Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on the Fifth Sunday of Easter Sunday, April 21, 2013. Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Call to Worship
Based on Revelation 21: 3-4
One: We know that God lives with us here in the fleshy, messy world.
All: God is not removed from us, God dwells with us.
One: First things will pass away and death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will cease.
All: Every tear will be wiped away
Loving God in whom we live and move and have our being. Remind us that we are not alone in our journey of life. Let us feel your loving presence with us comforting us and guiding us. Let our connection with your love be our connection to your creation, that we might know your presence even more fully in the love we share with others.
Acts 11.2-4, 12a (NRSV)
When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying…’The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us…’
The Wisdom of Ernest HolmesWe believe in God as the Infinite Spirit permeating everything.
The GospelMatthew 11.28 (NLT)
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
"Standing Up for Those Who are Burdened"
Click to play audio below. Text follows.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher
Standing Up for Those Who are Burdened
All of us know people who are burdened… over worked, underpaid, and unappreciated. Some of us live in hostile environments made by governments, or working conditions, or family situations. Some of us have been taught that unless we perform certain rituals and practices God will somehow love us less. Our gospel lesson to day has Jesus saying to all of us, “Come, rest, relax, be in relationship with me and with each other and you will be refreshed.”
Jesus was particularly speaking, I think, to the poor and the oppressed. He was talking directly to those people who were over taxed by the Roman government and oppressed by the laws that their religious leaders had created to separate the “good ones” from the “bad ones.”
Governments and empires continue to tax the least able to pay, keeping the poor, poor and allowing the rich to stay rich. How can it be moral for money made from investments, to be taxed at a lower rate than any working person’s wage? How does that make sense to anyone to allow those who enjoy the luxury of having money to invest to pay 15% tax on what that money makes in interest or dividends while taxing the income of the poor and middle classes, the money that people are literally trading days of their lives for, at higher rates. It’s simply immoral and it burdens those who can least afford it.
Our religious leaders in various faith traditions are doing the same things in our time that the religious leaders of Jesus time did. They “bind up burdens too heavy to bear” and lay them on the shoulders of people who are trying their best to follow the “rules.” In Jesus’ day the Pharisaic tradition had 613 laws that a person had to follow to be considered devout or worthy. Our traditions try to tell us who can marry whom, who is worthy to make a family. Some traditions tell women that they are less than men, refusing them to become clergy and presuming to make healthcare decisions based on a particular group’s reading of scripture.
Young people set off suicide bombs and old monks pour gasoline on themselves and set themselves alight trying to attain some kind of piety, some kind of holiness because they feel they are unworthy just as they are. These have lost hope and resort to these drastic measure, giving up their very lives, in the hope that something will change in the world.
But we have a choice in how we view the world. We can change our perspective and move ourselves from and attitude of defeatism, pessimism, and despair and turn to hope. This, I think, is what Jesus is saying. Changing our perspective by “coming to Jesus” doesn’t change a single thing in our lives except our view of life. If we believe that God is here with us, companioning us, suffering with us, we can hang on to hope that a day will come when there is no more crying, and no more mourning. We can begin to look to a future filled with hope when we realize that we are made in the image of the creator of the universe.
How can we believe that we are created by God and yet filled with sin? It’s just not logical. We know intuitively that when we are connected to others we are connected to God. And it is just as surely true that when we are connected with God we are connected with our own humanity and that of our fellow humans.
This is the real message of Easter, the real message of Jesus the Christ. Evil does not win. Empire does not win. Even death does not win. Love conquers all. And God is always with us. We are not alone no matter what comes our way.
Our work is to bring about the realm of God here on earth. Hope gives us the courage to get up and do something. Hope gives us the strength to get up and start speaking truth to power.
This week in the US we witnessed the most disgusting display of arrogance yet in our government. While millions of children and elderly go hungry, congress rushed through legislation that would insure that those of us who are privileged enough to fly for business or pleasure are not inconvenienced. The across the board budget cuts that supposedly slash spending in every program, in every department in the entire government made an exception this week for air traffic controllers because furloughs for these folks had the potential to cause flight delays.
It’s time we started speaking up and speaking out for those who have no voice in our societies. This kind of obscenity goes right past most of us but it is one of the most egregious examples of privilege and oppression I have witnessed in my lifetime.
“Come to me,” says Jesus, “all you who are burdened and abused and I will give you rest.” That happens when we follow our calling to work for justice. It does not happen by magic. There is no “us and them”. There is no group that deserves to be poor oppressed by an economic system that is unjust and uncompassionate.
We are all made in the image of God. And every single one of us deserves to be treated with love and compassion. The Spirit tells us there is no distinction between “us and them”. Let us practice what we preach this week and live up to the promise of Easter by working for justice and standing up for what is right.