|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 9, Year A||August 2, 2020||Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A||Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year A||July 26, 2020||Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020||Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52|
|Pentecost 7, Year A||July 19, 2020||Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30,36-43|
|Pentecost 6, Year A – Evening||July 12, 2020||Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23|
Pentecost 3, Year A
Sermon Date:June 21, 2020
Scripture: Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 7, Year A
“Carrying the Cross of Christ” – Gabriel Loire (1904-1996)
In today’s gospel, Jesus says that he has come not to bring peace to the earth, but to bring a sword. Deciding for Jesus and taking his path may mean making decisions that will not bring peace, but instead, dissension, even among people as close as your own family or your church.
Christians disagree on many issues and we can become divided, each side convinced that the path it has taken is the path that Jesus would have it choose.
So which side really is the way of Jesus? Because we are human beings and not God, approaching this question with humility and turning to God in prayer, and being intentional about ongoing discernment over which way is the way of Jesus and being in conversation with one another are all important pieces of deciding how and where to follow Jesus.
And even after a lot of prayer and discernment, we may still not be 100% sure that the way we have chosen is the one Jesus would have us choose, but if we have chosen the way faithfully, prayerfully and by applying what we know from the teachings of Jesus, we can hope that we are on the right path.
Today’s scripture provides an important clue about how we might figure out the way that Jesus is leading. In his letter to the Romans Paul said, “Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
To walk in newness of life requires putting aside the old death dealing things in our lives that have kept us from following Jesus fully and completely.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus says that you can’t put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” The fermenting of the wine would burst right through the brittle old wineskin. All would be lost, and nothing gained.
As I’ve put together worship on Zoom for us, I’ve found that the old ways of worship that are so comforting to us just don’t lend themselves fully to this new technology. Trying to force the structure of Morning Prayer into a Zoom worship service started to feel like putting old wine into a new wineskin. Online agape meals leave a lot to be desired. So our worship has had to change for now. Perhaps Jesus is using this time to call us into newness of life in our worship together. What that newness will look like when we get back into our old space I don’t know—but I hope the new things we have learned will continue to give newness of life to our worship so that we won’t simply go back to the “old,” forgetting the new things we have learned about how we can worship together.
Sometimes putting aside old death dealing things can be a source of uncomfortable and even dangerous division among people.
Out in the world, so much has happened in this country since George Floyd was murdered in such a public fashion. Newness of life is bubbling up as Americans of all colors say that we can’t put liberty and justice for all back into the old wineskin of racism. In the divisions around this issue, we must prayerfully consider how Jesus is calling us as a nation to walk in newness of life as we work through our divisions. As Jesus says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.” Maybe we’re finally going to put away the old things that have been death dealing in our society so that we can walk in newness of life together, so that we can walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as Ephesians 5:2 puts it.
Following Jesus in the way can be the cause of great sacrifice. A dilemma in our country right now is the question of whether or not to wear masks when with other people. Is wearing a mask a sacrifice made on behalf of the common good, or an infringement of personal rights that isn’t worth the sacrifice? Would Jesus wear a mask if he were here with us today in these circumstances? That old mantra, “What would Jesus do?” is an important question to ask ourselves when we are trying to figure out how to walk in newness of life as resurrection people when we are presented with dilemmas about which we must make decisions.
Sometimes the demands of following Jesus can lead to physical distress or even death. In today’s Old Testament reading, Jeremiah is complaining to God that to follow God’s instructions to cry out about the violence and destruction in the land is too hard, that the persecution is too great, and yet, at the end of his lament, Jeremiah realizes that God is with him, protecting him like a dread warrior. The psalmist, who has suffered reproach for the sake of God, calls on God to answer the psalmist in his distress, “for your love is kind, O Lord. In your great compassion, turn to me, draw near to me and redeem me.”
The story behind the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” is a tremendous example of sacrifice, illustrating what Jesus says at the end of today’s gospel reading. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
I’m going to share this video that tells the general story. Details of the story differ depending on the source, but this You Tube video gives us the main information about the origin of the hymn.
(In 1904 a revival swept Wales and a man who experienced newness of life went to India, to an area called Assam, to the Garo Hills to a village of famously violent headhunters. Being warned to go back, the man said that the tribe should be able to hear the merciful word of God. And so he went to the village and one family was converted. The chief was so angry at this conversion that he called the family out before the village and told the father to take back his belief in Jesus. The man refused, saying, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.” The chief had the man’s children killed before and then offered the man another chance to take back his allegiance to Jesus. And the man said, “Though none go with me, I still will follow.” The chief killed the man’s wife and then gave the man one last chance. The man said, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” And the chief killed the man too. The result of those deaths was that the tribe became Christian, including the chief and his family.)
Many comments followed the video, including these two.
A man named Dansil wrote, “I’m from the Garo tribe…I’m so blessed that our ancient grandparents accepted the living God (Christianity) because of that now I can rejoice all my days for his mercy and love dwell upon me and I also pray for people who still have not accepted Christ as their Savior…so that one day they may accept the Lord as their Savior. Praise the Lord.”
And this one from a man named Roster Rimsu—“I’m very proud to say that I am also among the same tribe of the composer of this song and because of this man I also am a follower of Jesus Christ. Thank you, Almighty God, for blessing us through this man to turn our whole tribe to follow you.”
These two comments remind us that when we walk in newness of life, our footsteps resonate with the sounds of new life down through the ages.
We Christians have many challenges to face and hard choices to make about how to walk in newness of life and to be resurrection people in our own time. Will the steps we take resonate with new life down through the ages?
Only time will tell. And even the saints among us aren’t always sure that they are following Jesus, even though they hope that they are. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, who spent most of his life actively discerning what it meant for him to walk in newness of life, prayed a prayer that people seeking to walk in the way of Jesus still pray today. His prayer about the mysteries of discerning God’s will and the way that he should go is one of humility, faith and trust in God. We shared this prayer in Bible study on Wednesday. Maybe you will find it useful as well.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
How is God calling you to walk in newness of life in your own life?
How is God calling us to walk in newness of life in this church?
How is God calling us to walk in newness of life in the world?