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Monday, May 5, 2014

Free Our Bonds, Open Our Eyes

Easter 3, Yr A
Ps. 116, Luke 24:13-35
5/4/14
The Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook

"You have freed me from my bonds..." Psalm 116
       I thought a lot about freeing bonds this week, because I borrowed Reynolds Cafferata's power steamer and started stripping the wallpaper in one bedroom. Let me tell you, nothing makes you think about bonds that need loosing like trying to get securely glued wallpaper off drywall! It's a painstaking process: steam too little and you only get tiny pieces and half layers; too much and you have a drippy mess that may take off the top of the drywall...and what's too little or too much in one area may not be in another. Once over doesn't do it; a lot of spots require repeat applications to get the last little bits. The spiky roll around thing and a scraper are essential tools, but use them with care because they too have the potential to create holes and gouges that will later have to be patched up. The steamer itself is a force to be reckoned with; at least 10 parts, each for a particular type of job, which must be securely connected lest scalding water shoot out everywhere. When motivation strikes, you first have to wait for the water to heat up, and after using it for 45 minutes, just when you're getting the hang of it, it runs out of water and you have to stop regardless of whether you want to or not.
       On the other hand...once the process is completed, the results are a beauty to behold. Broad expanses of smooth, clean wall awaiting a new coat of paint, a new beginning for the room. In this case, the shift from childhood to maturity.
       Not so different, really, from God freeing us from our bonds, helping us separate from that which entangles us or keeps us in pain, on our way to a more mature faith. It's messy, we can get burned, once through often doesn't do the job, the tools that help can also cause harm, and the timing isn't always convenient. Change is hard! But as we progress, what wonderful possibilities are revealed.
       Because using a steamer is pretty mindless work, I had quite a bit of time to think about just what we might need God to free us from. If Facebook memes are an indicator, among the top ones would be lack of respect for oneself, holding on to the past, willing acceptance of mediocrity, and a negative attitude. Looking at Amazon's top sellers, we can add to the list bad habits of many sorts, addictions, toxic relationships, and letting our history determine our future.
       Those actually make a pretty good starting point, and I'll add a few more. One is fear. Sometimes I think I hold onto fear because at least it's familiar and gives me something to grasp. Ironically, it somehow feels safe, even if not pleasant. Remember in last week's gospel, the disciples were behind locked doors in the upper room out of fear; in the shock and confusion of Jesus's crucifixion, they hunkered down. Fear gives the appearance of being about the future, but it's very short-sighted; in its grip, we can't see new possibilities or hope.
       Another is idolatry, a word you don't hear often these days but which dominates our world. Idolatry is clinging to anything other than God to give us security and a sense of identity. Our false gods may be money or appearances, power or possessions; they can be believing that if we get "it" just right--whatever "it" may be--all will be well. Idolatry may be one of the dynamics in unhealthy relationships, or even in an excessive pride in rugged individualism where we act as if we are entirely on our own, rather than being interdependent with the community. If we orient ourselves to false gods, we don't have the breadth of vision to see the living and true God.
       All those are just a handful of what entangles human beings; no doubt you can think up your own personal list. Really, they all fall under the categories of sin and death, those things which whether by our own choices or as part of being humans in a broken world separate us from God.
       Today's gospel reading, about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is a tale of bonds being loosed. They were trying to make sense of all that had happened with respect to Jesus and of the reports of his being alive again. When he joined them in their walk, they couldn't see him. Nothing suggests that they were anything other than two people of faith and good will, but their frame of reference was restricted by the old ways, and nothing in that past could prepare them--or anyone!--for this new Jesus. In interpreting scripture for them, Jesus began to give them a different understanding, to release them from the limitations of what they knew before, to free them from those bonds…and their hearts burned within them with the power of this process. Then, in a familiar action imbued with new meaning, in taking bread, blessing and breaking it, and giving it to them, he opened their eyes to new life. In love and relationship and nurture, he revealed himself as the preeminent sign of God's perfectly restored kingdom.
       Last week, Carri challenged us to live as Easter people, to take our Easter discipline of living as disciples of the resurrected Lord as seriously as we took our Lenten discipline. I want to suggest a practical way to do that, to allow the possibility that God will free some of the bonds that hold us and open our eyes to new ways of being. Starting today, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho are beginning a 30 day forgiveness challenge. This is a daily email, with exercises to think and write about in private at your own pace, along with stories and interviews to inspire us. Their belief is that in taking steps to forgive ourselves and people who have hurt us, and in being freed from the bonds of anger and hurt and the desire for revenge, our eyes will be opened to see new connections and to participate in God's healing for the world. It could be messy, we could get burned, it might not seem like the timing is right, and 30 days once through won't change everything, but it's a start. If this sounds like something you want to try, go to the website at forgivenesschallenge.com to check it out and sign up. This is designed for people to do online, but if you'd like to participate and don't have a computer connection, let me know and we’ll figure something out.
       So, whether by means of this challenge or any other way we allow God to be at work in us, what might we see when we’re freed from our bonds and our are eyes opened by God who calls us into God’s renewed and restored kingdom?

*Open our eyes, Lord, to the healing power of forgiveness.
*Open our eyes, Lord, to deep beauty, especially in the faces of those who have been deemed unattractive--of body, mind, or heart--by a judging world.
*Open our eyes, Lord, to talents and gifts, for sharing the Good News in collaborative, creative, and surprising ways.
*Open our eyes, Lord, to hope for the future in lives that have been circumscribed by despair or defeat.
*Open our eyes, Lord, to freedom, to be fully the unique child God has created each of us to be.
*Open our eyes, Lord, to your blessing and breaking, your love bursting forth in our lives.

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