Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C May 29, 2016 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C Luke 7:1-10
Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C May 22, 2016 Trinity Sunday, Year C John 16:12-15, Psalm 8
Day of Pentecost! Year C May 15, 2016 The Day of Pentecost, Year C Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27
Easter 5, Year C April 24, 2016 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148
Easter 4, Year C April 17, 2016 Easter 4, Year C Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30
Easter 3, Year C April 10, 2016 Easter 3, Year C John 21:1-19
Easter 2, Year C April 3, 2016 Easter 2, Year C John 20:19-31
Easter, Year C March 27, 2016 Easter, Year C Isaiah 65:17-25, Luke 24: 1-12
Good Friday March 25, 2016 Good Friday, Year C John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday March 24, 2016 Maundy Thursday, Year C Psalm 116:1, 10-17, John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C March 13, 2016 The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8, Psalm 126
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C March 6, 2016 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C Joshua 5:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, Psalm 32
Third Sunday in Lent, Year C February 28, 2016 Third Sunday in Lent, Year C Luke 13:1-9
Second Sunday in Lent, Year C February 21, 2016 The Second Sunday in Lent, Year C Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C February 7, 2016 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 9:28-43a

 

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Sermon Date:January 31, 2016

Scripture: I Corinthians 13, Luke 4:21-30

Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C


"Christ Reading from the scroll in the Synagogue" – James Tissot( 1836-1902)

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“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

In the 13th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul brilliantly describes the very nature of God and provides us with a challenging outline for how we are to live in this world as Christians—we are to be people known to the world by our love.

Today, I want to talk about one aspect of this love that Paul describes.

Love endures all things.

When I hear the word endures, I immediately think of Louis Zamperini and his biography, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.

Zamperini had the endurance he needed to survive in spite of the seemingly insurmountable challenges he faced as a soldier in World War II. Not only did he survive, but he went on to live into his nineties.

Before the war, Zamperini had developed an almost unbelievable physical stamina built up over years of training, practice and perseverance as a runner. This physical and mental endurance then helped him survive many physical challenges during the war, including floating in the Pacific Ocean for forty-six days on a raft after surviving a plane crash. The Japanese then captured him and enslaved him as a prisoner of war.

Enduring physically, though, was not enough to save Zamperini.

At the end of the war, Zamperini returned home physically worn out and emotionally damaged, suffering from nightmarish flashbacks and rage.

He was full of hate for the man who had tormented him during his time as a prisoner of war.

Emotionally, he was at the brink of death.

Spiritually, he was dead. He became an alcoholic with an uncontrollable temper that placed himself and others in danger.

In 1949, Zamperini’s wife Cynthia dragged him to hear Billy Graham for several nights in a row, and as Zamperini listened against his will he began to remember some things that had happened during the forty-six days he had been adrift in that raft floating across the vast ocean.

He remembered the day that “the sky had been a swirl of light; below, the stilled ocean had mirrored the sky, its clarity broken only by a leaping fish. Awed to silence, forgetting his thirst and his hunger, forgetting that he was dying, Louie had known only gratitude. That day, he had believed that what lay around them was the work of infinitely broad, benevolent hands, a gift of compassion. In the years since, that thought had been lost.”

He remembered lying on the raft, “dying of thirst. He felt words whisper from his swollen lips. It was a promise thrown at heaven, a promise he had not kept, a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant: If you save me, I will serve you forever.”

At this moment, standing in a tent as Billy Graham asked people to come forward, Zamperini’s limited understanding of endurance blossomed into an understanding that carried him beyond his rage and hatred into a new understanding of God’s compassion and steadfast love.

He realized that endurance means more than just (and I’m quoting Hauck here) “the courageous endurance….which includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power.”

Endurance also means to wait on God with hope—the Old Testament sense of the word. Hauck points out in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament that we Christians don’t just endure by means of our own steadfastness. Our true strength comes from waiting on God, believing that “God will establish justice and reward righteousness.” (Vol IV, pg 584)

When Paul says that love endures all things, he is saying that, to quote Hauck again, “unbreakable and patient endurance in the face of the evil and injustice of the world is the true attitude of the Christian.” (pg 586)

This is the sort of endurance that Jesus drew on when the people in his hometown synagogue got angry with him–

Because he had the audacity to tell them that God’s expansive and universal love extended far beyond them to Syrians like Naaman and to the Gentiles.

The people were so angry that they drove him out of town and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

But because of his patient endurance, Jesus was able to pass through the midst of them and to go on his way and carry out his ministry.

Jesus eventually went to his death outside the city of Jerusalem full of the unbreakable endurance and waiting on God that gave him the strength to forgive the unjust and evil people who were responsible for taking his life. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Paul reminds us that we Christians are to have this same endurance in the face of the evil that rages through our world, even when we face opposition and danger.

In 1980, Bishop Oscar Romero was murdered as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, because he dared to speak out against the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. The entry about Romero in Holy Women, Holy Men goes on to say that nine months after his assassination, four Maryknoll nuns were also killed in the course of their duties by the El Savadoran army. Nine Jesuit priests were similarly murdered in November of 1989.” (HWHM, pg 286)

Romero and the other martyrs hoped that God would eventually establish justice, and so they chose to stay and endure in El Salvador and to speak up for the poor and to stand against injustice, even in the face of death.

So what is the take home for us? Chances are that we will not be called on to endure such dangers, but all of us face evil every day of our lives. Evil can take many forms, but the result of evil is that its consequences separate us from one another and from God.

And so, when we come face to face with evil, we hope to face that evil with the sort of endurance that waits on God in hope, with the sort of endurance that is unbreakable.

This sort of loving endurance in the face of evil is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, or insisting on its own way. This sort of endurance is love itself—patient, kind, truthful, able to carry heavy burdens lightly. This loving endurance is faithful, and hopeful.

At the beginning of the book of Revelation, John has a terrifying vision of the exalted Christ, who gives him messages for the seven churches in Anatolia.

The first message is to Ephesus.

“I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers…I know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.”

But there’s a problem. “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

What would God’s message be to us, here at St Peter’s?

I hope it would be something like this.

“People at St Peter’s, I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers…I know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.

But most of all, I know you have enduring love for me, because of your enduring love for one another.

And then God’s message to this church would end with this promise.

So “let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”

Amen.

Resources:

Hauck, F. “ùπομένω” pgs 581-588, Vol IV, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Gerhard Kittel, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1967.

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010.

Holy Women, Holy Men . New York: Church Publishing, 2010.
 

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