As I prepared to speak with you today, I had many things running through my mind, for weeks now I have been struggling to juggle the many things that both require my attention and the things that I want to give my attention to, and more often than not they are not the same. What I want to give my attention to are the many protests calling for racial justice that are occurring across our nation and the world; I want to promote The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which is pushing our nation to correct the many systemic injustices facing our country, racism and poverty among them; and I have been trying to participate in The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Virtual Overnight Walk. A part of my struggle is the frustration I feel when I cannot do what I feel called to do, when I feel called to do it, of course there are other times that I feel called to take action, but I just don’t know what to do.
We heard the middle part and conclusion of the story of Abraham and Sarah today, but what we heard was taken out of context and that context matters. Earlier in Genesis, chapter 12 to be specific, God Promises Abraham that he would have land, that he would be the father of a nations, which means that he would have many descendants, and anyone who was descended from him would be blessed. The nation and descendants being referred to are the Israelites and it doesn’t mean that every person of Hebrew descent is literally descended from Abraham and Sarah, they are simply the founders of the relationship between God and their people. When we pick up the story, both Sarah and Abraham are in their old age, Abraham being 100 and Sarah being around 80 and they have had no children, so they have been waiting a long time for the fulfillment of God’s promise to them, in the end God keeps their promise and Abraham and Sarah are blessed with their son Isaac. The outcome of the story indicates that anything is possible with God and that God gives us what we need when we need it because even in their old age Abraham and Sarah were able to have a child, a child who would go on to build the nation, the relationship, God promised. This story hints at the overused cliché that good things come to those who wait or that God works on a different time frame than we do, so if we are simply patient God will come to our aid and fix it, whatever it is. The issue I have with the idea that God makes us wait for good things is it denies the truth of the Gospel by negating the fact that God has already provided us with what we need for kingdom living. Waiting around in the belief that God is going to magically solve our problems, the problems we have created, is ridiculous.
Today’s Gospel points us to the very relationship established with God by Abraham and Sarah, as well as the empowerment we gain through that relationship. Jesus summoned his disciples and then “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” And “The kingdom of heaven has come near’. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” This passage is highlighting the charge given to the disciples to continue his work as well as the charge given to us. Just like the disciples we are called to cure every disease and sickness, but to do that we need to do two things. First, we need to broaden out definition of sickness and disease. The Bible was written many years ago and it was written to capture the essence of Jesus’s ministry. I like to think of it as a kind of textbook, everything we need to know is there, but we must take some time to understand it. When I read the words sickness and disease I do not think of the flu or cancer, instead I think of the disease of poverty, the demons of racism, and the mentally ill who we treat like lepers. Through our relationship with God we are empowered! We are empowered to cure the disease of poverty, to cast out the demon of racism, and to walk with the mentally ill. God empowered us by not only choosing to be in relationship with us, like with Abraham and Sarah; but also, by sending us Jesus and filling us with the Holy Spirit. We do not need to wait for God because God has been ready since the beginning and if anything, God has been waiting for us. Waiting for us to realize that the sicknesses, the diseases, and the demons that torment our world are of our own design. If we truly and faithfully followed the teachings of Jesus, if we truly loved one another as we love ourselves then there would be no poverty, there would be no racism, and no one would ever be pushed to the margins of our society. If we think that we can simply wait, and that someday God will destroy poverty and racism then we will never see change. God has empowered us with the most powerful tool any human can wield, Love! To be clear, I am not saying “Love is all we need”, but if we start from a place of love, if you start from a place of relationship and use it to drive our actions then we will be able to do cure every disease that plagues us and we will be able to defeat any demon that tries to stop or control us. God has empowered us and is crying out for us to build the kingdom, by being the kingdom, so like the sneaker ads say, Just do it!