The psalm that we sang today beautifully sets the starting point for this homily. Musician and liturgist, Marty Haugen, in his wonderful rendition of Psalm 63, “O God I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, your love is finer than life” speaks so well of the love of our God for each one of us. “Fine” is a word that is brought out when we think of the best, most revered, exquisite articles in life: china, precious metals, architecture and art.
When we are speaking of love and use the word, “fine,” we mean something certainly above the ordinary—we might say self-giving, over the top. This is a love that is long-suffering, that is patient—a love that never gives up on the beloved-one, that trusts and believes in the best that a person can give and knows that if given a chance, eventually this one will step up and become all that they were created to be.
Such is the case in the story of David in the reading from 2 Samuel today. David had been blessed by God, a shepherd boy, chosen above all his brothers to serve, gifted in many ways, yet he yearned for what wasn’t his, rather than being satisfied with all that God had already given. Did God turn away? No.
The second reading from Galatians reminds us of a similar story, that of Saul, one so caught up in the law that love eluded him. Yet, once Jesus opened his eyes, Paul could truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And when one knows that, as a follower of Jesus, the course that a person takes in life is necessarily changed.
All the readings for today’s liturgy lift up the mercy of our God and how wonderful for us, because we know just as in these Scripture stories, none of us ever does it completely right, but each day, we must begin anew.
The Gospel story today shows us the humility and strength of a woman, known to be of low reputation trusting that love would prevail as she came into a gathering where she instinctively knew she would be looked down upon. The Scripture tells us that Jesus was aware of her many sins, but he loved her in spite of the sins that she didn’t commit alone.
Forgiveness is given in all the three stories today because those who had sinned were repentant. And this is true love, isn’t it?—when God and others can extend a second chance, calling forth the best that a person has to give for the good of all.
This final piece, action, is the completion of each story that began with repentance. God can and will forgive the wrong doing but the invitation, the expectation really, is that the person will change their life—not continue in the sin. David and Paul we know go on to change their lives for the good. The unnamed woman we can assume, by her sorrow and grief and the love personally afforded by her brother Jesus who trusted and loved her into a better life, did the same.
This past week, I felt compelled due to local news, to write a letter on the sins of clericalism, a system that has allowed for so much pain and suffering among the People of God. This system places the clergy over and above the people they serve by affording them rights and privileges the people in the pews do not receive.
The real danger of this system is that it allows the young and the vulnerable to be taken advantage of and once the damage is done, the clergy are promoted and the victims left to basically deal with the aftermath of trust broken and faith shattered. Additionally, the rest of us are duped into believing that this system is as God intended.
As the Scriptures very clearly suggest today—we have a loving God-yes-but this love that is indeed, “finer than life” demands that responsibility for our actions be taken and that the right thing be done going forward.
The system of clericalism, within the Church we love, must be rooted out for true repentance to happen and our Church to then be guided by the spirit of love, not law.
I dream of our Church becoming one of equals where compassion is given to all, not just the perpetrators of crimes, such as the recent example from the Cathedral and evidenced by letters of support with little mention of the victim. I dream of a Church where sinners and saints, all of us are loved equally with a love, finer than life.
Because you see my friends, it is a love such as this, free of power over, free of levels of goodness, and instead, filled with compassion and the expectation that all will strive to be honest, trustworthy and responsible for their actions, and faith-filled that would make our Church irresistible to the unchurched who have given up on ever finding God within our doors.
We have much to do friends—let the work begin!