Proper 28, Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 February 13, 2013 Ash Wedneday Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 103, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 10, 2013 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 9:28-36, II Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany February 3, 2013 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, I Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 27, 2013 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Nehemiah 8:1-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21
Second Sunday after Epiphany January 20, 2013 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
First Sunday after Epiphany January 13, 2013 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The Feast of the Epiphany January 6, 2013 Epiphany, Year C Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012 December 24, 2012 Christmas, Year C Luke 2:1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year C December 16, 2012 Third Sunday in Advent, Year C Luke 3:7-18, Philippians 4:4-7
Sermon, VTS, December 13, 2012 December 13, 2012 Daily Office, December 13, 2012 Psalm 145
Second Sunday in Advent, Year C December 9, 2012 Second Sunday of Advent, Year C Canticle 16, Song of Zechariah
First Sunday in Advent, Year C December 2, 2012 First Sunday of Advent, Year C Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year B November 25, 2012 Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year B Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37
Proper 28, Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost November 18, 2012 Sermon, Proper 28, Year B Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25, Psalm 16
Proper 27, Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost November 11, 2012 Proper 27, Year B I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

 

Proper 28, Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon Date:November 18, 2012

Scripture: Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25, Psalm 16

Liturgy Calendar: Sermon, Proper 28, Year B


One day several years ago I was praying at St Mary’s in Fredericksburg.  About twenty minutes into my prayer, I looked up at the large crucifix hanging behind the altar, which I had grown to love over the years. 

That day as I looked up I saw, as if a small door had opened in Christ’s body, a distant scene of serene and  incredible beauty—a stretch of green pasture,  and  a blue sky softened by a few white clouds.  

As I gazed at this scene, I felt a peaceful hope and joy fill my heart.  And then the scene faded, but the peace, hope and joy stayed with me.

I had forgotten this time of prayer until I read the Hebrews passage we have just heard today, about the new and living way that Jesus opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh).

When Jesus died on the cross, Mark tells us that the curtain of the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two, from top to bottom, opening forever for all people the doorway into God’s presence, the doorway that I saw open that day in prayer—the doorway that Jesus himself opens for us through God’s forgiveness for us, symbolized by our baptisms. 

This is the week when most of us will be opening our doors to welcome friends and family who will join us around our table in thanksgiving for all of our blessings in this past year, symbolized by the feasts on our tables, or we may be going through the doorways of our families or friends to join them for this celebration. 

The writer of Hebrews knows the importance of gathering in thanksgiving for all that we have been given, because  Jesus has opened this way to God for each one of us. 

And that is why he encourages Christians to enter through the doorways into the spaces where they gather each week to praise and to thank God.  Our baptisms remind us that God has made us clean from our evil consciences—that God has forgiven us for whatever we have done to separate ourselves from God and from one another.

And so we have hope.

Choosing to come to church, gathering together in thanksgiving to worship, is ultimately an act of hope and confidence in God.    

When we gather together here, we come together as brothers and sisters, as children of God—all loved and forgiven and welcomed by God.

Coming to church every Sunday reminds me of going home for Thanksgiving.  We make the drive to my parents’ house, and when we pull up in the driveway,  my father comes to the door.  His face lights up, and he opens the door—he’s so glad we’re there, and he welcomes us into the house, which is filled with the glorious smell of my mother’s cooking—and she’s been preparing the table for us for days–her act of love and welcome. 

Sundays are like that for me.  God is here, waiting to open the door for us, to welcome us in to this house, and God prepares this thanksgiving table for us each week—God’s ultimate act of love and welcome.  

What a joy it is to enter into God’s house, and to be with one another, assured of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness for each one of us, God’s treasured children. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that when we come to worship, we hold on to our confession of hope without wavering, for God is faithful. 

Coming to church, gathering together in thanksgiving to worship, is ultimately an act of hope and confidence—not only in God, but also in one another.

That’s another wonderful thing about gathering together with family and friends on the Thanksgiving holiday. 

No family is perfect.  But to lay aside our differences, and to join together around the thanksgiving table, is an act of hope and confidence that if God has forgiven each one of us, then we have the potential to forgive one another for the hurts and burdens that knowingly, or unknowingly, we have placed on one another.  

And we gather with our less than perfect family members and friends believing that God, who has promised to redeem all of creation, will enter into our brokenness and heal us and our relationships with God’s powerful and redemptive love. 

God’s love for each one of us gives us hope and confidence.

The writer of Hebrews also reminds us that when we gather to worship,  “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

To choose to come together week by week, to enter through these doorways into this place, to be with one another, gives us the opportunity to encourage one another.  We are here to support one another, and to make one another’s burdens a little lighter.  

We have one another as companions as we trudge along  the sometimes rocky and uphill pathways that we have to walk each week. 

And we have the encouragement of one another to walk a little more lightly by doing good deeds and loving those around us more deeply. 

Here’s an example of what I mean.  Brad put the Mercurios on the prayer list quite a while ago, and by doing so, he encouraged us to the good deed of praying for this family. 

We have been praying for Bud and Cathy for quite a while now.  This week Bud died of cancer.  Now even though the Mercurios live in South Carolina and have never been here, our prayers for them have made this part of their journey a little lighter.  They know we have been walking with them in this very hard part of their journey through our prayers for them. 

Last week, as Bud lay dying, Cathy took the time to write a note to all of us here at St Peter’s, thanking us for our continuing prayers and blessings for them.  The Mercurios have felt encouragement and love from this gathered family, even though they haven’t been here in person. 

Thomas Long, who wrote a commentary on Hebrews, points out that when we enter into our earthly sanctuaries to praise God and to pray and to sing, and to share the bread and wine, we are also entering into the true and heavenly sanctuary where Jesus is the great high priest. 

We enter into another dimension of time and space that includes not only those of us who are living, but all of those who have passed into eternal life, like Bud.    

Long says that “whether it is high mass or prayer meeting, a eucharist or revival, choral evensong with a boys’ choir or a praise service with a rock band, whether it takes place in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Christmas Eve, or Wednesday night at the Baptist church, or in the coffee room of the office on a Thursday morning –whenever Christians meet together for worship, we walk through the doorway of an ordinary building, ‘an earthly tent,’ and find ourselves in the company of heaven singing praises with the heavenly hosts.” 

In other words, when we gather to worship, in this time and in this space, we are participating in eternity—in the eternal praises of God, and we have a foretaste of a day when God will be  fully present in a fully redeemed world—we see into the future, into God’s final victorious redemption of all of creation.

And when we pass through one another’s doorways this coming Thursday, and gather around our Thanksgiving tables, with our family and our friends, and we give thanks for all the blessings that we have been given, we are also participating in eternity—remembering those who have gone before us, who have made our gathering possible, the ones we will join again someday as we praise God throughout eternity.

And as we thank God  around the table,  we also enter into the joy and hope and peace of this present day, in the present company we have been given, knowing that God gives us the potential to forgive one another as we have been forgiven, to love one another as God has loved us, and to encourage one another as God encourages us.

Surely, as the psalmist says, we can rest with one another in hope, because God has shown us the path of life, and in God’s presence there is fullness of joy, and in God’s right hand there are pleasures for each of us forevermore. 

Amen. 

 

Resource:  Hebrews, by Thomas G. Long,  in the series Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox Press: Louisville, KY.  1997

 

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