Lavish Love

Passage: Ephesians 1:3-14
Date: July 15, 2018
Preacher: Guest Preacher
Guest Preacher: Rev. Jon Andres

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Sermon

For one long sentence, this one is packed with a lot of theology. For instance, we’re talking redemption, forgiveness, adoption, election, and yes, predestination. This one long sentence reads like a poem and it sings like a hymn. And we are singing it today. The writer of Ephesians packs a lot into one long sentence. It’s too hot this morning for a sermon on a passage like this. It’s hard on the preacher and it is hard on the listener, especially on a hot summer morning in July. So imagine this poem to be like a rushing stream that flows with images, ideas, promises, challenges. And the stream flows with grace and love. And this stream connects us one to the other.This poem overflows with a love that is abundant, extravagant, over the top, to the max, lavish, more than we can imagine or comprehend.

There are certain words in this stream that flow over our being.
…Blessed be.
…the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.
…to gather all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth…all things.
…in Christ (used 10 times).

As a chaplain that works in a hospital I have learned that human connection is essential to the healing process. A big part of what I do is listen. I believe listening is an act of love. People who are listened to feel important, heard, held, connected. I listen to patients tell their story and there is always a place where their story meets my story. And it is at the place of hurt and sadness, brokenness, vulnerability, fear, anger, grief, loss. There is much hurt and sadness in the world. I don’t know about you, but it seems like more than ever. Mother Teresa addressed this problem in our world when she said that we have “forgotten that we belong to each other.” That’s what happened, we forgot that we belong to each other.

I remember many years ago when I lived in Pittsburgh, I was driving at the height of rush hour traffic trying to get home, and it was raining buckets. Roads were flooding and many of them were closed and too dangerous to travel. There were lots of long lines of cars. I was frustrated and scared. I was listening to the radio and at one point the DJ who was reporting on the traffic situation and road closures said, “All those out there on the road, look out for one another. Remember that we are a community.” That’s always stuck with me. Especially when I’m stuck in traffic. We need to be reminded that we belong to each other. Cured my road rage.

Father Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. He wrote a book called Tattoos on the Heart in which he tells about his experience working in the ghetto.He shares moving stories that remind us that we belong to each other. One of the core values of Homeboy Industries is kinship. He says that kinship is what happens when we refuse to forget that we belong to each other. Boyle says, “Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others’; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”

The homies refer to him as “G” or “G-dog,” and G tells about growing up in a big old house, and his parents told him and his five sisters and two brothers never to go to the attic. That’s all they needed to hear. They were practically selling tickets. On one of their trips to the attic they found a box of old record albums. One was labeled “O Holy Night” –Kathleen Conway, their mother’s maiden name. It turned out that in her younger years, before eight children, their mother was an opera singer. They played it and were blown away. They played it all the time. G says that there was one line that has stayed with him, a sort of mantra: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining—’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” Boyle says, “Sure—it’s a song about Jesus and Christmas, but how is it not the job description of human beings seeking kinship. It’s about ‘appearing,’ remembering that we belong to one another, and letting souls feel their worth.”

About 15 years ago, Bandit came to see G. Bandit had been well named. Everything illegal was where he was. He was locked up a lot of the time and seemed impervious to help until he sat in G’s office that day and said he was “tired of being tired.” G set him up with an entry-level warehouse job.

Fifteen years later and Bandit calls G. Bandit now runs the warehouse, owns his own home, is married with three kids. In a panic and says, “G, yagotta bless my daughter.”

G immediately thinks something bad happened and she’s in the hospital until Bandit says, “No, on Sunday, she’s goin’ to Humboldt College. I’m scared for her. You think you could give her a send-off benediction?”

So G schedules a time with them, and Bandit, his wife, and three kids, including college-bound Carolina, arrive, and G situates them all around the altar, Carolina in the middle. They all encircle her and place their hands on her head or shoulder and G says a prayer. Before you know it they are all crying because Bandit and his wife don’t know anybody who’s gone to college. The prayer ends and they laugh at how mushy they all got. Then G turns to Carolina and asks, “What are you going to study at Humboldt?”

“Forensic psychology.”

Bandit then says, “Yeah, she wants to study the criminal mind.”

Silence.

Carolina turns to Bandit and holds up one hand, and points to her dad, her pointing finger blocked by her other hand, so he won’t notice. Everybody sees that and begins to howl and Bandit says, “Yeah, I’m gonna be her first subject.”

As they walk to the car, Bandit hangs back, and G says, “Can I tell you something, dog? I give you credit for the man you’ve chosen to become. I’m proud of you.”

“Sabes que?” he says through watering eyes, “I’m proud of myself. All my life, people called me a lowlife, a bueno para nada. I guess I showed’em.”

I guess he did.

And the soul feels its worth.

…the riches of his grace are lavished on us.

Boyle says, “And so the voices at the margins get heard and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other.”

In this world of hurt and sadness, now more than ever, let us refuse to forget that we belong to each other.