Sunday Sermon, February 5th, 2012,
Fifth Sunday in the Season of Galilee
In the Church “in la lucha’
Welcome to the church of Jesus Christ, the church “en la Lucha!” Today, we are asked to open our ears and listen for a call to discipleship!
Yesterday, we had a beautiful baptism here. In a baptism, we celebrate the birth of a child joining our world, with water and the Holy Spirit. We also celebrate the joining of families, Godparents and parents, coming together to provide a way for the child to grow up in.
When I was doing the baptism, I realized that the Godparents and parents had also begun their lives with Water and the Spirit, with Holy water. The waters of different places and times found their way to the water that joined them together. That was God working.
And then today, I was watching as Geovany is putting together his band. We began with Rosie and Roberto – and they added some others and the sound got bigger, richer. Giovanny was behind on the drums but he was out in the community gathering the musicians. There is a new sound growing up here, a sound of liberation and prophecy. And I have been watching Giovanny, as he not only gathered musicians but as he lent his ear to different kinds of music, listening to see where the mix will lead. And I think that is also the way God works.
And then yesterday, too, in Cicero, we reached out to bring in some new people from Cicero into our ministry. And that is going to change us!
On the one hand, our lives are like streams coming together to make a river – and God is in the water. On the other hand, we find ourselves alone, owning nothing, trying to find some ground to stand on, ground where we can set our own direction, and determine our own destiny.
Sometimes a man and a woman join together and one or the other gives up their dreams, sometimes even their friends. We don’t know how to grow together, like streams that join in a river. Someone has to have their way. Someone else has to give in. And then we end up splitting up to find our own way again.
It is not only a problem in our relationships – it is a major problem in our movement. We are caught between Romney and the Republicans who want to destroy us and Obama, who lied to us. If we side with Obama to stop Romney, then Obama will just keep deporting us and separating our families.
And it goes deeper. We want to live in this country, take our rightful place here, but we don’t want to lose who we are. Yet what is offered us, at best, is a choice: either assimilate and become “American” or leave.
This came down hardest on the young people. They were asked to support the dream act by agreeing to fight in the government’s wars, forgetting about the discrimination they face, denouncing their own parents as criminals. They didn’t have their own ground to stand on, with honesty and integrity.
Every year during this season we walk with Jesus in his ministry as he announced that the Kingdom of God was near. He walked on his own ground. He stood up to the Romans – but he confronted the priests and the leaders of his own people for their hypocrisy.
He took the side of the poor and the oppressed and challenged the injustices of the rich, like the revolutionaries of his time. But he taught the people to pray and be obedient to the law of God; and he healed the lepers and drove out demons with the power of the Holy Spirit. And when he healed the lepers he restored their civil rights. And when he drove out the demon, he taught them not to fear the awesome power of the Roman armies.
Jesus brought Kingdom power into the lives of the people – and that gave them a way to stand on their own ground. The secret of Kingdom power, the secret of Jesus, was that he brought the power of spirituality and righteousness before God into the lives of the people. He did it by joining together the many streams of the people into a common river of life, a community in which each grew in their spirituality in unity with the others – and stood strong in resistance.
He brought together this river of life, beginning with the 12 disciples.
There were 12 disciples, just as there were 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus started by putting together some fishermen and a tax collector. All of them were different but they had one thing in common: the leadership looked down on them and kept them out of the temple. And they were all from Galilee, the poorest region in the nation, which was itself the poorest nation in the empire.
Jesus was like Giovanny – putting together the different sounds to find a new sound. He didn’t want any sound to drown out another – he wanted them to play together and make a new sound.
Remember his movement started with John, baptizing people in the water. Those who had felt he water and the Spirit came from common waters, in different ways and ways of life, and Jesus was working to join them together in the river of life.
It was not easy. The disciples fought with each other to be “next in charge.” They hoped Jesus would bring them power and wealth. They argued about who was the greatest. And so Jesus had them walk with him, teaching them to find their place in a new movement where the strengths of each could be expressed.
Why do we work so hard to make a church where we can gather each week? Why has an old revolutionary like myself chosen to base our struggle in the church? Why do we struggle with young people who, rightfully, have rejected the hypocrisy and empty rituals of the church, to bring them in to the faith?
Emma is doing better every day, growing stronger. But her heart attack has made us think: what would happen to the church, to Familia Latina Unida, to the FuerZa if we weren’t here – when we are not here? Are we bringing something here together in the church and the struggle as Jesus did, bringing people together in the power and righteousness of the faith, that becomes something new, in harmony, in unity, that will last?
Even this year, when we need to find a way for the movement to stand on its own, standing down Romney and yet making Obama deliver, will this season of Kingdom power show us that way?
Jesus said,”I will make you fishers of men and they got up, left everything, and followed him.”
Can you imagine a man, so powerful in his spirit, so persuasive in his presence, that he could cause you to leave everything behind and follow him in what must have seemed like a hopeless and dangerous cause?
The scripture, and our own understanding of movements, teaches us that the motives of the disciples were neither pure nor clear. Some wanted to be famous. Some wanted status and wealth. Some wanted power. Their motives were mixed – but something in Jesus inspired them.
As they traveled with Jesus, they saw him heal the sick and drive out demons from the possessed. They saw him stand up to the powerful and speak with authority. They saw Jesus developing more and more of a following.
Jesus struggled every day with his disciples, teaching them, asking them think. He was most interested in their motives. And he brought them through a process.
He was out on the water with them, asleep in the boat, when a storm came. The waves were high above the boat. The disciples were afraid and woke him up. Jesus went to the front of the boat, stretched out his hand, and calmed the waters. Then he asked the disciples, “Why did you wake me up.” He told the disciples, that if they had faith, they could have done what he had done.
The disciples began to feel what it would be like to be powerful, to be able to stand before the Romans and their hypocritical leaders – and not be afraid. And Jesus taught them. He sent them out and gave them the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. They began to get a following themselves.
Still, they argued and fought with each other. They competed with each other. Jesus would have to show them, with his life, that his power came from righteousness and from love for his people.
You see, Jesus was organizing the disciples, and he was willing to give his life to bring them together. They were poor people, but history would show that they would rise to the challenge. Each represented a stream of the traditions and history and talents and aspirations of the people.
Even though they were poor, without education, they would make this movement grow among the people, a movement of faith that would outlast the Roman Empire.
But for the movement to succeed, the disciples would have to grow in their faith, put aside their individual aspirations for power and wealth and status. They would have to be willing even to give their life for their people so that these small streams could come together into one river of life.
Today, more than ever, we need a real community of faith, a community built on unselfishness, built on principle, built on love. In that community, we have a place to stand.
What I am saying is that what you do with each other, in the church, in the struggle, can touch heaven itself. We are on a journey again this year. You know what God did with us last year. I am just asking you to seek righteousness, to seek the Kingdom, and see where it leads us.
We can fight and win the right to stay in this country with equal rights and we won’t have to give up who we are, we won’t have to assimilate into a culture of corruption.
We can unify to defeat a Romney and still hold Obama accountable, still protect our families.
Most important, we can live now in the peace and harmony of the Kingdom of God, with each other, making a way in which the children will walk with integrity and love and unity.
We can live in the river of life.
The Scriptures for the fifth Sunday in the Season of Galilee
Mark 1: 14-20 Jesus Calls His First Disciples
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 4:35-41 Jesus Calms the Storm
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 8:31-35 Jesus Predicts His Death
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.