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The prophet Hosea has a poetic verse that sets our theme tonight:

Oh let us know, let us press on to know the Lord,
God’s going forth is as certain as the dawn.
And God will come, God will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain, watering the earth.  (Hosea 6:3)

This beautiful image is one of many in Scripture speaking of the utter indiscriminate nature of God.  God is like the sun shining on the just and the unjust.  Today we read about a Sower blissfully throwing seed all over the place unconcerned about ever running out, giving every type of soil chance after chance.

This same quality of God to be indiscriminate is in us though that spark of divinity given to us.  Of all the attributes of God given to us this one may be the most countercultural, the hardest to translate into practical living.  This part of us flies in the face of our instinct to be strategic, efficient, effective and to always get results from good effort.  Because we are this way we think God is this way.  Let’s try to sort this out tonight and be a people that embody an indiscriminate God.

Indiscriminate Love In Action

Let’s dig a little deeper about our disconnect with indiscriminate love.  In the ancient world there were two rock bottom beliefs, scarcity and reciprocity, that made it hard for people of faith to believe their experience in an abundant, indiscriminate God.   Scarcity is the belief there is just not enough to go around.  Whatever you have reduces what is available for me.  This belief makes us hang on tightly to things, makes us calculate very carefully everything we give, makes us competitive with others.  Reciprocity is similar, but also tied to the need to protect honor.  If you give me something I am indebted to you and lose honor if I do not return the favor.  It is all very calculating.

Scarcity and reciprocity are still with us and on steroids.  Walter Brueggemann argues we see these beliefs in our cultural gospel – what he calls the gospel according to Nike.  According to this gospel the person who dies with the most shoes wins.  And guess what?  There are not enough shoes to go around.  This “gospel” is well funded and has unlimited talent to propel its message.

So what does embodying an indiscriminate God looks like in a world of scarcity and reciprocity?  We only have to flip back few pages in Matthew’s Gospel for the beginning of an answer.  Love is the currency of the Kingdom and Jesus asks in the Sermon on the Mount “if you just love those who love you (i.e. reciprocity) what good is that, even the Gentiles do that?”  Everyone acting in reasonable health does that!  The Gospel really begins in our lives when we love those who cannot or will not love us back.

Healthy family relations have mutuality much of the time, but there are times when a partner or a family member cannot or will not love you back.  I bet there are dozens of stories like this here tonight.  Sometimes tough choices are required, but other times we need to exercise our “indiscriminate love” muscle and not require a return on our investment.  We sometimes need to throw seeds of love risking no return.  The same is true in our church family.  There are seasons where you feel you are giving more than receiving (ask the parish council for example!) and this critical spiritual muscle gets some exercise.

This spark of divine life with indiscriminate love in us will pull us past our family and community and out into the world.  The problems seem so big, the injustices so profound.  We are tempted to pull back with our time, our treasure and our love so they will not be wasted.  But our Gospel today asks us to believe love is never wasted, love never ends.  A man was walking the beach one morning after a storm and thousands of starfish had washed up and were stranded.  A child was picking them up one by one and throwing them back into the sea.  The man asked the child why bother, how can it matter in the face of the size of the job.  The child lifted the starfish in her hand and said “it matters to this one”!  Our faith asks us to believe love always matters.

It Is Not a Feeling

We can’t wait until we feel indiscriminate love to love indiscriminately.  It is a choice.  Jesus final encounter with Peter is a powerful meditation on this.  Remember when Jesus at the end of John’s Gospel asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him?  Our translation misses the nuance in the original language.  Jesus asked if Peter loved with “agape love,” that is selfless and indiscriminate.  Peter, I expect humbled by his recent failures, replied that he loved Jesus only with “philio love,” a mutual love of friendship.  He made no claim of greater love, but Jesus nevertheless each time said go to work, go love indiscriminately, “go feed my sheep.”

May this Eucharist help us glimpse a God that is not controlled by scarcity and reciprocity but a God of countless invitations to union.  Let’s choose indiscriminate love whether we feel the divine spark or not.  Let’s  “feed sheep” this week by loving our family, our community or our world indiscriminately in some new way and join in the “spring rain, watering the earth.”

Amen

George von Stamwitz

Homily – Like a Spring Rain
Sts. Clare & Francis Ecumenical Catholic Community
Liturgy for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Saturday Evening, July 12, 2014
Focus text – Matthew 13:1-9 (the Sower and the Seed)

Photo by Patarika on flickr.com

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