I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of NPR. They’re nice things to have on when I’m driving, or in the background when I’m writing, or to pay attention to when I’m doing yard work.
And I listen to the news sometimes. Other times, it’s stuff that’s funny and relaxing: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me or Ask Me Another or The History of Fun.
But, the last couple of weeks, everything has been less funny and less relaxing. The podcasts and NPR, the evening news, the conversations, the social media feeds… everything has been about a Supreme Court nominee and a woman—multiple women, really—who have accused him of sexual misbehavior and sexual assault.
And it isn’t the beginning of that conversation. The story of this nomination is part of a bigger story that’s been ebbing and flowing through our national discourse. The stories of #metoo are stories that we’ve needed to tell and that we’ve needed to hear. And we’ve been hearing them a lot over the last couple of weeks.
And, I’ll tell you, I don’t want to start a sermon with a Supreme Court nomination. I’d much rather start with a story about Hildegard. But when you have the bible open in your web browser and Pod Save America playing in iTunes… well, sometimes you hear God calling you.
And I know that it’s on the minds of people sitting in this sanctuary. You have talked about it in the prayers of the people. We have prayed for Judge Kavanaugh and we have prayed for Dr. Ford. And we have prayed for the people who have listened to their testimony, or who have listened to the news, and who have heard the echoes of their own stories.
So we start here, with these words from the Epistle to the Hebrews: you are crowned with glory and honor. And that’s another way of saying, at least a little bit, you are loved and you are worthy of love.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in the United States, one in three women, and one in six men, will be the victim of sexual violence in their lifetime. It is worse for people who are transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming. Look at the people around you. Do the math.
Over the last couple of weeks, countless men and women—and more women than men—have heard their own stories echoed in the news. Some have had to relive those stories. Some have been called to tell their stories. Some have longed to hear the words of the church: you are crowned with glory and honor, you are loved and you are worthy of love.
And, as the church, we have a responsibility to show those survivors of sexual violence that they—that you—are crowed with glory and honor; that they—that you—are loved and worthy of love.
But it doesn’t end there.
Statistics on perpetrators are hard to find. But I know that there are some men—and some women—who have heard the stories in the news or read the stories on their social media, and who have started reviewing their own lives. Some people are obvious perpetrators. More people are asking if they crossed a line, if a moment was really consensual, if they hurt people they cared about, if they failed to care when they should have.
Some of us have had things happen to us that have broken our hearts. Some of us have done things that have broken our souls.
And here we are, on World Communion Sunday.
Today, churches around the world are celebrating communion together: churches who celebrate communion once a day, or once a week, or once a month, or once a quarter, or every-so-often.
And I know that I like to say that this is the biggest table. And what I mean is that this table in this sanctuary is one corner of a great table that stretches through time and space, a great table that we share with Christians around the world and through the ages.
We come to this table and join the earliest Christians in the upper room. We come to this table and join people who will be baptized generations from now.
We come to this table and eat the feast that Christ prepares for us again and again. And we do that together.
And that is terrifying.
We come to this table to eat with psychopaths and thieves and murderers. I am eating at this table with the kids who made fun of me in school, and the boss who made me cry at work, and the teacher who punished me for something I did not do…
…and people who hurt me in ways that are so much worse. People who have hurt me in ways that have broken my heart. And if they are not at the table themselves, then someone like them is.
And we come to this table to eat with the victims of our sins. I am eating at this table with the panhandler who I told I didn’t have any change, and the underpaid textile worker who made my shirt, and the child who mined the cobalt for the battery in my phone…
…and people who I have hurt in ways that are so much worse. People who I have hurt in ways that have broken my soul. And if they are not at the table themselves, then they are present in Christ.
This is a hard table. I am here with my friends… and my enemies… and my victims.
And I will tell you: there are times when my broken heart makes me wonder if I am worthy of eating at this table, let alone serving at it. Because I know that when I look across this table—this table that stretches through time and space—I see the faces of people who hurt me and who I cannot forgive.
