that pollinates the corn and the wheat. It is the basis of our lives and we don’t account for that. (Nor do we account for where all of the wastes go, the greenhouse gasses and such, externalized costs, but that is for a more dire kind of sermon). And the love economy? Raising children. (Not daycare, that is in the top layers, raising them yourselves). Cooking. Cleaning, doing laundry, mowing lawns, volunteering at church or the relief nursery, being kind to someone… none of this is considered productive or even valuable by the powers that be, but it is valuable. Pearls of great price. The greatest, actually. We have and we will go a lot further on the love and natural economies; these are God’s economies. No matter how perverse and unjust the recognized economies become, we can always do without them, it is the love, the natural economies that deserve and have our true loyalty. That is good news.
It is all about how we look at things. Eric and Fay are friends of ours, and they, along with Alex and a few others, are responsible for the Conestoga huts that we have here, and Alex is really behind the bungalow. Actually affordable housing. New forms of community in a time of transition. I admire them so much. They look out to the world, see catastrophe looming, or happening, collapsing ecosystems, human and otherwise… but rather than throw up their arms, retreat to the woods or rebel, these good people have thought about what is needed, what transitions we need in the patterns of our lives, and they started working on it. Community Supported Shelters. They started working on designs, on infrastructure, on production processes, all on faith. And what happened, the recession. Collapse of the housing markets. Occupy. Opportunity Village, the encampment we are working on down on Garfield and 1st. And they were there, ready, waiting for the rest of us to realize the need they have found a solution for. That is some eschatological hope happening in real time, and now 11 or 12 people across the city live in these structures, built, bought and sited in faith and with kindness. 40 more will move into their structures this summer at the village. That is a new heaven and a new earth.
And then I see this place; the little slice of the ecclesia, the beloved community here at Resurrection. So much happens here, like the layercake economy. There are the measurables: money raised, bills paid, (and opened and accounted for and mailed and the rest of it), building cared for, songs sung, policies created and enacted, social services rendered, Mass celebrated. All the visibles are done here, and well and the vast majority of it done by members of the church for members of the church and beyond. Awesome. For as flaky a manager as I can be this is a pretty tight ship and it is you all. Your love for this place, each other, taking the Word of God earnestly… it all comes together here, and beautifully.
And there is plenty more to do. We have some things brewing with children and youth formation and the nursery that is going to take this whole community to do. People have been stepping up, and more will be asked. Same goes for the Saturday High Mass. Also, we are identifying some areas of the church that need maintenance, and pressingly as well as continuing work on an addition to the building and the attendant capital campaign happening next year, maybe. Our finances are in very good shape, but we are in need of a treasurer to help our treasury team keep it that way. Nick and I have been asking around and would love for someone to step up. We’ve done a lot together in this time of transition, and there is a lot more to do, too.
And that doesn’t account for the invisible blessings of the beloved community. The holding each other in thought and prayer when all is not hunky-dory. We don’t even need a note or a phone call (though that helps), just knowing that we have a place here, a place in the hearts and minds of others that we may have nothing on the surface in common with other than finding ourselves worshipping God together, serving the world together. The invisible blessings of radical hospitality, welcoming new people into this fold, making room for elders and infants, rich and poor, agreeable and disagreeable folks. The easy and the difficult. That is what this, what church, what the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is about.
We do need to resist evil. Unto death even, even death on a cross, but that is not the whole story. More than resisting evil we have goodness to live into. “…God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Jesus Christ reveals that God is for all of us: that is more of the story. Laudate Dominum. That is the name of psalm 148. “Praise the Lord.” That’s more of the story. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” That is more of the story, too. “I have given you a new commandment, that you love one another.” That kind of rounds it out, doesn’t it? There is more Good News than bad, more goodness than evil. More reasons to smile than to cry, and our place here in the church of Jesus Christ is to give voice to the range of it. Laudate Dominum. Sing praise and Bless the Lord. Hallelujah! AMEN.