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Cannot Repay

August 28th, 2022 10:30 a.m.


By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

Good morning again! It’s wonderful to see your faces! I know since surviving a global pandemic that it seems is still with us, I do feel grateful every Sunday morning that I get to see faces. Because there was a long stretch where I didn’t see anybody but that little circle in the back and Andy, and Phillip and Jackie. I just feel grateful to see your face every time I am here!

So I invite you now as we come to this part of our gathering to take some deeper breaths and to let yourself arrive a little more fully. And to join me in a spirit of prayer as we all hope to hear whatever it is the Spirit needs for us to hear today.

Gracious God, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

At the end of his speech on Wednesday, announcing a three-part plan to cancel $10,000 of student debt for low-to middle-income borrowers, President Biden said, “It’s all about providing possibilities.”

But as you may have heard, some didn’t see it that way and some loudly declared that such a policy was wrong and unfair because not everyone in America would be receiving it. Some even quoted Psalm 37 where we read “The wicked borrow, and do not pay back.” And still others claimed that “student loan forgiveness is a violation of justice and a moral hazard that incentivizes bad behavior.”

But at the same time, others offered praise, citing the fact that since 1980, the total cost of both four-year public and four-year private college has nearly tripled, and federal support has not kept up. Many of us from working class families wouldn’t have had a shot at an education without Pell Grants. Maybe you heard the other end of the spectrum where people of faith applauded the plan, quoting from Deuteronomy 15 where we read of debts being forgiven every seventh year.

I wasn’t surprised that there was a strong reaction across the spectrum, but what did surprise me a bit was the idea among some, that equity is everyone getting the same thing. I think in this country sometimes we get confused. What we are after is equity, which is different than just dividing up the pie equally- “equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach a (just) outcome.” It’s about the outcome and it makes me want to ask: What if justice is everyone getting what they need? Maybe that seems like an obvious question, but it isn’t necessarily the one I hear all the time.

What if love looks like something like what we heard from the scripture. And as we look to the plants, we see that they do not ask before sharing seeds and sending nutrients. They do not raise questions of who is deserving, or of how they arrived at their circumstance, whether their parent plants did right by them.

For those who haven’t been along for the most recent ride, we are currently doing a series on what we can learn from non-human organisms and we are in our final week of looking at the book Braiding Sweetgrass and wow so much wisdom. I am still hearing your commentary about the mushrooms sermon from last week and people sending me pictures of mushrooms in their yard, which I love.

This week we get these instructions from the garden: Nurture connection, cultivate practical reverence, nurture the health and well-being of each part, protect from harm, encourage growth and development, hold a desire to be together, be generous in the sharing of resources… live.., interdependence, and sacrifice by one for the other…

That’s from the garden. And in light of this week, I found myself asking: What if this is what justice looks like? What if this is what love looks like? In a garden, in a church, in a family, in a country? What if generosity and justice are related?

Maybe this is radical, but I think this is part of what we get in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke, Jesus loves to teach with food. He is almost always around a table, having drinks and sharing a meal. And in this story, it’s a wedding party. And as one commentator puts it, what Jesus gracefully gives us is instructions about “the mundane details of life.” Isn’t that what we need?

Jesus seems to be talking about the best ways for the newly forming Christian communities to fellowship faithfully and thoughtfully. And I think he is also talking about equity linking wholeness and justice to the place of the most need. He says, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Invite the ones who can’t repay you.

I wonder if this is another way of saying: what if justice is everyone, every single one, getting not just a piece, but what they need? Not just a place, but a place at the table.

Leaving behind all of our human constructs and barriers that we have created. Jesus aims to bust all of these things that we have made, here at the table, he switches it all up and says we can let all of those things go!

Because we human beings usually divide power and decide place, by the person who is the loudest or the richest, or the ones with the most weapons or the one who has been here longest or the one who claims to have the most expertise- but Jesus says these things do not matter at the table. What if in the world God wants for us, at the table that Jesus sets for us, what if what matters, are the same things we learn from our gardens?

Because they do not ask before sharing seeds and sending nutrients. They do not raise questions of who is deserving.

How perfect that God was ahead of us and this was the assigned Gospel reading for the week that student loans are forgiven. Jesus says to us, to our egos, if there is enough for your decades of war, there is enough for your poor. What if we focused on ensuring there is always a place at the table for the ones who cannot repay?

What if what matters is: nurturing connection, cultivating reverence, nurturing the health and well-being of each one, protecting one another from harm, encouraging growth and development, being generous in the sharing of resources, living in our interdependence, and sacrifice by one for the other… what if this is what love looks like in a country and in a church? What if justice is everyone getting what they need? May that be so for all of us. Amen.

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