|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2016||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 11, 2016||Third Sunday of Advent, Year A||Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 4, 2016||Second Sunday of Advent, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A||November 27, 2016||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Christ the King Sunday, Year C||November 20, 2016||Christ the King Sunday, Year C||Jeremiah 23:1-6. Ps 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||November 13, 2016||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, Ps 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19|
|Charles Sydnor’s sermon, Nov. 6, 2016, All Saints||November 6, 2016||All Saints, Year C||Luke: 6: 20-31|
|Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 30, 2016||Proper 26, Year C||Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32, Luke 19:1-10|
|Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 23, 2016||Proper 25, Year C||II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14|
|Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 16, 2016||Proper 24, Year C||Luke 18:1-8, Genesis 32: 22-31|
|Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 9, 2016||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||October 2, 2016||Proper 22, Year C||II Timothy 1:1-14|
|Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||September 25, 2016||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||September 4, 2016||Proper 18, Year C||Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33|
|➤Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||August 28, 2016||Proper 17, Year C||Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14|
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:August 28, 2016
Scripture: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 17, Year C
Imagine standing in the heat of the day before the massive carved wooden door of a Dutch protestant church, just north of Amsterdam, built in 1626.
Is the door unlocked?
Yes, it is, and so we enter into a space where we would feel at home—sun pouring through clear glass windows.
But this church has an unusual feature. Before us at the front of the church is a large table, surrounded by high ladder back chairs.
The two guides there explain that yes, this is their Communion table. It’s a part of the sanctuary, “prominently in line with all the pews, the pulpit, and the altar. Eighty-four chairs surround the table, and bread and wine have been shared around this table in this way for the past 388 years.”
Betsy Perry, who wrote about this table in the publication Lumunos, said that when she was in this church, she found herself “longing to have communion around this table. She wanted to experience the gifts of God in fellowship made all the richer by being face to face with the people of God.”
Each Sunday, we gather face to face. And the writer of Hebrews reminds us that our job description as Christians, especially when we gather, is to offer a sacrifice of praise to God.
In what ways are we to offer praise to God?
Just twenty years after the Dutch church with the table was built, English and Scottish theologians put together the document we know as the Westminster Catechism.
Catechesis is the teaching of the Christian faith, so the catechism is the outline of the Christian faith. Our catechism is in the Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 845.
Going back to 1646, The Westminster Catechism begins this way.
What is the chief end of man?
And the answer is that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever, that is, “let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God.”
Now if we were sitting around the table in that Dutch church and having a discussion before we got to communion, and we were looking at today’s passage from Hebrews, we’d find some guidance about how to be continually offering a sacrifice of praise to God.
“Let mutual love continue,” the writer of Hebrews says. The Greek word for love in this passage is “philadelphia,” or brotherly love. This love thrives among us when we respect one another, when we listen to one another with open hearts, when we remember that our love for one another is ordered by God’s love for each one of us.
Just think, we are called to love one another in the same way that God loves each one of us.
Remember that last night around the table that the disciples spent with Jesus before his crucifixion?
Jesus said to them, and he says to us today, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Mutual love also means that we do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers. In other words, we don’t hoard the mutual love that we share and keep it exclusively to ourselves. Remember how Abraham and Sarah entertained the three strangers who appeared at their tent flap at their camp under the oaks of Mamre?
They didn’t realize until later that they were entertaining divine messengers who announced the fact that Abraham and Sarah would become parents, even at their advanced age, and that their descendants would be the people who were to be light to all the nations.
So in order to glorify God, our mutual love has to spread out beyond just us. Our mutual love for one another spreads to anyone that God sends our way.
I heard a story once, and I don’t know whether or not it’s true, but I wouldn’t be surprised. A certain bishop made a habit of calling the priests in his diocese without identifying himself, saying that he was a person in need of financial help. He wanted to see how well the priests were extending hospitality to strangers—not whether or not they would provide money to the caller, but how they treated the caller in general. Some priests were in for a great deal of embarrassment when they realized that they had been dismissive and short with their bishop!
And Thomas Long, in his commentary on Hebrews, points out that in the Didascalia, one of the early manuals about how the church should be ordered, written only about 200 to 250 years after Jesus was resurrected, bishops get a reminder about what they should do if a stranger should suddenly show up at a gathering.
“If a destitute man or woman, either a local person or a traveler, arrives unexpectedly, especially one of older years, and there is no place, you bishop, make such a place with all your heart, even if you yourself should sit on the ground, that you may not show favoritism among human beings, but that your ministry may be pleasing before God.”
Jesus, who in Luke is often at some banquet or another, as he is in today’s gospel, goes a step farther and says that when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” the people who cannot return the favor by inviting you to a banquet of their own.
Mutual love also means having empathy for those in prison and those who are being tortured. And mutual love means being faithful with our sexual relationships and providing for our bodies in a way that glorifies God rather than giving one person pleasure at the expense of another person’s well-being.
Mutual love also means being content with what we have. When we’re content with what we have, then we want to share the extra things we have with others, for their benefit.
George Herbert, the English priest and poet, said that “There is no greater sign of holiness than the procuring and rejoicing in another’s good.”
That’s a great definition of mutual love—to help others have what they need, and to rejoice when good things happen to them.
And so when we gather around the table to worship in mutual love, we are offering our sacrifice of praise to God. The Eucharistic Prayer in Rite I actually says this—“And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving….through the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ.”
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is what makes mutual love among us possible—because Jesus himself gave us the example of how to love one another.
So today, although we are not sitting around a literal table like the one in the Dutch church, we have gathered around the Lord’s table as we do each week, face to face with one another.
What if all of a sudden we heard a knock at our own door?
And what if we opened it and found Jesus standing there?
Of course we’d welcome him in, and invite him to sit at the head of the table.
What would Jesus do with that invitation?
Would he dress himself in elegant vestments, take his place as the head of the table and expect us to wait on him?
According to Luke, first of all, Jesus would tell us not to be afraid, because God’s good pleasure is to give us the kingdom!
And so we are to be ready for action and be on the lookout for Jesus to get here, so that we can throw open the door the minute he comes and knocks.
Blessed are we when we are ready when Jesus comes.
Because when he comes in to be with us, Jesus will fasten his belt and serve us.
“For who is greater,” Jesus said, “the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table?
But I am among you as one who serves.”
So let mutual love continue. And may we love one another as God has loved us, and to be in the world as those who serve, because we have had the privilege of sitting together in mutual love at God’s table.
By serving one another with mutual love, we will be continually offering a sacrifice of praise to God.
And we will be glorifying God and enjoying God forever.
Perry, Betsy. “Advent: Preparing the Holiday Table, “ pgs 8-9. In Lumunos: Faith and Light for the Journey. Vol 6: Number 3: 2014.
Long, Thomas G. Hebrews: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, KY. Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.
Borsch, Frederick. “Homiletical Perspective: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16,” pgs 15-19. In Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol 4: Season after Pentecost 2. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Louisville, KY. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.