1. If there has been one issue that has galvanized Americans over the past several years
2. it has been the claims that America is becoming a godless country.
a. From the banning of prayer from public school graduations,
b. To the “War on Christmas”
c. From the battles over reproductive rights
d. To the caustic criticisms of the piety of presidents on both sides of the aisle
e. Many see an organized effort to remove Christianity from our national life.
3. Many others claim that these accusations
a. are merely a smokescreen to divert attention from other more serious problems;
4. And I must admit, I have been wondering if that is not true.
5. Because all we have to do is look at the last election and we can see
a. How religion continues to be a decisive - and divisive - factor in modern American life.
6. For many Americans are on a search for God,
a. we yearn to experience God,
b. And when we find someone who claims to have a relationship with God,
c. we follow them, listening to their speeches and electing them to public office.
7. And yet, we don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know
a. that those who claim to speak the truth often have not,
b. those who claim to speak with God do not
c. and those who offer a closer relationship with God often cannot.
8. And thus I wonder whether all of it,
a. is not because in that way we find something,
b. but because in our heart of hearts we know that we have lost someone.
i. We search for a “Christian” world, because we have lost sight of the Christian God.
9. We think that things were different in the ancient world, and perhaps in some ways they were.
a. For people saw and heard God in ways we no longer can.
i. A mighty thunderstorm revealed to them God anger,
ii. A plague, God’s wrath
iii. A successful harvest was God’s blessing
iv. A successful war was God’s victory
b. However, even back then people were aware that it was not always that easy.
i. they knew that one person’s blessing was another’s curse;
ii. and one nation’s victory meant another’s defeat.
c. In their own way people back then wondered if they could find God, and if so, how.
10. Which is why Moses in the first reading promises the people of Israel
a. that he would appoint someone to speak in God’s name.
11. Which is why Mark in writing his Gospel, portrays Jesus as that person.
a. Both seem to offer a simple model. I will send someone to speak for me.
b. listen to them and you will hear me;
c. speak to them and enter into a relationship with me.
12. And yet that is also the problem. For
a. It is why we have followed priests and presidents, dictators and popes for generations.
b. It is why we believe those who claim a real relationship with God,
c. It is why we follow those who promise we can find one too.
d. And it is why when those people fail us,
e. as they sooner or later do,
f. we feel like God has too.
13. And yet, when we read both the first reading and the gospel more closely,
a. we see something that we might have missed the first time.
14. Because Moses does not promise people that they will recognize God in their prophets
a. because of how holy they sound.
15. And when the people see Jesus, they do not recognize God in him
a. because of how holy he looks.
16. In fact, Moses presumes that they will NOT at first recognize God in the prophets.
17. And Mark realizes that those first people who encounter Jesus
a. do not really know who he is either;
b. only the unclean spirits do.
18. No, for as far as Moses is concerned
a. God is judged to be speaking through a prophet
i. only when what he says is judged as coming from God,
1. because it agrees with what God has already said.
19. And as far as Mark is concerned
a. God is judged to be present in Jesus
i. only when what he does is seen as being done with authority which comes from God.
1. because in so far as it heals and cast out evil,
2. it resembles the authority they expect to find only in God.
20. Both presume that people will come to hear God in the words of the prophet and see God in Jesus.
a. only because they listen with critical ears and they watch with critical eyes.
b. To do this Both Mark and Moses presume that we will not do it alone
c. They presume that there will be people - men and women young and old, talking and sharing, praying and questioning and believing together:
21. For Moses that group of people is the people of Israel;
22. For Mark it is the Church.
23. But in both cases we see what it is not;
a. it is not one person, claiming to speak for God.
b. It is a community, offering the possibility of a relationship with God,
i. precisely when we open our eyes and open our ears,
ii. ask our questions and wrestle with the answers.
24. If that does not sound like any church that we’ve ever been a part of
25. it isn’t because the discussion hasn’t been happening; it happens here all the time;
a. It happens in the words of Scripture and the Sacraments we share
b. It happens the vocal prayers we offer together
i. and the silent ones we share with no one
c. It happens in the questions we ask as well as the ones we don’t
d. It happens in the RCIA, Family Catechesis, Bible Studies, Adult faith formation, our young adult ministry, social justice groups and retreat days.
26. In fact, that great conversation in which we search for signs of God’s presence in the world happens all the time.
a. Maybe all we need to do is listen for a moment to Mark, or take a cue from Moses;
b. open our ears, open our eyes, and join the conversation.
i. For then we will see much of what passes for Christianity in America
1. with its black and white answers
2. and strident promoters
3. as a simple veneer, placed there by people who are afraid of questions.
27. But far more importantly we will see that questioning is what we are supposed to be doing;
a. For it is only when we ask a question that we receive an answer;
b. it is only when we seek, that we find,
c. and only when we knock, that the door will be opened
d. and we can enter in and join in that eternal conversation –
i. and become the only Church worth being a member of – Jesus’ Church.