A sermon for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Luke 6:17-26
There is a danger in becoming complacent in our faith. There are are a number of factors that can lead to this complacency. It can be such hard work to work on ourselves that when we get to a state of equilibrium, we feel (perhaps rightly) deserving of a break, a point of rest, forgetting that our faith calls us to more than just self-reflection. We can become complacent because we are doing things. We volunteer. We donate. We support. But, we lose the reason. We lose the transformational experience as the volunteering and donating and supporting becomes simply a part of our day rather than an expression of our faith. We can become complacent because we are self-satisfied. Perhaps you have satisfaction today? You are satisfied with your life. You are satisfied with the things you do. You are satisfied with how you live your faith. But, on what grounds?
There is an inherent danger in being satisfied. There is a shallowness to satisfaction that will leave us grasping for a life preserve when we are dumped into deep waters. For, even if we have satisfaction today, there is no guarantee that we will have it tomorrow, there is no promise in satisfaction. And, even if we are satisfied, is that enough when so many others cannot access satisfaction for themselves? Especially so when we could walk with them and help them access a taste of that satisfaction that leaves us so complacent.
It’s not that satisfaction in and of itself is bad, it’s the danger that satisfaction allows us to stop, to become complacent, to sit back, to lose our edge to respond to the world when challenges arise, both for ourselves as much as for others. This satisfaction breeds complacency in us. It encourages us to give in deeper to that complacency. And, it leaves us in a precarious position.
Where do you see yourself in the gospel today?
There are blessings and woes, two sides to the same coin, perhaps even two sides to the same person. But, where do you see yourself in the gospel today?
We don’t want to be those who are told woe. We don’t want to be in a position where Christ looks at us and warns us against how we are moving through this world. We want to be able to laugh in this life. We want to be full. We want to be thought well of. We don’t necessarily fight to be rich per se, but we do strive to be comfortable, to live comfortably in this world. Are we not supposed to do this? Are these not things to want in this life?
Honestly, the answer is both yes and no.
If we seek and strive for these things, only these things, allowing the work to gain them, to sustain them, to fully encompass us, to define who we are, then we are missing the mark. The woe that Christ speaks to us today is the woe, the great distress, misery, that comes from not being able to attain these goals, to having these goals always feel just out of reach, to attaining and then losing these goals because life is messy, unpredictable, unstable, even in its most stable forms.
This is not to say that we cannot have these things in our life, but we have to understand that they are not the wellspring of happiness in our life. We cannot become complacent, satisfied, in achieving these things, but rather understand that we still have work to do, that we still have a teacher to follow, that there is more expected of us because we are followers of Christ, because we have the knowledge of what will truly bring us happiness.
So, we must then ask ourselves certain questions to make sure that we do not become complacent in our faith, in our life.
Do we still hunger for Christ?
Jesus struggled to do his work and ministry because so many came to be in his presence, pressed in around him, hungered for his touch in their life. They scratched, clawed, fought their way through to gain access, to simply be touched, to have their faith rewarded. And when it was, they spread the word of this healer, this teacher. They made sure that others who had been similarity afflicted could also experience his touch. These crowds didn’t gather because Jesus naturally drew them towards himself, they gathered because news of his works of healing spread like wildfire through the communities and people sought him out, brought their friends to be healed, literally tearing off roofs so that they could gain access to Christ. They hungered for a taste of Christ in their life. They hungered to be in his presence. They fought to be with him.
Do we still have that hunger inside of us?
Are we as motivated today as the crowds that gathered around Christ millennia ago?
It’s an honest question to ask ourselves. To look inwardly to see if our faith is being practiced outwardly. Are we fighting to be in the presence of Christ, not allowing any barrier to prevent us from being there? Are we tearing away barriers so that our friends may too be in the presence of Christ, may be healed by Christ? How do we reconcile our urge towards complacency with the hunger for access?
Our faith is supposed to inform our lives. We don’t (or at least we shouldn’t) come to church here because we feel obligated, because we fear our sinful selves and the hell that awaits us (spoiler alert: if you’re already here, you’re forgiven and hell is not awaiting you, but that also doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, either). Instead, we come to church because we hunger for the very real presence of Christ in our lives. Christ that we experience in the Eucharist. Christ that we experience in fellowship with one another. Christ that we experience when we help the least among us, help them in shelter, in hunger, in thirst, in companionship, in love. As we hunger for our connection to Christ, to receive that blessing of healing, to be made whole through his touch, we fight for that access. And, when we receive that access, we must want to share it with everyone. We share it with our friends, our family. We remove any barrier that is keeping that person from also gaining access to Christ.
This is a challenge. This is hard work. It’s not easy to hoist an immobile friend up on a roof, to dig through the many layers, to lower them down to Christ. But, this is necessary work. This is work that we are called to live into as followers of Christ. This is work that we can do as followers of Christ if we stay vigilant and forgo the tendency to slip into complacency.
This congregation continues to impress and inspire me when I see the fight that folks are doing to gain access to Christ and to insure that our neighbors are also able to gain that access. It’s not easy work and yet here we are doing it anyways. It’s not easy work and yet we embrace this work because we are convicted to follow Christ, to follow the way of love that has been laid out before us, to fight to be in the presence of Christ in all that we do. But, it doesn’t and cannot end with being satisfied with the work we are already doing. We are already leaders in this community and we can influence more than just the lives of those who come into contact with this place. We can influence this whole community, we can influence this whole region, we can truly influence this world through the impacts we make on each individual we come across in this place at this time. And, we do all of this when we continue to fight rather than allowing that complacency of our culture to seep in and take root.
I know that this can seem daunting. But that fear is another piece of complacency, it’s a defense mechanism of complacency. We cannot allow that complacency to dictate to us what we are to do in and with this life. As Christians, we have already committed to a specific way of life, and becoming complacent is not part of that life. Continue to fight. Know that this place, this church family is here to support and uplift you as you fight. Take your rightful access to Christ. Make sure that everyone else is also afforded that same access, even if it means tearing off some roofs.