St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


”We Are One Crazy Family”


June 10, 2018


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre



Have you heard the sermon preached by Bishop Michael Curry titled “We need some crazy Christians”? The gospel of Mark we read today is the scripture he used as the basis for this sermon. Although I am tempted to just stream the sermon from YouTube and have you listen to it, (Bishop Curry is trendy these days and everyone is talking about his sermon at the royal wedding), I won’t do that, even though I know you would love it. Maybe I am crazy enough to believe you want to hear me instead.

Jesus was in the middle of a crowd, teaching them about God. He didn’t even have time to eat. He was so passionate about his call. He was trying to present God in new ways. People thought he was out of his mind. The gospel writer didn’t find it important to tell us whether Jesus was at the pulpit, behind a lectern or in front of an altar.

Unfortunately, some Christians made decorum their priority. Whenever one is trying to change what people are used to, whenever one’s interpretation of God’s word is different from expected norms, whenever a teacher is inviting disciples to get out of the box, I mean, out of their comfort zone to discover something, if not new, but different, people tend to believe him crazy or needing to be contained (reprimanded, controlled, eliminated). Jesus created discomfort with his style and energy. (Have you seen the discomfort at Prince Harry’s wedding during the sermon?).

Jesus taught us in this gospel what it is to be part of God’s family. It is not to know by heart all the rules and regulations of the Torah (in extenso, how many times do we need to genuflect within the one hour we want to give to God), it is not to enforce them on others, it is not to become so antichange that the worship space has to remain the same for 200 years; it is to do the will of God. We are one family when we live a life of faith, revealing that we carry in us the same gene of the Holy Spirit. Every time we let divisiveness and personal interest be our obsession, every time we don’t resist the temptation of being mean because we disagree, the kingdom we are fighting to bring is not God’s kingdom. But every time, in our craziness, that we go the extra mile to rescue, restore and redeem our neighbor, we do the will of God and are part of God’s family: the Jesus movement.

Jesus understood that his mother, sisters and brothers could be obstructing his belonging to God because they came NOT to support his ministry but to get him under control. It is difficult for a mother to accept that a son she bore could declare himself the son of God. Sisters and brothers must have found Jesus presumptuous or even worse, CRAZY. Sometimes, our faith is disturbed by the reality we think we know. Sometimes, evil forces want us to maintain our same vision of God -- a God who looks like them and not like us -- oppressive systems do not want us to get out of the box in which they want to imprison our soul.

I remember when I was a child I could not receive Communion because I wasn’t confirmed yet. In the little black French Book of Common Prayer I carried with me to church, there was only one rite for Eucharist; Baptism was done separately; funeral color was purple, sometimes, black. Things have changed! Nowadays, Communion is given to 2-3-year-olds. The church has developed many flavors of Eucharistic Prayer (A-B-C-D… etc.). Baptism is fully integrated into the main Eucharist of the day and funerals have become a joyful celebration of life; the liturgical color is white. I am only 55, but I’d be lying if I pretend that my church hasn’t changed. That might sound crazy, but I like it! In fact, I feel like singing: “Ah ha! Ah ha! That’s the way, Ah ha! Ah ha! I like it!” If God lets me live to be 80, I pray that God gives me the faculty to embrace change.

Nevertheless, those who opposed Jesus’ views are still part of the church today. They have changed names, but they are still as hypocritical as the Pharisees. They distort the facts as best as they can just to make leadership that they cannot oppress look bad. They are in it for themselves. They are in it to remain in their comfort zone (in control). They oppose new views because they resist change; some even prefer to walk away and adopt a different family.

Here lies the craziness of Christians: we are in Christ together. We don’t know better if we don’t see Christ in those who differ from us. We are not in Christ to denigrate others or to deny them to bring their own contribution to the plan of God. What is wrong to introduce African drumming to the Episcopal Church worship? Who is it who stipulated that we worship God only with a pipe organ and opera singers? Is it because African drumming is voodoo? What is wrong to have a tam-tam introducing the gospel in an Episcopal Church? What is wrong with ethnic ministry in the church? We pretend to be inclusive but to a certain extent only. Why is it that even the Black clergy doesn’t believe in his own ability to change a system that is excluding his African roots? (I definitely can’t see anyone forcing Bishop Curry to stop his gestures, his mimics, his mannerism while preaching; I’ve seen him preaching many times down the aisle).

Yes, Jesus is in it to transform, not to conform. That must be what we all are in it for as well. We need to stick together in love. When the music is not joyful enough to represent the praise that God deserves, we need to be crazy and audacious to bring all kinds of instruments to enhance it. We need to stand, raise our hands high, clap if necessary, even dance. When we meet a preacher who doesn’t need to elevate himself on a pulpit and prefers to be in the aisle connecting and interacting with people, this also is Episcopalian because it is before anything, Christian to be unapologetically joyful. Jesus grew up being a Jew. In Jesus’ death, the temple was transformed, the veil of the temple was torn apart so that we could understand the kind of family he wants us to be. In his resurrection, life itself was transformed. May Jesus, who was crazy enough to take our humanity and put down his divinity, inspire us to be crazy enough to put down our pride and welcome difference and divergence.