A Wide-Enough World for All

July 3, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
7th Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 9
2 Kings 5:1-14; Galatians 6:7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

(Gospel Text provided below)

At the risk of breaking the rules about separation of church and state, I bid you a happy 4th of July weekend! As we’ve been journeying through Luke’s Gospel this summer, we’ve seen a narrative that shows Jesus confronting the established religious authorities. He challenges the practices that conflict with God’s dream for the world – were divisions are removed and God’s love is with, and for, everyone. Jesus is the one who will overturn the status quo, allowing the lowly to be raised up and the powerful brought down.

When you stop and think about it, we see some of the same elements in the Declaration of Independence. It was about breaking away from how things had been. The founding fathers were overturning the status quo, imagining a new way forward. Declaring boldly:

jefferson-drafts-declaration-hero-AWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now, we have to admit that there are some sticking points in this Declaration statement of 1776. The exclusion of women can’t be too surprising considering the highly patriarchal structure of that time. Yet more troubling is the reality of slavery that existed. These enslaved people were not seen as being created equal, or as being endowed with unalienable rights. So, I’ve come to understand why the 4th of July may not be the perfect celebration of liberty for our African American brothers and sisters.

Star SwainYet when I looked at Facebook a couple of days ago, it brought a smile to my face when I saw a now viral-video of Star Swains, a beautiful black woman standing in the Lincoln Memorial, spontaneously singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” A song that didn’t apply to the people of her race and place when it was written, yet, in the shadow of the Emancipation Proclamation, some 90 years later, these words could begin to be claimed more fully.

Even so, we know that cultural change doesn’t come with the flick of a pen on a declaration or proclamation. It comes over time, through relationships, through connections. Yet as we try to connect with our own history, for most of us, it’s hard to relate to the customs and context of our fore fathers.

That is, until now.

the-us-is-changing-the-face-of-the-10-billIn case you’ve missed it, there’s a new Broadway sensation called “Hamilton” playing in New York City. It’s the retelling of the story of Alexander Hamilton’s life – you know, the guy on the $10 bill. The first Secretary of the Treasury under Washington’s presidency. He doesn’t seem to be the most intriguing guy on the list, but now his story has been told in a wholly new way – through Hip Hop and Rap music.

In an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton’s creator and star, Miranda said he was inspired to take on this project while reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. By the time he got to the second chapter he saw a hip-hop connection that seemed obvious. So obvious that he jumped onto Google to see if it had already been done. He said: “It’s a story of someone who writes about their struggle, and thus transcends it.” Which, he explained, is what rap artists do. [i]

Picture1Going a step further, the vast majority of the cast, including the founding fathers, are played by people of color. Miranda explained that he wanted to tell this story through the voices and faces of America now, not America then. And through this hip-hop musical, this show has connected a whole new generation, several generations in fact, to a story that had been forgotten or misremembered at best.

And while the story is about Hamilton’s life – born out of wedlock, orphaned before age 13, brilliant but with limited access to opportunity, he was always striving to RISE UP! To overcome his lowly beginnings and leave a legacy for this new time, this new creation. It’s also very much a story of the relationship, the complex friendship, between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the man whose legacy would be relegated to ending Hamilton’s life in a duel at dawn.

hamilton burrYet, in the opening scenes of the show, when these two meet, it’s clear that they have much in common, most especially that they both wanted to play a part in this new creation underway. Yet, Burr’s early advice to Hamilton was to “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” [ii]

By contrast, Hamilton was bold and forthright, responding: “I’m not throwing away my shot! I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot!”[iii]

Sometimes it can be tricky to decide which approach is more effective. Talk less, smile more, or taking your shot when you get the chance. The same thing doesn’t work in all situations. But Hamilton’s assertion was that you have to step out and be heard. You have to stand up for what you believe. It’s only by stepping out and speaking up that you can make something new happen.

