Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day 14: Our Second Sunday

This morning I preached at the English-language service at Catedral de la Epifania. (Sermon below.) To those of you who were praying for me yesterday as I prepared it, thank you so much.

Padre Moises chats with a parishioner at Santisima Trinidad
Then Charlie, Kristin and I took off for the church of Santisima Trinidad. I wish I'd had my digital recorder handy, because the music was AMAZING. Our new friend Mercedes was playing a drum, along with one person on tambourine and another on guitar. The people sang with gusto, the place was crawling with kids ... it was fantastic.

After that we hit the beach with Mercedes and her friends. I was surprised that the water was not warmer, but then, it was cloudy. And in any case, the water was much warmer than anything I'm used to back home, even in the summertime! Tomorrow all four of us immersion pilgrims will go to the beach together.

Anyway, here's that sermon. Enjoy.


The Miracle of Compassion

sermon preached at Catedral de la Epifanía, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
by Josh Hosler, Postulant for Holy Orders, Virginia Theological Seminary

I want to express my deep gratitude to Padre Servio, Karen, Charlie, Remy, Patrícia, the seminaristas, Obispo Isaac, and everyone else who has welcomed us with such warm hospitality to Catedral de la Epifanía, to Union Church of Santo Domingo, and to the CET. It is a strange thing to be away from my wife and daughter for three weeks. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been away from home forever. And then there are moments when I feel right at home, right here. That’s when I realize that “home”—hogar—is a very big word, and that it can include not only the space I share with my family, but also any place where the people of God come together to pray and to discern God’s will in our lives.

For many of you here today, the Dominican Republic is your home. It is a beautiful home. The tropical sea air, the palm trees, the beautiful waves, the lush, green countryside—God’s creativity is on full display here. But as in any place where people gather and make their homes, there are problems, too: hunger, violence, fear, pollution. These are the marks of a fallen world, and we have them in the United States, too. God has given us control over the world with His blessing, but we do not always do as well with that control as we could. There are not enough jobs, and there is not enough food. There is not enough economic security for people in their old age.

In fact, sometimes life may seem to make no sense at all. We hear in church about God’s abundance, God’s love, God’s outpouring of salvation. And then we look at the world, and all around us people are hungry, frightened, and in danger. What is going on here? Why doesn’t God stop such horrible things from happening? Why would God give us so much control over the world, knowing that we would abuse this power? I most certainly do not have all the answers. But I do know that we are God’s Church, and that it is up to us to do whatever we can. Together with other groups of Christians, even those with whom we share very little in common, the needs of the world are ours to address.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians that there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. This is true not only of individuals, but also of churches. The Episcopal Church has specific gifts to offer, and those of us who have chosen to make the Episcopal Church our home can also bring our individual gifts to the table.

In the past two weeks I have seen people use many gifts, but underlying all of them, I have seen the gift of compassion. Compassion is motivated by love and concern for people who have less than we do: less food and less security. Compassion can help us stretch beyond our boundaries and become more than we were before. Life is hard, but when people have compassion, God is surely present. God’s light shines brightly through people who are compassionate.

In the past week, what things have you seen that have motivated you to compassion?
- Some answers: a sick child, a spouse abuse situation, hungry elders, discrimination against Haitians

When people show compassion, miracles happen. Just as in Cana of Galilee, miracles happen today. The thing about miracles is that they are unexpected, and we can never really be sure about them. They might well have a scientific explanation. Why not? That does not keep them from being miracles. In today’s Gospel, the chief steward did not know that water had become wine. He assumed that someone had kept some extra wine in storage, just in case the first wine ran out. And he recognized and appreciated that this wine was the best wine of all. He didn’t need to know that the wine existed because of Jesus. The important thing was that there was wine, and the party could go on. The miracle was hidden from his eyes, but it was still a miracle.

In the same way, I believe that miracles are happening to us all the time. Not only the wine in Cana, but all wine, and all the joy and happiness for which wine is but a symbol, are sustained by Jesus. We don’t need to draw boundaries and say “this is a miracle, but this is not.” We only need to open our eyes to the light of God shining into the world.

Every morning when I wake up, I can say “thank you” to God for sustaining my life for yet another day. On Tuesday morning, when I give bread and a cup of avena to a hungry person in the courtyard, I can say “thank you” to God for allowing me to meet somebody’s immediate needs. When I come out of a class with the seminaristas, I can say “thank you” to God for giving me the opportunity to learn Spanish, and I can say “thank you” that I was able to understand more words than I could a week ago. Next week, when I return to the United States, to my school and to my family, I can say “thank you” to God for allowing me to spend three weeks among you here in the Dominican Republic, where the compassion of many people reflects the light of God in a very special way. And I can say “thank you” to God for bringing me safe again to my little home, so that I can be close to my wife and daughter and recharge my batteries for whatever adventure God sends me next.

What are the miracles in your life for which you can be thankful to God?
- Some answers: life itself, a narrow escape from a car accident, the ability to serve in the D.R.

My new friends, someday we will not hunger or thirst. The Prophet Isaiah proclaims God’s abundance, insisting that God will never stop saving us. The Psalmist sings of God’s abundance with images of food, drink, and a well of life so deep it will never go dry. Paul writes of an abundance of God’s gifts, and John’s Gospel teaches us about a miracle of abundance. It’s right here among us, but it’s up to us to reveal it.

We reveal God’s abundance when we feed each other. Every time we gather around this table with the holy food and drink in which Jesus Christ is surely present, we announce God’s abundance to the world. For God’s abundance is here—when our eyes are opened, there is no mistaking it. In our praying and in our singing and in our compassion, Jesus Christ is here among us. We have taken His body and blood into ourselves, so we become His body and blood.

We become the eyes of Christ, looking out upon a desperate world. We see the need clearly so that we can address it.

We become the feet of Christ, going out into the streets of Santo Domingo to whatever people we may find there. We don’t just come to this table for our own personal feeding.

We become the hands of Christ, reaching out to invite and to bless. God implores us to continue to invite more people to the feast and to be a blessing to them.

We become the heart of Christ, using all our compassion to pray to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit to work miracles. In God’s light, we see light, and like the moon reflects the light of the sun, we reflect God’s light into a dark world. Amen.

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