Sept 25, 2016 Sermon "Where's the Love"

So, as you can imagine we had a wonderful trip to Italy these past two weeks.
We started off in Rome with a cooking class at a local home.
That was great fun and a great way to learn about the wonderful food we ate there!
Then we took a tour of Rome and saw the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, etc.
At the Vatican we saw Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
There is that famous image of God giving life to humanity by touching Adam’s hand.

The next day we walked around and saw the Church of St. Peter in Chains.
Peter, was of course, arrested and killed in Rome on a cross, like Jesus was.
In that church was also an impressive statue of Moses (under renovation, though)
Lots of religious stuff but also secular, like Italy’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And we saw the ruins of the Circus Maximus, where charity races were held.
There was also lots of art work, and much of it was religious as well.
In the Borghese museum and others we learned how Christianity was depicted in art.

In Florence we saw the impressive statue of David, also by Michelangelo.
And we saw many churches and basilicas, in Rome, Florence, Venice and Siena.
On our last day back in Rome, we saw and heard Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

In addition to city attractions, we saw amazing sites in Sorento and the Island of Capri.
We also visited a little five village section along the northern coast called Cinque Terre.
At both places we took in beautiful views of impressive mountains and rocky shorelines.

And one day we rolled through the fabulous hills of wine country in Tuscany.

Before I left, in the newsletter I said I would be wondering where to find God in all this.
Here’s what I found and felt - In all those grand religious places, with all the impressive statues, and the beautiful art work in the many museums,…..people were expressing their desire to understand God.

They were paying reverence to God,…or they were trying to depict God in their work.
Since most people were uneducated, illiterate or lacked books, art told the story.
Churches, weren’t for worship of God, but places that honored and explained God.
I was impressed by the use of so many Old Testament stories throughout these places.

Today, we seem to lack any knowledge of that foundation for the story of Jesus Christ.
Of course, Jesus’ crucifixion and the Blessed Mother, Mary were depicted very often.

While all of it was impressive, I personally didn’t feel particular holy in their presence.
I did learn a lot and was in awe of much of what humans were able to do with so little.
With so little equipment, it was impressive how they were able to do such great things.
But what they were striving and struggling with, I think, is in our Gospel today.

Abraham tells the rich man; between heaven and him, “a great chasm has been fixed”.
That, I think, is the human struggle which all of religion and faith is about.
‘Where is God?’ ‘What is God like?’ ‘How can I understand and know God better?’
And most importantly; ‘How can I close the great chasm between God and myself?’.

The Pantheon’s ceiling has a hole in the center to allow the Gods to enter the building.
Basilicas pointed upwards towards the God who dwells above us all.
Art work showed the suffering of Jesus and consequences of sin and God's forgiveness.
Elderly women chanted the Ave Marie in a small church to bring them closer to God.

All of it part of the human effort to know and grow closer to God.
And while looking at the beauty of the land there,…God’s handiwork was displayed,…
However, that told me what God had done, more than who or where God was.

Ironically, the moment when I felt touched and enlightened by God’s personhood, was not any of those historic religious places.
It was in a hotel room one evening as we were getting ready to go out and I searched for some music to listen to on the Television.
A music video was playing by a rap group called Black Eyed Peas.
The video was called ‘Where’s the Love?’.
It showed all the terrible things going on in the world,but then asked ‘Where’s the Love?’
And I thought,….this is basically what Jesus told us God was summed up to be - ‘Love’.
Jesus, in his life and death and resurrection,… was what that ‘Love’ looked like.
Love in our being kind and considerate to one another.
Forgiving one another and admitting when we hurt each other and asking forgiveness.
Reaching out to and helping the helpless and those suffering.
When a stranger paused to help us with directions when we looked confused,….
When we stopped and dropped a few euros into the cup of an old beggar woman….
When Pope Francis took time from his busy day to give the people a word of mercy,…
That’s when I felt like I knew God and saw him close to our presence.

‘Where’s the Love?’ is the same as asking ‘Where is God?’
In how we treat each other we find the answer to that question most clearly.
Wherever ‘Love’ is,.... God is.
That Love, then, closes the great chasm between God and us.

Amen