6th Sunday After Trinity

When I was growing up,

The go-to church nursery movie was

The Princess Bride.

My parents volunteered a lot,

So I watched The Princess Bride

At least once a week

From around age 6 or so.

It’s a quotable movie,

And one of my favourite scenes

Is when Vizzini, the kidnapper,

Keeps using the word

“Inconceivable!”

Vizzini and his gang have kidnapped Princess Buttercup

And are being pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Despite their efforts to shake him off,

The Dread Pirate Roberts persists.

“Inconceivable!”

Vizzini says each and every time.

Finally, Inigo, one of his minions, replies,

“You keep using that word.

I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

In our faith, there are a whole lotta things that seem inconceivable

But then they happen.

An old woman, long past menopause,

Gives birth to the child of the promise.

The Red Sea is parted

And the Israelites walk through on dry ground.

A virgin becomes pregnant,

And her Son

Is fully human

And fully divine.

That Son, although God Himself,

Dies on a cross

And then rises to new life

On the third day.

Inconceivable!

There are a lot of beliefs Christians hold

That seem inconceivable,

But the one I think that we have the most trouble with

Is the reconciliation of Law and Grace.

…………….

In my experience with church people,

I have discovered

That you’re either a Law person

Or you’re a Grace person.

And the caricature of the extreme on both sides is intense,

Especially if you’re on the other side.

Law people are mean, judgmental.

They want everybody to sit down and shut up

To button their collars all the way

And act right.

Sometimes, Law people have really, really good motives!

The Law, as a theologian has said,

Exists to protect my neighbour from me.

So for people who fiercely love their neighbours

It makes a whole lotta sense

To insist that people follow the Law.

Grace people, now,

Nobody knows what they believe.

They’re all loosey-goosey.

It’s all about love

And freedom,

And nobody needs to do anything or change anything at all about themselves

Because God is too nice

To ever do anything so gauche

As criticize your lifestyle.

Sometimes, Grace people have really, really good motives!

God really is all about love.

If you don’t believe me, take the 1stletter of John out for a spin.

And the Church has, in the past,

Been awfully quick to condemn

And raaaaather slow on the uptake

To show compassion

And mercy.

So for people who’ve been studying their Church history,

It makes a whole lotta sense

To set your hope on Grace.

But what if we didn’t have to choose?

What if we could have them both?

What if God

Really did care

About our following the commandment

To love the Lord our God

With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,

And to love our neighbour

As ourselves

AND that same God

Was able to make things right

When we failed to do that?

Inconceivable!

And yet.

We see the Psalmist hint at this idea in Psalm 85 today.

“Mercy and truth have met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

Mercy and truth

Don’t always seem to go together.

Sometimes I think we reject the stories

That come out of places like

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Or the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Or the #MeToo movement

Because the bad guys in those stories seem so cartoonishly evil

That we who are not

Cannot fathom anyone would ever behave in such a way.

And yet the volume of those stories

Provide an avalanche of evidence

That yes: real people have done these terrible things.

For the victims of these terrible crimes,

The survivors who bravely tell their stories,

It feels dismissive of their truth

To hear of God’s mercy.

It feels dismissive of their truth

To hear that God forgives the ones who hurt them.

When we hear these terrible, terrible truths

It is inconceivable

That God would show mercy.

And yet.

God is able.

God is able to forgive the iniquity of God’s people,

And blot out all their sins.

This does not erase the truth.

This does not negate the fact that these sinners

Have failed to follow the Law.

But God has the power

To take what is wrong

And make it right.

The Greek word for this

And here I am indebted to the work

Of the Rev. Fleming Rutledge

The Greek word for this is logizomai.

It’s the verb tense of word.

God words, and transformation happens.

God words, and that which cannot be reconciled, suddenly is.

God words, and wounds are healed

Sins are forgiven but not forgotten

Righteousness and peace

Kiss each other

God words and the new creation God is calling into being

Is made manifest

In our midst.

Inconceivable!

This does not mean there’s not a cost

To the kind of reconciliation

God words into being.

Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin

Said this of Martin Luther King:

“He had this ability to communicate victory,

And to let everybody know he was prepared to pay

For victory.”

He had the ability

To communicate

Victory.

Victory, in Dr. King’s mind,

Was already won.

It was assured.

It was never in question

That it would one day be.

The fact that such a future

Was out of step with the world

The Freedom Riders

And Marchers on Washington saw around them

Made no difference.

He had the ability to communicate victory

To world mired in defeat.

And.

Dr. King also had the ability to let everybody know he was prepared to pay

For victory.

We have seen the price Dr. King paid for victory.

When he was 39 years old,

Just five years older than I am now,

Younger than my husband is,

He was killed

As the price

Of victory.

He wasn’t the only one.

Others of his cohort were beaten, jailed, killed.

They paid a price

And they won victory.

We who follow a God

Who died on a cross

To pay the price

To accomplish the ultimate victory

Over sin and death

Ought to have no illusions

About the price that will be paid

To word into being

God’s new creation.

And so yes,

It seems inconceivable

That truth and mercy can meet together,

That righteousness, perhaps we should say justice,

And peace

Can kiss one another.

If human beings are in charge,

Such a project is probably indeed doomed to fail.

But when we look at God,

We can never say that anything is inconceivable

Without looking as big a fool as Vizzini.

Because God is able.

Able to rectify all that is wrong in this weary world

And make it right.

We can’t always see how.

We can’t always see a way around the fact

That Jesus is dead and in the tomb

That Martin Luther King is dead and in the tomb

And a whole lotta folks working on his mission

Are on the chain gang

And there doesn’t ever seem to be an end

To the hatred and violence

And denigration

And humiliation

And violation

Of God’s precious and holy people.

No, we can’t always see a way.

We live in a Holy Saturday time

And sometimes Easter Day looks far off.

But the God who has won the victory before,

I should say,

Has won the victory already

Is able

To word the inconceivable

Into reality.

Amen.