Matthew 10:34-42

Feast of St. Alban – 6/26/16 (tr. 6/22)

St. Alban’s Annandale

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales

 

Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth — not peace, but a sword.

This past week was anything but peaceful for me. Every day, Monday through Friday, I drove 80 miles on the Beltway — an ordeal in itself, but that was just the beginning. At the other end, in Crofton, MD, I spent my days with two grandsons, ages 10 and 5. Normally, that would be a week of Grandma fun. But I was the backup child care plan for boys who have driven away every other provider by their negative and rebellious behavior. They can also be sweet, funny and affectionate, but they’ve just come through an unusually hostile divorce and are reacting the only way they know how at the moment. To care for them, I’m giving up a lot of my summer vacation and the other plans I’ve made, and

there’s only one force in the world that

provides the power to do such a thing. . . .

 

I tell you this story not because I need sympathy ( OK, I do, a little) but because today’s gospel asks us to rethink our devotion to our families.

For even though Jesus says that our “foes will be members of [our] own household,” I don’t think he wants me to abandon my grandchildren. I don’t think Jesus means me to ditch my daughter when she most needs to keep her job and support these boys and their baby sister.

But he does mean there’s a choice to be made. Today’s gospel is part of a long speech Jesus makes to his chosen disciples as he sends them out to do the mission work of the kingdom. He’s warning them of the difficulties they’ll face, the divisions they’ll endure, the betrayals they’ll suffer — even the lives they stand to lose. He’s also holding before their eyes the promise: that those who lose their life for my sake will find it — that death is not the end, that LOVE is stronger than death.

 Alban, whose feast we celebrate today, must have heard that message. You probably know his story better than I do, but it’s one that bears repeating ¾ especially in a world that is increasingly hostile to the Christian message.

Alban was not a Christian, but a pagan soldier, when his story — at least the part we know — begins in southern England. We don’t know anything about his father and mother, brothers or sisters, much less his grandma. But as we’ll see in the story, we do know something about who he considered his family to be.

Only a few hundred years into the Christian era, Alban met a fugitive priest, fleeing from persecutors. Who knows why he welcomed this man into his home, but he did…and found his heart moved by the priest’s constant prayer, his fasting, his faith. Within days, Alban became a Christian himself. So when the emperor’s troops came to investigate rumors that Alban was shielding a fugitive, he was prepared. Cloaking himself in the priest’s clothing, Alban allowed himself to be arrested instead. Taken before the judge, Alban was sentenced to endure all the punishments that were to be inflicted on his guest. Asked who his family was, Alban replied,

“My parents called me Alban,

and I worship and adore

the true and living God,

who created all things.”

In other words, he was saying, “my family is those who also worship God; my family is all who were created BY the true and living God.”

For one of those family members, Alban was willing to give his own life. Taking the man’s punishment on himself, Alban was beheaded, becoming the first British martyr and first British saint. He gave his own life in devotion to

a family that was more than blood relatives,

a family worth shedding his own blood for..

 

There’s only one force in the world that

provides the power to do such a thing.

That force, as you in St. Alban’s family know well,

Is LOVE.

It’s love that empowers people in a culture in love with violence

To put their fellow humans above their own comfort,

their own peace, even above life itself ¾

For love is stronger than death.

 

It was LOVE that drove a man a month ago to kiss his wife goodbye in the morning, to call her on the way to lunch with a co-worker, and then, before he could enter the restaurant, to step between another woman and the gunman confronting her in the parking lot.

 

Without hesitation, Mike Winffel took the bullet meant for a stranger. With an extension of the same kind of LOVE that drew him to a thousand small kindnesses for his wife, children, and neighbors, Mike Winffel lived the words of today’s gospel . . .

Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 But why did he have to be such a hero,

Mike’s shocked and grieving wife asked her pastor

in the terrible hours after his death?

Gently, the pastor corrected her.

“Heroes are for the media,” he said.

“Mike was a martyr.”[1]

There’s only one force in the world that

Provides the power to do such a thing . . .

The power of LOVE also drove a bouncer to risk death in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub to open a back door and allow 70 people — 70 brothers and sisters — to escape the horror . . .[2]

The power of LOVE led teachers to shield children — as if they were their children — with their own bodies from the terror at Sandy Hook three years ago.[3]

The power of LOVE may call any one of us,

at any time in a culture in love with violence,

To testify with our bodies,

To become what the word martyr means,

A witness to the LOVE of Christ.

But meanwhile, we have a parish picnic to put on . . .

A celebration of the thousand small kindnesses

of this community

formed of faith,

bound not by blood alone             but by Christ’s body and blood.

 

Those thousand small kindnesses form us,

creating in us a habit that puts others first

So that if we ever are called upon for the ultimate sacrifice,

We will be ready to follow the example of our patron,

And of our Lord.

We will be ready to answer Christ’s call,

And receive the reward he promises,

                                    Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 

We are prepared by the only force on earth

That can provide the power to do such a thing . . .

The power of LOVE.

 

Amen.

 

 

[1] “Theirs was a 25-year romance,” Washington Post, 6/26/16

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36526028

[3] https://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/the-heroes-of-sandy-hook?utm_term=.acw7xPgjX#.ymg4BG29P

About threegreatdays

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales is a Godly Play Trainer in the U.S.; an Episcopal Priest; Chaplain at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia; a Godly Play Practitioner since 1996; and a mother and grandmother. Every day I get to be with 400 children at school and on weekends when I'm lucky, with my four terrific grandsons and three lively granddaughters. As a Godly Play practitioner, I want to spread the word about this life-giving, Montessori-based way of nurturing children in the Christian story and life. Godly Play, the creation of the Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman and his wife Thea, is used in many denominations and in many countries, and has been translated into at least seven languages. This blog is not an official publication of the Godly Play Foundation (see www.godlyplayfoundation.org) but seeks to be a clearinghouse for ideas and experiences of teachers, trainers, and parents. Join the conversation!

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