|Advent 1, Year B||November 30, 2014||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 23, 2014||Christ the King, Year A||Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46|
|Pentecost 23, year A||November 16, 2014||Proper 28, Year A||Matthew 25:14-20|
|Pentecost 22, year A||November 9, 2014||Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, 2014||November 2, 2014||All Saints’ Day, Year A||Psalm 34: 1-10,22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|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|
Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:October 13, 2013
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 23, Year C
Today I’d like to share a story with you from the stories of my life, because as I’ve mulled over the scriptures for this week, this story keeps coming back to me, over and over.
Many years ago now, when our children were small, one of my older friends at St George’s had trouble breathing. The doctor discovered that she had lung cancer, the fast moving kind. This woman had never smoked in her life, and now she only had a few weeks to live.
Unfortunately, weeks turned to days. Late one night in January, the hospital called to tell me that my friend was getting closer and closer to death, and so I decided to go to the hospital and sit with her.
I have to tell you that I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what life was going to be like without this cheerful, supportive, wise woman in my life.
Ben and all of the girls were sound asleep. I closed the door quietly behind me and went out into the cold night.
And as I walked toward my car, I just happened to look up. Millions and millions of stars were stretched out and scattered across the dark cold winter sky, some bright and close, some distant blurs of faint light. Even though I was already freezing, I just had to stand there and stare into the sky, because I was filled with awe and wonder at the magnificence of this sight.
And then I felt it—in the coldness of that night, and in the coldness of my friend’s approaching death, I felt an overwhelming peace and warmth. And I knew that God, the creator of the stars, the universe, the cold night, the creator of my friend and me, was present and that, even though my friend was dying, I knew that all would be well.
In those minutes alone in the cold night, staring up into the stars, I changed.
For the first time in my life, I accepted the fact that the mystery of life includes the mystery of death. Now I knew that even though I couldn’t understand why God would make a universe that contains not only life, but also death; joy, but also sorrow—I now knew that I didn’t have to understand it—because God, the creator, holds and cares for all of creation, and desires that all will be well. And all will be well. The sense of awe I felt sent this feeling of “all will be well” surging through my shivering body.
And then I got in the car and drove to the hospital.
This story is the story of the beginning of my healing. To this day, I can still feel that sense of reverence and awe that I felt that night.
Like Naaman, who suffered from leprosy, and the ten lepers, who cried out to Jesus for mercy, at that time in my life I was sick.
I was sick with depression, worry, and unhappiness—in fact, looking back, that part of my life is nothing but a blur in which I just put one foot in front of another as the days came and went.
But that night, my true healing began when I felt that deep awe, the awe that the psalmist calls the fear of the Lord.
In Psalm 111, today’s Psalm, the psalmist says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Another way to say that is the reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
And what I felt that night was total reverence before the sovereignty of God, the God of both life and death and later, as I came to know more fully, resurrection.
For me, this healing came as sheer grace. I hadn’t even admitted to myself that anything was wrong that I couldn’t fix on my own, but God must have heard my cry, and chosen that moment to fill me up to the brim with reverence and awe.
And in my better moments, I have been thankful ever since for this healing, and what turned out to be a new beginning in my life, as my friend’s life came to a close.
So I want to talk about reverence today, and its importance as a starting place, or even a starting over place on our journeys through this lifetime.
First of all, reverence is a choice. When these moments of awe come to us, we have a choice—to be still and know that God is God, and to rest in that knowledge, or to rush right on through the moment toward the thing that is screaming most loudly for our attention.
No doubt, Naaman, the commander of an army, had a multitude of responsibilities waiting for him when he got back to Syria. As a favorite of the king, he had his reputation to maintain, and now that he was no longer dragged down by illness, he could go back to work with increased vigor.
But scripture tells us that after washing in the Jordan, Naaman made the choice to take not just himself, but also his whole company back to Elisha’s house.
Why? His healing had filled him with such a sense of awe and reverence that it had changed his understanding of the God of Israel, not just one of a multitude of gods that people in that part of the world worshipped, but that the God of Israel is the only God, the sovereign God. Everything else that Naaman had ever known or worshipped paled in comparison to this sovereign God of Israel, the God who oversees both sickness and healing, both death and life.
And so Naaman chose to take the time to go back and to say aloud that he knew the source of his healing. His reverence was the starting place for the new life he came to lead. In fact, a few verses farther on, he says that he will still have to take his master into the pagan temple of RImmon and that he hopes the Lord will forgive him for this.
Not only has Naaman been healed, but we can see that now he is intentionally choosing a new life informed by the fact that God is sovereign in his life.
In today’s gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers, and only the Samaritan leper makes the choice to come back to Jesus and to say thank you.
This leper receives not only physical healing, but he also finds salvation. And so he turns back shouting and screaming with joy and throws himself at the feet of Jesus and thanks him. This man is full of spontaneous and humble gratitude for what God has done for him.
And this place of humble gratitude and reverence before God is a new starting place for this Samaritan leper.
Jesus says to him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.” We have no idea where the leper ends up going, but we know that the leper is going to travel in a new way, full of reverence, joy and praise because of the healing and salvation he has received.
After all, true reverence IS full of joy, not long faced solemnities, but radiant joyfulness that can’t be contained.
Right now, we’re living in a time of chaos and worry in this country and joy tends to be lacking, so it’s no wonder that irreverence is big in our culture—irreverence toward institutions that in the past have been sacrosanct, irreverence toward one another, irreverence toward creation and the sacredness of all of life, and ultimately, irreverence toward God.
And so, more than ever, choosing to live visibly as Christians in this world is of the utmost importance.
Jesus has healed us and saved us and he sends us out. If we choose to go where Jesus sends us, filled with reverence before God in thanksgiving for what God has done for us we can bring the world healing:
We can be God’s hands at work in the world about us, peace in the midst of chaos, truth in the midst of lies and confusion. We can be people who trust in God and have the ability to act positively and productively when everyone else is full of fear, and to act in service and love for one another in the midst of a self-serving culture based on individualism.
We can do all these things and more when we choose to begin each day before God in reverence and awe, with praise and thanksgiving and humble gratitude.
And at the close of day, when night comes, and the stars are spread across the sky, after a day begun and spent in reverent service to our sovereign God, we can rejoice and give God thanks for all that has past and for all that is to come.