Homily preached by WWU senior Jessalyn Rogers
at EPIC’s Holy Eucharist on the Collegiate Day of Prayer
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Readings: Genesis 33:1-11; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; Luke 15:11-32
Today we’ve heard about several parts of reconciliation. There is room for reconciliation to our neighbors, our friends, people who look and act different from what we’re used to, and our God. In the Old Testament reading we’ve chosen for today, Jacob is terrified to meet his brother after so many years, so he sends gifts ahead of him, and then slaves ahead of him, and then his camps ahead of him. In a weird twist of the ancient story, he wrestles with a “man” who dislocates his hip. The next morning he finally goes to his brother, and even then he bows seven times before Esau falls on his neck and kisses him. And what was so contentious, that Jacob would fear that hundreds of people would be killed in retaliation? Years prior, Esau had come in starving from working in the fields, and Jacob had offered to buy Esau’s birthright for a bowl of red lentils. And he did. And over the years, Jacob became afraid of seeing his brother, afraid that Esau would be angry. And as we know, he wasn’t.
We catastrophize too. We look at shortcomings in ourselves and blow them totally out of proportion. The process of getting a Bachelor’s degree is full of small mistakes that we fear will bar us from employment, fulfillment, and validation. We can spend half an hour in a job interview, or a date, or even a conversation with a friend, and then spend the next three days analyzing and mincing and picking over every little point we missed or thing we should have said. But your friend isn’t obsessing over the conversation. They probably forgot, or they’re busy assessing their own performance. Like Esau, they have their own lives; you’re likely just one bright spot. Jacob assumed that his brother would hate him. It’s normal to assume the worst, of course. In the course of evolution, the people who thought, “that bear is like, 20 whole feet away, and doesn’t look as irate as it could be” likely didn’t reproduce. And so we have these mechanisms of protecting ourselves, of assuming the worst about ourselves and others, and while they may keep you alive (as a quivering, anxious version of yourself), they don’t grow the church, and they don’t grow the Christian community.
Reconciliation takes some serious vulnerability. It takes acknowledging not only mistakes you’ve made, but also your insecurities. It’s scary! And what is the Church but a place to do scary, vulnerable work? What is Christianity without scary, vulnerable work? God empowers us to reconcile ourselves to each other, on every level. Between each other, between denominations, between countries. This is holy work, it’s no wonder that it’s frightening. It’s no wonder that there is still so much left to do. And through Christ, God reconciles Himself to us. He became us, ate with us, walked with us, all to bring us closer to Himself. What a gift. He came way more than halfway to meet us. And we agreed to follow him. And then, after a lot of really, really genuinely good intentions to do what he said in the right way, we split up into all these groups and we get into these little snits- you know what I’m talking about. But we have come such a long way! Look at the history of Christianity. We used to kill each other. Tens of thousands of each other! We were so unable to just get along that we had to found colonies on other continents just to get away from the violence. We’re so close to bringing the diversity of interpretations and life stories to a more complete, colorful, and dynamic whole. God has done most of the hard work here. What can we do but take the tiny step?