Scripture | 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Companions as we are in this work with you, partnering together with God, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
God reminds us,
I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation.
Look, now is the right time! Now is the day of salvation!
Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late and throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.
People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
Dear, dear Church, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within yourselves. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your hearts and you’ll open up your lives.
I want to invite you, for a minute, to look at your hands.
Hold them up in front of your face and take a moment to look them over and really consider them.
But don’t just think about the dirt under your fingernails, or how you should wash them more often… instead, I want you to think about all the things your hands do.
and think about all of the ways you have used them lately…
Have they made something beautiful? Have they held a brush to canvas, or held a lump of clay, or threaded a sewing needle? Have they strummed the strings of an instrument, or beat on a drum?
Have they dug in the dirt, planted seeds, and watered them?
How have you used your hands lately?
Have they been used to write letters or to type texts or emails?
What words did these hands write? What messages have these hands conveyed?
Have they prepared meals? Have they measured, and poured, and stirred, and kneaded?
Have these hands broken bread? have they served a meal to others?
How have you used your hands lately?
Have they been used to greet another pair of hands with a shake?
Have they wrapped around someone else with a warm embrace?
Have they touched a shoulder, or wiped away a tear, or bandaged a wound?
Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun and prominent Christian thinker who lived in the 1500s once wrote:
“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes
with which he looks compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet
with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands,
with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands,
yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes,
…you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
If these hands are the only hands Christ has on earth right now…
What would be different about them?
Would we use our hands any differently knowing they belong to Christ?
If these hands that you hold in front of you are Christ’s only hands…
How would you use them to forgive?
How would you use them to heal?
How would you use them to love?
How would you use them to bless all the world?
Our scripture today comes from a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, a church that he helped to start.
He had spent about 18 months there, He shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with them, He baptized new believers, He trained leaders. He formed a community and helped it stand on its own feet, and then he left to go to a new town, to continue to tell the story of Christ.
About three years after he left, he got word that this church had started to divide up into different factions. They were having ideological disagreements about how to be in community together, and these disagreements began to take precedence over the faith the brought them together in the first place. They had forgotten the core of who they were and what bonded them together. Their disagreements led to schisms forming between them, which led to finger pointing, blame, disputes, and even civil lawsuits.
They were vilifying the very people they were called to be in community with, and their community was in shambles. There seemed to be no hope of coming back together… No hope of restoration. Their divisions were just too deep, and they had almost entirely forgotten what brought them together in the first place.
Does this sound at all familiar to you?
A divided community?
Relationships broken over disagreements?
Neighbor vilifying neighbor over ideological disputes?
A forgotten sense of what it was that brought us together in the first place?
Finger pointing, name calling, and blame put everyone else, without considering our own fault?
All we have to do is open a phone, or turn on a tv and the evidence is obvious that our society is splitting. Our political and ideological party lines seem to define us now more than anything else does. Feuds break out in comment sections and around dinner tables and it feels as though we have forgotten what brought us together in the first place.
We have forgotten the core of what unites us a community and we have let our division speak louder than our unity.
In the midst of the divide in the Corinthian church, Paul writes to them, in hopes of reminding them of what binds them together, in hopes of helping them reestablish the common core that bonds them, the core that goes much deeper than ideological divide… their morality… their faith.
He says, “Don’t forget! God has called you to this work together.
You are partners together in his work in the world. You are the body of Christ!
You have more in common than you have differences!
Set aside these petty grievances, and open your hearts
because there is far more important work at hand.
And remember: not only are you partners in this together, you are partners with God.
God is working within you, and God declares that this work begins now.
NOW is the right time. NOW is the day of salvation.
Right now, God is using you to make the world a more just place.
Right now, God is using you to make your community more compassionate and loving
Right now, God is calling you to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
Open your hearts up! Partner with God in this work!
Like many of you this past week, I have been so disturbed and disheartened by the news of what is happening on our southern border. As a parent of a toddler, I grieve with these families and imagine my own family going through this. As an American, I am horrified by the wrong done by our leaders, and shocked that our policies could lack so much compassion and mercy. As a Christian, in the face of such injustice, I feel called to do something, to be the hands and feet of Christ in this broken situation.
And I’m not alone in this.
I’m sure by now you have all heard of the massively successful facebook fundraiser that went viral. The fundraiser is simply titled “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child.” It was started a week ago in hopes of raising just $1500 to reunite one child with their family through The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees at no cost to their clients.
And at one point the fundraiser was raising $10,000 a minute and it has now raised 20 million dollars from 521 thousand people. I want to tell you the story about the people who started this fundraiser.
Charlotte and Dave Willner, are average young adults. They work in the tech industry in California. They have a two-year-old daughter.
Whenever Charlotte Willner sees the now-infamous photo of a 2-year-old girl, dressed in pink and crying for her mother, she can’t help but think of her own toddler.
It’s this photo that motivated her to start the fundraiser.
She said: “I’m just a mom with a daughter who looks exactly like this Honduran child when she cries. The only thing that separates these two toddlers is the accident of birth -- and no child, no parent, should be punished for that.”
People have been wondering, ‘where does this stop?’ In the midst of all of this political divisiveness ‘Where do we find our commonness again?’ One place we find it is here.
Regardless of political party, so many of us are distraught over children being separated from their parents at the border, We can’t all be on the frontlines to help these families, but by supporting RAICES, we’re able to do something that just takes less than a minute, and collectively have an impact.”
When we all come together in community efforts like this, we can find an antidote to the feelings of helplessness.
We are more similar than we are different.
That is true for Americans, and that is true for all people.
In a time when division seems ever-increasing, remember that Americans can still come together to say "this is wrong" and do something about it. Most of us who donated today don't know each other, but we were brought together by a common sense of what is right and what is wrong. That clear moral commonality is what will sustain us. It transcends almost everything. It is an enduring sense of what America ought to be about.”
[Quotes gathered separately from the following sources, NPR, Washington Post, Mercury News, San Francisco Gate]
What isn’t obvious from the fundraiser’s page, or from all of the media coverage, is that the Willners are Christians. They quote scripture on their Facebook profiles: what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
On a whim yesterday, I reached out to the Willners to share that I was feeling called to use their story in my sermon and thank them for all the work they’ve done with this fundraiser. And Charlotte (whose brother is a Denison Alum!) wrote back.
She shared with me that she was actually raised in a PC(USA) church in California, and that though the fundraiser isn’t religiously affiliated… for them, this whole endeavor has absolutely been an act of faith.
I think the Willners have found a way, in the midst of this American divide, to do what Paul did… to remind us of the core of what brings us together in this country… our morality, our compassion, our mercy. It goes deeper than any of our ideological divides. Deeper than our political parties, deeper than our beliefs on economics, and gun rights, and education. At our core, we are a people of compassion and mercy. And this is what can bring us back together… Opening our hearts.. to each other, to God, and to the world.
As people of faith, as co-workers with God, as Christ’s only body on earth… this is our charge too. To do what Paul did, to do what the Willners did!
To remind everyone that these hands… these are hands of mercy and peace,
these hands… these are hands of compassion & love & healing
these hands… these are Christ’s hands…
May it be so… Amen.