The Tanzanian Hymn Listen God is Calling connects God’s story heard in today’s readings with our story as baptized children of God.
- It meets us in the chaos and crazed pace of our lives.
- It reminds us to listen because God is calling.
- It invites us to live more connected to God.
Listen, listen, God is calling, through the Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.
While those words and the song of God’s presence in our lives brings comfort and joy, we somehow still think we are in control, that everything we have and are is of our making, and that we have the freedom to do and live as we wish. And you know what, you are right. We do have that freedom, but that freedom is a gift from God who calls to us, who reminds us who and what we are.
We are God’s. Claimed in our baptism, our Creator delighting in us and claiming us as God’s own.
We are God’s. Called to move from woe to glory, fearing, loving and serving the Lord.
We are God’s. Fed at the table with the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, receiving what we are, becoming what we receive.
We are the Body of Christ, gathered by the Holy Spirit as the church to do God’s work with our hands.
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Our sandwich reading today, the one between the Hebrew Scripture and New Testament Good News, between law and gospel, the second reading, the epistle, the reading to guide our life together as the church was written by Paul to the church in Corinth. The city was a vibrant seaport, a center for commerce and culture. It was also a city centered on consumerism, individualism, philosophical pondering, and selfish sexual sin. It was the Amsterdam, Bangkok, Rio and Vegas of its day.
Paul’s words reach across time to you and me individually and to you and me…
- gathered as the Body of Christ,
- God’s voice and hands in the world,
- with a timeless message for believers and the church.
Paul points out that our bodies are not our own… they are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Paul points out that because we were bought with a price… we are not our own.
Paul points out that while we are freed from sin… we are to glorify the one who freed us.
But we don’t like to listen to Paul, or the one who calls and invites us. We are in charge, we are in control, we can do as we please… and because of the gift of free will, we often fall short of the glory of God. We abuse and ignore the gifts of creation from the world around us to the bodies we are given. Our selfish selling out, selling ourselves short, and selling our bodies to the wills of ourselves and the world leads to:
- fixation and over-indulgence
- bad habits and compulsion
- addictions and disease
When we sell ourselves to sin it enslaves. We prostitute the bodies God has given us and even the body God gathers as the church. You see the things we do become who we are. The things we do, gets in the way of relationships with others and with God.
We are not our own… When we abuse our bodies, we abuse all of the bodies we are connected to by relationship…
- family and friends,
- classmates and co-workers,
- neighbors known and unknown.
When we sin with our bodies, we sin against others and we sin against God.
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Archbishop Oscar Romero connects our individual bodies made in God’s image and our role as the collective body of Christ in his book The Violence of Love. He writes:
For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of God’s images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.
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The people and church , the body of Christ in Corinth were distracted by a selfish sinful society. We the people and church in Central Connecticut are also distracted by a selfish sinful society of which we are willing participants or passive and silent observers.
The social reformer of the twentieth century Martin Luther King, Jr. said the following about society and the church:
Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
The social reformer of the sixteenth century Martin Luther said the following about sinful distraction and his own temptation, repeating these four powerful words:
I have been baptized. I have been baptized.
These two Martin’s struggled with societal norms, laws and behaviors of their day. They both challenged bodies of individuals, the body of Christ—the church, and bodies of earthly power and principalities. They both spent the body of their lives doing God’s work with their hands and voices to fight for justice and equality, listening to God, living their baptismal calling, and inviting others along the way.
Today Paul is encouraging us to be like the two Martin’s, encouraging you and me to live as the baptized and set free.
In baptism we are made part of the body of Christ…
- a body that daily dies and rises in Jesus,
- a body that is united to the Lord,
- a body that is no longer our individual possession, but a temple of the Holy Spirit…
A Spirit that blows freely in our lives, giving life and direction to us all. Our Creator calls us to live in the freedom of Christ, not in the freedom of selfishness. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sets us free to listen and live in ways that lift up and strengthen the body, from the individual body you and I have been given, to this body of believers known as Faith, to the body of our community.
God graces us with bodies, minds and souls and frees us from the sin which enslaves us, frees us from ourselves when we sell ourselves short, sell out to whims and wishes that do not glorify God, and frees us, all of us together to move from woe, to glory. We do this because as Paul reminds:
- our bodies and lives are not our own,
- our body and life gathered as the church is not our own,
- we are God’s and everything we are, everything we have is God’s.
Thankfully each of us, and all of us gathered as this congregation of Faith, are free.
- Free from peer pressure, societal expectations, laws, customs, and traditions.
- Free to deny and stand-up to behaviors, beliefs and systems others burden and oppress us with.
- Free to listen, listen to God calling, through the Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.