Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A March 20, 2011 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17, Psalm 121
First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 March 13, 2011 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19, Romans 8:18-25
Ash Wednesday Sermon March 9, 2011 Ash Wednesday Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday After Epiphany March 6, 2011 Last Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 17:1-9
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow February 27, 2011 Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 49:8-16a; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
Choose Life February 13, 2011 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
We are the Salt of the Earth February 6, 2011 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:13-20, Isaiah 58:1-12
Shalom January 30, 2011 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:1-12
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 23, 2011 Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A Matthew 4:12-23, John 21
Second Sunday After Epiphany January 16, 2011 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A John 1:29-42
The Baptism of our Lord January 9, 2011

The Baptism of our Lord, Year A

Matthew 3:13-17

Epiphany Service January 6, 2011

Epiphany, Year A

Matthew 2:1-12

Traveling Back On A Different Road January 2, 2011

Second Sunday after Christmas, 2010

Matthew 2:1-12; Jeremiah 31:7-14

The Dance of the Trinity December 26, 2010

First Sunday after Christmas, Year A

John 1:1-18

And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve, 2010

Luke 2:1-20


Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Sermon Date:January 23, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23, John 21

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A

Many of you will want to know what went on at our 216th Annual Diocesan Council that took place this weekend.  Linda Beck, your delegate and I, attended the council.

I would like to speak directly about Resolution R-2A:  Blessings of Same-Gender Unions because I know that that resolution is of particular and ongoing concern to all of us.

The resolution reads as follows. 

“Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia thanks Bishop Shannon Johnston and the diocesan team for the very fruitful "Listen … And Be Heard" sessions in 2010, and urges our Bishop to ‘provide a generous pastoral   response’ by moving forward with guidelines with regard to public blessings of same gender unions.”

This resolution passed by a fairly large margin in both the clergy order and the lay order after  respectful  debate offered by delegates and clergy who were opposed to the resolution as well as  those who were in favor of the resolution. 

In his comments about this resolution,  Bishop Shannon talked about the Listen and Be Heard sessions, which were held around the diocese.  Several of you attended the session that was held in Tappahannock.  The listening sessions generated two hundred and forty seven pages of information which the Bishop has studied carefully.

None of us will be surprised that the Bishop found that more study and conversation is necessary in our diocese.  He plans to continue this conversation with people with varying viewpoints on this issue, and the Diocese will be offering study sessions throughout the diocese regarding human sexuality.   

Second, the Bishop stated that the result of the passing of this resolution is that he will begin work with parishes who have spent time working through this issue and who feel called to “generous pastoral responses” for  those who desire to be in committed same gender unions.   

What does the passing of this resolution mean for us, here at St Peter’s? 

When I applied for your position of Priest –in-Charge, both the search committee and the Vestry made it very clear that the majority of people at St Peter’s have theological objections to the blessings of same gender unions. 

Other churches in our Diocese also have a majority of people who feel as the majority of people at this church do.  The resolution allows these churches to remain as we are.  We will not be one of the parishes that Bishop Shannon will work with on this issue. 

Based on the Bishop’s comments, people all over the diocese will have the opportunity to attend study sessions around the diocese that will be offered for those who are interested in studying the theological and scriptural issues that surround human sexuality.

I will make information about these study sessions available when the diocese puts the sessions in place.  Whether or not you want to attend these study sessions will be totally up to you. 

Although the resolution passed by a fairly large majority in both the clerical and lay orders, the Bishop is well aware that a great deal of disagreement continues over this issue in this Diocese.  His intention is to continue to encourage respectful discussion, and to respect every viewpoint on this issue as the conversation continues. 

As many of you have, I have struggled over many years to work through the many complex issues of sexuality that we as Christians are called to address through our understandings of scripture, through our experiences, and through our traditions of the body of faith that is the Church Universal.   I believe that people of deep faith can, and obviously have, come to opposing conclusions on this issue. 

Bishop Jones, who was our chaplain for the weekend, stated in his closing remarks, “Only time will tell” what is the will of God in this matter. 

Only time will tell who God is calling us, as the church to be.  Only God can call us, ultimately, into the way in which God wants to lead us in this matter. 

Meanwhile, my hope is that each one of us, as the people of St Peter’s, can be respectful of our fellow Christians who have come to varying conclusions on this issue. 

I hope we can hold one another in prayer, with a spirit of love and respect for one another as this issue continues to perplex us, haunt us, and challenge us.

I hope that we can be God’s witnesses to the world in the loving ways in which we deal with one another here in this church and in our diocesan family, even in our disagreements. 

Please feel free to contact me if you wish discuss this particular issue further in the next week or so, or any time in the future. 

And now, we go to the Sea of Galilee.

It’s a warm, calm day, and Simon and Andrew have taken their boat out onto the Sea of Galilee.  The sun shines down, the water laps against the sides of the boat.  Simon and Andrew are casting their nets into the water, hoping for a large catch of fish, for they are fishermen, after all.

And then they hear a voice calling to them.

It’s Jesus, and he calls out, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”   

James and John, also fishermen, are in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, when Jesus also calls to them. 

