|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 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 A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|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|
Pentecost 22, Year C
Sermon Date:November 10, 2019
Scripture: Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C
My grandfather had six children. When he died, he divided up his property among the six, and stated in his will that the contents of the house and the outbuildings were to be auctioned off.
I’ll never forget the day of the auction. I had spent so much time in my grandfather’s house, and it held so many wonderful memories for me.
And now here we were, standing in the front yard with a bunch of strangers. And the auctioneer was up on the porch, auctioning off the familiar things that had made the house the warm and comfortable place that it was.
My mother burst into tears when the wicker doll carriage that she had as a child came up for auction. In a burst of emotion, she shouted out, “That is my baby carriage!” And everyone looked at her with sympathy.
When the auctioneer called for the opening bid, my mother bid one dollar for the carriage. And when the auctioneer called for more bids, the crowd was silent.
So my mother redeemed this item, precious to her, for one dollar that day.
That dollar she spent was a ransom which restored the carriage to her, its rightful owner. She was the redeemer of the doll carriage, reclaiming it and restoring it to herself.
In our Christian story, back in the Old Testament, in Exodus, God hears the Israelites groaning as they toil as slaves for the Egyptians. And God says to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.’”
In other words, God is going to redeem the Israelites from slavery, restoring them to freedom, and reclaiming them as God’s chosen people.
So when Job, beaten down by the worst misfortunes imaginable, says that he knows that his redeemer lives, he is saying that someone with power will take up his case before God. But beyond this redeemer, Job wants to take up his own case before God, even if he does that after death has taken him.
“After my skin has been thus destroyed,” says Job, “then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
Ultimately, Job knows that God is Job’s redeemer. God is the One who will take up Job’s case and rescue him. Not even death can prevent God’s redemption of Job.
Job had such great faith in the redemptive love of God.
We Christians believe that Jesus is our Redeemer. We Western Christians have understood that Jesus redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins, a sacrifice offered for us sinners.
And Jesus is our Redeemer, restoring us to God, not just through his death and resurrection, but also through his birth and life on this earth. This additional way of understanding redemption comes from Celtic spirituality, and John Philip Newell, whose school I attended week before last, told us about the work of the French theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as an illustration of the presence of Jesus among us as redemptive.
Teilhard says that Jesus redeems us in his coming to live and die as one of us, by reminding us and revealing to us all over again the union of heaven and earth, that God is with us, here and now.
We human beings have sold off the earth and God’s creation for our own gain, convincing ourselves that the world is only a possession that is ours to dispose of, but Jesus reveals to us, through his presence with us, the transparence of God in the universe, the shining of God in and through every life form, and we can see this shining in and through the eyes of every creature.
So Jesus redeems creation and restores it back to God and to us and restores us back into creation and into God through his presence among us.
God made everything good at the beginning, and God loves all that God has made. And so the more deeply we go into the divine, the more conscious we become of the divine presence in ourselves, in each other, and in all of nature, remembering that God made everything good at the beginning.
We become conscious once more of what God’s love is like through Jesus—for God so loved the world, John said in his famous verse—that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Jesus may not perish but have eternal life.
What about those who died before Jesus came to live and die as one of us?
This love that God has for all that God has made, and the love that God has for Job, as part of God’s beloved creation, as part of the natural world, is what Job instinctively knows about God, centuries before Jesus came to remind us and show us the way back into God’s love.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says that God is God not of the dead, but of the living. Jesus describes the time after death as eternal life—indeed, we cannot die any more, Jesus says, because we are children of God, being children of the resurrection—and this resurrection life stretches back through time and is true for all of creation.
As Jesus is encouraging his frightened and disturbed disciples after he washes their feet, encouraging his frightened and discouraged disciples, he says that they know the way to the Father because they know him. Jesus tells them that they if they know him, they know the Father also. That is, they know God too.
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus says to them.
To see Jesus is to see God, and to see God present in all of life.
Coming together to worship is to remind ourselves and one another that we are to have our eyes open, as the prayer in Rite I in The Book of Common Prayer says, to “behold God’s gracious hand in all God’s works and to rejoice in the whole creation.”
Coming together to worship is to remind ourselves and one another that our job as Christians is to dig deeply into the divine, because seeing God face to face is not something that happens only after we die.
Jesus among us reminds us that we get to see God face to face even now.
We are face to face with God every time we look in the mirror, every time we look into one another’s eyes, every time we see God’s light shining in the eyes of all creatures, every time we truly open our eyes and see the miracle of God’s presence in the natural world around us.
And when we come face to face with God, we see that our job as Christians is to share in the redeeming work of Jesus in this world. And this work will cost us a lot more than that dollar my mother paid to redeem her baby carriage that day so long ago.
Tielhard de Chardin says that when we dig deeply into the divine, we find that true love longs to sacrifice, to lose itself for the other, that our egos are given to serve the center of one another and of all things.
To set free this divine love that is in each one of us is costly, and the redemptive work of divine love opens out into love rather than crouching and hiding behind our own egos.
When we open to the divine love all around us, we become willing to lose ourselves in order to find God, our true center, the life within all life, and then we will want to serve God, the light within all life.
When we open ourselves to God’s redemptive love living in us, we can take on the weight of the world instead of being destroyed by that weight—because in the groaning and suffering that sounds around the world, as death has its way, the birth pangs of new life are sounding.
Knowing the divine love within us and in one another, we are no longer being crushed by the woes of the world, but we are kneeling down, like midwives, to deliver the miraculous wonder of God’s love and light as we help to bring God visibly to birth in this world.
You may have heard this famous quote from Teilhard de Chardin, which sums up the power of the God’s redemptive love that lives in each one of us and in all of creation.
“Love is the only force which can make things one without destroying them. Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”
Knowing that in this lifetime, God has already caught us up in God’s divine and eternal love, we realize that even now we are burning and shining with God’s love, set on fire with God’s love. That burning love strengthens us in every good work and word and opens our hearts to God’s eternal comfort and good hope.
And so we can say, along with Job,
that we know that our redeemer lives.
Jesus has stood, is standing, and will stand upon this earth.
And Jesus redeems us and restores us to God, to one another and to the earth through his costly love, for through Jesus in our midst, God stands beside us, and we see God face to face, both now in this world, and in the world to come.
Reference: Lecture by John Philip Newell, Thursday, Oct 31, 2019, VA School of Celtic Consciousness, Kilmarnock, VA