In six days we will begin our Olympics, the third time in London. First Olympics was held in London in 1908 and then in 1948 and now the third time in 2012. I don’t have to tell you what it is all about. But then I have to say, even if you may know, why we come together? Because we want to prove who is the best and for that we are willing to let go of all our differences and then we are willing sit around and watch the best among us and applaud the ones who prove their greatness.
When you watch Olympics on July 27th, think of Ephesus, a city that was about 400,000+ people. They had a stadium that could accommodate about 25000 people and they came together to watch great competitions just like us. But there was a recent discovery of large gladiators’ graveyards in Ephesus, which showed how many people ended up there because they did not win a gold, silver or bronze.
Just like in Ephesus, the rich and the wealthy and those who can afford somehow will gather in London, in a few days for Olympics, and others will live in the outskirts of the city wanting to be inside the stadium to be part of the group. We will all, wishing to get a glimpse of it will be in front of our flat screens. There is a need in those who cannot get inside the stadium to be there and be part of the celebration of competitions, carnivals, and cheers of the crowd there.
Now I want to take you to the time of David, the king about whom we heard in the first reading. David, the King, had a wonderful house, made of Cedar, to live in. But then he realized here I am in a great house and the Ark of the Lord is in a Tent. He calls Nathan, the prophet and tries to make a point of this and wanted to do something about it to bring God into a beautiful place like the one he had. But then Prophet Nathan turns the table on David, inviting him to do, what it is that pleases him, for God. However, God had something else in mind. The Lord talks to the prophet in the middle of the night and tells him something interesting. The Lord had been in a tent for a long time. And will continue to live in a tent, until God houses his people. Then there will be someone whom he will raise up, to build a place for the Lord. David’s job is to stay out of it, but focus on what is entrusted to him. Watch for the Lord in the tent.
In all of the stories above, is our need to prove our worth, our hopes and our passions. For those Olympians, who win their medals of gold, silver and bronze, it is about the satisfaction of conquering the world. For Olympians, the 12 gods of the Greek mythology, it was also about competition and completion, the perfection awarded by gold, silver and bronze and the land and wealth they have captured. But for our God it is about the gladiators who loose their lives fighting to keep it. For our God it is about the human souls that are captured in God’s bosom.
For David it is about settling God in a place. But God prefers to stay in the outskirts of human settlements, competitions, and confines. God chooses to stay in the tents until all of humanity enters in the house. God stays out in the field until all of his children gets into the house.
Scripture is full of stories of God staying in the outskirts of human confines. God slips away from all that are firm, grim, strong, clear and powerful. God settles among those that are weak, powerless, fearful, and lost.
I recently watched a movie of the muscle of our church, when our Bishops gathered at Lambeth in London in 2008. One deserving man, sinful like the rest of those gathered, was not invited for the gathering, Bishop Gene Robinson. He was not invited because for some with power he was a sinner, like the rest of the world is not. He went there anyway, and wandered around in the outskirts of the cedar houses among those who were thrown away by society, among the gladiators struggling to keep their lives. An entire world watched an Ephesus at London, at Lambeth, and all that happened there, without seeing a lone man left out among a thousand others to die for themselves. I remembered the story of Mahatma Gandhi who refused to enter into a temple that refused entry to all of humanity.
I pray my reflection makes us uncomfortable. I pray our faith disturbs us. I pray our faith unsettles us to see a God who lives in tents among people. God lives in the field out there with those whom we care least about.
We all have to ask a question to ourselves, What is true faith in a changing world? Our faith and our dogma, our doctrines and our practices should all be on the chopping blocks one at a time. Why? Because according to a great Saint of the church, a one time Anglican and then a Roman Catholic and saint for the universal church, John Henry Newman,
“The vitality of dogma lies in its constant deepening and enlargement. Christian doctrine remains true to itself precisely by way of its organic growth. The acorn of Christian revelation continues to ramify into the great oak tree of the creeds and articles of faith. What is originally embryonic undergoes constant maturation. The church thus excavates the depths of the deposit of faith, endlessly mining its riches in order that the gold of the gospel might burn ever more brightly.”
If we cannot embrace the evolutionary change through a deepening of our concepts and of God’s grace and presence in the tents, we will remain stagnant. If our faith is never expanding, and deepening, then our faith is dead and our life is powerless. Like an embryo that grows its limbs, organs and intelligence, our faith is to sprout out.
If all that we do is compete for the medals of glory and never watch for the gladiators who do not win their race, if we do not find God in the tents of the modern world, and go into them, if we do not seek God among those who are in the outskirts of religious fundamentalism and piety, then we will become one of those who will become the 25000 in the stadium at Ephesus, and 100,000 in London, the rich, the secure and safe ones who enjoy the show, but never in the field.
Christianity is all about being in the field with God. Our faith is about being in the tent rather than in the cedar homes. Our actions are not for the gold medal. We are not in fight with the Titans, like the Olympians. We are among those gladiators who loose their lives without the company of someone else to console, to comfort and to care.
I call upon you Episcopalians, you are in the tent with God. You are in the pitch with the gladiators. You are in the outskirts of an old religion. Never doubt the presence of God in these places. God always was, is and will be in the outskirts and in tents, until all of God’s children are at home safe.