Sermon for 16th Pentecost -
Vicar Julie A. Kelly -
In a world full of artificial things… artificial flavoring, artificial sugar, artificial attitudes and artificial… noses, I am not encouraging us to be unreal or artificial. The phrase isn’t about being artificial at all, rather it is about facing the things we are afraid of and don’t want to face until they become easy enough to be natural for us. It could be learning to diaper a baby, help a diabetic with their shot, or even driving I-405 in L.A.. It might also be going to the doctor about that mole, standing your ground with your boss, or answering the bill collector’s call.
You know the times I am talking about because we all have them. The ones where we want to crawl back in bed, pull the covers over our head and pretend it is all just a bad dream. Whether it is bills or schedules, illness or depression, work or just life in general, we don’t want to play “life.” Still, we get up, put our best face on, dress up nicer than usual and get moving. We fake it with our appearance until we can make it with our hearts. But more often that not when we do this, we are empty inside and have nothing to give but our action and appearance and there is not a lick of peace to be found.
Look back at the reading today from James 3, starting at verse 17 it says,
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of peace.”
Last week, Pastor Eric spoke of how we hold onto the things that matter most by giving them away; “love, mercy, kindness, and compassion.” Now James is continuing to address this craving and emptiness by reminding us that our actions that are peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy will not just be ours, but also are what will fulfill us. But it starts out of actions- it begins, sometimes, when you ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’
We are not so different from our creator, our God is a god of action God who DOES things, who reaches out and calls us to peace and wholeness in relationship over and over, again through action. Is it any surprise then that our actions are tied intrinsically to our spiritual wholeness and peace? If we are created in God’s image, and God is a god of action, our actions must matter.
When we apply this to our life as Christians, let’s be real; sometimes we don’t have the faith to do something out of genuine love for Christ. Sometimes we are lucky to get through the day just taking care of ourselves. How on earth can I go fix the world and be Mother Teresa when I can’t even get my family to behave in public? Disorder and disagreement are everywhere- from these very pews all the way to Congress … well… let’s not go there, but my point is, if I can’t find peace in this small corner of my world, how am I supposed to be that peace to the rest of the world?
It is a mystery how peace-inducing actions work, let alone are supposed to fulfill us. We don’t understand and that is okay. The disciples couldn’t understand either or Jesus wouldn’t have had to repeat himself so often- and just think, if they had to be told this many times that we know of, how many other times did Jesus have to go over this that we don’t know about?
The important message is that Christ is not necessarily calling us to understand; Christ is calling us to action. We are simply called to act in faith. Let me be clear, neither Christ nor James is saying these actions are what bring us into or closer to salvation. That is only found in faith. But our acts are still important. Martin Luther himself said, “Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.”
Our faith calls us to action that is good because God is good, and God’s will is not for our suffering, not for days we want to pull the covers over our head, but instead an abundance of peace, mercy and grace lived out every day of our lives-most especially in community. These actions don’t make the suffering of the world go away, but they do bring us to a place of communal sharing, peace, and relationship that heals wounds and brings a contentment that cannot be found with the things of this world. While there is no promise these actions will make us happier people, they do open our lives up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and as Gerhard Forde said, “What are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything?” We might as well do something good.
So what do we do? While it sounds good to ‘fake it ‘til we make it, speak it ‘til we think it, do it ‘til we feel it,’ how do we actually bring this peace to our communities? Mark 9:37 points to one suggestion: Welcome the ones who are vulnerable. The ones who are hurting, unable to protect, feed, clothe or comfort themselves. Welcome the ones who are in sorrow, in despair, full of loneliness, or even anger. Open your hearts and your lives to the vulnerable.
This action is one that brings us into authentic living with Christ. It opens a door to our scarred and aching hearts, letting the Spirit in to heal and mold us. I think Kurt Vonnegut understood the words of Christ and James when he pleaded, “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.” Opening ourselves to the vulnerable allows us not to fix the vulnerability of others, but to be vulnerable with them. And that, is scary work. It is hard work. It is “pull the covers over your head” kind of work. But we have to start somewhere. We have to do something until we genuinely feel something.
Sometimes, we have to fake it ‘til we make it.
Julie A. Kelly
Vicar - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
Fake it Til you Make it
Sermon for 17th Pentecost
Written by Julie A. Kelly
September 19 / 20, 2015
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California