Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year December 1, 2013 Advent 1, Year A Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C November 24, 2013 Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C Luke 23:33-43
Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C November 17, 2013 Proper 28, Year C Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10
Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C November 10, 2013 Proper 27, Year C Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38
Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 20, 2013 Proper 24C Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8
Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 13, 2013 Proper 23, Year C 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C October 6, 2013 Proper 22, Year C Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 29, 2013 Proper 21, Year C Luke 16:19-31
Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 22, 2013 Proper 20, Year C Luke 16:1-13
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 15, 2013 Proper 19, Year C Exodus 32:7-14, Luke 15: 1-10
Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 8, 2013 Proper 18, Year C Luke 14:25-33
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C September 1, 2013 Proper 17, Year C Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C August 25, 2013 Proper 16, Year C Isaiah 58:9b-14;Psalm 103:1-8;Hebrews 12:18-29;Luke 13:10-17
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C August 18, 2013 Proper 15, Year C Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C August 11, 2013 Proper 14, Year C Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40

 

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

Sermon Date:July 14, 2013

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 10, Year C


“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Luke tells us that the lawyer asked Jesus this question in order to test him. 

But  for me, this question is no test.  It’s literally a life or death question.   In my most honest moments with myself, sometimes I wonder—is there really anything at all after death?   

But then I remind myself—

As Christians, we do believe, based on the fact that God resurrected Jesus,  that when we pass through the gate of death that we will inherit eternal life. 

This belief is succinctly summed up in the Book of Common Prayer at the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving  during the burial service, when I pray these words on our behalf.

“For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended;

and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place in the heavens.”

For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended…..

So as faithful people, what are we to do here and now as we prepare for eternal life? 

Two things—

The first being

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.

This is the first thing—

the relationship we develop with God in this lifetime is of the utmost importance in preparing  for our inevitable deaths and for eternal life.    

But how are we to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our strength and with all our minds in this lifetime, when our lives are so full of the distractions that each and every one of us face every day?

Because God is infinitely creative, I’m sure that the answer to this question will be unique to each one of us, but I’m also sure that totally loving God in this lifetime involves spending time with God in prayer. 

Because when we pray, releasing ourselves into God’s loving and comforting presence, we enter into the very heart of God and our relationship with God grows deeper and fuller. 

Beyond the principal kinds of prayer that our prayer book lists on page 856 in the Catechism,  and, quick review, these kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition,  and all of these prayers are necessary,

But beyond these

Is the prayer of presence, coming to God simply to spend time with God.  

The entire Bible is the story of God’s longing and desire for us, which sounds absolutely crazy when you think about it—that the God who created the entire universe would even be concerned with us at all.

And here’s another thing that the prayer book says, and we hear this every Sunday at communion when we’re using Eucharistic Prayer A, this line

“Holy and Gracious Father:  In your infinite love you made us for yourself…”  You know that sometimes I trip up on this line when I’m praying for us at the altar—these lines shake me up because they’re so unbelievable—and yet, I know they’re true, not only because God sent Jesus to share our human nature and to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to God,

But also because when I intentionally spend some time with God each day, I know that God made me for himself.  I sit down in my prayer place, which right now is the sofa in my living room, and after praying those prayer book prayers that I just listed, then I enter into silence.  At the beginning of this silence, I think about God sitting there with me, enveloping me in love, and on my better, less distracted days, if I sit there long enough, releasing myself into God’s presence, I enter into the heart of God— and experience God’s infinite love, infinite compassion, infinite mercy, infinite rest, infinite peace. 

Perhaps this is the experience that the writer of Deuteronomy had to have written the words we heard this morning—“The word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” 

I’d love to tell you that this entering into God’s heart happens every time I pray.  Well, unfortunately, that isn’t the case.  I always have things on my mind, and these things tend to sneak into this time of silence and hijack it. 

