|Lent 1||March 5, 2017||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday||March 1, 2017||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 26, 2017||Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany||February 19, 2017||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 12, 2017||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 5, 2017||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt||January 29, 2017||4th Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 22, 2017||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 15, 2017||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus||January 8, 2017||The Baptism of our Lord, Year A||The Book of Common Prayer|
|Epiphany||January 6, 2017||Epiphany 2017||Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Year A||December 25, 2016||Christmas Day, 2016||Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14|
|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|
Easter 6, Year A
Sermon Date:May 21, 2017
Scripture: Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21
Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
God is love, and Jesus reminds us that God’s love requires a response from us if that love is to have any meaning at all in our lives.
Since this is Rogation Sunday, I’m going to use an illustration from nature to talk about responding to God’s love.
This is an acorn. It fell onto the ground from an oak tree in our yard last fall. The acorn lay on the ground all winter, and as you can see, nothing has happened.
Now here’s another acorn. It may well be from the same tree as the first one. But what a difference! This little acorn is already growing into an oak tree. It has put down roots and sprouted leaves.
We are like these acorns.
God loves each one of us.
God’s love for us is warm and growth producing.
God’s love for us is like the rain that makes the ground soft so that the acorn can grow its roots deep and find the nourishment that will help it grow into a tree.
When we decide to respond to God’s love by loving God back, that’s when we start growing into the people God wants us to be, like this acorn that is already growing into a tree.
God has special life giving qualities that help us to grow when we respond to God’s love by loving God back.
Paul tells the Athenians in today’s reading from Acts that their unknown God is the creator, the life giving force that has brought everything into being.
God cannot be contained—not in the greatest cathedrals or temples or shrines, or in the most brilliant discoveries of science. Our knowledge of God will never be complete or contained, because God is infinite.
This magnificent unfathomable God, beyond time and space, is the one who made us and laid out the time of our existence on this earth.
And then Paul makes the audacious claim that God created us in such a way that we will long for God, that we will want to search for God, to grope for God, and maybe even to find God.
Going back to this little oak tree—its life is possible because it has put down roots in the earth. This dirt is the ground of this oak tree’s being.
And God sustains and nourishes us. God is, as Paul Tillich said, “the ground of our being.” In God, we live and move and have our being.
But the fact that we have such an expansive loving mystery in which to grow is easy for us to forget, because we are always tempted to love other things more than God, things that we can see and define—things like success, money, work, the things we own, or even things like national pride.
Anything that we end up loving more than God ends up ultimately limiting our potential to grow in God’s love.
And that’s where repentance comes in. Paul tells the Athenians that God is commanding all people everywhere to repent, that is, now that they know who God is, to turn away from the other gods that have distracted them and to turn to the one true God that Paul has just defined for them.
Going back to these acorns—
This first acorn that hasn’t grown is limited by its shell. It hasn’t been able to break out and put down any roots and it will eventually die without growing at all.
And this little oak tree—what is going to happen to this tree if I leave it in this small pot for too long?
That’s right—the tree will become root bound and stop growing, and maybe even die because this pot will limit its growth.
So I will need to put it in a bigger pot, and then an even bigger one, and ultimately, to plant it outside where it can grow as big as it was meant to be.
So one way to think of repentance is to consider the ways in which our attention to things besides God limits our potential for growth.
When we let other things besides God become the containers that define us, we become root bound. To repent is to remove ourselves from these false gods that confine us so that we can plant ourselves once more in the limitless life producing mysterious love of God.
This way of repenting is a life long process of growth, realizing gradually or sometimes in a flash of blinding light how something has crept up on you and has limited your ability to live freely in God’s love. Repenting is breaking out of that container and moving more fully back into God’s ground of being, God’s nourishing love.
Jesus said to the disciples that he would not leave them orphaned. All that was getting ready to happen, the arrest of Jesus, and his death on a cross, was going to make them feel as if they had been violently uprooted and left to die.
But Jesus is telling them that if they love him and keep his commandments, that because he lives, they also will live resurrection lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, who will be with them forever.
And Jesus describes that mysterious loving ground of being in which they will be growing when he tells them this.
“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” That’s where Jesus will lovingly replant the uprooted disciples, back into God’s mysterious ground of love in which they will be able to grow and go from strength to strength forever.
Who knows how huge this oak tree will become given the right growing conditions?
So may our deepest longing and desire be to love God and to be planted in God’s love, so that we too may grow tall and strong beyond our wildest dreams, our branches stretching higher and higher toward the infinite source of light, and our roots reaching ever more deeply into the ground of God’s endless and mysterious lifegiving love.