A sermon without words?
A medieval monk announced he would preach the next Sunday evening on "The Love of God." As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the semi-darkness, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel.
I don’t know if that is a true story. I do know I find the story, set in the context of traditional Christian theology, a powerful description of God's love. Each Advent, we remember John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, John firmly insisting that he is not the long-awaited Messiah. We hear Isaiah’s proclamation that God has called the Messiah to give justice to the oppressed, heal the brokenhearted, set prisoners free and comfort the bereaved. And on Christmas Day, we joyfully celebrate Jesus’ birth, confident that he is the one who will give justice to the oppressed, heal the brokenhearted, set captives free and comfort the bereaved.
What the monk omitted is declaring that God's love in the world does not end with Jesus. God calls Christians to be Jesus’ hands, feet and voice. God calls us to be God's love in the world.
I’m privileged to serve as President of the Samaritan Counseling Center of Hawaii. Unfortunately, too often we ignore or stigmatize the mentally ill. The mentally ill are among the most vulnerable and therefore God calls to prioritize them in our sharing of God's love.
Two principles make the Samaritan Center’s ministry unique in Hawaii. First, the Center is interfaith. Our Board consists of persons from seven Christian denominations, two Buddhist denominations and one Jewish temple. We also have had Board members who self-identified as spiritual but not religious or atheist. Our counselors have similarly diverse religious backgrounds including a Presbyterian minister, Roman Catholic deacon and Buddhist priest. Our counselors, whenever appropriate, integrate the client’s spirituality, never the counselor’s spirituality, into the therapeutic process. God's love transcends the artificial barriers humans try to create in their quests for status and uniqueness.
Second, the Samaritan Center never turns away a potential client because of an inability to pay. Consequently, we are always fundraising and soliciting contributions to our Client Assistance Fund. Our outstanding therapists and staff deserve every dollar they earn. I wish we could afford to pay them more. In the ministry of the Samaritan Counseling Center, I routinely observe the oppressed obtaining just and equal access to quality healthcare, the brokenhearted healed, the addicted and emotionally captive freed and the bereaved comforted.
I’m grateful for the developing partnership between the Samaritan Center and Calvary. Once the pandemic ends, and it will end, Samaritan Center counselors will at least partially pivot back to seeing clients in person rather than relying primarily on telehealth. Churches and temples that support our ministry by providing rent-free counseling rooms help us to keep our costs low, assisting us to honor our promise to never turn a client away because of an inability to pay. Providing counseling spaces, as with contributing to our Client Assistance Fund, helps to provide justice for the economically oppressed.
Advent wreaths usually feature a rose-colored candle on Advent’s third Sunday, symbolizing our joy at the impending commemoration of the Messiah’s birth. Today, may the rose candle also connote our joy that God calls and empowers Calvary, the Samaritan Center, and all of our partners to walk in Jesus’ footsteps providing justice for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, liberation for captives, and comfort for the bereaved. Amen.
Sermon preached at
Calvary Episcopal Church, Kaneohe, HI
Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2020
 John 1:6-8, 19-28.
 Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11.