“Because I Live…” – Rev. Tony Romaine – May 31st, 2020
I woke up this morning the same way I have woken up the past few mornings, in a cloud of despair and wondering whether or not our world would still be in one piece. For the last few nights I have been falling asleep watching our city, our state, our country burn in protest of a broken system, in protest of the murder of a fellow human; rioting and looting which had nothing to do with the protests, and a world filled with chaos and unknown. But then something marvelous happened to me this morning as I was awaking, the sermon I had been planning on was pushed to the side and God told me it was the morning to talk about what it means to us that Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.”
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live,” you are not alone. We are not left to the illnesses and pains of our current struggle. We are not alone in our journey to find ourselves amidst the disorder and destruction of our broken world. We are not alone in our fight for equality, for justice, for peace, for love. Because Jesus lived, we are not alone, because our Savior is right here with us through everything. This will not make anything we have to experience any easier. In fact, it may make some of the things we experience even harder. But what it does, is give us a lamp in the darkness to light our lamp from, it gives us the hope amidst the darkness from which to restore our hope, and it gives us solace to remember and know and trust that our God has not abandoned us to the currents which might sweep us away; but has forever guaranteed that we are saved to a life much better than our current state through the sacrifice of the Cross. How do we know though, how do we know!
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live,” I have sent you an Advocate. It is so stunning to me the language of Advocate that Jesus uses to describe the “Spirit of Truth;” what we later on begin to call the Holy Spirit. See an Advocate is more than just a silent partner who fills you with strength and is with you in spirit. An Advocate fights for you, an Advocate goes before you, an Advocate is right there beside you, and an Advocate is pushing you from behind when you do not think you can carry on.
An Advocate, our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, God’s Eternal Flame, is not just a whisper in the wind, but is the life-force which is filling us now today. The Advocate is not some silent partner who remains on the sidelines of our lives while we are forced to live alone. No, our Advocate is with us, within us, and through us in everything we encounter. For those who have studied Job, they will remember that Job prays for an advocate to come and fight for him. Well my sisters and brothers, we have that Advocate thanks be to Jesus Christ, thanks be to our God who has forever given us the intercessor who will never give up.
Do we still have to experience our lives and the degradation of our communities, bodies, and spirits? Apparently so, but we are not alone in our struggle and we are not alone in our fight for this world to know the love of Jesus Christ. Our Advocate is currently, right now, in this building, in your building, wherever you are, currently working within you to inspire you to do better, be better, work better, love better, and if we just listen and go, the world will get better!
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live,” you also should live! Jesus uses the present tense language because we need to use the present tense language. Jesus is not dead. Hear me say that again, Jesus is not dead! Yes, Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected. But this means that Jesus is not dead, He is alive and well in and through our lives and our actions. That puts a lot of onus on us, and I used that play of words on purpose, because what it means is that how we live our lives is how people will know if Jesus is alive or not.
If we go around and degrade people, put people down, treat fellow humans as sub-grade and not even human, then Jesus does not live, but is downgraded along with all of humanity. Every person we murder, kill, or allow to die because of our senseless need for more and more, is another time that Jesus has to suffer and die upon the Cross. Now this may sound harsh, but sometimes we need to be awakened to the true result of our actions; sometimes the community needs to be reminded that a sin against one person is a sin against the whole community.
Now, all that being said, Jesus lives and because he lives so do, we. This means that every time we lift another up, every time we do to our neighbor as we would have them do to us, every time we work for equality and justice in our communities and lift up even one person in our lives; we lift up the whole community and we live, because we are the living Christ to one another in how we treat one another! And when we stumble and fall and sin again, Jesus has already paid the price for those sins.
But that does not mean we acquiesce and accept the sin and go on sinning, no, it means we clean up our act, we clean up our streets, we clean up our systems, we clean up our brokenness, we clean up what we can clean up, and we live! Jesus was the epitome of the price one person sometimes has to pay to correct the narrative, the price one person seemingly has to pay so that others will notice, the price the world had to pay in order to see the error of our ways; and the price that no one now would ever want Jesus to have to pay. It is time we stop making innocents pay the price for our sins.
