|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|
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:September 4, 2016
Scripture: Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 18, Year C
In a dark graveyard, two men stand facing one another—the younger one with his gun drawn and aimed at the older man.
The following tense exchange takes place.
“It’s you we want, not them.”
“Put that down.”
“Not another move, or I’ll shoot.”
“You’re only a boy—You don’t really belong to them.”
“Come away with us—before it’s too late.”
“Not another step, or I’ll kill you.”
“You give that to me, Rolf—Did you hear me?”
“I’ll kill you.”
“You’ll never be one of them.”
“Lieutenant! They’re here! They’re here! Lieutenant!”
Some of you may remember this scene from the movie, The Sound of Music, based on the story of Captain Von Trapp and his family, who later became famous around the world as the Trapp Family Singers.
As they flee from Austria on the night before the Captain is going to be forced to take a post in the German army, a detachment of soldiers hunts the family down in the convent graveyard where they have hidden.
And Rolf, the young man who has been in love with the captain’s oldest daughter, Liesel, and who has fallen even more in love with the attractions of the German army and has enlisted as a soldier, is the one who discovers the family’s hiding place amid the tombstones.
The fearless Captain Von Trapp puts Rolf on the spot.
He tells Rolf to put down his gun.
That gun that Rolf clutches represents death instead of life; power over others through the use of force; and loyalty to a group of people who have taken control over a country through intimidation and by creating an atmosphere of fear.
Put the gun down, Rolf. You’ll never be one of them.
For a moment, Rolf is frozen and indecisive.
But then, he makes his decision and betrays the family. To his credit, Rolf at least gives Captain Von Trapp a chance to escape rather than killing him on the spot.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus has some harsh words to say to the crowd following him.
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
With these stark words, Jesus demands total allegiance from anyone who would follow him as a disciple. He is telling them to put down anything that is keeping them from following him wholeheartedly.
Jesus is telling them that nothing, not even their families or their possessions, can come before him.
Basically, Jesus is saying to the crowd exactly what Captain Von Trapp said to Rolf in that tense moment when his life hung in the balance, “Put that down.”
All of us have things that we carry around with us for protection, things we carry around with us that we believe give us power and meaning, things that we depend on for our well-being.
We hold onto these things and believe that we cannot put them down—and we end up loving these things more than God.
And as Jesus points out, the things that we love more than God are the very things we need to put down if we want to be disciples of Jesus.
Probably everyone here knows the story of Mother Teresa, the Saint of Calcutta, who was considered in her lifetime a living saint because of her works of love and mercy for the people in the poorest neighborhoods in the world. Mother Teresa founded the order known as the Missionaries of Charity.
In fact, on this very day in Rome, Pope Francis has just canonized Mother Teresa as a saint in the Catholic Church.
When Mother Teresa left home at age eighteen to begin her life as a missionary in India, she left behind her comfortable life with her family. Teresa’s mother said to her on the day she left, “Put your hand in Jesus’ hand, and walk alone with Him. Walk ahead, because if you look back you will go back.” Teresa and her mother both knew that this decision of Teresa’s meant that they would never see each other again. But Teresa gave up her birth family to become the disciple that Jesus was calling her to be.
Later, even though she was happy as a Loreto nun, Teresa began to feel a call within a call. Teresa made a private vow to God not to refuse God anything.
She heard Jesus asking her to dedicate her life completely to the poor of India, and to start a new order of nuns whose purpose would be to pray and to care for God’s poor on this earth.
Recently I read the book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, which tells the story of Mother Teresa’s life through her private writings. The book also reveals, based on her writings to her spiritual directors, that she spent years of her ministry in what is known as the dark night of the soul, unable to feel God’s presence with her, feeling abandoned by God as Jesus felt abandoned on the cross. This book left me full of deep admiration for Mother Teresa.
And reading about her life made me wonder–Would I be willing to put down my whole life as I know it and never look back in order to be a disciple? To suffer for years, doing God’s work, while being unable to feel the presence of God with me?
I don’t think I could make such sacrifices.
But God isn’t calling me to be Mother Teresa. God is calling me to be the unique disciple that only I can be.
Jesus continually issues this call to discipleship to me and to each one of us by giving us multiple opportunities each day to put down the things that are keeping us from following him.
Today’s epistle offers such an example.
Paul writes to Philemon regarding Philemon’s slave Onesimus, who has left Philemon for some reason. Paul wants Philemon to take Onesimus back, “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother….to welcome Onesimus as Philemon would welcome Paul himself.
Paul appeals to Philemon to put down whatever he has against Onesimus and not only that, but also to put down the way he thinks of Onesimus—as a slave—so that Philemon can now take Onesimus back as a beloved brother.
Philemon gets to decide whether or not to take Paul up on this life giving challenge. Maybe Philemon will read Paul’s letter and say, “OK, I can do that! I can put down my grievances against Onesimus, and I can give up the limiting way I think of him as a slave so that I consider him a brother. It’s the loving thing to do.” That decision is a decision for discipleship. That decision is a life giving decision. Mother Teresa would approve of Philemon taking Onesimus back as a brother, because this acceptance would be an act of love on Philemon’s part.
Mother Teresa said that “there are no great things; only small things with great love.”
And she also said that “today God keeps on loving the world. God keeps on sending you and me to prove that God loves the world, that God still has that compassion for the world. It is we who have to be God’s love, God’s compassion in the world of today. But to be able to love we must have faith, for faith in action is love, and love in action is service.”
Today, Jesus calls to each one of us to take action and to put down anything that separates us from Him.
Jesus calls to each one of us—to choose life.
To follow him—and to be his disciple. Amen.
Kolodiejchuk, Brian, M.C., ed. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta.” New York: Doubleday, 2007.