The First Congregational Church of Darien

United Church of Christ

A community of faith since 1737

THE UNTOUCHABLES

As a boy, Eliot Ness led the Untouchables on television to clean up gang-riddled America during Prohibition. As a young man, I saw Kevin Costner lead similar Untouchables in the movies, charged with mostly the same purifying. But now the Untouchables are another group.  And no, I don’t mean the lepers Jesus healed.

A cruise ship passenger emerged onto the deck.  He looked around at the blue ocean and rather overcast sky.  With a sour look, he acidly observed, “Crappy morning.”  A nearby deckhand, hustling with mop and bucket, replied in his thick Cockney accent, “Many a blind man would give his eye teeth to see what you’re seeing, Gov’na.”  The Untouchables who loom large for me these days are those who suffer from a form of spiritual poverty that manifests itself in ways like these. When we can no longer be touched by signs of redemption or moved by acts of love, we have become an Untouchable. It’s worse poverty than begging for gruel.

We are blessed by our abundance and prosperity, living as we do, where we do. But there is a shadow side to every blessing.  The shadow of our material thriving is an overweening sense of entitlement or privilege. We distance ourselves from gifts God gives us when, whatever throng of blessings we get, it’s never enough.

As this happens to us, we are Untouchable. Nothing and no one can reach us; the world isn’t good enough for someone like us; we deserve so much more.  We become Untouchable. Do you know inwardly impervious people like this who can no longer be touched inwardly, emotionally? Bereft of real joy and godly sorrow?

Jesus was hard on those whose callouses had grown to encase their hearts. He called out those who weren’t awestruck or grace-struck as they had reason to be.  That is what he was meant when he said, “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sack cloth and ashes.”  (Lk 10.13)  For many, no matter how God loved them in Jesus, no matter how much God reconciled them in the Christ, they didn’t respond, because it wasn’t enough.

Fat Sunday is our second Jazz Sunday we celebrate every year. These Sundays have become important to us, living in beautiful Darien, because of their power to break us open.  Do you know what I mean when I say ‘break us open?’ Consider Katherine Hedlund, daughter of this church, our pianist and vocalist on Sunday. She always plays beautifully, playing these jazz Sundays, once or twice a year. But I’ve increasingly observed in Katherine a vulnerable willingness to allow the message we bring—a word of the broken made whole—break her open with joy. As Katherine does that with or for us, she models something that we badly need.

Annie Dillard asks, “What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?  Why does death catch us by surprise, and why love?  We should amass half-dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.”

Come to our one Fat Sunday service at 10 am on Sunday. Come to our Mardi Gras themed dinner after. Come because we intend to celebrate the kind of love Jesus brought to all of us, the love that works on heart, mind, soul, and strength.

 

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