Psalm 13: 1,2,5; Matthew 10: 40, 42
Meeting God in God’s Children
The author of the Psalm is distraught. In the face of misfortune and enemies the writer of the Psalms wants to know: “God, how long will your forget me?” “Forever?” the poet wants to know. But toward the end of the Psalm the tone becomes hopeful. Trust is back.
Friends, we don’t like admitting it, but we have all struggled with the idea of a God Who seems hidden, especially in the midst of sorrow like the sorrow the author of the Psalm so keenly struggles with. This is one of the lectionary readings. The other passage we have in our program today is the reminder from Jesus that whenever we welcome someone we welcome Jesus Himself. Also the small act of kindness we show another human being will be noted. There is even a kind of reward for it. As so often with lectionary readings it is a hard to see a connection at first and maybe none is intended. However, perhaps there is a bridge between the two.
On Masterpiece mystery there is a program called “Grantchester.” It has a bit of a silly premise: a strapping young Anglican priest who is a WWII soldier with a lot of trauma and a lot of guilt works in a sleepy parish near Cambridge in the fifties with a judgmental housekeeper and an awkward apprentice. He is in love with a young woman who was bullied into an unwanted marriage and now has a baby and has left her husband. The priest’s best friend is a police inspector who solves murders of which there is at least one an episode, unrealistic in civilized rural England. The priest prefers dealing with the sordidness of crime and is good at solving them because of his empathy, but he avoids his own demons. However, at the end of each episode he stands in front of his congregation in full vestments and gives a general moral lesson. Somehow his connection with people and their problems has brought him closer to understanding God. Friends, this may be what we can learn from putting these two Bible passages side by side: that through our connection with troubled or sorrowing human beings we can come face to face with God.
We have heard a song which I have presented to you as a spiritual song (Vonda Shepard –Song from Ally McBeal:”I know him by heart”). A young woman dreams of a love she has never meant but nevertheless feels close to. It is a bit how we feel about God. We can’t see God, but we know God is there. “Even though we’ve never been together, we’ve never been apart.” It expresses the sentiment of knowing and not knowing God at the same time, being with God and not being with God at the same time. It strikes a chord, literally.
Friends, the Psalmist wails about God being hidden before catching himself (or herself). Jesus tells us that the stranger is Him. The thirsty one is Him. The Hungry One is Him. The sorrowing one is Him. There is the bridge between the two: we do not see God because we don’t see our neighbor. This is an important realization as the health care of the most vulnerable Americans hangs in the balance this weekend.
Last Wednesday I attended a meeting at the offices of our neighbor the Guadalupe church. Besides me there was the police captain, the Priest, his assistant and a head of code enforcement. It was about the vendors who were removed in April. I told them I thought it was very harsh and that we have no objections to the vendors, but that we also do not want to be a cause for people getting sick from the food. It was an interesting meeting: everyone was trying to do the right thing from the perspective of the organization they were representing. Of course it would have been right if the vendors were represented. But there was a sense that the humanity of these vendors mattered as did the humanity of other people who pay steep fees.
Friends, the Christian faith is a social faith. It is not a lonely faith. It is best not adhered to in private. Sure we can pray to God in private. Jesus even tells us too, but the heart of our faith beats in the interaction between people. Not in crowds, but in “communion.” That which we just celebrated is not called that for nothing. The same is true of the other Sacrament: Baptism. Also, the Bible is always reminding us of our relationship to others.
Friends, our message today is simple. We know God is there, we are never apart, but it can feel God is hiding sometimes, as if we are forgotten. Friends, if you want to see God, look at your neighbor in a world of pain. God is there.