Sermon at Cathedral of our Merciful Savior, Faribault, MN
My husband has lost two close relatives in the last few weeks â a brother in law and a cousin. A co-worker has had three young cousins and an elderly aunt die in the last month. The news media are keeping us all on edge with their tallies of flu deaths. There is death all around us, and I know that no part of the world is an exception.
Iâve just come back from the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica, and there were reports in each dayâs newspapers of violent deaths: a fire-bombing where an 85 year old woman was burned to death, a middle-aged business woman shot to death as she came home from work and tried to remove her grandson from the car; the body of a ten year old girl found in the brush behind her home a few days after she disappeared.
The Native communities of
Sometimes connections to that web of life are severed in other ways. There was news last week of two women, born in a hospital in
The fellow that Philip meets on the road to
In the ancient world, eunuchs were also cut off from the religious community. Deuteronomy (23:1) says that they canât join the worshipping assembly â though by the time this part of Isaiah is written, he insists that they are welcome: âTo the eunuchs who keep my sabbathsâ¦ I will give [them] an everlasting name that shall not be cut offâ (Isa 56:5). Such a person had few ties or links to the web of meaning and humanity and loving kindness. He was largely alone, and even though he was a valued and trusted officer, his social definition lies in his physical condition: eunuch. This story doesnât even give him a name. And without a name or relatives or descendants in the ancient world, you were pretty invisible, and when you died, you simply disappeared, forgotten and without meaning, for there would be no one to remember you or tell your story.
This court official has been looking for other connections. He has heard of the God of Abraham and Isaac, and even though heâs an outsider, heâs gone to
He asks Philip, âis Isaiah talking about himself or about somebody else â like, maybe, me?â So Philip begins to tell the story of another man without a traditional family; he tells him the good news about Jesus, whose family is not one defined by DNA or offspring, but consists of those who love God and each another. You have to wonder what Philip must have said to him. Maybe, that itâs possible to be reconnected to the web of life, immersed once again in the living stream, and that Jesus is the way that happens. From now on, he doesnât have to be alone, isolated, without meaning or relationship. He can be part of a body that does not die, that will live forever. Mr. Royal Treasurer understands and says, âhereâs some water, baptize me now! I want to be part of that ever flowing stream of relationships. I want to be part of a family that lives beyond this life, of connections that last for eternity.â
When they come up out of the water, the Treasurer goes on his way rejoicing. The royal treasurer has discovered the treasure now planted within him, a treasure to watch over and guard, but not to keep safely hidden away. He goes home and shares that treasure with his fellow Ethiopians, and that land still counts this baptism as the beginning of its church. When the first missionaries went to
Whose story do we tell? Whose child are we, whose sister or brother? How is our identity carried on? Our job is to give thanks for the gift of all our relatives â our sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers in Christ, in whom we discover life that endures even beyond the grave. We can give thanks for the lives of those whoâve been snatched away from the web of life in this place, and keep telling their stories. But thatâs only the beginning.
Our common task is to challenge this body of Christ, this family of Godâs, to reach out and connect those who are cut off, who believe themselves abandoned. That royal treasurer didnât respond to his amputation with violence, but too many of our brothers and sisters do. The violence around us is a result of not seeing the treasure in our midst â the treasure of a family that can reach beyond bonds of blood to those of love.
The people around the royal treasurer, and many of the Jews with whom he would have rubbed elbows in
The Royal Treasurer has found a different treasure â not the pile of gold heâs been put in charge of for the Queen of Ethiopia. Heâs found the treasure of Godâs love, a love without price or end. And itâs a treasure that doesnât have to be kept locked up or kept safe â itâs a treasure that grows as itâs shared.
Who will you share treasure with today? Will you reach out and touch those who are cut off from that treasure? Who do you know who feels isolated and alone? Who is abandoned, depressed, or lost? Who needs the treasure you have? Start there. Start there, and donât stop.