Third Sunday after Pentecost

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 27 November 6, 2011 Sermon, Proper 27, Year A, All Saints’ Sunday Matthew 25:1-13; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
20th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 26 October 30, 2011 Proper 26, Year A Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25 October 23, 2011 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
18th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 24 October 16, 2011 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 22:15-22, Psalm 96
17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 23 October 9, 2011 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-12; Matthew 22:1-14
15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21 September 25, 2011 Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
13th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 19 September 11, 2011 Sermon, Proper 19, Year A Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12
12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 18 September 4, 2011 Sermon, Proper 18, Year A Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
10th Sunday After Pentecost – “But who do you say that I am?” August 21, 2011 Proper 16, Year A Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman August 14, 2011 Sermon, Proper 15, Year A Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat August 7, 2011 Proper 14, Year A Matthew 14:22-33
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Feeding of the 5000 July 31, 2011 Proper 13, Year A Matthew 14:13-21
Third Sunday after Pentecost July 3, 2011 Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 8 June 26, 2011 Second Sunday after Pentecost Romans 6:12-23; Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday June 19, 2011 First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

 

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon Date:July 3, 2011

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A


 

Tomorrow is July 4th, Independence Day.

In the Book of Common Prayer, July 4 is a major feast day in the Episcopal Church. 

The people who put the Prayer Book together very wisely realized that we are shaped as people both by our Christian beliefs and also by the fact that we are Americans. 

On our bulletin cover is a picture I took last year at the fourth of July celebration here in Port Royal.  In the photo, the viewer looks through the church window onto our flag, and then beyond out into the world.

I chose this picture for the bulletin cover today, because I think it reflects the thinking of the Prayer Book.    

I am a Christian, and so I see the world, and understand the world and interact with the world in the context of who I am as a Christian, standing within my faith.   

I am also an American, and so the ways I see, understand and interact with the world are also determined by who I am as an American.  That is, I see the world through the flag, which is a symbol of my patriotism.  Both my faith and my patriotism inform who I am and provide the framework for how I choose to live my life. 

Over the past decade or two in this country, we  Americans have struggled with  what it means to be both Christian and American.  The debate is often divisive, and we Christians argue among ourselves about how we most appropriately live our lives as Christians who are also Americans. 

This debate has been true in our country since its beginning.  Since we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War this year, I’d like to use an example of what I mean from that particular time in our history. 

Lee and Lincoln

Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln were both deeply rooted in their faith in God.

Robert E. Lee was a good Episcopalian.

Although Abraham Lincoln never joined a particular denomination, his wife said that he always read his Bible diligently, he never failed to rely on God’s promises & looked upon Him for protection.  During the Civil War, his great heart went up daily, hourly, in prayer to God for his sustaining power.

Both of these men were Christians and Americans.  And yet they held opposite sides in the great political and religious upheaval  of the Civil War years.  They prayed to the same God, and for the same thing—that this country might be delivered from its distress.

Robert E. Lee wrote a letter to his wife on Christmas Day in 1862.  And in that letter he had this to say about the war. 

“But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world!  I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.” 

A few years later, near the end of the war, in his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln had this to say about the war.

“Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained…  Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes God’s aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces’ but let us judge not that we be not judged.  The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. “ 

And then with these famous words he ended his speech:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle; and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”    

The Old Testament  prophet Zechariah  also longed for a just and lasting peace during a time of great instability in Israel, a time in which some of the people who had been sent into exile in Babylon had been allowed to return to Jerusalem.

 The temple was being rebuilt, and David Peterson tells us in his commentary on Zechariah that “there were competing notions of what the rebuilt community should look like, especially about religious and political matters.” 

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Competing notions…especially about religious and political matters. 

And so Zechariah shares a prophecy that contains a resolution to these conflicting notions.

His prophecy is that a king will arise who will bring a universal kingdom of peace throughout the earth—Zechariah’s message is a message of hope. 

Not only will this kingdom be universal, but we see God’s way of thinking in this passage.  Victory and humility are combined in this vision of the king, a king triumphant  and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey. 

Zechariah

Most of us are familiar with this passage from  the prophet Zechariah, because all four of the gospel writers make a direct reference to this prophecy when they note that Jesus  triumphantly entered Jerusalem the week before his death  humble and riding on a donkey, a would be king who had been teaching his followers over the past three years about how God uses power of love to create a kingdom built on God’s love, mercy and justice. 

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is our king, a king both triumphant, and yet at the same time humble, a king of power  who will someday usher in a reign of universal peace. 

In Chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus sends the disciples out on a mission—he sends them out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel—to their own people. 

They are to proclaim the good news, to cure the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons—the work of healers and peacemakers. 

And Jesus knows that they will grow weary in carrying out this mission, just as we grow weary and discouraged and heart sick in our own time as we try to live authentically as Christians in our own time and in our own country, as we pray to the same God from our varying perspectives. 

And so Jesus says to the disciples those famous words,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

A message of hope. 

Jesus reminds us that we can lay down  the heavy burden of trying to come up with our own solutions  in regard to competing political and religious agendas in our country, by turning to God for guidance.

Go with me now back in time to the 100th anniversary of our great nation, July 4, 1876, to an Episcopal church in Vermont, a small white clapboard church, a little bigger than our church, but not by much, also with a belfry topped by a cross.

We join the  people  who have come to church on this day, called by the sound of the church bell across the fields and down the country lanes, gathered together to celebrate their country’s 100th birthday, and as we enter the church filled with sunlight pouring through the clear glass windows, we hear a familiar hymn being sung—one that we still sing today. 

The  rector and priest , Daniel C. Roberts, composed  this  hymn for the nation’s 100th birthday, the hymn God of our Fathers.

Daniel C. Roberts

And this hymn is the one we sang today to open our service here in a small Episcopal Church filled with sunlight  in Virginia on a Sunday over 100 years later. 

The words of the hymn are the words of a Christian in America, who sees the world from the center of his faith through the eyes of his citizenship—the words of faith filtered through his patriotism.

The final verse holds within it the prophecy of Zechariah, the prayers of Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln, the invitation of Jesus—and our prayers,   from our differing perspectives, to the one God that all of us love and worship. 

And I’d like to end this sermon with that last verse,  as we stand and sing together the closing prayer of this hymn once again—hymn 718.

“Refresh thy people on their toilsome way;

Lead us from night to never-ending day;

Fill all our lives with love and grace divine;

And glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.”   

 

Amen.

 

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