I worked with the Juniors at SR this Wednesday to help write this homily, so I’m placing ALL the blame on THEM if it’s no good. Actually, It was quite fun – brainstorming ideas together. So, I’ll be using a couple of example today which they helped me find.
The theme for today comes through loud and clear in the readings: Be Holy as God is Holy. I’ll give you the punch-line in a nutshell: since we are made in the image of God, we should try to be as much like Him as possible – and that means we should be Holy. Easy to say… but what does that mean? That’s what the rest of the readings are about, in fact, There are some VERY specific examples in the readings, so listen for the answer: how are Christians called to BE HOLY? How am I called to be Holy?
Be Holy as God is Holy. What’s it mean to “Be Holy”? It means “set apart”. I’ll put that in my own terms… to be Holy is to be different than everything else…reserved for God. Kinda like the china that grandma kept away in the curio cabinet for special occasions, you and I are reserved, set-apart, different.
ARE we any different? Look around at the rest of society: all of the negativity, violence, vengefulness, lying, cheating, slandering. ARE you and I any different? If not, we’re not “set apart”.
Did you notice the descriptions of Holiness that are offered in the readings were not about following a law…or praying… they’re about relationships: Did you hear it?
* hold no grudge, * take no revenge, * love your neighbor, * love your enemy. Wait – did you say ‘love your enemy’? Yes – this is what should “set us apart”. The rest of the world loves those who love them back… but we set ourselves apart when we love our enemies. Is that even possible?
The girls’ basketball team was playing one night, and there was this one player on the other team who was really good – in fact, they nick-named her “Torpedo” because she took so many shots outside the three-point line…and that name seems appropriate because she was hitting three-point shots seemed like every time they came down the court. Our coach (Coach Chinn) called a time-out to regroup to figure out how to shut her down before they walked away with a blow-out. She made a couple of adjustments on defense – putting our best defender on her - and sent the team back in. It worked… For the next 12 minutes of play, our defenders pressed Torpedo so hard that she was forced to take a quick shots and she missed 6 in a row. At first she was embarrassed – but then she got mad – and after the 5th time missing a shot, she tripped the girl who was defending her. Our girl got up mad, but shook it off quickly and kept playing… then after missing another shot, Torpedo once again tripped her defender. Our entire Jeeps bench and crowd were on their feet, shouting to the ref to call the foul, but he had his back turned and didn’t see it. Two minutes later, a 7th missed shot, and once again, she tripped our girl as she was going after the rebound… this time the bench emptied and our girls were ready to run onto the floor and PUMMEL this girl.
Fortunately, the whistle blew…This time, the ref saw it and called the fowl. Our girl – the defender who had been tripped three times now saw the reaction of her teammates and called a timeout– in the huddle, some were talking about how to retaliate… but our girl held up her hand. No – we’re not like that – we don’t take revenge. If we beat her up, then we’re no better than her. If we have poor sportsmanship, we’re no better than anybody else. No – let’s treat her like one of our own players. We’ll go out of our way to help her up off the floor if she falls. We’ll tell her when she took a good shot or makes a nice pass.
Back on the floor, the game was tense for a few minutes as the crowd waited to see what would happen. The next time Torpedo dribbled down the court and was headed for a layup when she ran head-on into our girl near the free-throw line. Both of them went sprawling and the whistle blew for the charging foul… the crowd was on their feet… was someone going to take revenge?? The crowd WANTED to see a fight!! But our girl jumped up right away and reached out a hand to help the other girl up. If you could see her face in that moment… it was filled with rage… she was red with exertion and anger… at first she refused to take the hand, but reluctantly grabbed it and stood up. Our girl made the comment – you know, this is a tough game, but fun: you’re probably the best player I’ve ever had to defend. Torpedo’s face suddenly changed…. Instead of rage, she felt pride… and something else… maybe it was shame… in fact, she almost felt like crying. How could this Jeep girl be so nice to me….after I’ve been so mean to her? She’s been playing the best defense I’ve had to play against and I let my anger get the best of me… how come she’s not angry with me?
The whole game changed after that…. These two superstar players were a joy to watch as each one did their jobs the best they could. After the game, they hugged and congratulated each other on a job well-done. Yeah – it was a sweaty hug, which is kinda gross – but the point is that what ALMOST turned into a gang-fight ended up in a hug. Why? Because our girl was HOLY. She was “set apart”. The wisdom of the world told her that she had every right for revenge against Torpedo. She had every right to trip back – or worse. The whole bench had a right to pummel this girl. They were on a trajectory to having a REAL fight in the parking lot afterward… but it ended in a hug. WHY? Because our girl was Holy. Our girl was like God. Our girl didn’t follow the wisdom of the world.
Every one of us has an opportunity to be like this almost every day. When somebody cuts you off in traffic, do you flip them a finger, or say a prayer for them? I’m not joking…start a new habit: next time somebody ticks you off, think – God, I don’t know what cross they’re carrying, so I can’t condemn them for this. Please bless them and help them to be more joyful.
See what difference that would make? First, it keeps you from brooding over it for the next 10 minutes – or letting it ruin the rest of your day even. Second – it keeps you from lashing out with curses or gestures that just would just add to the angry situation. Road Rage gets ramped up quickly if we retaliate.
On the basketball court, our girl had that habit – whenever she got tripped, she simply said, God, I’m not going to take revenge because I don’t know what she’s dealing with. Bless her please and keep me from getting angry. We can all pray that prayer. In our families, in our workplace, even in church… people do things which just seem like they’re trying to make us mad. Don’t let them. Start a new habit: whenever you feel slighted or angry, turn it into a prayer.
Set yourself apart – Be Holy….and you’ll make a difference
… Be Holy and you will change the world.