|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
Pentecost 11, Year C
Sermon Date:August 25, 2019
Scripture: Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13: 10-17
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 11, Proper 16, Year C
Icon – Christ Healing the Crippled Woman
Sometimes life gets downright discouraging, and discouragement can bend us over and take away the hope that we’ll ever stand up straight again.
If you are discouraged, listen!
If you are feeling hopeless, listen!
And those of you who aren’t discouraged or feeling hopeless about anything are welcome to listen in.
To the discouraged people here today, you are in good company.
The prophet Isaiah was speaking to Israelites who had been forced into exile, and when they finally returned home, they faced the discouraging task of reestablishing themselves in a place where they had become strangers.
The Hebrews were discouraged because their enthusiastic waiting for the return of the Lord had given way to doubt that Jesus would ever come back, and so why bother with church?
And the bent over woman, who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen long years—although Luke doesn’t tell us, I imagine that she certainly didn’t expect anything other than to spend the rest of her life bent over that day when she crept into the synagogue and Jesus called her over.
What a bunch of sad stories.
Now add your own story to the mix—here’s a pause for you to take a good look at your own discouragement.
What is discouraging you?
Discouragement happens when we put our trust in things that can be shaken. Our families, friends, our church, even our ideas about God can be shaken. The way that we live together as a country, otherwise known as politics, is always being shaken. And our physical bodies will inevitably be shaken.
Now the person who was writing to the Hebrews because they were discouraged and shaken in their faith had some advice for those discouraged people.
And that advice will more than likely apply to your situation, whatever it is.
Put your trust in God, because only God is unshakeable.
God has already given us a place in God’s kingdom, whose foundations are unshakeable.
And God has done this through the redemptive love of his Son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Dare to claim the kingdom that is already open to you through the love that Jesus has for you!
And how encouraging to remember that God dwells in that kingdom, and not only God, but Jesus, our Lord and Savior, as well as the “angels, archangels and all the company of heaven” and those who have gone before us, the righteous who are now in what we call the nearer presence of God.
For many, believing in an unshakeable kingdom that we can’t see or prove with our scientific minds is a stretch, and claiming something that might not be real feels like folly.
But today, even if only for a moment, take a chance on the unshakeable—even if you have doubts.
Take a chance, as an anonymous prisoner in the concentration camp at Auschwitz did when he or she scratched onto a wall these words —
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even though I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even though God is silent.”
These words shout out hope in the unshakeable kingdom of God’s love, even as the whole world is being shaken apart.
So, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “Let us give thanks because we are being given a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” or taken away, even by death.
Here’s an example of a person nearing death and yet, giving thanks to God.
This person, living in the early centuries of Christianity, possibly in Ireland, has been in bed in a hut for six long months, body racked by disease, a prisoner held in chains by illness, with no strength, and whose weakness, like fetters, is holding this person down.
So this person prays while waiting for death—“I give you thanks, my King, for the care you have lavished on me……You have nailed me to my cross; this sickness is my crucifixion. And so I give you thanks, my King, for bringing me joyfully to judgment. Tomorrow I shall die, and see you face to face; tomorrow your lash on my body shall cease, and I shall be at peace.
If now my body is shrouded by clouds of darkness, my soul basks in warm light; if now my eyes are filled with bitter tears, my soul can taste the sweetest honey. I am like a mouse, caught in a trap and shaken in the claws of a cat; tomorrow I shall be as free as the wind.”
My present pains are as nothing compared to the enormity of my sin; your mercy is infinite and eternal.”
This person understood, as the writer of Hebrews did, that God is a God of judgment, a God who warns us, a God who can inspire fear, as those Israelites felt fear when they felt God’s overwhelming presence on Mt Sinai, a mountain covered with clouds that glowed fiery red from the fire of God’s presence. The writer of Hebrews says that even Moses trembled with fear in the face of God.
But that person who was dying also knew that God is full of infinite mercy. We have already been set free through the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
So, we too can lay down our fear even as we die, because resurrection is in store.
We are already on the way to Mt Zion, the city of the living God, God, who is the judge of all, a judge whose mercy is infinite and eternal.
Today, August 25, 2019, is the day that the National Park Service has commissioned as the time for the nation to remember that 400 years ago, in 1619, late in August, twenty African Americans, enslaved and brought here against their will, landed on these shores at Jamestown.
And so, Elizabeth Heimbach will toll the bell on our behalf here at St Peter’s at 3PM for a whole minute, along with those tolling bells all over the country, in remembrance of these enslaved men and women who set foot on these shores that year.
The institution of slavery that began all those years ago in this land has shaped the legacy of this country. We, as a nation, have been bent over all these years by this piece of our history, which has bound us in the fetters of racism.
And so our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry invites us “as The Episcopal Church to join in this commemoration as part of our continued work of racial healing and reconciliation. At 3:00 pm we can join together with people of other Christian faiths and people of all faiths to remember those who came as enslaved, who came to a country that one day would proclaim liberty. And so we remember them and pray for a new future for us all.”
The writer of Hebrews would approve of the ringing of our bells in lament,
because in the ringing of the bells we lament, as Bishop Susan says, “the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade that still haunts us today,” the legacy has bent us over and continues to shake us as a nation.
This haunting legacy has discouraged so many in this nation.
So the Bishop invites us to pray for the descendants of slaves and slave owners alike, to pray for all people in our Commonwealth and nation, and to pray for all enslaved persons in our world today.
Praying is an act of hope. In prayer, we are stepping closer to the unshakeable kingdom of God as we commit to working toward justice, freedom and peace for all people. Prayer reminds us that God is present and at work in this nation, even though many feel discouraged by our continuing racial divisions.
We won’t be here as a congregation at St Peter’s at 3PM, but as our bell rings, ring any bell you have wherever you are this afternoon, or if you don’t have a bell, say a prayer. Ring your bell not only in remembrance, but in also in hope, and because in hopeful prayer we are drawing closer to God’s unshakeable kingdom as will want to work for freedom, justice and peace for all people.
So you who are discouraged, and for you who love someone who is discouraged—and for you who are not discouraged, but who stand in solidarity with those who are,
Put your trust in God, who cannot be shaken.
And give thanks and praise to God, because even though you or someone you know is bent over now, we know that God will set us free and that we too will stand straight, because we are already members of God’s unshakeable kingdom through the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
As the closing prayer of the Rite I Eucharist says so beautifully,
“We most heartily thank thee….that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom.”
So let us give thanks and offer up our praise to God, and lay our discouragements to rest.
Resources: Van de Weyer, Robert. Celtic Prayers: A Book of Celtic Devotion: Daily Prayers and Blessings. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press, 1977.
The Book of Common Prayer