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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

The Intention We Bring, Matters

Lent 3, Year A


Wherever you’re watching this right now I’ll bet there is a table nearby. Who knows maybe your laptop or desktop is perched on a tabletop of some kind. Ok, you see that table – now imagine – flipping it over. Just imagine doing it. Standing up – putting your hands right underneath the lip of the sides and then in one fell swoop – with all the upper body strength you could muster – just flipping it upside down. Table top contents flying, smashing breaking.

Have you ever done it? Have you ever been that – angry, frustrated, furious – that you needed to flip over a piece of furniture? If you have, or, if you have been nearby when someone did that – I’m sorry. It probably isn’t a memory you want to revisit. Let’s face it, flipping over tables isn’t something we do when we’re happy. All of us have seen someone overturn a table, I imagine, in reality TV shoes, movies, plays, the news. It’s dramatic – it’s riotous – and it will certainly will grab attention.

Surely, that’s why Jesus overturned those tables as he drove out the moneychangers. How many times do we hear Jesus say – keep watch, keep awake, pay attention? Sometimes words aren’t enough. Three of the four gospel accounts of this event highlight this brazen bodily act. Jesus physically upending business as usual. Which if you think about it – is what we are walking towards in Lent.

We are walking towards the cross – where Jesus physically – put his body in the way – and upends business as usual – for all time.

For we proclaim Christ crucified – which is foolishness and a stumbling block. A foolishness of that is wiser than human wisdom – and a weakness that is stronger than human strength. The gospel gives us a physical upending of practices. Paul’s letter gives us a verbal upending of concepts.

We have been through a lot of upending. And pretty soon, we are going to start coming back together in this space for worship. Things may change, but as of today, the plan is for in-person worship to start on Palm Sunday, for the beginning of Holy Week. And in the context of scripture that upends our ways of being and thinking I would like to invite us to prepare for regathering and a new beginning.

This is what Christians do – every time we worship – do this in remembrance of me, Jesus said. We remember Jesus and we bring the way of Jesus forward – again – into our lives.

The intentionality we bring to being the body of Christ - how we do what we do – is our proclamation. We embody our faith. Sometimes it may seem foolish – to be so cautious – so careful – so intentional with how we do what we do. Sometimes it may seem weak – to take our time and do things slowly. Holiness isn’t grand. Holy people are humble people.

One of the details in this morning’s gospel is that the disciples remembered this event, specifically, after the resurrection. When they started to regather – to pick up the pieces of their lives after the terror and suffering of the cross – after and the terror and hope of resurrection (remember that first Easter, wasn’t like what we’re used to). When they started to come back together and figure out – now what? That’s when they started paying attention to the intentionality of their teacher. How he did – what he did. And how things he said didn’t make sense at the time – but now – born again? Living water? New life in Christ – the pattern paved the way.

What words of Jesus do you think we need to remember as we regather? What intentions do we need to hold ourselves accountable to as holy people – doing holy things – with reverence and humility?

Because it won’t be worship as usual – and let’s be honest – one of the things we like about church is that it’s “usual” – we have our pews and our practices and our piety and preferences – all of which we take seriously and personally – maybe I’ll just own that’s me anyway. But because of the seriousness with which we take it – preparing ourselves matters.

That prayer I say at the beginning of worship – Almighty God to you all hearts are open….that’s called the Collect for Purity – and it was never intended to be heard by the congregation – it was for the priest, alone, as they prepared for the sacramental act of consecration. But as our holiness and hopefully humility – as a church has evolved – we see the royal priesthood of all believers. Priests are just people. Preparation matters for all of us.

When we first gather, there will be limitations – 30 people – and registrations – advance sign-up – and restrictions – masks, no singing, no hand shaking, no hugging. Communion? Bread, no wine – and how we distribute it will be different too. I imagine going through the motions of worship – will take more time – and the motions will feel different and strange.

About twenty or so parishioners are part of our “Love is the Way” book discussion each week. One of the things we take time to do at the first session is to say aloud our group norms. Because it is through that intentionality that we literally create a sacred and brave space for opening our hearts and minds to listen and share. Some of them may sound very obvious to you

1. Try and listen with your heart when others are speaking. Avoid interrupting. As for clarification instead of sharing opposing views.

2. Speak with respect, using “I” statements and holding what is shared here in confidence. Let others speak for themselves.

3. Share appropriately – and receive what others offer.

4. Choose a generous mindset – opting for curiosity, over judgement

5. Accept and Expect non-closure – it is ok for us to be in discomfort together around difficult topics that do not have easy solutions

Group norms are not dramatic in fact I’m sure most of what I said, sounds completely reasonable and would almost that Christians gathering together would treat each other this way – it might even seem foolish and unnecessary to read them. All I can tell you is – naming these ways of being perks up ears and invites that intention, that awareness, of how one is about to say, or share, or do something.

It is ok – as a Body of Christ – as the Communion of Saints – for us to be in discomfort together around difficult topics – difficult periods in our lives – where there aren’t easy solutions – or quick fixes. Let’s prepare for resurrection my friends. Let’s set intentions for ourselves. Let’s be the holy people we are. And with humble hearts – remember the way of Jesus in all that we do. Let’s remember the one who was foolish enough to walk the way of love – displaying human weakness in all it’s vulnerability – through which the whole world came to see that things which we being cast down – are being raised up – and all things were being made new.

How we do – what we do – every day – can upend the world. For we proclaim Christ crucified – we proclaim the power of love.

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