And there are times when my broken soul makes me wonder if I am worthy of eating at this table, let alone serving at it. Because I know that when I look across this table—this table that stretches through time and space—I see the faces of people who I have hurt and who I do not believe can or should forgive me.
In our reading from Hebrews today, the author of that epistle tells us the story of our faith. God used to speak to us through prophets. And now God has spoken to us through a Son, the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. Who became like us. Who gave up his privilege to be one of us. Who suffered and died like us.
And who was raised. Who is crowned with glory and honor. Who is the pioneer of our salvation. Who calls us brother and sister and friend and neighbor. Who invites us into the Kingdom of God.
And when I say us… I mean all of us. Even you. Even me.
Our faith is not an easy faith. It is a faith begun in the crisis of suffering and death. It is a faith brought to life with the resurrection of our Lord. It is a faith forged in the crucible of persecution.
It is a faith where we see, with terrible clarity, that we are both slaves to sin and redeemed by Christ. And it is a faith where we see, with terrible clarity, that the same is true of our friends… and our enemies… and our victims.
It is a faith where we have to look Christine Blasey Ford in her eyes, and remind her that she is crowned with glory and honor, that she is loved and worthy of love. And where we say to her, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.
It is a faith where we have to look Brett Kavanaugh in his eyes, and remind him that he is crowned with glory and honor, that he is loved and worthy of love. And where we say to him, this is the new covenant in Christ’s blood, poured out for you.
Our faith is not an easy faith. It is a faith where we know that our hearts have been broken by the things that have happened to us, and where we know that our souls have been broken by the things that we have done.
And once a month, we do something that is so hard: we come together at a table with the people who have hurt us (even if they aren’t in this time and this place) and the people who we have hurt (even if they aren’t in this time and this place). And we see each other. And we know that all of us rely on the same God, the same Christ, the same Spirit.
There is a rule that I follow in preaching: I will preach from my scars, not my wounds. And that means that when I preach from the places where I am hurt, I preach about the hurt that I have processed, and dealt with, and healed from. I preach from my hurt after it has healed, not while it is still red and raw.
And I can tell you honestly, in these last couple of weeks, some of the scars have been torn off and some of my wounds have been reopened. I have been looking through my life. I have been reviewing my story.
I have heard echoes of my story in the words of Dr. Ford. And I have felt my heart break.
I have heard echoes of my story in the words of Judge Kavanaugh. And I have felt my soul break.
And for you who are in this sanctuary, or who are reading a manuscript of this sermon, or who are listening to the recording: that is where I am leaving it.
I will not put my wounds on display. But rest assured that things that have happened to me that cause me pain. And there are things I have done that I am ashamed of.
And I know that some of you—maybe even a lot of you; maybe even most of you; maybe even all of you—are in the same position. We are broken in so many ways. We bear our wounds in so many ways.
But the reason I am telling you that, is that sometimes, those of us who preach, preach the sermon that we need to hear. And I know what I have needed to hear for the last week or two, and I know that there are other people who need to hear the same thing:
No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, no matter what has been done to you, and no matter what you have done… you are welcome here. You are welcome in this church. You are welcome at this table
Whether you are a victim, or a perpetrator, or both, or neither, or somewhere in-between, you are crowned with glory and honor, you are loved and you are worthy of love. And because of that, you can live a life that is not defined by what has happened to you or what you have done to others. Because of that, you and I and all of us can live lives that are defined by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the love of God, and by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
And that begins, in some small way, with coming together at this little corner of a big table, with people who we cannot yet forgive and with people who cannot yet forgive us.
It begins, in some small way, with coming together at this little corner of a big table and eating together in our mutual brokenness.
It begins, in some small way, with coming together at this little corner of a big table, with all of the other people who depend, in faith, on the promise and hope of Jesus Christ. Which is to say, everyone.
And it begins with the knowledge—even when we can’t quite believe it—that we are welcome at this table and we are worthy of this table.