“Fill the Space with Grace”

Matthew 10:24-39

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

“What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

I cannot speak for you, but, as for me, that admonition from this morning’s  gospel lesson is one I have always been slow to keep; slow to say, in the light, what the Holy Spirit has whispered, in the dark; hesitant to say, out loud, what I know, down deep, is true; hearing the Spirit’s whisper, but, then, instead of hauling it to the housetop, burying it in the basement.

Which isn’t always an altogether bad thing.  To the contrary, when we see what we believe to be new light on old truth, it is  wise to sit with it prayerfully, for a while, and test it against the central standard which Jesus gave us when Jesus said that what matters most is love for God and love for others, and all other ideas must be measured against that single central standard.  (If what we think we have heard in a whisper from the Spirit passes that test, and embodies, in deep, wide ways, love for God and love for all other persons, then, it might be new light.  If not, it is more likely just a dispatch from the echo chamber of our own desires and opinions.)

But, across my adult life, I have been slow to say out loud what I know deep down, less out of wise discernment than anxious fear; the fear that new light on old truth, clearly, plainly spoken, might bring what Jesus called, in this morning’s gospel lesson, “not peace, but a sword”; placing space between myself and my loved ones or friends who have not seen the same light or heard the same whisper.

I believe that many of us struggle with similar tensions in our spiritual lives; we see new light on old truth, and, then, we don’t know how to embrace that new light while also holding onto what we have always thought, and been taught, so we spend our lives not saying, out loud, what, deep down, we know to be true.  Instead, we just bury it, and pretend we didn’t hear that whisper of the Spirit, because to speak the truth about what we have come to believe might create space between ourselves and those whose approval or blessing we crave.

I thought about all this a lot last week, as I sat with my mother in this fragile chapter of her life.  In fact, one day, I slipped away for a while and went to the church where I grew up, and was ordained to be a minister; Log Cabin Baptist Church on Napier Avenue in Macon, Georgia.  Finding an unlocked door, I slipped into the empty sanctuary and made my way up to the pulpit where I preached my first sermon.  Looking out on that familiar old room, I could still see those dear and good people who first formed my life for God and the gospel; all of whom I yet love, but, very few, if any, of whom, would  embrace the truth about people, God, the Bible and life which I have come to believe.

In fact, let’s be honest; saying in the light what I have heard in the dark does, in some way, create the kind of division Jesus said it would in this morning’s gospel lesson; it creates a space between myself and my original family of faith; a wide space of real difference, but, a space full of nothing but love and grace.  Standing in that  sanctuary, surrounded by the ghosts of all those saints who first formed my life for God and the gospel, I could feel the space which had grown between us.  But, in no way, did it come between us.  It was just a space filled with grace.

I am a flawed and limited sinner; still in the process of being  redeemed.  But, in this one area of life, I can encourage you to do as I do: Listen for the whisper of the Spirit, say in the light what you have heard in the dark, and, if following Jesus in that way creates space between you and the world of your origins, between you and those you love, then let the Spirit of God fill that space with nothing but grace.