|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 12, Year A
Sermon Date:August 23, 2020
Scripture: Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A
“Keys to the Kingdom” – Hermoleon
On the day of our baptisms, and then again on the day of our confirmations, and every time we say the Nicene Creed, we answer the question of who we believe Jesus to be when we say that we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son and our Lord.
Because we have already claimed Jesus as God’s Son, we are like Peter himself, saying to Jesus,
“Yes, Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus says to each one of us, “Blessed are you, you are (put your name here) and on this rock, I will build my church.”
What a scary proposition! And yet, there we have it!
We are the rocks on which Jesus continues to build his church in the world. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another.”
Jesus creatively blends the talents and the gifts of the people who have come together in his name to do his work to make the church and the presence of Jesus alive, strong and vital out in the world.
As Richard Avery and Donald Marsh wrote in that little hymn that some of us know, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together, all who follow Jesus all around the world, yes, we’re the church together.”
Being the church together is tricky!
But today’s lectionary passages give us some direction about how to be the church together.
Isaiah reminds the Israelites who strayed away and then ended up in exile that they need one focus.
Their focus is to be on the Lord– to seek the Lord, to look to the Lord, out of whom they come, to listen to the Lord, to pay attention to the Lord’s teachings.
And our focus is to be on the Lord, and on Jesus, God’s Son and our savior.
Claiming Jesus as God’s Son and our Lord is an act of faith. Our faith in Jesus sets us apart from the rest of the world, while putting us directly into the world as transforming people full of God’s love to share.
Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As Christians, and as the church, God asks us (in the words of Paul) to discern the will of God in the things of this world—how our decisions align us with what Jesus teaches us about who God is and how God is present here in our midst on earth, and how we are to be present to the world as people who follow Jesus.
In order to discern the will of God, we must come to know ever more deeply who God is—which is why studying God’s word, spending time with God in prayer, and spending time with other Christians in community to talk about God is so important.
Then we use what we have learned in our time with scripture and with one another, and in our prayer to make the decisions that God calls on us to make in this life.
When we focus on God, hoping that what we faithfully desire will align with God’s will if we have been intentional about our discernment, then hopefully we can bring God’s love into the world through the decisions we make and the actions we take.
How would Jesus respond to the many hot button issues of our day?
For instance, how would Jesus vote in the upcoming election? “Give heed to me, my nation,” as Isaiah says.
The great temptation for all of us is to make Jesus in our own image and to assume that Jesus would automatically be on the side that we are on—so that we feel justified in our decisions. But God is greater than all of us, and we can never completely know the mind of God.
We probably all feel justified in choosing the candidates we’ll vote for, based on who we believe God to be and how we believe God wants us to show God’s love in the world, knowing that other Christians will vote differently based on the same criteria– how they believe God to be and how they believe God wants us to show God’s love in the world.
That’s why Paul reminds the Romans and us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but with sober judgement. This advice is helpful as we work to be the church together, in this world and in this nation, even as we often faithfully disagree with one another over the things of this world, and our work in the world as the church.
At least we can agree that our focus is on the Lord.
And we can proceed as the church together, keeping the Moravian Church motto in mind– “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
As members of the one body in Christ, we bring our different gifts to God’s work in the world. Here we must do more discernment. Knowing ourselves in the light of God’s love is a life long process. Discerning what gifts we have to offer is also a process, because we never stop changing in our lives.
How frustrating it is to find that a gift you once had is gone, especially if you have built your life around that gift. Disease often takes away what we could have offered in the past. Aging inevitably changes what we can do and offer as our bodies wear out.
But each one of us, no matter how the gifts we had have disappeared or changed, STILL HAVE GIFTS to bring to the body of Christ!
We Christians believe that even beyond the grave, we STILL HAVE GIFTS to bring for God’s use and God’s glory. That’s why we have this prayer in The Book of Common Prayer in the Rite I burial liturgy-“Grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee (see there’s that focus on God still in place), he or she may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom.”
As a homework assignment this week, think about the gifts you currently can bring to this body of Christ.
That old familiar Christmas carol, “The Little Drummer Boy,” is about a little poor boy being invited by others to go see the Christ child lying in the manger. They are all bringing their finest gifts, fit to lay before a king. And this little boy says to himself, “I’m a child, and I’m poor and I have no gift to bring.”
But then he realizes that he can bring something—he can play his drum for the Baby Jesus.
And so, “I played my drum for him, I played my best for him—then he smiled at me, pa rum pump pum pum, me and my drum.”
What I love about this old carol is that through offering his simple gift, the boy was offering to God the gift of praise.
Praise is the gift that we all bring to the body of Christ, the gift that empowers us to offer and to use our other gifts for God’s glory too.
The psalmist starts today’s psalm with these words–
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart…I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your Name, because of your love and faithfulness.”
This part of God’s church in the world, St Peter’s in Port Royal, has done some changing in the past several months—actually, we are always changing. We are having to offer our gifts differently, and in some cases, not at all. But the thing that we can offer, that has remained constant, is our praise to God as a community of faith.
And praise brings us to hope. We know, along with the prophet Isaiah, that even as the familiar wears out like a garment, and that everything is always changing and will someday end, that our salvation is forever, that God is always about our deliverance and that Lord does not abandon us.
And so as this church, we can proceed with confidence.
Our focus is on God, our prayers are for discernment, we offer our gifts for the common good of this one body in Christ, we praise God even in our despair and frustration, and most of all we do all of this in hope.
For as Isaiah says, “The Lord will comfort Zion, the Lord will comfort her in all her sate places, and will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord. And joy and gladness will be found in her.”
We experience joy and gladness when we use our gifts for God’s glory. And our joy and gladness become gifts we can take out into the messy and fractured world, along with these communal gifts–
unity in our diversity, praise to God, comfort, and healing to those who suffer, and hope!
We have hope for ourselves and for one another because we know that we are one body in Christ and that God gives us all gifts to use for the common good.
We have hope for the church because we know that Jesus is constantly building up the church by empowering us to use our gifts.
And we have hope for this world—because we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds, so we know, along with the psalmist, that God will make good our purposes for us and that God’s love endures forever.