Sunday, September 24, 2017 “The last shall be first and the first shall be last,” or “Life is not fair”
If I were to put a board out front the way some churches do with a saying of the week or the theme of the sermon, today’s might read, “Today’s Sermon Topic: Life is not Fair”.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand, ” Jesus warns his listeners. If we always at the very least lean toward the side of justice and truth, then indeed we may be standing alone, or at least not not in the crowd. We may face persecution and rejection for our unpopular views, but I urge you this day to look at how the church — and I’m not talking about a congregation, but the following of Jesus — has grown since the first generation of followers, how it has added to the house, not divided it. And it grows by following the graciousness and mercy of God, not by trying to hoard God’s mercy, as Jonah does, or resenting God’s generosity s the laborers who have worked all day in the field are.
The Book of Jonah is a short story. We step into the very end of where we find Jonah, the very reluctant prophet, told to preach about God’s mercy to a foreign people. He wants no part of this generosity. He does not believe that God would care for the Gentile people of Nineveh. Through a series of adventures, including the famous three days in the belly of a great fish, Jonah is finally led, albeit very reluctantly, to see that something is seriously wrong with a religious system that enables him to be more compassionate toward a tree than he could be toward the Ninevites.
In the words of a seminary professor of mine, the church needs to have “porous boundaries,” to enable the Spirit to flow freely and to catch as many people as she can in her wide embrace, including those who arrive at the eleventh hour.
Sunday, September 10, 2017 Loving One Another
Today Jesus says, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” Is there anything harder than confronting someone who’s grieved you? Especially when it’s someone you know well? It’s so much easier for us to take our grievance to someone else — to talk about it to anyone else who would listen. Anyone else that is, except the one we ought to. But this is what this gospel is all about. It’s about how we should behave if we are indeed going to call ourselves members of God’s family.
If we want our church to grow (as everyone has so far said in the surveys), we need to work constantly on our witness, our discipleship. Others must see us care for each other. They should hear us speak kindly of one another and they should see us forgive and ask forgiveness. It’s not always easy, and we won’t always do it. But as we try to live as we are called to live, we have only to remember that Jesus also said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” As Jesus also reminds us in today’s Gospel, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The promise is now made, not to Peter alone, but to us as well, “Whatever is forbidden on earth, will be forbidden in heaven and whatever is permitted here will be permitted in heaven.” Or, in the words of Jesus later in Matthew, we write the Gospel on five fingers, “YOU DID IT TO ME.” Let us remember, this and every day our brothers and sisters in need here and around the globe. And let there be no separation or estrangement from one another. We need one another in this journey in faith. As Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle to the Romans, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Let us show such love without ceasing at Emmanuel.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.
In today’s Gospel we see that the Pharisees and teachers of the law are trying to impose religious burdens. Later in (Matthew 23:4) we will read the scribes and Pharisees “bind heavy burdens and place grievous weights on peoples’ shoulders.” The practices of the Pharisaic Jews seem here like a rigid routine of religion of rules and regulations, rules that included over 600 practices as outlined in the Book of Leviticus. Religion then became a weight and burden to be loaded onto one’s shoulders.
Jesus’ yoke is entirely different. It is as if Jesus is saying: “Take my teachings, take my life, take my spirit, take my way of life and learn from me instead of learning from the Pharisees and their religious interpretations and religious legalisms,” and not from the Pharisees’ rule book.
How do we do these things? For me, it starts by giving thanks every day. It involves living and being in community with other travelers in life. It always includes keeping the Sabbath and finding Sabbath time every day. Come and share how you are able to follow Jesus and be carried by him. See you in worship!!!
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Today’s Scripture reflection is from our Postulant for Holy Orders, Charles Cowen, who when he was with us at Emmanuel often facilitated the Sunday morning Bible Study. This is Charles’ reflection for today’s Gospel, as published in last week’s Episcopal Church’s Digital Network under “Sermons that Work” on the readings for June 25 and July 2. Charles is a rising senior at the Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas.
“These two verses at the end of Chapter 10 of Matthew conclude a treatise from Jesus to his disciples on the role of mission. Jesus gathers the twelve, gives them the powers of healing and exorcism, and sends them into the world to cast out demons and heal (Mt 10:1). Jesus then warns his disciples that in performing these acts of love, they will meet persecution and disdain.
Jesus still commands us, his 21st-century followers, to share the Good News of Jesus, which brings healing and life to the world. This may not make us popular, and neither will the work be easy. In these two verses appointed for today, however, Jesus reveals the rewards for those who are faithful. Notice that these rewards do not include wealth, fame, or worldly goods. Our reward is “the reward of the righteous” (Mt 10:41). God calls each of us to spread the Gospel in different ways-some are wandering prophets, some are teachers, some are even little children. All of us, however, carry the light of Christ and can take that light into the dark places of this world.
- What are your gifts, and how might you use them to spread the light of Christ?
- What brings you great joy? How might God use that joy to spread the Gospel?
- Where are the dark areas in your community that need the light of Christ?
Sunday, June 25, 2017
In today’s Gospel Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission in the world. They will face dangers, humiliations, possibly death. They observe, as an eighth century Christian prayer puts it, that “things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new…” But do not fear, says Jesus, do not be intimidated, be honest and faithful. Keep the last day in mind. You are loved. And by losing your life, you will find it.
Jesus’ comments about not fearing come in the context of his sending his disciples out to preach in towns and villages of Galilee. At the same time, we heard him last week warn the twelve of coming persecutions “See I am sending you out like sheep in to the midst of wolves.” But then he tells his disciples not to fear any of these things. Really?
Jesus is not saying that all we have to fear is fear itself, rather to fear that which is truly deadly. He is talking about what truly matters; about the importance of taking the long view. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows his desire to fortify his disciples for the impending opposition by community and family. There is a constant interplay of hard texts (warnings) and comforting texts (promises). What is a disciple to do?
Our world is different; perhaps more complicated that first century Palestine with slaves and masters. So, taking a long view about fear pushed me to read ancient and modern religious leaders, including Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, to help me with Jesus’ words on being faithful and not fearful.
Join us in worship to learn more about how not to fear and what I learned from these ancient and contemporary masters. Learn from one another about how to be a fearless disciple!