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Love Lived Out: Doing the Dishes

June 30, 2024 - The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 




My friends, I speak to you today in the name of one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Please be seated.

 

Good morning, Epiphany. I see many of you are back for round three with me as your preacher this morning... again, thank you for the chance to be with you as your new rector and to dive into the scripture each and every week. For those who were not here two weeks ago, I mentioned then that we might be diving into our 2 Corinthians readings a few times this summer as our lectionary goes through Paul’s letter, and I plan to do that again today, as it’s one of the more popular and I think applicable passages for our church.

 

But first, I want to get into the Episcopal weeds a bit and talk about an election at our General Convention that took place in Kentucky this last week. Many of you have mentioned to me your concern about what may happen in our national election in November, and judging by the reactions to last week’s debate, I am guessing everyone who was already concerned... is still concerned about what may happen this fall. Concern abounds, and I think that is mostly justified.

 

However, The Episcopal Church calmly and coolly held the election for our top seat this last Wednesday from a wide range of exciting candidates, and we elected a new Presiding Bishop, on the first ballot and without much drama. It’s kind of a big deal. Our Presiding Bishop serves a nine-year term, and the current holder of that seat is the Most Reverend Bishop Michael Curry, perhaps most famous for preaching at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding in 2018. We even have a painting of him in the parish hall.


Bishop Curry is a dynamic preacher and leader, much beloved across the nation and the world; he was elected from our previous home state of North Carolina where many of our friends there know him quite well. On top of being a gem of a human being, Bishop Curry has a fiery preaching style often reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr., and he really knows how to connect and drive a message home. The message that Bishop Curry chose to characterize his term in office in our denomination’s top seat was this: “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” That may be the best bumper sticker message I’ve ever heard, to be honest; those who preach about God “but have not love” can take a hike.

 

Bishop Curry’s message of love deeply resonated with me, and I think many others, in part because it is so accessible, so simple: Love others, no exceptions... love God, love your neighbor, and as he often added, love yourself. Love is the heart of the Christian message, of John 3:16 even, and though many Christians fight tooth and nail over what Christian love looks like (which is sadly ironic), I personally think it’s pretty clear... I might not be able to fully define love, but I know it when I see it. I have felt that love in the air in this church, particularly at brunch, but also in the way you greet each other and support each other throughout the week.


Love is the answer. All you need is love. As Peter writes in his first letter to Christians in the provinces of Rome, “Above all else, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love, love, love.

 

As I said, however, we elected a new Presiding Bishop on Wednesday, and he is coming in with a new message, one I think he would be okay with me defining as “Love 2.0” or as “Love 201” to Bishop Curry’s introductory “Love 101.” The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe led the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York over the last few years... he became a priest at the age of 24, became the church’s youngest bishop at 32, and he is now the youngest person ever elected to the office of Presiding Bishop at just 49 years old. (For a church with over 235 years of history, I think that’s an impressive achievement.) In his introduction to the Convention, as I mentioned in this week’s eNotes newsletter, he quoted a saying made popular by one of my favorite modern saints, Dorothy Day. She famously said, “Everyone wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.”


“Everyone wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.” 

 

Bishop Rowe, who also has a PhD in organizational learning and leadership, continued his introduction with a pledge to improve our denominational structures saying, and I quote, “Our vision of God’s reign and our commitment to Beloved Community are strong, but in the last 50 years, our institutional structures haven’t been working well enough to get us there,” end quote.


Essentially, we may be committed to love, but we’re not living it out as well as we could.

 

I would argue today that Bishop Rowe was elected in part because he recognized that many of us Episcopalians have “the love stuff” down, we believe in it deeply, but it’s the next steps, the dirty work that comes out of our posture of love, that we still need some help figuring out, that we still need help putting into practice.

 

Some of you might be wondering when I’m going to get into the scripture readings... I only have ten to twelve minutes for an Episcopal sermon, right? Well, I think that this week’s message from Bishop Rowe lines up pretty well with what Paul is writing to the Corinthians here in chapter 8.

