“The Real Social Network” Sermon Series Ends

Date:  July 30, 2017

Title:  “LinkedIn For Good”

Preaching:  The Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard

Scripture:  Colossians 3:12-17

This is an extraordinary piece of good news we read today!  The author of Colossians tells us we are “chosen, holy and beloved”.  What an extraordinary stating point we are given, before we do anything else.  Before we’ve done a single thing, God not only accepts us but affirms us and gives us a stellar recommendation!  Contrary to our culture, which loves us only if we are smart enough/skinny enough/rich enough/young enough/athletic enough/technologically savvy enough…contrary to all of that, the Gospel tells us God loves us and WE are already enough.  Now that is something to claim for your own resume!

Today we come to the end of our sermon series entitled “The Real Social Network”, where we have explored what it means to be a Christian community.  We have used such images as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat…and today, it’s all about “LinkedIn”.  Now, in case you are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a little background.  LinkedIn began in 2003, primarily as a professional networking site for tech workers in Silicon Valley.  Today it is an employment-oriented social networking service operating through websites and mobile apps.  As of April 2017 LinkedIn boasts 500 million members in 200 countries.  It is available in 24 languages – everything from English/French/German to Arabic/Turkish/Korean/Tagalog, and a lot inbetween.  LinkedIn allows employers to post job openings and workers to post resumes.  As its name implies, it provides a sort of “link” as it tries to help make connections, and to bring together places of opportunity with people of potential.

Much like the Christian Community – what I like to call the real social network, where the opportunity to love and serve God in this world meets the potential we have as “chosen, holy, and beloved” ones.  My friends, we already have the potential to put on compassion instead of judgment.  We have within us the gifts we need to live in kindness rather than harshness, or to practice meekness instead of aggression.  We can, potentially, clothe ourselves with patience rather than irritation.  William Loader suggests that:  The exhortations of the Colossians passage are not just another set of commands to be good, but they are encouragements to let things happen, to support the process of living from love and not fear.

 We have been given the potential to meet the opportunity to love.  But it isn’t necessarily easy, is it?  You see, the Christian community is pretty much like every other human community, in that it is made up of human beings – fallible human beings that are both fearfully and wonderfully made.  It is made up of people full of possibilities and paradoxes, the highest and best and the lowest and worst our species has to offer.

Richard Rohr reminds us that:  If you live on this earth, you cannot bypass the necessary tension of holding contraries and inconsistences together. Everything created is mortal and limited and, if you look long enough, paradoxical.  Things may initially look impossible or contradictory, but in a different frame or at a different level, they are deeply true. Life is full of paradoxical people, paradoxical moments, and paradoxical possibilities.

Recently my daughter Kate met with one of her latest immigration clients – a 6 year old girl from Guatemala.  This child came into the United States with her mother.  When they presented themselves to immigration authorities, seeking asylum, they were separated – the mother into adult detention, and the six year old into a shelter.  Now Kate knew that this child couldn’t possibly give her the details she would need to file a brief with the court, the “why” of their migration story.  So she went to visit the mother, shortly before that woman was deported back to Guatemala.  She told Kate about gang violence, the murder of her husband, and the conscription of her sons.  Kate said they cried together when the woman said “I know I will be killed when I go back to Guatemala.  But I’m still glad I made this journey, for the sake of my daughter, who now has a chance to live.”

How, I asked, could Kate do this work?  How could my tender-hearted, gentle-souled daughter withstand the pain and heartache she witnesses every day?  Here’s what she told me: Mom, I not only see the brutality of the world every day.  I also get to see its beauty.  I am touched and I am healed by the things people do, and by the sacrifices they make, for the people they love.  Bearing contraries and inconsistencies together, and living without resolution, at least for awhile.

History is replete with examples of Christians “linked-in”, doing good and changing the world.   During the 1960s churches (even Methodist churches) in the south were racially segregated.  One strategy of the civil rights movement was to organize around those churches by sending integrated teams two by two (how Biblical!) to worship together.

In 1963, St. Augustine, Florida had become one of the flash points for the movement.  Episcopal leaders there called for northern Episcopal clergy to come worship in those segregated churches.  No male clergy answered the call.  Their wives, however, chose to go.  One of those wives was Mary Peabody, who was married to the pastor of a very prominent Boston church.  She was also, coincidentally, the mother of the Massachusetts governor.

Mary was paired with Esther Burgess, the wife of the first African-American Episcopal bishop.  When they arrived in Florida, they learned of the harsh conditions facing the activists.  Mary Peabody responded, “I don’t believe they will deny me the pleasure of worshipping with my friend.” Hosea Williams, driving Esther and Mary from the airport, felt compelled to give them a better reality check, saying “Mrs. Peabody, these folk will deny Jesus.”

After several attempts to integrate the segregated churches in St. Augustine, being asked to leave each time, it became clear that in order to truly make their point, they would need to allow themselves to be arrested.  Mary, aware of the ramifications for her son as well as herself, called the governor and told him of her dilemma.  He told her – “if that is what your consciences says to do, I would not dream of stopping you.”  The governor’s mother ended up spending a very illuminating week in jail, courtesy of the St. Augustine court system.

We are linked-in for good.  Richard Rohr goes on: This opening to paradox and holding the tension is a good way to describe faith.  Faith has come to mean believing things to be true or false (giving our intellectual assent to a set of doctrines).  Perhaps we would be better served to recapture faith in terms of PRACTICE…

Perhaps we would do well to define faith and to understand faith as a set of practices which help us to see options among obstacles, practices which help us to love in the face of hatred.  Faith could be more vibrant and vital if we committed ourselves to practices enabling us to find possibilities in the midst of problems, and potential alongside opportunity, practices like taking time out for silence, listening to God’s voice within the cacophony of daily life.  Practices like reading the Bible, singing our praises, and joining our hands as well as our hearts to do the work of love in the world.  Faith is a set of practices which build the beloved community and allow us to be “linked-in” for good.

And the good news is, you don’t have to practice all alone.  For we have been linked in for good through Jesus Christ.  And we can change the world as our potential meets God’s opportunity.  So be it, holy, beloved and chosen ones.  So be it!  Amen.




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