Monday, May 3, 2010

Easter 5, Year C, May 2, 2010

Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35
Love one Another, preached by Rev. Peter Courtney

In the movie “The Hitman” children are trained from early childhood to be completely obedient, self-contained and ruthlessly efficient killers. They all wear black suits and black ties, a little bit like Mormon missionaries who are indoctrinated the same way except for the killing skills. On the back of each assassin’s shaved head is a permanent bar code. These men are a lot like professional athletes. They are put into inventory and tracked. When they wear out they are terminated. They are replaceable commodities just short of robot.

These assassins move about all over the world with their bar codes showing and no one ever notices. If I had a bar code on the back of my skull, I think someone would stare at it least once. One of you would probably ask me what my sell-by date was.

There are a number of web sites which prove that all bar codes are the mark of the beast because they all have the code for number 666 in them. For folks intent on inventing conspiracies there is an intricate interpretation which might make it appear that bar codes contain the number 666, but they simply do not. If you see someone who looks like me with a bar code on the back of his head, you would be smart to run though.

There are lots of things to be afraid of these days. We went to a church once where the rector assured us that he and the other priest used sanitizer before administering communion. He went on an on about it. Suddenly something that had never occurred to me to worry about was being served up in scary relief. I didn’t see any bar codes, but I did begin to wonder.

I saw a diocesan website with a major tab on the landing page subtly entitled PANDEMIC!!! They might just as well have put 666 up in lights. What in heavens name is the gospel furthering purpose in jacking up the terror alerts?

This is all by way of agreeing that barcodes and websites and yes terror alerts are now an integral part of our daily experience. They are very useful tools. In the hands of demagogues and most governments they are an insidious way of exerting mind control. I remember a satiric film about politics in which the political advisor says to the candidate: “You just keep smiling and we’ll take care of scaring the crap out of them”

Aside from ravings of paranoiacs about bar codes, it is simply true that we are known, deeply known by the electronic surveillance and record keeping capacities of computers.

It is also true that we are known by one larger than a computer. That one is God. Here the Good News from the First Letter of John. “{10} In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. {11} Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. {12} No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

God knows more about us than our bar code could ever tell. This God chose us. The God who chose us loves us. We did not choose God, God chose us. God continues to choose us. John knew this so well that he said “God’s love is perfected in us.” He means, God’s love is being made perfect. God is not done choosing us, nor is God’s love all done in us.

God can love us because as I Corinthians would have it; now we are truly known, not through a glass darkly, and not through the partial screen of a bar code, but known only as a creator could know.

When the Gospel calls us to love one another, it does not call us to push a button and switch on nice. It calls us to a lot more than that.

Victor Frankl put it this way:
"The more weakly one stands on the ground of belief the more he clings with both hands to the dogma which separates it from other beliefs; on the other hand, the more firmly one stands on the ground of his faith, the more he has both hands free to reach out to those who cannot share that belief."

So Love has been perfected in us. Why? So that fear won’t run us, even the kind of fear that our electronically controlled universe engenders in us.

For how long is love perfected in us? What does it matter? Our struggle with fear never ends. I heard someone say recently that Jesus was not afraid. What nonsense. Of course he was afraid.. He was deleted, cancelled, removed from inventory altogether. That is something worth being afraid of.

What does perfected love look like? It looks like human beings working with their God to be fully human. To stand and say with the rogue assassin: “I am not a piece of your inventory. I am me, a child of God who has been loved so much that I can only love in return.”

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