Since my sermon yesterday, several people have thanked me for saying what needed to be said. Selfishly I said what I would have wanted to hear my priest say in the midst pain unspeakable horror and evil. For those of you who were not able to hear my sermon. The short version of what I said was I was angry. Angry at the fact the people were living their lives, enjoying friends, family in restaurants, a concert and a football match, when chaos broke out and their lives were lost and for others irreparably changed. I was angry because everything we have again thought was safe, is not.
For me I am not ready to think about forgiveness of those who perpetrated these heinous acts. I state this because of what the Lutheran pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book "The Cost of Discipleship." Bonhoeffer wrote, "Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing…."
We can be angry for a time, but we also have to think about what can we do in our own corner of the world to spread Jesus' message of love of the other and hopefully at some point reconciliation. We don't let people off the hook for their behavior, but we also don't allow their hatred to seep into our own lives and change who we are as believers in the risen Christ. It is him in whom we base our faith and he is the rock of our foundation as people and most importantly as Christians.
We often in our society lament the need for "real community" in our lives. But have we thought about what that really means to us as individuals and as a collective? The Church is one place in particular where the word "community" is bandied about and I myself use it quite regularly when I preach. My definition of community is a place where we can be real with one another, sharing both the good and the bad of our lives. We can be vulnerable with one another knowing that we will be listened to and taken seriously. We are allowed to share with one another those deep feelings and thoughts we may not comfortable expressing to friends or family outside of the Church. In addition, we are allowed to question our own belief systems and closely examine what it means to attempt to live a faithful life. These are not easy to accomplish, but we continue to try and it is the focus of my ministry in this place.
We also use our community to celebrate one another and support each other. I think of this in light of last night and celebrating a talented singer and guitar player in our midst. Sixteen of us visited a neighborhood restaurant to eat, drink, enjoy one another's company and to listen to some great music. It was gratifying to have so many people want to be together outside of Sunday mornings as well as tell someone, he was important enough to our community for us to literally "show up." Woody Allen said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." The Brooklyn Law School Library Blog expands the quote with their own words of wisdom, "Just get involved, make the call, or introduce yourself. The results will astonish you." I hope our parishioner was astonished by our involvement last night, it was a great night to celebrate talent, music and community.
Last week I went to see the movie "The Walk" the story of Phillipe Petit's high wire walk between the World Trade Center. It was an edge of my seat two hours I was happy to spend. What I have thought about since seeing the movie is Petit's obsession with walking between the Twin Towers. I had become intrigued by him after I saw the movie "Man on Wire" which was a documentary of his walk. What has captivated me about his story was his belief in himself that he would fulfill his dream. He also was able to find others who were willing to have his dream become theirs and together they devised a plan.
It is not too big a stretch in my thought process to think about how Jesus was able to encourage twelve men to leave home, job and families to follow him. They were willing to work to have Jesus' dream fulfilled on earth of our reconciliation with God. While I am not saying Petit is Jesus, there is a certain aura about him which invites others to participate in his dream. Jesus had that same spirit, that inviting nature which proclaims nothing is impossible. While I do not know if Petit is a man of faith, it is ironic he is the artist in residence at St. John the Divine in New York City. He also speaks extensively about creativity and fulfilling our dreams. Perhaps on reflection he is divinely inspired to do the impossible-just like Jesus.