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

And immediately, Simon and Andrew and James and John left their nets, and James and John left not only their nets but also their father, and all four of them followed Jesus—immediately they followed Jesus.

They trusted Jesus enough to follow him.

Jesus called these four just as they were.  He called four fishermen.  Jesus called them to follow him as fishermen.  But he transformed their fishing and told them that they would become fishers of people. 

Only time would reveal exactly what Jesus meant by that call. 

The disciples trusted Jesus and entered into the mystery of what it was like to leave behind what they knew and enter into a life that had no certainty in it—no certainty except their trust in this one man whose call they had answered. 

When God calls us into discipleship, we find that we, like the disciples, also have to trust him and enter into the mystery of what it is like to leave behind what we are doing and enter into a life that has only one certainty—and that certainty is Jesus Christ our Lord, the man we have chosen to follow.

And only time will tell who we will become when we trust in Jesus and enter into a life of discipleship. 

The fact that Jesus calls us to be his disciples means that Jesus himself is putting his trust in us.  Jesus is trusting us, to come just as we are—he wants each one of  us, with all our faults.  And he calls us, hoping and trusting that we will follow. 

Jesus is also hoping that we will be willing to trust him and follow him, even though we cannot see where the road will lead. 

Trust—Jesus trusts us to follow him. 

Trust—we trust Jesus to lead us in the paths of righteousness and discipleship for his name’s sake.

Today we have witnessed four men leaving behind what they know to follow a man they barely know.  We have heard the beginning of their story at the beginning of our first gospel, the gospel according to Matthew.

We can find the end of the story of the disciple’s time with Jesus In the 21st chapter of the last gospel, the gospel according to John.    

Peter and several of the disciples back in their old familiar territory.  They are back at the Sea of Galilee. 

Time has passed. 

Jesus has died and has been resurrected, and is no longer with them.  They feel abandoned.  They have no visible leader.

So just as any of us would do, they return to their old lives—they go back to what is comfortable and familiar, to what has worked in the past. 

And Peter says, “I am going fishing.”

At least fishing has a predictable trustworthy outcome. 

So they go out, and get into the boat and they fish all night, but the whole night passes and they don’t catch a thing. 

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt?

Maybe you have felt this way.  You’ve left behind your old life.  You’ve tried something new, which didn’t seem to work out at all.

And so you return to what is familiar—but that doesn’t work either.  You throw the nets back into that old familiar territory, but they come up empty. 

It’s when we come to these points in our lives—times when nothing seems to be working in our faith—times when we feel empty, angry, deserted and abandoned by God,

The times when we are out on the water in the darkness, and we are catching nothing—and we wonder if our trust has been misplaced–

The times when we wonder if our discipleship even matters at all—

That we hear a voice, just as the disciples did, calling out to us.

“Children, you have no fish, have you?”

Jesus knows our emptiness, our abandonment, our sense of betrayal.

And he tells us to put our nets back in the water one more time, he calls us to trust in him one more time.

The disciples did as he asked on that early dawn morning on the Sea of Galilee. 

They threw their net back into the water, and immediately the net was so full of fish that they could not even haul it into the boat. 

When Peter realizes that the man on the shore is Jesus, he jumps into the water and swims to shore, and when the boat arrives, Peter is so full of love  and excitement and adrenaline that he pulls the heavy net in all by himself.

Jesus cooks some of the fish and he and the disciples have breakfast together. 

This last encounter that Peter has with Jesus here by the Sea of Galilee gives us a clue about our own journeys as disciples. 

Jesus asks Peter a question three times.

“Peter, do you love me?” 

And three times, Peter answers “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus, who knows how imperfect Peter is, who knows  that Peter has denied him three times, now trusts Peter to enter into  an entirely new life. 

Peter will leave fishing for good, and become a shepherd, the leader of those who will follow Jesus, even though he is no longer going to be with them. 

“Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep, Peter.” 

And this man who denied Jesus three times, who returned to his old life after Jesus died,

Peter is the man who will risk his life, over and over, to do God’s work, caring for God’s people. 

In the book of Acts, the story of the early church, we see Peter constantly challenged by his faith in Jesus.   

Peter did not believe that Gentiles should be baptized.  This new faith must be only for the Jews.  But Peter, trusting in Jesus, has a change of heart, and he baptized Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and all of his family. 

Peter struggled with whether or not he could sit down at a table with Gentiles and eat with them.  He and Paul argued over this divisive issue in the church. 

Peter struggled, but he trusted, and God transformed Peter into the Rock on which he built the church.

Today, we are the disciples.  Jesus calls each and every one of us, just as we are, to trust in him.   

To trust him enough to travel down a road whose end we cannot know.

To trust him enough to enter into a mystery-

To trust him enough to struggle with our faith-

We don’t get to know the end of the story.

But the good news is that we, like the disciples, will be transformed if we trust Jesus enough to lead us into the mystery of his love. 

We can count on being transformed.

Only time will tell us where our trust in Jesus will lead us. 

Only time will tell us how God will transform us and who we will become. 

Our job as disciples is simply to trust, simply  to follow. 


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