The Rev. Peter M. Carey
11 November 2012 Sermon
St. Paul’s Memorial Church
As real estate agents say, the most important three variables for a property are “location, location, location.” Where we put ourselves says a lot about us. Are we “homebodies” or “travellers”? Are we “outdoors-people” or “workaholics”? Location is important. Presence is important. Groucho Marx said, “90% of success is showing up,” and a truer statement was probably never said.
In this season of harvest, when we each have considered what we are doing with our time, and our talent, and our treasure, we would do well do dig a little deeper into not only the “when” and the “what” but also the “where” we spend our time, where we offer our talent, and where we put our treasure. As Jesus said, “where you put your treasure, there your heart will be.” Also, where we put our selves is where our heart will be.
When we turn to the Bible, we see many references to place, and if our study of and knowledge of scripture ended before we entered middle school, we may not have grasped the geographical setting of the stories of Holy Scripture. A fascinating way to “encounter the Bible for the first time” is to get a really accessible Bible Atlas, and load up Google Earth and have some fun actually seeing where all these amazing things happened.
Even if we’re not Biblical experts in location, we may remember one of the most common ways that God spoke to His people: “Go!” Just remember, he said “go” to Adam and Eve when they needed to leave Eden after the temptation. God said “go to the Promised Land” to Abram (who would be come Abraham). God told Moses to “Go” away from Egypt, and Moses told Pharaoh to “let my people go.” Jesus told his disciples to “Go ye into the world, making disciples of all people!” It seems that “going” is a key part of our faith. Let me be clear, this kind of going is not “running away,” but really “running to,” and “running to” something that is unclear, perhaps scary, new, different, other. This going will require faith, and courage, and also community and humility.
Where do we put ourselves? Are we staying in comfort and complacency? Are we heeding God’s call to go, to chart out a new course, to put ourselves at risk of failure, to put ourselves at risk of transformation?
In his book, “Where God Happens,” our current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams writes about the ways that the Holy Spirit gets stirred up when we put ourselves outside of our normal and comfortable circles. In this remarkable book, which I highly recommend as an Advent read, Dr. Williams discusses the ways that putting ourselves in the presence of “the other” puts us into a place “where God happens” in a very real and present way. Of course, God is always present, and is always “happening,” but when we obediently follow God’s command to “Go” we may find that God’s presence is more tangible, more real. And so, who is “the other” for you? Unfortunately for all of us, it is most likely that person who really bugs us. The “other” may be that person who we would rather remove from our daily interactions. The “other” may indeed be that person who, paradoxically, drives us crazy, and also, if we are courageous and loving, may bring us peace.