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Today, I am happy to be here.  I am glad to see all of you and want to find out what has been going on while I have been gone. I will be sharing my experiences with you over the coming weeks. My struggles, my triumphs, my joys . . . While I was on Sabbatical, I did some relaxing, some reading, some writing and reflecting on my ministry and our community’s ministry and I spent more time with my family.  We shipped Julia off to Fordham University.  We had a vacation to New England, climbed mountains in New Hampshire and Maine, camped in the woods and visited family and friends in Connecticut. Two weeks ago I had surgery to repair a hernia. Still recovering. It’s all good.

But this is a sermon, so let me get to the point.  You, we, we have all heard this story about seeds from the Gospel of Luke before. It is easy to understand. That doesn’t mean it is easy to live out. Discipleship is not easy, it is complex. I think that it really boils down to one word for me today.  Faith.  My faith, the faith that I have, that says:  God is good, God’s creation is good; God’s love endures forever.

And if you talk to my Aunt Jane, you will hear the same thing.  She has had an open wound on her leg -- 4 inches long and 3 inches deep – for over 6 months. I saw a picture of it. Doctors have tried everything. She has seen many specialists, who all say “amputate.” The circulation in her leg will stop if this continues. They are at the point now, where they are saying that if the wound doesn’t heal soon, they will have to amputate.

But if you talk to Jane, she will tell you that after all of the trials and hopeful treatments that failed, God is good and her faith is strong. She will keep the leg. She has been through worse times. Faith has gotten her through heart attacks, brain aneurysms, blood clots. She has defied death.  She has faith in God’s grace and goodness which goes beyond the practical and the rational. Faith is in her bones. This faith is available to all of us. This is why we gather here, at St Paul’s Community Church, on this World Communion Sunday, we celebrate the beautiful work God has done and is doing through us, and through God’s continuing creation story. We are part of that story. 

Let me tell you, I don’t know what God is like.  All I know is what I see God doing, in my own life, in the lives of the people and in the universe around me.  God is present to us, most noticeably, in the breaking of the bread and drinking the cup of salvation. It is our most important ritual, a sacrament, actually, w/ Baptism.

During Communion, I look around the room and I see people whispering the words of institution, the words that help us remember that Jesus is the center of our lives. There is a good reason for that: Jesus was the physical manifestation of God. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the light – Follow me . . .  to God.

If Jesus were here with us today, he would say:  “You know, God really wants our hearts, minds and souls, not so much our worship, burnt offerings and sacrifices. God wants our lives, our whole being. God is our whole being; give it to God.  Like Jesus did.  I want to give my life to God like Jesus did. I want to follow Jesus.

And if Jesus came back today, what would happen?  He would be mugged. . . no, he’d get bullied; he would turn the other cheek and be bullied. And then he would do it again, and again, seven times seventy.  But no, seriously, if Jesus came back, what would Jesus say to us, his disciples?
He would say:  if only you had the faith like a mustard seed . . .

He would not be leading worship.  He would be talking to people out in front of the church, in the shopping centers, under the bridges, at the sports events. He would not be trying to open people up to God. He would not be trying to convince people that he is right about gay marriage or abortion.  He would listen to our prayers and say, “your prayers are answered. Go in peace.”
If Jesus were here today:  He would go Washington, DC, and, if they let him through security, he would throw the cushy Congressional million dollar tables across the room.  He would say, if only you had faith like a mustard seed . . . you would care for all citizens; hypocrites: this country is hurting, the leaders and the followers; why don’t you take the log out of your eye.  You brood of vipers, what you are doing is self-serving and you cannot serve God and mammon. You will fail; you think you are so smart, you people in politics and government, but wake up. You are supposed to be serving the people, you need to all sit down and make laws that work for all people.  No one gets paid until you do.

If Jesus were here today: what would he do?  He would look at all the people suffering with mental illness, and, after healing as many as physically possible, he would criticize us for not caring for everyone in our community. He would see all the money wasted on war machines, selling weapons to other countries, the high cost of entertainment, the extravagant wine, food, cars, boats and condos, and ask, who is caring for the poor, the widows and orphans and outcasts?  Why are people hungry? Why are people dying from heroin?; And we would all be indicted. He would lead us to reform the Mental health care industry to end suffering.

What would Jesus do?  He would go to the White House and the Supreme Court, and exhort them:  something like this:   God's gave us a vision of justice and caring – that vision will surely come.  God’s will WILL be done on earth.  Maybe not in your lifetime. Certainly not in mine.  But, if you cannot get on board with God’s agenda, move out of the way.  People with mental illness are suffering; yeah, while politicians are squabbling about Obamacare, they abandon the people who are mentally ill and their families and caregivers. The problem is overwhelming us, and we say that we don't know what to do. And congress doesn’t care because their healthcare is free. But I know what to do. Free health care for all. Set up systems so that people can more easily access the meds they need.

If Jesus came back today, he would say:  if only you had the faith like a mustard seed . . . and he would walk into churches and touch each and every person in the way that he or she needed, and heal us, and send us back to our priests, back to our homes, so that we can, in turn, bless and help heal our friends, families and loved ones. 

If Jesus came back today, he would say:  if only you had the faith like a mustard seed . . . . . . my Aunt Jane now is asking again for prayers for God’s healing, and the doctors tried a new approach – they put maggots in her wound. I saw a video she sent. The old time remedy is making a comeback and Jane is making a comeback.  Aunt Jane is saying, “Yes, Jesus, I have faith, won’t you give me an increase because I sometimes have doubts. She told me in an email once: she talks to Jesus:  when she has doubts, says begs: Jesus, come and give me insight and hope and strength to get through.” Jane is 84 years old, and over time, trials have turned into triumphs and doubts turned into devotion. And this is not just a blind faith that we are talking about but a 100 % trust that all is good in God’s created world.

If Jesus came back today, I wonder, would he be called a socialist?  It sounds that way, when he talked about justice for all. But he is not socialist.  He was a classic liberal.  And Jesus scares the hell out of the conservatives. As John Fugelsang, from the Coexist Comedy Tour says:  “Jesus was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary; he hung out with lepers, hookers and crooks; he never spoke English; he was not an American citizen. He was anti-wealth, anti-death-penalty, anti-public prayer (Matt 6:5), NEVER anti-gay, never anti-abortion, never anti-premarital sex; Jesus was a long haired, brown skined, homeless, middle Eastern Jew.

Yes, Jesus was a liberal.  He was faithful to God, and Jesus was crazy enough to believe and hope that God would save everyone . . . and he tried to save everyone himself, in that 3 year period of his ministry. Everywhere he went, He taught us:  All are worthy. All somehow fit into God’s crazy plan:  the conservatives, the liberals, the Socialists; the Tea Partyists; lepers; the cross dressers; Pharisees; prostitutes; tax collectors; gentiles, Muslims, Jews . . . and Islamists . . . and drug dealers, and CEOs, and hedge fund bankers and Bill Nye the science guy and kids with rocks and guys with sheets over their heads.

Communion is a reminder that we have faith in something greater than ourselves. We have hope that is beyond hope.  When we Break the bread and share the communion cup it is a reminder that, when we dream of the future, we are on that invitation list to God’s great Table. We gather here to celebrate and re-dedicate our lives to that dream:  that all of God’s children can find peace and healing, love and forgiveness, just as our Christian ancestors did so long ago.  And our calling as disciples is to bring people to the table.  Our agenda is God’s agenda; unification.  E Pluribus Unum. In God we trust. And all will be healed and all will be well in God’s creation.

The Pope:
“St. Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about."