Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter Sunday, Year A April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday, Year A Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday, 2020 April 10, 2020 Meditation on the Cross, Good Friday, 2020 John 18:1-19:42
Palm Sunday, Year A April 5, 2020 Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday Matthew 26:18
Lent 5, Year A March 29, 2020 Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020 John 11:1-45
Lent 4, Year A March 22, 2020 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C Psalm 23
Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral March 15, 2020 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A John 4:5-42
Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors March 8, 2020 Lent 2, Year A John 3:1-17
Lent 1, Year A March 1, 2020 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 February 25, 2020 Ash Wednesday, Year A Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2020 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
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

 

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Sermon Date:February 16, 2020

Scripture: Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8

Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A


“Hands Across the Divide”- Maurice Harron. A metal sculpture in Londonderry, Northern Ireland commemorating reconciliation and hope for the future


Why can’t we all just get along? 

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

I’m betting that God also asks,

“Why can’t they just get along?  Human beings are the most cantankerous part of creation!”

But in spite of our warring ways, God hasn’t yet, and will never, give up on us– 

Because from the beginning, God’s plan has been that we are to live in love and peace with God—and with one another.

So God is constantly working to restore us. 

God gives us free will to choose the life giving way of peace or the death dealing way of conflict and discord with one another.  We get to use our free will not just one time, but we make our choices between life and death  over and over and over every day. 

Practice makes perfect.

God has great trust in us, trust that eventually we will choose life, and that we will choose, as the Psalmist says, to “walk in the law of the Lord, to observe the decrees of the Lord, and to seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

And God trusts us so much that when we get off track, God shows up in human form, “acting freely and supremely out of perfect love for each one of us,” as Richard Rohr, a Catholic theologian puts it. 

Listen to that statement again. 

“God shows up in human form, acting freely and supremely out of perfect love for each one of us.”

God wants us to restore our relationship with God, a relationship that we have broken.

Only God could take the mess we have made of things and say, “I’m going to come and be one of you, so that you can see how to be more like me—perfect love in an imperfect world.”

Jesus, who walked the earth over 2000 years ago, and who still walks among us today, shows us the way back to perfect love for God and for one another. 

Jesus is here with us to remind us of who we can become—people in love with God and in love with one another—people who show God’s love to a world full of people desperately searching for love.

The Apostle Paul reminds those argumentative Corinthians that as long as they are quarreling with each other, as long as they are jealous of one another, they are infants in the spiritual life, and that they will begin to grow up when they realize that God is in charge, and that they have a common purpose on this earth as God’s servants, working together.

Paul understands that growing into love for God and for one another is the work of a lifetime, the cumulation of choices made over and over through life.  Choosing life repeatedly leads to life.  Choosing death repeatedly ends in death.  Choosing love repeatedly makes loving one another easier as we mature.  Choosing quarreling and discord over and over leads only to more of the same.   

Later in his letter to the quarreling Corinthians, in Chapter 13, Paul says that “when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known.” 

In today’s gospel, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus holds up a mirror for us to look into—and the view is pretty dim. 

None of us is perfect and none of us will ever be perfect in this lifetime in the ways that we relate to God and deal with one another.  

But what I love about these hard words of Jesus is the promise that they hold.

If, out of the free will that God has given me, if I keep choosing life instead of death, then God will help me grow toward what Jesus suggests is possible—that I CAN live in love and reconciliation with God and with my neighbor. 

To restore friendly relationships with those with whom we have fought, or avoided, is to be reconciled.

Jesus tells us that God gives us opportunities over and over to get back to the relationships that God desires with each of us.

So Jesus says that we are to seek out opportunities for reconciliation–   To walk the road of reconciliation rather than to avoid the other, or to hate the other, or to misuse our power to bend others to our will and desire. 

Being reconciled to one another draws us closer to God in love.

Reconciliation is a two way street.  Both parties have to want to return to a life giving relationship.

Because we have free choice, reconciliation with someone who doesn’t want to be in a life giving relationship may be impossible—but we can leave the door open for reconciliation to happen later when the other person or the other side is ready. 

Paul Hutchinson, the director of a retreat center in Northern Ireland called Corrymeela, tells a story in his book, Between the Bells:  Stories of Reconciliation from Corrymeela.  The story is about a group of teenage boys from a small village, boys with reputations for getting into mischief, who come to the retreat center for several days and create havoc—throwing tea bags against the walls and staining them, setting off fire extinguishers, and then worst of all, standing at the edge of the cliff on which the retreat center is built and hurling rocks down on the travel trailer park below. 

What to do?   The boys have broken the rules of the retreat center.  Should they be ordered to leave?

When Paul, the director, goes to meet with the boys, their leader says that the boys have decided that they cannot honor the rules of the retreat center and that they will leave that day.  But, the youth leader says, with tears in his eyes, “But they might one day.  One day they might be able to keep the rules of Corrymeela.”

Paul tells the youth leader that the group will be welcome back to Corrymeela if some preparation work is carried out beforehand.  He doesn’t want the boys to feel as if they’re getting a lifetime ban.  “Please come back under different circumstances,” Paul says to the youth leader. 

Aren’t we those boys?  Those boys full of mischief?  We can’t keep the rules either.  We get angry and hold onto our anger.  We get offended and stay mad.  We don’t bother to work things out with the other person when the easiest thing to do is to walk away.  We don’t honor our commitments.  We use our power over others for our own advantage.  We don’t tell the truth.  We throw stones. 

And yet, our leader, Jesus, believes in us.  Jesus believes that one day, we will be able to keep the rules of the kingdom of heaven, and if we let him, Jesus will help us to make the choices we need to make every day in order to  live lives of perfect love.

“So when you are offering your gift at the altar,” Jesus tells us, “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” 

Choose life.  

Travel the road of reconciliation when you leave this place today. 

The road of reconciliation is the way of love, and if you are walking the way of love, you are truly on the way home to God.      

 

Resources: 

https://cac.org/at-one-ment-not-atonement-2020-02-05/

Hurchinson, Paul.  Between the Bells:  Stories of reconciliation from Corrymeela.   “Country Kids” pages 124-131.  Canterbury Press, Norwick, UK, 2019.