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live,” the world may not know you, the world may not know me, the world may wonder where I am, and the world may need you to remind them. Folks, it is 2020 and we are still waging the very same societal struggle that Jesus himself fought against. It is 2020 and we still murder people based on the color of their skin. It is 2020 and we still force people into indentured servitude based on their economic status. It is 2020 and we still fear our neighbors so much that we design weapons of war to destroy them; hiding ourselves behind a thin veil of trust in our own strength, rather than trusting in God’s call to love. It is 2020 and we still destroy and erode our planet for personal gain and fail to recognize the warning signs until it is too late. It is 2020 and we are still talking about how we need to care for orphans, widows, the poor, the downtrodden, the lonely, the sick, the stranger, all those who need our help. It is 2020 and we still do not get it.
When will we begin to tell this world what Christianity is all about? When will we stand up to the world and let them know that false Christianity, false Christian religion, false Christian teaching does not represent the Christianity we ascribe to; the Christianity of Jesus Christ, the great gift of Love? When will we stand up to the world and say that ours is a message of hope, ours is a message of peace, ours is a message of love, and ours is a message that Jesus lives? Jesus was right, our world does not know him. His world did not even know him.
It is about time we use St Francis of Assisi’s advice and preach the Gospel wherever we go, and if necessary, use words. It is about time we use the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.’s advice and not be afraid of trying and failing, for, “when you stand up for justice, you never fail.” And it is about time we let this world know that our Savior is alive and well in and through us!
"Because I Live"
We cannot change the injustice that has already happened, we can only change our future. What do we want historians to say about this people that was tested in 2020? What do we want people to say about this religion called Christianity when they were put to the test? When the world declared their religion dead through its actions; when the world declared their movement over through their inaction? What do we want our children and our children’s children to say about us for generation upon generation?
I can only answer for myself and say that I want my future to be one filled with life. I want the future generations to look back and say we tried. I want the future of Little Falls, of Minneapolis/St Paul, of Minnesota, of the United States of America, of our world to say that one day we finally had enough of dying and we finally got to living! And I want future generations to look back at this time and mark it as a day not of victory, but of systemic change, a moment in time when we finally had enough and changed for the better. A time when the world was tired of seeing headlines marred with names of people taken way too soon, of George Floyds, of Ahmaud Arberys, of countless others. The time when Christians around the world finally understood that Jesus only lives when we live.
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live,” I have already given you all the tools you need. We are like those disciples from millennia ago right now. We have long been awaiting the Holy Spirit to rush in and fill us and make a loud wind-like noise and fill our tongues with language and our hearts with Spirit. We are like those disciples who were waiting and waiting not knowing what to expect. Except we are different in one important way; we already have the Holy Spirit with us and we have been given awareness through the teachings of our tradition and Jesus Christ himself. The question is, what are we going to do with it?
Now I understand we are tired and worn down and we cannot all go and protest or help people out in the streets of Minneapolis; I get that, in fact it is probably wise for most of us not to do that during this time of Covid-19. But what I am calling us to do is to examine the places in our lives where we feel the Holy Spirit filling our hearts with the flames of action, and then I am calling us to act. In the simplest way, we can have a great effect through how we interact with one another on a daily basis. In the simplest way, we can have great effect by who we vote into office. In the simplest way, we can have a great effect by praying and calling and sending love to our world. And if so called, in the simplest way, we can have a great effect by joining in the efforts to build a better society through the physical use of our hands and feet. And when we think we cannot do anything, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus sent us the advocate, the Holy Spirit, all the strength we need, and God gave us the tools; we just have to use them.
"Because I Live"
“Because I Live”, you don’t have to be perfect! We don’t have to do everything the way everyone else is doing it, we are called to do things the way we would do them. And we will try and fail, and try and succeed. But it is through trying that we learn and through trying that we find our place where we are called to be the living Christ to one another. But not trying is complete failure and our world has done that enough already.
I awoke this morning tired, angry, sad, and scared…and then I was reminded that I am not alone, I have an advocate, the world needs me, I already have all the tools I need, and I don’t need to be perfect. I was reminded that because Jesus lives, I live, you live, we live…and it is time to live! The only way our world will ever truly know that Jesus lives is through you and me. Make today a turning point, make today the day you decide to try, make today the day you live… “Because I live, you also live,” Amen!