Pentecost 8, Year C

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TitleSermon DateLiturgicalScripture
Lent 5, Year AMarch 29, 2020Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020John 11:1-45
Lent 4, Year AMarch 22, 2020Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year CPsalm 23
Lent 3, Year A at the CathedralMarch 15, 2020Third Sunday in Lent, Year AJohn 4:5-42
Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey ConnorsMarch 8, 2020Lent 2, Year AJohn 3:1-17
Lent 1, Year AMarch 1, 2020First Sunday in Lent, Year AGenesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020February 25, 2020Ash Wednesday, Year AJoel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AFebruary 23, 2020Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AMatthew 17:1-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AFebruary 16, 2020Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year ASirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AFebruary 9, 2020Epiphany 5, Year AIsaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20
The PresentationFebruary 2, 2020Presentation of Jesus in the TempleLuke 2:22-40
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AJanuary 26, 2020Third Sunday after the EpiphanyMatthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational MeetingJanuary 19, 2020Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational MeetingIsaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AJanuary 12, 2020First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year AMatthew 3:13-17
Epiphany, Year AJanuary 6, 2020The Epiphany, Year AMatthew 2:1-12
Christmas 2, Year AJanuary 5, 2020Christmas II, Year AMatthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84

 

Pentecost 8, Year C

Sermon Date:August 4, 2019

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 8, Proper 13, Year C


(Start with arms outstretched.)

Is this all there is? 

Imagine between this hand and this hand a heartbeat monitor line that has run through my life. 

Just five weeks after conception, my heartbeat started, and for all these years since, my heart has beat.

But someday, when my heart stops, this heartbeat line will flatten, and my life will end. 

And the heart monitor screen will go dark. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “And I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.” 

When this horizontal line, when I, and my life, and what’s in this for me is my only focus, then the idea that my life has been nothing but vanity and a chasing after wind becomes an understandable interpretation, and if my life doesn’t really matter, then nothing else does either. 

All that toil and strain, pain and vexation, with no rest even at night—for what? 

Nothing.  Only a dark blank screen is left at the end. 

So get depressed.    

Or we could sing along with Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?  Then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is…..”  until we reach “the final disappointment” of the last breath. 

In today’s gospel, a man believed that getting more would somehow improve his life.  And so he wanted his brother to divide the family inheritance with him. 

In response to this man’s wish for more, Jesus told the story of a rich man whose land had produced abundantly.  The man in the story was so excited to have more that he decided to store up the excess and then he could relax, eat, drink and be merry.

And then the zinger—wait!  none of these possessions mattered.  That very night the man’s heartbeat would end in a flat line, the final disappointment.

The dark screen. 

The rich man had lived only on the horizontal—with his hands grasping for more and more and then clutching to himself all that he had.

But in the end, his possessions were no longer his at all and were useless to him.    

As Jesus said,  “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves…”

Then Jesus adds, “but are not rich toward God.”

What the rich man has forgotten in his grasping focus on this horizontal line of his life is the vertical line that reaches up toward God.

The early Christians prayed like this—by reaching up and out with their palms up. As they prayed in this way, they remembered this vertical line of their lives, their feet rooted in the goodness of God’s creation, while they reached up to God with open hands. 

Stand up and try this position.  If you can’t reach up high, that’s ok, just reach out with your palms up. 

Make sure that you are centered and balanced, rooted and grounded, and stretch your body upward.

This prayer posture with open hands stretched out and up reminds us that God is the one that fills our open hands when we ask.

Open hands are open to all that God wants to give us, and all that God intends for us to share. 

Open hands reach beyond the finite into the infinite.  Open hands reach up into God’s light. 

(You can sit down now.)

In the Colossians reading for today, the writer shows us that reaching up into the infinite helps us become rich toward God and generous toward our neighbors.

That first line—”If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not the things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

The irony of this statement is that the more hidden we are in Christ, the more we are absorbed into God’s light as we reach up with our open hands, the more visible we become in this world, as we fill with God’s light.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” 

God fills our open hands with light, fills us with light, and then we get to release this light into the world in the unforgettable and unique ways that God gives each one of us to be light. 

We Christians know the truth of this eternal light shining in and through our lives because God raised Jesus from the dead.    

The heart beat of Jesus flatlined on the cross. 

But even in death, the hands of Jesus were open, his arms spread wide in a saving embrace.  And through those hands, open in love, life and light for all creation poured out even as Jesus took his last breath. 

Through the resurrection of Jesus, we know that the life of God is infinite, and that when we are rich toward God, we too enter this infinity of life and light that stretches beyond our physical deaths. 

In the light of God’s love, then, our lives are not meaningless, but full of meaning, full of light and God’s goodness that we shine into the world. 

Rabbi Daniel Cohen writes in his book, What will they say about you when you are gone? Creating a Life of Legacy, that three times a day, he prays that he “hopes to be the best conduit he can be for God’s blessings in the world.” 

“I’m a vessel,” he says. 

“I’m here for God, and not for personal glory.  The prayer is empowering.  I acknowledge that I’m alive not for myself but to share some light with the world.  My higher purpose is to be a blessing every day.” 

And then he tells a story about a man who wanted to decide which of his three sons would inherit his estate.  So the man came up with the idea of giving his inheritance to the son who could best fill an empty room. 

The first son filled the empty room with bricks.  But even though the bricks filled the room, small empty spaces remained. 

The second son filled the room with straw, trying to fill even the smallest spaces. 

The third son brought his father into an empty room. 

And then this son took out a candle and lit a flame. 

And the room filled with light. 

Cohen says, “When we lighten a dark world, we emulate God, and our souls will be on fire.  When we make small differences in the world for even one person, we align ourselves with life’s purpose,”

and, I would add, we align ourselves with God’s purpose for us.

When we live with open hands full of God’s light, everything that we do in this life, on this horizontal line, is full of meaning that will stretch far beyond the day when our hearts stop beating because we have become conduits for God’s infinite light to flow into the world through our us long after our hearts have stopped beating. 

Stand up again. 

Reach up into God’s light in prayer, open your arms in love, open your hands, and go be God’s light in this world.    

 

Resource:  Cohen, Daniel.  What will they say about you when you are gone?  Creating a life of legacy.  Deerfield Beach, FL:  Health Communications, Inc.  2016