I’d have to say that Jesus had a similar boldness in his effort to bring about a new creation. He too was intent on connecting to people in a new way, and through this, connecting all people to God’s dream for the world. We’ve seen in the stories from Luke’s gospel an intention of lifting up those who have been outsiders: women, the sick, sinners, and those who are marginalized. His mission was to bring about a new creation of connectedness between us and God and connection between all people. The kingdom of God is community restored.

Today’s gospel text gives insight into how to go about the work of community restoration. It’s a sequel to a similar story in Chapter 9 when Jesus had sent out the twelve disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And now in Chapter 10 it’s no longer just work assigned to just those twelve. Seventy others were sent out in pairs to every town and place that Jesus intended to go. Not just the familiar places, but places that would’ve been off-limits in the past. Jesus is opening up the boundaries to share God’s love and grace with all people, in all places.

He speaks of a plentiful harvest, and not enough laborers, so he’s sending them out to make new connections! He goes on to say:

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide… Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Lk 10:4a, 7-9)

6a00d8341c3e3953ef019104592d8e970c-320wiHe says several times to remain in the same house – it’s not about quantity, but about quality. Building relationships. Making connections. He says eat and drink whatever is put in front of you. It isn’t about religious rules and piety. It’s about sharing with one another – creating a new thing – where all can be in community together.

The passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians echoes this:

…let us not grow weary in doing what is right for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! (Gal 6:9-10a, 15)

Those things, like circumcision – a mark of division – were being neutralized. Relationship matters above all else as we work for the good of all people. This is the kingdom of God that we strive for. The legacy we hope for.

The story of Hamilton ends with his infamous duel with Aaron Burr. As Hamilton is felled by the bullet, as his life is fading he wonders

What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see… America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me. You let me make a difference. A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up.

And as for Burr, he is left with regret:

Now I’m the villain in your history. I was too young and blind to see… I should’ve known. I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.[iv]

God’s dream is for a new creation and it has not been realized yet. There is work for us to do and we are each being sent out to do this apostolic work of building relationships – making connections. Openly, creatively, authentically. Living into who God made each one of us – created equally – in God’s image, to be.

victims-pulse-orlando-shootingOn the night of June 12th “Hamilton” received 11 Tony Awards. Just hours before 49 people were killed and 53 more injured by a lone gunman at a gay dance club in Orlando, Florida – a place of solidarity and sanctuary for many who have been “othered” in their life. In Miranda’s acceptance speech, he recited a sonnet written earlier that day in the midst of the tragedy unfolding. He said in part:

We chase the melodies that seem to find us,

Until they’re finished songs and start to play.

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us

That nothing here is promised, not one day.

maxresdefaultThis show is proof that history remembers,

We live through times when heat and fear seem stronger.

We rise and fall and light from dying embers

Remembrances that hope and love lasts longer. [v]

There are moments in our life when we are faced with decisions about how we will navigate making connections with others. As followers of Jesus, it’s incumbent on us to work toward these connections with unending, intentional perseverance, wrapped in compassion.

I pray as we move forward we can each claim our role as one sent out, each of us committed to God’s dream of a new creation. It takes each of us to do the relationship building necessary to bring this dream to fruition.

Sometimes the best we can do is to talk less and smile more, but other times we must be the courageous voice that points the way to God’s dream. When those moments present themselves, let’s not throw away our shot. I pray we use our words, actions and intentions to bring about God’s dream of community. Embracing God’s love for all people, and sharing that love with our neighbors – all our neighbors.

srce

 

Gospel Text:

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

 

 

[i] Good Morning America, Interview on May 12, 2016 with Lara Spencer and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

[ii] Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Aaron Burr, Sir,” Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, © 5000 Broadway Music (ASCAP) Administered by WB Music Corp. 2015.

[iii] Ibid. “My Shot”

[iv] Ibid. “The World Was Wide Enough”

[v]Hamilton’ winner honors Orlando victims with Tony sonnet: ‘Love is love is love is love is love’. The Fresno Bee, June 12, 2016, http://www.fresnobee.com/news/nationworld/national/article83372372.html#storylink=cpy.

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