Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry likes to say, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”
And he’s right.
We are formed in love—”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (and I loved you should be added), and before you were born I consecrated you (because I love you).”
We are formed in love, grounded in love, consecrated in love.
In the book of Acts, when Paul goes to Athens, he goes to the Areopagus, a large outcropping of rocks northwest of the Acropolis—and there (according to Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts), Paul gives this famous sermon…Athenians, like a lot of us were known for being intellectually curious, and a little skeptical when it comes to matters of faith, so he begins…
“ ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. This is the God who made everything that is…and indeed this is the God who is not far from each one of us.” And then he says one of my favorite lines in all of scripture, “For “In God we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”
In God, we live and move and have our being…think about that… if God is that in which we live and move and have our being, and God is love, that means that love is that in which we live and move and have our being.
It’s also true that that is another way of describing reality. That in which we live and move and have our being is…reality. Which means not only that God is real, but that God is reality which means love is reality. We live and move and have our being in reality which is love…which is God.
When Paul starts in today on this famous passage—heard at virtually every wedding—this is the love he’s talking about. He’s not talking about romantic love, or the committed love between two partners—sure those are great goals to aspire to in relationships, being patient and kind, and not envious or boastful, but…—Paul is not addressing two people “in love” about to get married…he’s talking to a community about to tear itself apart over who’s right and who’s wrong—who’s in and who’s out. This new community in Cornith is fighting over different charismatic leaders (There’s a group claiming, “I belong to Apollos”, and another claiming, “I belong to Peter,” and another, “I belong to Paul.” And they’ve written to Paul saying, “help”. He gives them the metaphor of the body we heard last week—we’re all in this together..the foot can’t say to the eye, I have no need of you…—and continues by reminding them (again) that…”if it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” God is the source and the culmination of all of this…It’s all grounded in love. If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I’m just making noise.” And then he expands on this and talks about the kind of love that we are all grounded in.
Which is God as love: patient, and kind, and rejoicing in truth, and bearing all things, and never ending…It’ s God’s love he’s talking about…
…The love we are are created in…the love we live and move and have our being in…and if that’s true…then why doesn’t it feel like that all the time? What happens that makes us forget that…makes us feel like love is absent…or not around…makes us feel like reality and love and God have nothing to do with one another?
There is no simple answer to that, but we get a stunning example of it happening in the Gospel today. Jesus reads from Isaiah (it’s actually a few different quotes from Isaiah)—“The spirit of the lord is upon me to proclaim release to the captives, good news to the poor, etc.” and then says, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled.” And everyone is amazed. Then something happens that continues to confound us.
Jesus refuses to do any healing in his hometown—can you imagine? He refuses to extend the messianic blessing to those closest to him. And instead, says he’s going to the foreigners (the Gentiles) over there across the border. And upsets people. Sure, go to the Gentiles, fine— but why are you refusing to share with us? That’s not fair.
Why does he do that? This scene is unique to Luke, and Luke is certainly concerned with getting the message to the Gentiles, more so that other gospel writers. But no one is really sure what is going on here. What we do know is that something happens that feels unfair to us, or something happens that we don’t understand, or that we don’t like, and we suddenly find ourselves “out of love” and instead “out for blood.” Isn’t it frightening… how easy that transition is….That’s not right…I want to get you. But if it’s not about love, it’s not about God so…
God makes us in love, AND makes us different from one another. Like cells in a body, or stones in a building, and because we are different that means that we rub up against one another—and sometimes bang against one another…often accidentally…sometimes intentionally…
We know what reality is…reality is that things happen…life isn’t fair…and we feel competitive, and hurt, and angry…and all kinds of mean nasty ugly stuff…and small and unloved…out of love. But God is the source and the culmination…the Alpha and the Omega…
The rest of the weeks of Epiphany we are going to see some of this play out…the church in Corinth continues to argue over experiences and points of doctrine. Jesus is going to get even more divisive with a sermon about blessings and woes. It will be confusing, and challenging, pretty much like life…but through it all…Love remains the constant. Faith, hope and love abide. And the greatest of these is…
In the challenges that are coming…in the challenges that you face in your daily life…in the challenges that seem to come in endless waves in our world…amidst all of this, I encourage you to hold onto this truth…”make it your strong rock…a castle to keep you safe”…God is real. Love is real. You are created in love, grounded in love, consecrated in love, and if it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”