Soul Searching: What Then Should We Do?

Sermon from December 16, 2012
Luke 3: 7-18
St. Stephen’s, Liberty, Texas

Good morning!
I am Jeff Fisher and I am your new bishop suffragan for the east region of the Diocese of Texas.

When I was a growing up, my mother had a phrase, a phrase that she would use to make me grow and look at my own life.
If I made a poor decision or if I said something really insensitive,
Or if I was just a plain old jerk,
She would wag her finger at me and say:
“Jeff Wright Fisher, you have a lot of soul searching to do.”

I would then reply:
“But what should I do?”

And my mother would respond:
“That’s for you to figure out.
But all I know is that you have to change.”

John the Baptist wags his finger at us, saying:
“Sister, brother, you have a lot of soul searching to do.”
And we reply:
“But what then should we do?”

For in the Gospel of Luke, John the Baptist wags his finger at us, preaching:
“You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

And the crowds ask him:
“What then should we do?”
And John the Baptist replies:
“If you have two coats, give one away.
If you have food, give some away.”

Tax collectors also ask John the Baptist:
“And what then should we do?”
And members of the military ask John the Baptist:
“And what then should we do?”
And the answer from John the Baptist is always the same:
“All I know is that you have to change.”

This morning, John the Baptist is preaching to me:
Jeff Wright Fisher, you have a lot of soul searching to do.
And this morning, the people of the United States of America, including you and me, we have a lot of grieving and soul searching to do.

Last Friday, we came face to face with the power of evil and violence and hate in our world.
Last Friday, I was eating lunch with my wife, Susan, while the news of the shootings in Connecticut was being broadcast on a TV behind us.
I had to turn my head and not look at the TV, as a wave of sickness came over me.
And the words of the crowd around John the Baptist rang in my head:
“And what should we do?”
US-SCHOOL-SHOOTING
I know that as Christians we are called to belief.
After my sermon, we will reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant.
We will join with those who are being confirmed today and we will proclaim:
We believe in one God.
We believe in Jesus Christ.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Yes, as Christians, we are called to belief.

Then after we believe, we ask:
“What then should we do?”
And the answer is that we are to do some soul searching and we are to change:
To change by turning away from evil.
To change by seeking Jesus in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
To change by respecting the dignity of every human being.

“What then should we do?”
As Christians, we are not only to believe.
As Christians, we must act and we must change.

Beginning on Friday afternoon, Facebook and Twitter became a place for us, as a nation, to begin to do some soul searching.
And it saddened me that any time on Facebook that someone mentioned the phrase “gun control,”
Then that post became a target for dozens of political comments and accusations and finger pointing.
As a nation, we cannot even have a civil conversation about the issue of gun control without that conversation itself becoming violent.

Along with the issue of guns, I have watched the video games that some guys play.
Since my young adult sons are away at school, I could not ask them the names of some these games.
So I did a Google search of the most popular Xbox games, and these are some of the names of the games that are in the top 10:
Call of Duty, Hitman, Assassin’s Creed.

I know about the camaraderie and sportsmanship of deer hunting trips.
And I know that young adult men insist that video games do not warp their understanding of evil and violence.
But I also know that we have some soul searching to do.
I know that I cannot sit back any longer as a Christian and just watch children and adults be slaughtered in Columbine and Paducah and Fort Hood and Virginia Tech and Aurora and Connecticut.

With the crowd around John the Baptist, I am asking:
“And what should we do?”
And John the Baptist tells us that we must do some soul searching.
We must act and change.

Other than issues of violence, I believe that as Christians we also must do some soul searching on the issues of loneliness and bullying, especially among boys.
All of the perpetrators of horrific violence in our country have been men.
Many of them reported that they had been bullied.
Many of them are loners, men with no friends, men who were “different,” men with no community.

And as a Church, we are to be a place of belonging and love for the disenfranchised, the lonely, the different.
And yet, as a Church, we sometimes only talk to people at coffee hour whom we know, we sometimes shut out the newcomer from our groups, we seek out only our friends at the Peace.
We let it be known, through non-verbal signals, that others are not dressed right or they don’t know when to kneel or to stand.
We might offer plenty of opportunities for women to connect, yet fewer opportunities for men to find community.

“What then should we do?”
As Christians, we are not only to believe.
As Christians, we must do some soul searching.
We must act.

For I believe that if the men who commit these acts of violence had not been bullied,
If these men had a group of male friends where they could be vulnerable and still accepted,
If these men had a church community that held them accountable for their actions,
Then maybe some of these violent acts could be prevented.

Along with grieving this morning, we have some soul searching to do.
And Jesus Christ asks us to not only believe in him, but to act and to change, as we are changed into his likeness.

We cannot change what happened in Connecticut.
We cannot bring back the lives of those children.
But we can change the lives of children and adults around us.

If someone tells a child that they are a “sissy” or a “fatty,” then correct that behavior.
If someone looks or talks different, then be their friend.
If a child is overly interested in guns or violent games, then redirect that interest into more healthy forms of competition.
If someone seems lonely, then invite them to church and help them integrate into parish life.
If you have two coats, then give one away.
If someone is hungry, then give them food.
Most importantly, hug and kiss your children and grandchildren and relatives, both girls and boys, and tell them that they are loved by Jesus and loved by you.
For being a Christian is not only about belief.
Being a Christian is about action and about change.

This morning, with the crowd around John the Baptist, I am asking:
“What then should we do?”
And the answer from my mother and John the Baptist and Jesus is always the same:
You have to change.

AMEN.

One comment

  1. Stacy Smith · · Reply

    AMEN…
    asked both of my older boys to read your post, both were very moved as was I
    love you Jeff…. go and do the Work..
    Stacy Smith

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