I’ve found that the prayer of presence, just like swimming or learning a language, or writing, or doing anything well, takes time and practice.  God gives every one of us unexpected moments of grace, often when we’re least expecting them—and frequently  we completely miss these moments, because we’re too busy,

But one of the benefits of  the discipline of the prayer of presence is that in making ourselves available to God in this way, God becomes more and more available to us–

and we find that we can recognize God’s presence with us throughout our lives in ways that we never knew before. 

So I would encourage you to find, in the gift of the  twenty four hours of each day that God gives you,  some undistracted time to be in God’s presence—to love God in that time, as best you can,  with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.

Enter into God’s heart. 

God longs for you to be there.

Now we come to the second thing that we must do to inherit eternal life.

To love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus is a genius  (of course Jesus is a genius, because Jesus is the Son of God).  The stories he tells are proof of his genius. 

And this story that he tells in response to the lawyer’s question—“And who is my neighbor” gives us the second thing that we must do to inherit eternal life. 

And that second thing is to take the infinite love, infinite compassion, infinite mercy, rest and peace of God’s love that we have experienced in God’s presence,  and to then to give those things freely to anyone or to any part of God’s creation  in need.

A brief aside here–Maybe some of you saw the story in yesterday’s Free Lance-Star about a woman who ventured down a storm drain in Central Park to rescue two ducklings from a fifteen foot fall into another storm drain.  That story is an example of having God’s mercy for any part of creation that is in need. 

Our  giving will always be imperfect, because we are imperfect human beings, but the point Jesus is making in the story of the Samaritan is that our merciful presence to anyone or anything in need is an essential part of preparing for eternal life.

Like the prayer of Presence, merciful presence to others is a discipline that requires time and practice. 

The Samaritan took the time, first of all, to see the man on the road, and to consider, with great focus, what merciful action needed to be taken.  

And then he did what needed to be done for the half dead man  side of the road, at great danger and inconvenience to himself. 

Kenneth Bailey, in his book, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes:  Cultural Studies in the Gospels, tells us that for a Samaritan to enter a Jewish village with an injured Jew on the back of his donkey would be something like an American Indian riding into a settlement out West in the 1800s with an injured white man across the back of his pony.  The instant thought of the settlers would be that the Indian would have been responsible for the injuries, and their immediate reactions would put the Indian’s life in danger, even as he was doing a good deed. 

And not only did the Samaritan put his own life in danger to get help for this man, but he also used his money and his time to carry out this act of mercy.   He made himself completely open and available to the one in need—a total stranger who in that society would have been considered as someone from the enemy camp.   The Samaritan was disciplined about carrying out his merciful action. 

This sort of mercy seems impossible to us.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to put conditions around my pitiful attempts at merciful actions.    A stranger in need calls late at night, and instead of listening, I tell that person I’ll  talk with them tomorrow—postponing the little mercy I might have been able to provide. 

Or I plan out my day and it gets interrupted by someone in need.  Sometimes I find myself getting impatient with this sort of interruption, and yet, in my better moments, I know that when I take the time to be merciful, God mercifully provides me with the time and energy to get the thing done that  I was trying to do before I got interrupted. 

For me, the amount of love and mercy I’m able to give to others  is directly related to the time I’ve spent in that silent prayer of presence, soaking up God’s infinite love and mercy for me. 

From the time of St Augustine and even earlier, theologians have seen in the Samaritan the very image of God, our God of infinite love, moved with pity for us when we end up half dead along the side of the road.    God comes to us, binds up our wounds, and pours out infinite compassion and mercy on us.  God never abandons us.

So—what must we do to inherit eternal life? 

You shall 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 you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We don’t have to wait until we pass through the gate of death to experience eternal life.  Our lives change here and now, and we find that we are already beginning to experience eternal life when we enter into God’s heart in prayer and receive God’s mercy, and when  we share that unlimited mercy with those around us, especially those who are  in need. 

Amen. 

Resources: 

Kenneth E. Bailey.  Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes:  Cultural Studies in the Gospels.  IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL.  2008. 

The Free Lance -Star, Saturday, July 13, 2013, Section D, Page 1, “Lucky ducks plucked from local storm drain,”  byline,  Regina Weiss.  

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