|Pentecost 20, year A||October 26, 2014||Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 1, Matthew 22:34-36|
|Pentecost 19, year A||October 19, 2014||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Pentecost 17, year A||October 5, 2014||Proper 22, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 16, year A||September 28, 2014||Proper 21, Year A||Sermon, Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32, Psalm 25: 1-8, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 14, year A||September 14, 2014||Proper 19, Year A||Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 13, year A||September 7, 2014||Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 11, year A||August 24, 2014||Proper 16, Year A||Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 10, year A||August 17, 2014||Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28|
|Pentecost 9, year A||August 10, 2014||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 8, year A||August 3, 2014||Pentecost 8, year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 6, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25|
|Pentecost 7, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 12, Year A||I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33|
|Pentecost 5, year A||July 13, 2014||Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Psalm 65:9-14|
|Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily||July 13, 2014||Burial of the Dead, Rite II||Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3|
|Pentecost 4, year A||July 6, 2014||Proper 9, Year A||Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30|
Second Sunday in Lent, Year C
Sermon Date:February 24, 2013
Scripture: Sermon, Second Sunday in Lent, Year C
Liturgy Calendar: Philippians 3:17-4:1
In today’s epistle, Paul tells the Philippians that “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let’s go back in time to the first century, to Philippi, in Macedonia, today part of northern Greece. In the first century, Macedonia belonged to the Roman Empire. After occupying Macedonia, Caesar Augustus re-established the city of Philippi as a Roman colony and resettled veterans and farmers in need of land in and around the city.
I’d like for you to meet Demetrius. Demetrius was born in Rome, and lived anonymously among the masses of people who lived in that great city. As soon as he was old enough to leave his family behind, Demetrius joined the military and served his emperor with distinction throughout several campaigns, but then his luck ran out and he was seriously injured.
Unfortunately his parents had died while he was in service, and his two brothers had made it pretty clear that neither of them could take Demetrius in when he returned from the war. He had nowhere to go, and so he ended up living in the colony of veterans in Philippi.
In spite of the fact that he now lived in Philippi, Demetrius would tell you if you asked that Rome was his true home. Even if he never went back there, he would keep his name on the registry of Rome, and his identity would always come from there.
When Demetrius heard Paul say that “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” Demetrius was puzzled. His savior was Caesar Augustus, and his citizenship was in Rome.
Demetrius began to follow Paul around. He wanted to find out more about this Savior that Paul kept talking about.
What Demetrius found shocked him. Even though they lived in Philippi, these people who called themselves Christians were different than others around them. They modeled their lives after their leaders, who in turn lived in the way that they had been taught by this Lord Jesus Christ.
These Christians were “standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and they were not intimidated by their opponents. In fact, they had the same mind in them that Paul said was in Christ Jesus, “who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness—and he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.”
Demetrius had to admit that these people shone like stars in Philippi. Light seemed to pour out of them as they imitated their savior in humble service to one another and to all around them. He began to understand, by watching the Christians and the way they lived, why Paul said that they were citizens of heaven.
Now if Demetrius got into a time machine and visited the United States he would recognize some of these same qualities among our citizens. He would find a few people shining like stars because they live as if their citizenship really is in heaven.
And he would also find people distracted by the world, so proud and arrogant in their certainties about the ways of the world that their citizenship reflects only the narrowest views of their own country, and their actions have nothing to say about citizenship in heaven at all—enemies of the cross, Paul calls them, spreading discord instead of love–putting appetites for things ahead of the needs of others–taking pleasure in those things that would cause shame if they were known.
And what if he picked up a newspaper to try to learn more about our culture? This past Friday’s Free Lance-Star (February 22, 2013) would have been interesting for Demetrius to read.
Sandwiched in between a headline about a doctor who is under scrutiny for the incredible number of prescriptions she has written for narcotic drugs and another headline reporting that three people died, and six were wounded in Las Vegas violence which included an altercation, a car chase, a shooting, and a huge wreck in which innocent people died, there between these two headlines–right in the middle of the front page—was a big picture of a Marine couple. And this headline read “Letter of forgiveness moves Caroline court.” This article is by Portia Smith, who covers Caroline County for the Free Lance-Star.
Now people whose citizenship is in heaven try their best to live as if heaven has truly already come to this earth—heaven here and now, here in this place, and one example of the things that citizens of heaven do is to practice the art of forgiveness. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that we can forgive those who sin against us. The practice of forgiveness is non-negotiable for people whose citizenship is in heaven.
But as we’re learning in the adult education, the art of forgiveness is complicated and it can be one of the hardest things in the world to practice. Forgiving someone is especially hard when we feel that justice has not been done.
The article in the paper explained that Grace Donnelly forgave the people who had broken into her home and had stolen, along with other jewelry, an engraved $9500 Cartier love bracelet that she had bought for her husband so that he would have something that represented her love for him—so that he would never worry about her while he was away on deployments.
Three men were charged with this crime and many others, and they were given jail time and ordered to pay restitution to the victims of their crimes—and Grace and her husband were to receive more than $15,000 in restitution.
Now here’s the amazing part. Grace told Tony Spencer who is the Commonwealth’s Attorney that she didn’t want the money. Instead, she asked to be able to write a letter to each of the three men who had stolen from her family.
Here’s an excerpt from one of her letters. “I do not wish to receive reimbursement, but I want you to hear what I have to say.
We are not rich, we have debts to pay and we certainly do need that money, but we don’t want to add to your burden. We’d rather see you succeed later on and not worry about what you’re supposed to pay off….I do want to tell you this though…before you do anything and know that it will hurt or cause any pain to someone else, do not do it. Always choose to do the right thing. Be the strong person that you ought to be. Life is too precious to be wasting time harming people. Despite what you guys did, I have already forgiven you with or without an apology…Life isn’t that bad when you do what is right. I will be praying for you. “
Later she talked to one of the men on the phone, and after his apology, they were both crying.
The article went on to explain that “Spencer, who has practiced criminal law for 23 years, said he has never come across anyone as forgiving and truly Christian as Grace.”
Truly, this woman’s citizenship is in heaven, and here’s the important point for us to consider.
Her citizenship in heaven makes a difference in how she is living here and now. Her actions are those of a person who knows that the Reign, that is, the Kingdom of God is now, even though that Reign has not been completely fulfilled yet on this earth.
But Grace’s actions bring the Reign of God into clearer focus for those of us who have witnessed her example of living as a citizen of heaven and freely offering the sort of forgiveness that has the potential to change lives.
In her action, we can see the Savior we are waiting for, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can see him, alive and present in our midst, because of Grace Donnelly’s ability to act as Jesus would and to offer forgiveness to these young men.
During this week of Lent, spend some time thinking and praying about what it means to you to be a citizen of heaven, and think about what you can do to make this Savior that we are expecting, our Lord Jesus Christ, visible and alive to those around you—in this space, in our community, on this earth.
Every action we take has the potential to bring God’s reign just a little closer, into clearer focus.
I leave you with Paul’s closing words to the Philippians in today’s Epistle reading.
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.”
Stand firm in the Lord, and be the strong person God is calling you to be, as you strive to live here and now, in this place, as a citizen of heaven.