 

As you might remember from the sermon two weeks ago, this letter from Paul comes after a painful visit he made to the church in Corinth, to a church that had its act together in many ways but bristled when he tried to lead it in directions they did not want to go. There were clashes of relationships, likely a few strong personalities in Corinth not excited about being pushed further in their faith than they were comfortable with. So Paul, in chapter five, explained that he was being “urged forward by the love of Christ,” ... we talked about this on the 16th. That love was leading Paul to do crazy things, putting others above himself, risking his life, preaching without fear... and the Corinthians, as followers of Christ, should have that same mindset too.


Here then, in chapter 8, we find Paul appealing again to this love of Christ, this time urging them to be wildly generous, to trust and act on their belief. Just like other churches he mentions in previous chapters, Paul wants the Corinthians to be generous with their abundance as a wealthy, coastal port town... and to give financially toward his ministry and toward an offering he was collecting for poorer churches in less affluent and less established areas. Paul uses a familiar tactic here to ask them for something: he praises them in that first verse in your bulletin. You excel in everything! In faith, in speech, knowledge, in utmost eagerness, in our love... you are awesome! So good! Abbey sometimes uses this tactic with me at our house, but usually as a joke: “Doesn’t dad make the best pancakes, girls? He should make the pancakes every time.” Yes, that’s a real example from this spring that I still laugh about.

 

But Paul is not only flattering the Corinthians here to get something from them... he is genuinely reminding them of their strengths. The church in Corinth excels in so many things... and so they should also be excelling in their generosity, a tangible way to live out their faith. And whose example should they look to when it comes to generosity? Not only to those other generous churches, but also to Christ! “That though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” Paul here is connecting the crucifixion to generosity: Christ laid down his whole life in love for the other... how could asking for an increased pledge to the ministry, a larger check in the offering plate, be too much? Surely, they could give out of their abundance, surely they could connect their love to a simple action like this.

 

I might regret missing this opportunity when we get to the offertory or to pledge-drive season toward the end of the year, so do remember today’s offering goes toward the discretionary fund... (ha!). But I don’t think this text is only about being financially generous, at least for us today. I think Bishop Curry and Bishop Rowe both would agree that the Episcopal Church, and perhaps Epiphany specifically, we excel in many things... perhaps more than anything else, we excel in our posture of radical welcome and inclusive love.


We really do believe that God is love and love is the way. No exceptions.

 

But we also need help moving on to what we actually do with that love and welcome. To paraphrase that quote from Bishop Rowe and Dorothy Day, “Everyone wants and is ready for a revolution of love here... but doing the dishes can be awfully hard.” Doing the dishes means putting forth effort when we have so little left to give, it means loving when we are just so angry at being hurt, it means choosing love when defensiveness and even attack are so much easier options. For Jesus, I believe, “doing the dishes” meant laying down his life. This was love for others lived out to the point of his own death on a cross.

 

So if we want this revolution of love, what does doing the dishes mean for you this morning? I don’t think it means death on a cross for any of us, but it might literally mean doing the dishes at our weekly brunch, serving here in the parish hall out of the abundant love you have for this place and for your neighbor, even when you would rather relax and just be served. I urge you to help the brunch crew there, if you’re able and if you’re not helping already.

 

Doing the dishes might also mean taking that step of kindness toward a neighbor who doesn’t seem to deserve it. It might mean joining a ministry here or helping to organize a new ministry for one of the many needs you’ve noticed in the South Haven area. It could mean marching in a parade for those who need allies, or fighting for the rights of those whose rights are under threat. It could look like a wide range of actions. Think about it for yourself this week.


But for each and every one of us, doing the dishes means living out our love so that it is not just something that we believe in our heads... but something that we actually do... embodied... with our whole selves. 

 

I talked to someone this week who admitted that they struggle to call themselves a Christian publicly because of all the negative associations that come with that word in 2024. I fully understand that, I really do. But I am also eager and excited for The Church of the Epiphany to work on creating a world here in South Haven where "they will know we are Christians by our love" lived out, by the way we each choose to do the dishes. Amen.

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