Lord, take my lips and speak through them. Take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you.  Amen. Please be seated.

What a treat and an honor to be with you today and to celebrate the Eucharist in this amazing place. Speaking of amazing places, we’re in Washington DC. so I thought today I would speak with you about Homeland Security,  But maybe not in the way you think.  Our first lesson in Genesis starts this story of Abraham, who at the time was still called Abram, and God calls him to a place he doesn’t know where he’s going. And miraculously, he follows.  And God says the most ridiculous thing to him: don’t be afraid. And then in Hebrews, we pick up that story and the anonymous author of Hebrews celebrates this Abram as a person of faith. And we hear this definition of faith that we so love, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  But then again, he set out not knowing where he was going. I think it’s hard to know whether the little voice in your head is the voice of God, or your own ego doing a magnificent impression of God.

But Abram decided this was God. And so he left, but he was afraid. And it reminds me of the old definition that courage is fear that has said its prayers.  But he gets to the promised land, but he doesn’t get to actually own it or possess it or live on it really. Instead he has to live in tents. He and his family, and indeed his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob will also merely live in tents. And then this heartbreaking thing that they looked forward to the city that had foundations.  That they wanted like a real place that was tied down to the earth, but the trick was learning to live in tents. And it says towards the end of this Hebrew reading, they are seeking a homeland, a homeland. They desire a better country. That is a heavenly one.

And let me point out, this notion of heaven, we’ve really messed it up, and we’ve listened to fire and brimstone preachers. And although we may laugh at it, we have been affected by it. But the heaven that’s described here is not some reward with pearly gates, which is a reward for good behavior, as opposed to the eternal fires of damnation that a harsh and punitive God would mete out. But rather the reward as we hear in today’s gospel is, “it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. God wants to. And in the end, in the end, God wins and love wins. It’s a very empowering thing to look at this kind of heaven as the Homeland, to which we are all progressing.  Now that may sound very sort of airy fairy and ethereal to you, but to me, it’s really very specific and realistic.

Before I was elected Bishop, I actually served as the assistant to the Bishop. And as that person, I was the one that the Bishop would send in to resolve all the conflicts. Mostly it was a conflict between the vestry, the governing board of lay people, and the priest. And although they were at each other’s throats, often the one thing I knew going there was that they would all be going after me. And so, driving there, sometimes actually out loud, I would remind myself, no matter how I do tonight, I’m going to heaven.

If I do well and I get them talking and, and we actually get some conflict resolved, great, I’m going to heaven.  But you know, what if I just mess up badly, maybe even making things worse than they were when I arrived? Well, you know what? I’m going to heaven. And next to that, how I performed that night is small potatoes.

It makes a difference what you hold onto as your Homeland. And if your Homeland is that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, then it is amazing what you can do, even if you’re scared to death, even if you’re in unfamiliar territory. And I’m here to tell you this morning that God is still calling us, you and me. Yeah, It may be something personal. Maybe God is calling you to stop drinking and get sober. May maybe it’s a marital problem or a problem in one of your important relationships. Maybe you’ve been harboring anger at someone and you need to forgive them.  Or even harder, to ask forgiveness from someone that you should have done that with a long time ago.

Maybe God is calling you to change careers or to volunteer to go overseas. Maybe just to help one migrant family feel welcome in this country. It won’t be neat and tidy. You have to learn to live in tents and move around all the time with an ever-changing landscape.  But you can dream of the city with foundations and you can go there frightened and get a lot done because you know, in the end, God wins.  And we win with God because love wins.

We of course have lots of role models today. We don’t have to go back 3000 years to Abraham. I, of course, think of Dr. King. Now, before Blessed Martin had a dream of his own, God had a dream for him.  And the beloved community that he came to talk about was nothing he had ever seen, nothing that he had experienced, except perhaps in the smaller communities where he belonged.  And Martin wasn’t perfect and God called him anyway. And he was nourished by the music of his growing up that reminded him of his Homeland, “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home”. Homeland, indeed.  God and Martin’s dream was for freedom and dignity and the right to vote. So you see like calling the Jews, God can call whole communities, whole communities. So there’s one more thing I wanna say to you this morning, and this is where I have to stop and remind myself: however well this goes over, I’m going to heaven.

 God has a dream for America. And that dream is not about power over and control of, it’s about a country that recognizes and honors the dignity of all. That is the goal of democracy. That’s why we believe in it. It’s not perfect, but it strives to offer the very best to the most. You know what it’s not about? It’s not about going back to the good old days because you know what? The good old days didn’t include a lot of us. They were good old days if you were white and straight and able bodied and landowning men. But if you weren’t, they weren’t so good. God has a dream for us, I believe, as a people. And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include white Christian nationalism. It’s not more control over women and LGBTQ people or immigrants or the poor or any marginalized group. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include storming the Capitol with baseball bats and bear spray, or voter suppression. It’s not about every man, woman and child for themselves. It’s about moving from me to us, to we, all of us, we the people.

If we’re going to preserve this dream of America, if you and I are going to continue to dream God’s dream for America, then you and I are gonna have to do some courageous things in the days ahead. And we won’t always get it right. And there’ll be a lot of living in tents. But we can be certain that at the end, we will find the city with foundations and it will be with God. And because we have that, and because we know that, we need not be afraid and we can do amazing things.  We must say our prayers and find the courage to work hard and tell the truth. The only way to make America and the world, the best it can be for the most people is if you and I find our Homeland in God and seek our security in God’s promises.  That’s Homeland Security that won’t go away. And we can seek a nation and a world where everyone is treated like the children of God they are. May it be so. Amen.

Additional Resources: