Sermon by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar
Preached on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019
On Wednesday we rang the church bell 49 times to remember the 49 people killed in the gay pulse club shooting three years ago. After the bell ringing, we reflected a bit on the number of shootings in our society. Bunny commented that it was a lot of men, some women, although a lot of men. Indeed, 90% of homicides are committed by men. There are likely many reason or variables behind that statistic, but at least part of the problem is the expectations our society has of men.
A visit to the senior center or a look around the church sanctuary reveals another statistic: men die earlier than women. Again, there are likely many factors behind that statistic, but at least part of the problem is the expectations our society has of men.
What are the expectations our society has of boys and men?
• “boys don’t cry”
• muscular strength valued, “grrrr”
• Breadwinner is a sign of success – your worth is tied to your wealth
• Lifeboats are not for you – your life is expendable/less valuable than women and children
All these expectations limit and diminish boys and men. These stereotypes are reinforced with jokes and assumptions we make in conversation.
Interestingly, when God came and embodied the human form in Jesus Christ, God became incarnate in a male body. Except, Jesus as the man, did not conform to the expectations of his day or our day.
• Jesus never married (most scholars agree)
• Jesus talked to unsavory women (Samaritan woman at the well; Mary Magdalene)
• Jesus showed emotion – crying at the death of Lazarus; pleading with God to be spared the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane before accepting the cost of his loving ways in a broken world
In this morning’s scripture we hear Paul explain to the early church, specifically the Romans, a critical action of Jesus – the act the changes the world. Let us listen, with our ears open to how his actions are received differently because he was in a male body.
Paul is outlining the basic Atonement Theology of Christianity:
Jesus died for our sins and in doing so reconciled us to God.
[Classic atonement theory says God requires sacrifices
to make amends for our wrongdoing.
Jesus offers himself as the perfect sacrifice,
freeing humanity from the eternal burden of our sins.
To be honest, I’m not 100% on board with a vengeful God that requires such sacrifice.
However, a quick glance at the news shows that]
Humans kept messing up and separating ourselves from the holy.
Jesus came as a man, showed us how to love – so much that he was killed for his loving ways.
But then, he returned on Easter to show us that death, violence and oppression has not won.
Love has triumphed.
There is one feminist theologian who tried to argue that Jesus was not in a male body, but most scholars agree Jesus was a man. Even as a feminist, I believe Jesus was a man and that his maleness is, actually, theologically important.
Jesus shows us a healthy and powerful way to be a man.
In this core action – loving, even to the point of death – we see that to be a man does not require great physical might nor military maneuvering.
Even though his society – and ours – expect men to lead the battle, bring home the bacon, and be devoid of feelings, Jesus shows us that one can be the most powerful and holy of men in an entirely different way.
Jesus shows us that
a man can be more powerful by being courageous enough to love in the face of loss.
As much as society has pushed forward harmful images and expectations of men,
There are a number of stories that have lifted up men like Jesus –
Men or boys willing to love in the face of loss.
1. Hiccup in “How to Train Your Dragon” (this example and others found here: https://www.fandom.com/articles/5-best-examples-of-healthy-masculinity-in-film-and-television )
Animated film in 2010 of a viking tribe that is constantly fighting off dragons. The viking world is similar to ours in their valuing of might, muscles, and ability to kill – in their case dragons. Hiccup is a hiccup in this viking society. He is scared to kill a dragon. When faced with the opportunity to do so, the dragon is all tied up, Hiccup is moved to compassion and instead of using his knife to kill, he uses his knife to free the dragon. Like Jesus, Hiccup uses his power to free instead of kill. Hiccup continues to befriend the dragon with compassion and courage. Listening and learning. In time, he trains the dragon and reshapes his viking society to be in harmony with dragons instead of in constant war. It started with compassion and courage. A boy like Jesus.
2. We don’t need to face dragons or be viking those. I read a sweet story published in Reader’s Digest. ( found here: https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/short-stories-about-dads/ )
Kay Lockridge of Santa Fe, New Mexico wrote to Reader’s Digest about here first flight after receiving her private pilot’s license in hand. She planned to take her dad on a flight around Michigan State University – a big circle before landing at the university airport. Just as she reached 1,500 feet and finished “take off”, her dad said, “okay, we can land now.” Kay reminded him of her plan to take them around the airport. He replied, “I’m not fond of small planes. I just wanted you to know that I have confidence in you.” Even with his dislike of planes, her dad made the sacrifice to be uncomfortable for the sake of his love for his daughter. A man like Jesus.
3. In closing, I need to give a shout out to the men of this church. So many of you are compassionate, giving of their time, skills and energy with quiet humility. I won’t name names, but I see compassionate men behind the scenes, showing up to do what needs doing. Men who use their muscles or their brains or their compassionate hearts to support the many ministries of the church. They do so without boasting, but with a steady presence that I truly admire. The children of our church have some incredible men to look up to and we should all be proud of that. Can we give the men a round of applause for their efforts to follow Jesus?
May men strive to follow the lead of Jesus, who had the courage to love in the face of loss.
May those of us who do not identify as men, support and encourage the men and boys in our lives to feel, to be vulnerable, and to love greatly even when it’s scary.
May our society move increasingly forward to embracing people as unique as the stars in the sky -Each with gifts, feelings, and holy love. Amen.
What men have you seen act like Jesus?