Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter 2, year A April 27, 2014 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A John 20:19-31, Psalm 16
Easter April 20, 2014 Easter Day, Year A Jeremiah 31:1-6, Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday April 18, 2014 Good Friday, Year A The Passion according to John
Palm Sunday 2014 reflections April 13, 2014 Palm Sunday, year A Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Fifth Sunday in Lent April 6, 2014 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A 2014 Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130
Fourth Sunday in Lent March 30, 2014 The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ephesians 5:8-14
Third Sunday in Lent March 23, 2014 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, John 4:5-42
First Sunday in Lent March 9, 2014 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, Year A March 5, 2014 Ash Wednesday, Year A 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A March 2, 2014 Last Sunday after Epiphany Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2014 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 16, 2014 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:21-37
John Hines sermon February 11, 2014 Daily Office I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 9, 2014 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20
The Presentation, Year A February 2, 2014 Presentation in the Temple, Year A Luke 2:22-40

 

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Sermon Date:February 9, 2014

Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20

Liturgy Calendar: Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A


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When you think back to your childhood, can you remember what you wanted to be?  

One of my earliest dreams was to own horses and to be a great horseback rider, or maybe even a jockey.    And so my father surprised my brother and sister and me one summer day with the gift of a black and white pony with snappy blue eyes. 

This pony was young, and barely broken in.  We got used to her antics, which included bucking us off into mud puddles, or deciding that she wasn’t in the mood to be ridden at all that day, so she’d wait until one of us was in the saddle and she’d lie down and start to roll while the unlucky rider scrambled to safety.  Another one  of her habits was to gallop along and then to veer suddenly to the left or the right, leaving the rider following the original trajectory and ending up unceremoniously in a heap on the ground.  Luckily, we were young and had strong bones, so none of us ever got hurt, which, as I look back on these adventures, I realize was a miracle. 

For the most part, I enjoyed this rough and tumble, and over a period of time, I stopped dreaming of a career as a professional horse person and just had fun with our pony. 

Then for a while, I was sure that I wanted to be a church musician.  My organ professor in college dashed that dream, but that was ok with me, because I was already falling in love with the written word, and the often painful, but incredibly rewarding, process of writing. 

And eventually, I lived into my true calling and became a priest.

What about you?  Looking back on your life, or if you’re at the point of looking forward into your life, do you remember what you wanted to be, or are you pulled toward something you dream of being?

No matter what you wanted to be, or still want to become, Paul points out in this weighty passage to the Corinthians that we’ve heard today that first and foremost, we are to have the mind of Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to us to help us understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit instructs us in how to have the mind of Christ. 

So horseback riders, teachers, church musicians, parents, writers, engineers,  realtors, nurses, those of us who’ve retired, people just starting out and searching for a career—all of us Christians are called to be, before anything  else in our lives,  like Jesus. 

Now the Holy Spirit blows where it will.  The Holy Spirit can be downright elusive.  Sometimes we can wait on the Holy Spirit, and wait and wait and wait, and wait some more, for some clarity about our lives.

So what do we do in the meantime? 

This is what I love about Jesus—he’s a little easier to understand than Paul!

So today’s gospel reading sheds some light on what we are to do while we’re waiting  for the Holy Spirit to show up and to help us live with the mind of Christ. 

In  today’s reading, Jesus gives us our job description, tells us who we are to be as his followers—

Salt and light!

As salt, we add flavor and zest to the world, and we also preserve goodness in the world. 

And as light, we reflect God’s glory and bring God’s light into dark places—and there is plenty of darkness in our world—just read the front page of the newspaper any day of the week. 

But how do we become salt and light? 

Jesus tells us that too.

Jesus tells us to be righteous. 

To be righteous is to be in right relationship with God and with one another—to follow the two great commandments—to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

Sounds easy, right? 

But those of us who try to be righteous know that trying to be in right relationship with God and with one another is the work, the hard work, of a lifetime. 

And we have many, many ways of deluding ourselves into thinking we’re righteous when we really aren’t. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus wants us to have righteousness that exceeds even the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.

We tend to think of the Pharisees as coming up short in their relationship with God and with others based on other gospel passages, like the one in Mark where the Pharisees criticize the disciples for not washing their hands before they ate.  They were eating with defiled hands.

And so Jesus tells them that they are hypocrites—and here’s why.  Not because they are sticklers about keeping the rules, but because they are keeping  the rules at the expense of loving God and loving their neighbors—Jesus points out that these particular self-righteous Pharisees are so busy keeping their l rules that they missed the big picture—for instance, they’re so wrapped up in the law that they  aren’t  even taking care of their parents, therefore breaking  one of the Ten Commandments. 

What Jesus wants us to do, along with him, is not to throw out the law, but to fulfill the law.  In other words, the rules that we follow must be in service to loving God and loving others with our whole hearts, rather than being having the law be an end in itself. 

About five hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah was saying the same things to the outwardly religious people of his time.  On the surface, they looked religious, seeking to know God’s ways, fasting and humbling themselves, but all of these actions were only a show because these outwardly religious people were quarrelsome people who oppressed the poor, and supported an unjust society in which the rich kept getting richer, and the poor kept getting poorer.  These religious people quarreled among themselves, looked the other way when it came to poor and oppressed people and did nothing to change the status quo. Isaiah reminds them that they are NOT fulfilling the law, especially because in their zeal to show their love for God by acting religious, they are NOT loving their neighbors as themselves.  

God has definitely got a sense of humor. 

So it’s Friday morning, and I’m working on this sermon, and after that I’m going to figure out the bulletin, and then I need to think about the Vestry meeting, and there’s a lot to think about because I want to lay out a tentative plan for the year that we can work from, so it’s going to take some time and thought, and I have some things to do for the seminary job, and I have to preach at VTS  on Tuesday and I need to work on that sermon, etc, etc, you get the picture—so I’m working away when the phone rings.

And it’s this person that I had promised to help a few months ago.  I won’t go into the details, but basically she is moving into a new trailer and she’s been trying to get that taken care of, and now, today it’s all an emergency because of court and she has to have the money today!  And I just want to tell her to GO AWAY!  Why didn’t you call me earlier in the week?  Or call me later, like next week.  Your timing is terrible! 

But then, I think, what is the most loving thing to do here?  How can I best fulfill the law?  How do I best love my neighbor?  By telling this woman that I’m too busy to help her today because I’m too tied up with the work of the church?  

Ultimately, she and I worked out a compromise.  And barely, just barely, I got to be, and St Peter’s got to be salt and light for this woman on Friday, instead of this Pharisee using all the work I was doing for the church on Friday as an excuse for not helping this woman. 

Here is the document that shows the world that Bishop Shannon ordained me to the diaconate in June of 2010, and I have another one of these documents, framed, that shows the world that I have been ordained to the priesthood in this church. 

But you know what?  This document really has no meaning to God—that is, unless I choose to live like Jesus and to try my best to fulfill the law and the prophets. 

Unless I work every day on being salt and becoming light. 

And that’s all of us.  Farmers, parents, horseback riders, nurses, realtors, insurance agents, priests, retired people, students, teachers, accountants, those of us who are still seeking clarity about what God is calling us to do in our lives—regardless of who we are, and who we are to become, God is always giving us work to do, here and now.

And that work is to have the mind of Christ, to fulfill the law and the prophets, and to live like Jesus did, and to be who he is– the salt of the earth and the light of the world—right now. 

Amen.   

 

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