Crossing the Chasm (Sermon)

This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached this morning. The gospel text was Luke 16:19-31. During worship this morning, we celebrated the baptism of an infant I’m calling Matthew.

Good morning, Matthew. I’m so glad you’re here today. Today you are washed by the waters of Baptism. Today God claims you as God’s beloved child. Today we welcome you into the church. Today you begin a journey that will last your whole life long, a journey of faith. Today you are baptized. This is where the whole journey begins.

This journey isn’t a straight line. It will have twists and turns, and also many opportunities to grow deeper in your relationship with God. Like Sunday School, which your brother Hunter has just started. Our congregation is helping to guide him right now, as we will help to guide you one day. Like Confirmation Class, which will give you the chance in about thirteen years or so to affirm the promises your parents make on your behalf today. A chance to dive even further into the waters of baptism.

There are opportunities to go deeper throughout your life. In fact lots of adults in this congregation, as well as our confirmation class, are starting a new part of our faith journey this week. Many of us have committed to embarking on 40 Days of Prayer and Faith Sharing. Through these days, we will dive deeper into the baptismal waters of prayer, and learn how to better share our faith with one another.

Matthew, all of us in this room are on a journey of faith. Thanks to our baptism, all of us are walking with Jesus at our side. But each of these journeys is unique. Some of us are walking together on well-traveled paths, and others are blazing new trails, going through unfamiliar and new territory. You will spend the rest of your life on this journey, a journey with wonders, with moments of unimaginable joy, and with moments of peace that passes all understanding.

But it will not always be an easy journey. Traveling with Jesus isn’t always easy. No, some of the journey will be rough. There will be boulders to scramble over and switchbacks to climb. There will be bandits to avoid and rainstorms to endure. And there will be chasms.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that there are chasms on our faith journey. Because this parable Jesus told isn’t really about the afterlife – don’t make any assumptions about heaven or hell from this story. It’s a metaphor not for life after death, but for life here on earth. And the truth is, there are some deep chasms between us. A chasm, Matthew, is a deep and wide hole, like a canyon. You can’t cross a chasm, at least not without something like a helicopter.

In the story today, Jesus says that there is a huge chasm between those who have and those who have not. And Matthew, as you grow up, you’ll find that that’s still true today. Here at Prince of Peace, we try to bridge that chasm a least a little by providing resources for people who don’t have enough. We’re particularly good at providing peanut butter for hungry people in our area. We do make a difference, but the chasm is still there.

And there are other chasms in our world today. I think one of the biggest chasms right now is political – think of it as a chasm between people who support President Trump and people who do not. And every time I think this chasm can’t get any wider, any deeper, it does. Now that an impeachment investigation has begun, it’s just going to get worse. Whichever side of this chasm you’re on, it seems impossible to even talk with people on the other side. Like Jesus said, even if someone rises from the dead, they won’t change their mind. Or at least it seems that way. And it’s heart-breaking to see our country like this, to see families and friendships falling apart because of this. To see so much anger and hatred.

But I wonder. I wonder, Matthew, if there is hope. I wonder if there might be hope, right here, right in this room, amid all these people on their journeys of faith.

At this point, I gestured to the wide center aisle in the worship space.

Take a look at this. Right here, there is a chasm. The people on this side can’t reach the people on this side. (I invited someone to try to reach across.) Can you reach across? No! But let’s try something. Now this will be uncomfortable. Church people don’t like being told to move during the sermon. But let’s try something. (I invited someone on the end of the aisle to stand up and walk across it.) Take someone’s hand, and shake it. Whoa! Did you see that? Now watch this. Everybody on the end of the pews on this side, stand up if you are able. Walk across the aisle, take someone’s hand, and say this:

  • “I don’t know if I agree with everything you believe.”
  • “That’s okay, because I don’t have to.”
  • “You and I are both on faith journeys.”
  • “And I wish you well on yours.”
  • “Peace be with you.”

Thank you. You can sit down.

Matthew, right after you’re baptized today, the first thing we will do is all stand up and shake one another’s hands and say, “Peace be with you.” And when we do that, we’re not just saying, “Good morning.” We’re not just saying, “Nice weather, eh?” We’re not saying, “I like you, and that’s why I’m shaking your hand, and not somebody else’s.” We’re saying something far, far deeper. We’re saying that the chasm between us can be bridged. We’re saying that the ways in which we’re different are not the most important things about us. We’re saying that whatever journey we’re on, and whatever journey our neighbor is on, we honor that journey. Because we know that Jesus is walking with us both. Now is it possible that the other person is going the wrong way? Sure it is! But you’re not going to change their direction by yelling at them, posting at them on social media, or ignoring them. How well have those things worked at changing you?

Reaching across this chasm, this aisle, is a sign of what God can accomplish. Thanks to God, we can reach across the chasms that separate us. Really, Matthew, you can. Because thanks to your baptism today, you can see that the chasm is filled with water, a river overflowing with baptismal water. A gently flowing river that flows among us, even between those of us who seem so different. And thanks be to God, we can swim. We can swim across this baptismal river, and share Christ’s peace with one another.

In the gospel story today, the rich man was fated to never cross the chasm. That fate needn’t be our own. We don’t have to live stuck on our side of the chasm. Because Christ has come. Christ has come to us. Christ has baptized us. And we can swim.

Come on in, Matthew. The water’s fine.

Featured image by PatternPictures from Pixabay.

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