Click on the play button above to hear audio of this Sermon.

Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:16-17

        Even when we were dead, 1 the writer says.

        When we were severely depressed and thought we might as well be dead. When we were addicted to alcohol or drugs, to work or money or approval. When we weren’t sure who we were, and then, when we figured it out, were too scared to tell anyone. When we were so heartbroken that we walled ourselves off from everyone and everything. When we were drowning in loneliness, treading water in an endless sea of failure, powerless in the grip of difficult family dynamics, a job search, a disease, the suffering of a loved one, or the relentless march of our own age

        Even when we turned away from the One who had created us.

        When we didn’t exactly intend to turn away, but rather slowly drifted, little by little, like a swimmer in the ocean, by a combination of our actions and inactions—and then one day realized we were halfway down the beach and a world away from anything that had to do with Jesus or life or love. When we had turned away from God in anger and pain, flipping her off as we slammed the door, so disgusted were we with the so-called church, so burned by life, so disillusioned by all the bad things that happened to good people. When it seemed all our hard work and goodness had gotten us nowhere, and we hardened our hearts. When our prayers had gone unanswered for so long that we decided to stop praying.

        Even when we lived in the grip of what drew our gaze from God.

        When we consciously chose to go our own way and do our own thing, just because we could. When we decided to take a vacation from God, not because we were angry but just to indulge ourselves in other things. When we actively resisted the call to community, the invitation to prayer, the offer of extravagant love because we thought we didn’t need any of that. When we put our trust in wealth and weapons and other systems created and run by the privileged and the powerful.

        Even when we were oblivious.

        When we were blind to the suffering of others. When we lived in denial of the reality of institutional and personal racism. When we ignored the injustices done in our name and with our tax dollars. When we ignored the homeless person shivering in the cold. When we filled our lives with so much busyness that we didn’t have the time or energy to consider the needs of others. When we continued to live as if climate change wasn’t our problem. When we refused to get involved in things that mattered. When our act was so not together that we didn’t even realize it.

        Even when we followed a path fashioned of nothing but our own desires.

        When we spent our days chasing happiness and our years trying first one thing, and then another, and another. When we believed we had earned everything we had, and that we deserved as much as we could get—more than people of color or immigrants, refugees, and the working poor. When we rejected the ways of Jesus and, instead, bought into the “America First,” “Me first,” “My kind of people first” way of our culture. When we were convinced that we knew best, and so we refused to listen to difference perspectives or learn from others’ experiences.

        Even when we wandered far and willfully away.

        When we deliberately disobeyed every good rule that we knew, because we so desperately wanteda taste of that apple. When we chose to live in anger and bitterness instead of doing the hard work of forgiveness. When we chose to hate the church and curse God instead of confronting our woundedness and wrestling with all that was disappointing, painful, and difficult. When our pride would not let us acknowledge our own yearnings for acceptance, affirmation, belonging, and love. When we told ourselves we would rather be miserable than to ever set foot in a church again. When we chose to find fault with others instead of trying to understand them. When we rejected people different from us instead of looking for the Christ in them. When we chose to stew in our anger and judgment of each other instead of reaching out and pursuing reconciliation. When we used our power and privilege in ways that hurt others.

        Even when we forgot to look past our own feet and to see the wonders not of our making.

        When we got so wrapped up in our own striving, so taken in by a culture telling us we needed more and more and more, that we forgot how to give thanks. When we filled our stomachs without considering those who grew the food. When we celebrated our good health as if we were responsible for our genetic make-up. When we used all the resources of the earth without consideration or care. When we were so engrossed in our to-do lists and good works that we lost the capacity for wonder.

        Even when we failed to stand in awe, to breathe thanks, to lean into the love that had waited long for us.

        When we thought we needed nothing and no one. When we were convinced that we could control our future. When we received gift after miraculous gift as if it were owed us, as if we had earned it. When we collapsed into bed each night forgetting to whisper “thank you.”

        Even when we doubted God’s existence and wondered whether good could prevail.

        When children were not safe in their schools, and we gave in to despair. When the rich grew richer and the poor were despised and oppressed, and we almost gave up. When the storms raged and the seas rose and the cities flooded, and we were convinced no one heard our cries. When a good and faithful man was threatened with deportation and separated from his family. When it seemed the arc of history was bending the wrong direction, toward injustice and inequality, oppression and violence.

        Even when, the writer tells us.

        Even then: mercy.

        Even then: forgiveness.

        Even when.

        When we woke up every morning worried that we were not good enough or kind enough, successful enough, pretty enough, smart enough, straight enough, popular enough, faithful enough, dedicated enough, sure enough.

        Even then: such tender love.

        Even when.

        When we labored tirelessly and gave generously, do-gooding ourselves into exhaustion, thinking we had to earn God’s love. When we worried that if we didn’t do something, everything, then it wouldn’t get done. When we believed how things would turn out was all up to us. When we lived in fear of failure or punishment.

        Even then: grace, our lives and all our living as pure gift.

        Even then: healing and transformation.

        Even then: deliverance.

        Even then: We were not alone.

        Even then: We were becoming who Love created us to be.

        Even then: good news.

        Even then: God was pouring blessing into every cup.

        Even then: God was loving our beautiful and broken world.

        Even then: The Light was shining in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.

        Even then: The Word became flesh and lived among us.

        Even then: Jesus.

        Even then, even now: life.

        Even now: grace upon grace.

        Even now: Spirit power.

        Even now: God stretches out her hand in love and mercy, even to us.

        Even now: We are alive in Christ.

        Even now: God is with us.

        Even now: No matter what our situation.

        Even now: No matter what the state of our heart.

        Even now: No matter how far away we have wandered.

        Even now: When we don’t know if or what we believe.

        Even now: mercy upon mercy.

        Even now: grace.

        Even now: hope.

        Even now: peace.

        Even now: joy.

        Even now: Love will guide us. Love will heal us. Love will empower us. Love will transform us. Love will nurture us. Love will make us one.

        Even now: an open doorway to the Heart of Love.

        Even now: home.

1 These phrases and sentences in italics come from a reflection by Jan L. Richardson.