Rev. Susan Allison-Hatch
St. Michael’s Church
In the name of God: Earth Maker, Pain Bearer, Life Giver, Mother and Father of us all.
We're beginning somewhere else today--we're beginning where the gospel of John starts. But listen carefully. You might just hear it slant.
In the beginning. In the beginning was Love, and Love was with God, and Love was God. Love was in the beginning with God. All things--all things--came into being with Love, and without Love not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Love was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
In the beginning was Love. And with the Love light.
Oh, there was darkness. Plenty of darkness. No denying that. Brother raising hand against brother. Foremother enslaving and then pimping foremother. Fratricide. Genocide. Enslavement. Flagrant abuse of power. People turning against their God. People turning against one another.
But still there was Love. Still there was light. Still there was God.
Remember--God so loved the world she made, the world she birthed, the world she gave to the future, she gave her Begotten One--Love made flesh--so that everyone who believes------
Believes? What has belief to do with all of this? That word makes no sense to me. At least not in this context. This story is about Love--God's love. Love enfleshed in human form. Love made visible. Love made tangible. A noun become a verb and a verb become enfleshed.
What if we heard that verse--John 3: 16--a verse folks know so well--with just a little different slant? What if we heard it like this:
God so loved the world she birthed, she gave her Begotten One, her
Beloved--Love made flesh--so that all who loved with God and with Love
made flesh would live as one with God; as one with Love; as one with one another.
What a wake-up call to a world of division, a world of violence, a world of death, a world enshrouded in darkness. A Hail Mary pass from God. Not God's first Hail Mary pass. Not by any means. God has tossed more Hail Mary passes that even Aaron Rodgers. But this one is different. This one really is a game changer. A living, breathing, dying lesson in loving as God loves. An invitation to come and see Love at work in the world. An invitation to come and be a part of that work, a part of that love.
Not long ago, three black women--all Episcopal priests--launched a Hail Mary pass to the Episcopal Church when they wrote and spoke "Speaking of Freedom: A Letter to the Church on Breaking Free of White Supremacy." In a letter rich with uncomfortable truths and hard challenges, Kelly Brown Douglas, Stephanie Spellers, and Winnie Varghese offer a vision of church-- a vision of community that calls on those who would join in the work of love "to be...a beloved community marked by compassion, love and justice--one in which followers of Jesus proclaim good news to the poor, free the prisoners, help the blind regain their sight, and set the oppressed free." That's living as one with God, one with Love, one with one another.
The thing about Hail Mary passes is that they require at least three elements--excluding of course the ball: an urgency to the moment, someone to throw the pass, someone to catch it and then run it into the endzone for a game changing touchdown.
There is an urgency to the moment in which we now live: 400 plus years of enslavement and its aftermath; 500 plus years of genocide and oppression; a toxic white supremacy that ensnares us all; and the emerging consequences of a reckless disregard for all the species who share life on this planet. We live in an era crying out for Hail Mary passes from God and from what Howard Thurman calls the Angelos of God--the human hands that do God's work of Love in this world.
Sometimes our work is to toss a pass ourselves; sometimes our work is catch that pass, cradle the ball in our arms, and run like the dickens to the end zone. Always our work is to keep our eyes open to the conditions on the field and to the passes that might come our way and the passes we might throw ourselves.
In her most recent book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of one such pass. The story comes at the end of the book. In the very last chapter. A chapter entitled "The Heart is the Last Frontier." Wilkerson closes her book with a story about an incident that happened to her just weeks after her mother died, a few months after Trump was elected, and a little over a year after her husband died. You can imagine how fragile she was.
Then her basement flooded. So she did what any of us would do if we lived in a land with basements that flooded--she called a plumber. And therein lies the rub. For the plumber that came to Wilkerson's door came wearing a Maga hat. After establishing that Wilkerson was indeed the owner of the house (an insult black and brown women frequently experience), that plumber, sporting his MAGA hat grunted, "Where's the basement?" Things went down hill from there until Wilkerson, nodding at her mother's wheelchair said, "My mother just died last week." Then, in a last ditch effort to change things up, Wilkerson tossed that MAGA hatted plumber a Hail Mary pass. "Is your mother still alive?" To which the plumber replied in a very different voice, "No. She died when I was young." It was their shared experience of loss that finally bridged the gap between them and sent that plumber scurrying to find the source of the leak. What changed things up? Wilkerson's Hail Mary pass to that plumber's most human heart. And that plumber's outstretched hands.
In the beginning. In the beginning was Love, and Love was with God, and Love was God. Love was in the beginning with God. All things--all things--came into being with Love, and without Love not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Love is life, and the life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
In the beginning is Love.