|Maundy Thursday, Year A||April 13, 2017||Maundy Thursday, Year A||John 13:1-7, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year A||April 9, 2017||Palm Sunday, Year A||Matthew 26:36-46|
|Lent 5||April 2, 2017||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, Baptism||John 11:1-45|
|Lent 4||March 26, 2017||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A||Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41|
|Lent 3||March 19, 2017||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2||March 12, 2017||Second Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1||March 5, 2017||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday||March 1, 2017||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 26, 2017||Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany||February 19, 2017||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 12, 2017||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 5, 2017||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt||January 29, 2017||4th Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 22, 2017||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 15, 2017||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
Sixth Sunday After Easter
Sermon Date:May 29, 2011
Scripture: Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14: 15-21
Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year A
Uncertainty is a given in this life.
Today we come together to celebrate those in our midst who choose a life of uncertainty for the common good.
As many of you know, TC Collins, one of us, is a special investigator for the Virginia State Police. On Tuesday, he received an Award of Merit from the Department of State Police for his work on a case in which many people worked together to bring a man who had committed murder to justice.
At the same awards ceremony, six state troopers received awards for heroic actions in which they went into situations completely uncertain of their personal safety, and risked their lives for the common good. And they could have died—a fact brought vividly home to all of us who had attended the police officers’ memorial service that was held earlier that morning. At that service we remembered the fifty-six officers who have died in the line of duty in Virginia since 1928.
To serve in the military is to face into the uncertainty of life in order to serve the common good.
Early one morning in October, 2005, Sergeant James Witkowski, age 32, rode as the lone gunner in the turret on top of an armored Humvee, providing a first line of defense for the one hundred soldiers carrying supplies to one of the Army’s forward operating bases.
Not far into the journey, the early morning silence was broken by the shrieking of rocket propelled grenades, small arms fire, and the deafening blasts of improvised explosive devices aimed at the convoy as it passed through a small village.
The convoy had entered into what is known as a developed enemy kill zone.
The twelve trucks and the Humvees took rounds from all sides as they tried to keep moving, to get through as quickly as possible, hopefully without any casualties or loss of supplies.
Witowski, whose Hummer one of those at the front of the convoy, fired back with his machine gun as he struggled to spot the enemy through the smoke, dirt and flames thrown up by the explosions.
And then he saw a hand grenade, as if in slow motion, land in the turret.
This one small death dealing orb had the power to destroy the Humvee, and in so doing, bring the entire convoy to a halt as the vehicles pile into one another—the lives of one hundred soldiers were now at even greater risk.
Witkowski yelled to the others to get down, and wrappped himself around the grenade just as it went off. He absorbed the full impact of the explosion into himself, and died instantly.
Everyone in Witkowski’s Humvee was hit by shrapnel from this explosion. The driver, hit in his neck and right side, bleeding and spattered with Witkowski’s blood, swerved and and nearly lost control of the vehicle. With brute strength and determination he wrenched the Humvee back onto the road and races ahead.
Because of his simple and selfless action for the common good of his fellows, the soldiers in Witkowski’s Humvee survived. The convoy made it through the mile long ambush. Witkowski was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nations’ third highest award for courage under fire.
Another group of people in our midst who enter into uncertainty every day for our common good—these people are our farmers.
Johnny Davis is a farmer. Farmers have no guarantee that their hard labor is going to produce anything at all. Floods, droughts, too much heat or cold—farmers choose to place seeds and plants into the earth without knowing whether or not they will have a profitable crop at the end of the growing season. But they face into the uncertainty of farming for the common good of us all—because without the farmers, we would have nothing to eat.
On Rogation Sunday, we ask God for protection and blessing, even in the uncertainties of this life.
And whether we want to admit it or not, all of us live with uncertainty. Throughout our lives we face uncertainty—
And that uncertainty may be in our chosen professions. We may struggle with not having enough money. Everyone in here has had uncertainty deep down inside about whether or not we have what it takes to manage difficult and uncertain situations.
Sometimes we find ourselves in deep uncertainty about relationships that we considered the most certain thing in our lives. Will this friendship or marriage really make it? Will my children grow up to be responsible caring adults?
And we struggle with the uncertainty of life itself, because ultimately, our lives are fragile, and uncertain, and looking death in the face is downright scary.
So we gather here in this place each week to praise God—because God is the only certain thing in our lives.
We know that God, above all, acts for the common good of all of us, for all of humanity.
And we know this is true, because God chose to live and die as one of us, even though God faced uncertainty about whether or not that audacious plan would even make a difference.
Now when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he faced complete uncertainty. “Father, if it is your will, let this cup pass from me,” he prayed.
Jesus had to decide in that Garden whether the certainty with which he had lived his life, completely focused on God’s will, was worth keeping in the face of certain death.
Jesus could have made the decision to take a quick walk across the top of the ridge of the Mount of Olives, to disappear into the desert, and to avoid capture and death.
But as he looked toward Jerusalem, Jesus was certain that God’s will for him was what would be best for the common good of humanity.
Jesus chose to die as he had lived, with his heart and mind and soul focused on God, and loving humanity, loving each and every one of us, to the end.
Without his resurrection, the crucifixion and death of Jesus would have been only a footnote in history, if that—the death of a good man, some would have said a crazy man, who taught his disciples to keep two completely impossible commandments—
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Now if we ever want to know an uncertain group of people, all we have to do is to think about the disciples.
Even as they experienced the joy of the resurrection, the disciples were still uncertain about who Jesus was, and what their time with him had meant.
We heard Thomas ask Jesus last week—
“How can we know the way?”
And Phillip asked, wanting certainty with all his heart—
“Show us the father, and we shall be satisfied.”
And now, Jesus was leaving them again, and to help them through their uncertainty
he tells them—“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the spirit of truth.”
The Holy Spirit, who lives and dwells in us.
The Holy Spirit brings us certainty.
Paul preaches that certainty as he speaks before the men of Athens. God, who gave us life with all its uncertainties, gave us the certainty of the resurrection,
If we live into the certainty of the resurrection, then we can live our lives for the common good, loving God wholeheartedly and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Peter tells us how.
Do not fear, do not be intimidated.
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who wants an accounting of your hope—
And Peter reminds us that our witness to our certainty about our faith is to be done with gentleness and in reverence.
And so, as we ask God to bless our fields and farms today, as we continue through this Memorial Day weekend remembering the soldiers who have, throughout the history of our country, entered into the uncertainty of war in the hope of serving the common good of our nation, and asking God to protect and bless those who serve today,
As we go out into our own uncertainties, let us pray.
We thank you, God, for the earth that holds within it the dust and ashes of those who have willingly laid down their lives for the common good for our life together as a nation, for the earth that holds the seeds that we plant, the seeds that will die and rise into the new life of crops that will become our food.
We thank you, God, that the earth could not hold Jesus Christ your Son in death. We thank you that you brought him out of the grave for us, so that even in the uncertainties of this life, we may live in the certainty of your love as we live in anticipation of our own resurrections,
And we ask that we rise each morning as a new people, that we rise in the light of your shining mercy,
We ask you to help us live each day, full of the spirit of truth, serving the common good, because of our undivided love for you, our Risen Lord, the One Lord and God of All.