Easter, 2018 Live Passionately
April 1, 2018
We gather this morning to remember the love that transcends death. We gather to beckon the hope that burial cannot contain. And may we manifest the passion that God has shown us.
Passionate life is so beautiful, so powerful.
The most profound sermon preached across our world last weekend was delivered by an 18 year old girl and she didn’t say a thing. I refer to young Emma Gonzales.
I thought to myself, “that child is beautiful” like one of my own daughters. Because that is what we hope for our children. We hope they find their inner passion. We hope that discover a moral purpose that they believe in. We hope the rising generation awakens and sees their place in this wider social world and decides that they will make a difference.
It is what we want for our children because we know if they live with that kind of intense passion they are going to be fine, come what may. They got the most important part. They opened their heart and if they lead their lives with that kind of passionate love as the driving force, they are going to be fine in prosperity or in suffering, in peace or during seasons of war. They’ll figure it out.
It is moving to watch this generation of teenagers awakening in protest. It took me back a long time ago to when I was a young teenager watching our older brothers and sisters awakening themselves in protest. We grew up in a tumultuous era- Vietnam, Civil Rights, Women’s issues, pollution. All these issues surfacing at the same time.
In 1968, the most powerful moment of protest came at the Olympic games when Tommy Smith and John Carlos took the stand and raised their black fisted gloves in the air. Love it and hate it, they got the attention of every single American that week.
And they were roundly attacked at the time- for breaking hallowed Olympic tradition, for being Un-American. It was considered hostile and aggressive. They were escorted out of the stadium and kicked off the Olympic team. That was then.
But I pulled that image up again and today, I see it differently. They are like our sons, so full of passionate intensity. But they are boys, so they are usually more aggressive and more defiant than we would like. But you know your boys and you know what they are trying to say to you. “Why can’t you love me? Why can’t you let me be me? Why can’t you accept me?”
But they never come out and just say that. But that is what they need. That passionate intensity… you just need to figure out how to channel it with our boys. Tommy Smith and John Carlos went on to become responsible adults, family men, community leaders.
50 years later, it should come as no surprise. We know this about our boys. If they live with that passionate intensity, fierce concentrated love, that is what we want, boys that believe in something, young men that see what is wrong with our culture and dedicate themselves to being change agents. They become fathers and grandfathers that lead by giving back and helping the rising generation to find their way.
It is what we find so moving about the #metoo movement. We had seventeen entries here at Christ Church, 15 women and 2 men reflecting on the damage done so many years ago by adults that were supposed to care for them and violated them instead.
And when you read them, you can just hear all of them plaintively crying out, “Why couldn’t you just love me? Why couldn’t you respect me for who I am? Why couldn’t you just let me be me?” That passionate intensity looking for redemption, finding some ground, some voice, some self-esteem. As painful as it is, it is beautiful too. That passionate intensity is life-giving, it heals, it is divine.
The Bible tells us that God loves us with a compassionate intensity like that. Jesus taught us that God is like a fierce loving father, waiting for us prodigal children to come to our senses and find our way back to our authentic home. In that parable Jesus says that before the boy could get all the way home, God the fierce loving father sees him from far off, because God is actively looking for us night and day. And at the first sight of the prodigal Son, God leaps off the porch and runs down the road to greet him. That fierce passion blesses us in life and even through death. That love reaches beyond the grave and can heal us, make us strong, stand us up in the midst of fear.
Live out of that love, channel it and bless those around you with it.
The Irish writer Sebastian Barry had a teenage son that was depressed, sullen, withdrawn. He and his wife, like so many parents of teenage boys, could not figure out what was going on. They fretted in wonder.
One day his son tells them that he is utterly miserable because he has come to realize that he is gay.
Barry said he and his wife literally said, “Praise God is that all?” But then he did what good Father’s do when their kids tell them that their experience is so very different from their parents, he listened.
He said he let his son tell him what it was like to be gay- Sebastian Barry grew up very traditional, Irish Catholic, conservative straight, middle age man- and there is he watching episodes of RuPaul’s Drag race with his son- something he never imagined he would be doing.
But he wanted to understand. He wanted a new context for a different kind of love than he had ever thought about having when he presumed all his children would grow up heterosexual. And he grew and he changed. And like a good Father, he became an advocate.
You probably know that a couple years ago, Ireland voted to legalize same sex marriages. At the time Sebastian Barry decided that he would write a letter to the editor of the Irish Times on the eve of that vote. His letter is a reminder of the power that a Father’s love has to bless and empower, powerful enough to bless you from beyond the grave.
“As the more than proud father of one shining person who happens to be a member of the LGBT community, I will be voting Yes in the coming referendum. In that sense it is a personal matter. I have read quite a bit in the papers about our new more tolerant society, and that may be so, and of course it is a solid point of view from which to vote Yes, but I don’t see it as a matter of tolerance, so much as apology.
Apology for all the hatred, violence, suspicion, patronisation, ignorance, murder, maiming, hunting, intimidation, terrorising, shaming, diminishment, discrimination, destruction, and yes, intolerance, visited upon a section of humanity for God knows how many hundreds of years.
My child will be just shy of 18 when the votes are cast, and therefore cannot vote himself. By voting ‘Yes’ I will be engaging in the simple task of honoring the majesty, radiance and promise of his human soul.”
My sisters and brothers, God loves you like that. God is your advocate. God wants you to live out of your majesty, your radiance and promise your human soul.
Transcend the categories you grew up with through love. Build a new community of harmonious love. Love more broadly and even differently than you imagined you would have to… Delight in the children with Easter eggs and bask in the unbearable lightness of being alive this spring. Practice resurrection.