Sermon Archives

Sunday, June 14, 2020
Proper 6 (Year A)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
The God Movement

Friends, may I speak to the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Well, another lesson I suspect we might have to know well, and certainly a wonderful lesson to hear, particularly in this time of pandemic, to remember that God comes, that Jesus comes. The kingdom of God has come near to cure the sick, to lift up the downtrodden, curing every disease. Friends, this is good news indeed. This is a good news that Jesus came to preach to all of Israel, that the kingdom of God was there. Same message that Jesus comes to proclaim to you and to me in the midst of our life here and now, that God is here, the kingdom of God is here, or at least it is near.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? We live in a world that doesn’t fully reflect all that the kingdom of God promises to be. Certainly as we have lived through these last three months as over 110, now 112,000 Americans have died, and countless more across the globe have died. We wonder where is that kingdom? But we must notice that Jesus says the kingdom of God is near. It is tragically not complete. So he sends out disciples. He sends them out to continue the good work. To continue the good work of curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the leper and casting out demons. You see, the kingdom of God still needs to be built. It still needs to be created. And that is the work that has been given to us, the disciples of Christ, to go out and transform the world for God’s kingdom. To be kingdom bearers, if you will, to bring that is the kingdom of God near to everyone, not just to ourselves, but to be generous, that is to give it without payment to the world, to our neighbors and to our friends.

There’s another way of looking at the kingdom, however, that I think is equally profound for our day. Several years ago, actually a generation ago now, Clarence Jordan, the founder of Koinonia Farms, the founder of the ministry that would transform lives the south, including be the foundation for Habitat For Humanity, and the work that has, the good and transformative work that has been done there. Clarence Jordan, beyond being the founder of Koinonia Farms was himself a theologian and a New Testament scholar. And among his great works was a translation of much of the New Testament. Most all of the gospels and the letters of Paul that come down to us today to be known as the Cotton Patch Bible.

You see, Clarence Jordan took these same stories, the story of Christ, and transposed it into modern America, into common 20th century English and context so that we might hear this message more poignantly and more pointedly for our 20th century ears. Because you see, we don’t hear this language quite as provocatively or challengingly as Jesus, in fact, meant it. You see, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God being near, he’s not talking about just a euphoric place. He is talking about a transformational world. He is talking about a movement, just as Clarence Jordan translated. You see, Clarence Jordan puts it in different language. He says, “The God movement is here.” That Jesus says to his disciples, “Tell them that the God movement is here.”

We Americans are people of a movement. And that language might hit us more profoundly, not just today as we continue in the swell of the movement of Black Lives Matter, but in the swell of movements that have come throughout the ages, throughout the generations of American society. Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the abolitionist movement and the liberation movement that founded these great states. We are a people of movement built into our blood. And each of these movements is drawn together by a common thread, distant though they may seem to us today. And that common thread is the overcoming of injustice, the dismantling of systems of oppression from the first oppression of the English society upon American colonists, to the most current and ongoing and persistent oppression of black men and women through the ages.

America was founded as a movement, a movement in line with the very movement of God, a movement to liberate people, all people, for fullness of life. It’s the same movement, I dare say. Each of those movements, from the liberation of the colonists, to the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, the Me Too movement, and continuing today with Black Lives Matter, each a movement that is aligned with God because they were each a movement of liberation for the oppressed people of this world.

“God’s movement is here.” Clarence Jordan translates these same words of Jesus. The Jesus proclaims to his disciples, into the communities around him, that God’s movement is afoot. A new way of relating is here. A way of relating to one another in which healthcare and uplift and life are part and parcel of the daily lives, the people. And the question for Jesus and his disciples wasn’t would the world participate, would the Gentiles or Samaritans come on board, but would you Israel, would you disciples, Thaddaeus and Matthew, Peter, Thomas, Judas and Andrew, would you come on board and would you proclaim and work for this movement of God here and now? Would you work for it in first century, Israel and will you work for it in 21st century America?

Sisters and brothers, the kingdom of God is here, but it is not complete. And the movement of God is ongoing. We are part of the Jesus movement, as our presiding Bishop reminds us. We are the Episcopal part of that movement, proclaiming the kingdom of God, proclaiming the good news of Christ, but not only proclaiming it, enacting it, transforming ourselves in order that we might transform the world. So sisters and brothers, I invite you to consider again your place, not just in the kingdom, but now again in the movement of God, ushering in a new kingdom for this world. Christ Church is a part of that movement. Are you? Amen.