Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Day of Pentecost, Year C May 19, 2013 The Day of Pentecost, Year C Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17, (25-27))
Seventh Sunday after Easter, Year C May 12, 2013 Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C Luke 24:44-53; John 17:20-26, Acts 16:16-34
Six Sunday after Easter, Year C May 5, 2013 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 5:1-9
Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year C April 28, 2013 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35
Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year C April 21, 2013 Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year C Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30
Third Sunday after Easter, Year C April 14, 2013 Third Sunday of Easter, Year C John 21: 1-19
Second Sunday after Easter, Year C April 7, 2013 Second Sunday after Easter, Year C Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, Luke 24:13-35
Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013 March 31, 2013 Easter Day, Year C Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24I Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12
Good Friday, March 29, 2013 March 29, 2013 Good Friday, Year C John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013 March 28, 2013 Maundy Thursday, Year C Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1,10-17, I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C March 17, 2013 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C March 10, 2013 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C Joshua 5:9-12, Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32
Third Sunday in Lent, Year C March 3, 2013 Third Sunday in Lent, Year C Exodus 3:1-15, Luke 13:1-9
Second Sunday in Lent, Year C February 24, 2013 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Sermon, Second Sunday in Lent, Year C
First Sunday in Lent, Year C February 17, 2013 First Sunday in Lent, Year C Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Luke 4:1-13

 

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C

Sermon Date:March 10, 2013

Scripture: Joshua 5:9-12, Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32

Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C


Jesus loved to speak in parables, as he does in today’s gospel.    

What exactly is a parable? 

Fred Craddock tells us in his commentary on Luke that a parable is a comparison, an analogy, an elaboration, an illustration, a metaphor or a simile drawn from nature– or the common life that we share.  A good parable fascinates us by its “vividness and its strangeness.” 

Trying to figure out how to apply the parable to our own lives teases our minds into active thought. 

As I thought about parables, it occurred to me that our gathering together each Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist could be considered a parable. 

We enter into this parable when we gather together to worship—nothing unusual about that—but the “strangeness and the vividness” of this story become evident as the service progresses and we enter into the moments of the Last Supper and hear Jesus tell us that two common foods, bread and wine, made from grain and grapes, food that can be found on tables all over the world, is his very body and blood.      

“This is my body which is given for you.  This is my blood which is shed for you,”   Jesus says.   

And now we are caught up in the strangeness and vividness of the image.  What are we to make of the fact that we are about to partake together of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior?  The bread and wine pull our minds into active thought as we sort through the layers and layers of meaning that this little piece of bread in our hands and the sip of wine from the cup might hold for each one of us.

What does this action of coming to the altar and receiving bread and wine mean to you? 

Sometimes the meaning  of the bread and wine can be as ephemeral  as the northern lights, or as tangible and as heavy as a field stone, sometimes as sweet as honey, sometimes as bitter as vinegar—sometimes rich, sometimes horrifying or off putting, sometimes comforting, often disturbing,  sometimes challenging.

Some Sundays, eating this bread and drinking this wine may fill our hearts with joy, and other Sundays, our hands are weighted with sorrow as we receive the bread, and even if we aren’t crying, we can imagine our tears mingling with the wine as we drink from the chalice. 

And some days, when we’re tired and depleted, or distracted by the events in our lives, the bread and wine may seem to be nothing more than just that, bread and wine. 

The Bible is full of meals that turn out to be parables—fascinating stories with layer upon layer of meaning, stories that tease us, and worry us, and puzzle us.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve make a meal of forbidden fruit.

In the shade under the oaks of Mamre, Abraham and Sarah prepare cakes and a tender young calf and curds and milk for three strangers and end up entertaining angels. 

Jacob cooks up a pot of savory red lentils in front of his tent, and when the exhausted Esau comes in from a long day in the fields and breathes in the fragrance of the stew, he is so famished that he parts with his birthright for a bowl of that stew.

The meals I’d like to focus on today, though, are the ones that come to life in today’s lectionary.  Each one of these meals contains layer after layer of meaning that can offer some explanation of the meal that we will share here today. 

The meals we hear about today in the lectionary can lead us toward newfound joy in our lives. 

The first meal is the Passover, referred to back to in the passage we have heard in today’s Old Testament reading.   

The story of the Passover meal is in Exodus.   In a cosmic battle between Pharaoh and God over the fate of the Israelites, Moses brings the news to the people that God will send the angel of death into Egypt and take the firstborn of every family, including not only sons and daughters of every person in Egypt, but also the first born in all of the Egyptian flocks.  The Israelites, however, will be spared. 

Imagine how the Israelites must have felt as they sacrificed their lambs, smeared the blood on the doorposts and the lintels of their houses and then roasted and ate the lambs and the unleavened bread that God had commanded them to eat—a searing joy must have run through them like wildfire as they realized that they were under God’s protection and that soon God’s strong arm and almighty hand would deliver them out from slavery into a new life of freedom.   

And Moses says to the people, “You are to observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children.  And when you come into the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. “

In today’s reading from Joshua, we find the people obeying this commandment.  Having crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land, they celebrate the Passover and eat the parched grain that has been grown in the Promised Land—and they eat unleavened cakes like the ones that the Israelites had eaten as they were led out of Egypt. 

The people must have been full of joy as they kept the Passover—their dream of freedom had come true.  God’s promise to deliver them had been kept.  And they were beginning new lives, a whole new chapter in the history of their people in a new land that God had given to them.

Today’s passage from the gospel according to Luke begins with this sentence. 

“All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ ” 

The Pharisees and the scribes were disgusted and horrified by this behavior on the part of Jesus.  The religious authorities were repelled by the fact that sat down and broke bread with the sinners and the outcasts of society.

And yet, imagine how the sinners must have felt as they ate with Jesus, and being treated with dignity and compassion, as Jesus treated every human being—they could feel the merciful heat of God’s love  warming  and softening their  hardened hearts.

In this 15th chapter of Luke, Jesus tells the grouchy Pharisees and scribes three parables.  The third parable, the one we’ve heard today, is about another meal that is a parable within a parable.

This story is probably one of the most recognizable stories in the New Testament.  The youngest son demands his inheritance, wanders far in a land that is waste, and after spending all his money and nearly starving to death, he returns home hoping to become one of his father’s hired hands. 

The father sees the son coming while he is still far off, and the father runs and throws his strong arms around his long lost son and kisses him.  The son confesses that he has sinned against the father, and the father tells the servants to get this disheveled young man ready for a celebration feast.

So the fatted calf is sacrificed and roasted, and the feast begins.  This meal is a true celebration—not only does the delectable smell of roasting meat greet the oldest brother when he comes in from the field, but he also hears music, and sees people dancing. 

When this angry son questions his father, the father explains that this celebration is about new life, new beginnings—

“We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

And this father is serving an extravagant meal in thanksgiving for the return of his beloved and wayward son.

New life is springing up!  The father’s heavy heart now dances with  joy and thanksgiving.   The youngest son, having confessed, has received forgiveness from his compassionate father,  and has also been given a  new life—a life in which he can enter into with freedom and  joy,  rather than being mired down by the mistakes of a time which is now over. 

Now here we are today, having entered into this weekly ritual, this worshipping together, confessing our sins, receiving absolution, exchanging God’s peace with one another, and taking and eating and drinking bread and wine. 

Today as you come to God’s celebratory feast, will you enter into a strange and vivid parable that draws you through layers and layers of meaning into joy and new life? 

That is up for you to decide.

Amen. 

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