|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 17, 2021||Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year B 2021||Psalm 91:9-16|
|Pentecost 20, Year B||October 10, 2021||Pentecost 20, Proper 23, Year B||Amos 5:6-7.10-15. Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31|
|Pentecost 19, Year B, Season of Creation 5||October 3, 2021||Feast of St Francis, Pentecost 19, Year B||Jeremiah 22:13-16, Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||September 26, 2021||Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Mark 9:38-50|
|Pentecost 17, Year B, Season of Creation 3||September 19, 2021||Pentecost 17, Proper 20, Year B, Season of Creation 3||Psalm 54, Mark 9:30-37|
|Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation 2||September 12, 2021||Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation II||Mark 8:27-38|
|Pentecost 15, Year B, Season of Creation 1||September 5, 2021||Proper 18, Year B Season of Creation 2021||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, 14-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 13 B – Rev. Amy Turner||August 22, 2021||Pentecost 13, Proper 16||John 6:56-69|
|Pentecost 12, Year B||August 15, 2021||Proper 15, Pentecost 12, Year B||John 6:51-58|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 8, 2021||Pentecost 11, Proper 14, Year B||John 6:35,41-51|
|Pentecost 10, Year B – Rev. Bambi Willis||August 1, 2021||Pentecost 10, Proper 13, Year B||John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 9, Year B||July 25, 2021||Proper 12, Pentecost 9, Year B||2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 18, 2021||Proper 11, Pentecost 8, Year B 2021||Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Mark 6:30-34|
|➤Pentecost 7, Year B||July 11, 2021||Proper 10, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B||Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2: 11-22, Mark 6:14-29|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 4, 2021||Pentecost 6, Proper 9||2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13|
Pentecost 7, Year B
Sermon Date:July 11, 2021
Scripture: Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2: 11-22, Mark 6:14-29
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 10, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
100 Walls Church in Cebu City, Philippines
What would a life without walls be like? Walls are everywhere. We depend on walls.
A house blessing I stitched for a friend starts out with these words.
“Bless this house, O Lord we pray; make it safe by night and day. Bless these walls so firm and stout; keeping want and trouble out.”
We count on walls to protect us.
Maybe that’s one reason the collapse of the condo in Florida has been so shocking. Walls that were supposed to be firm and stout gave way unexpectedly, and many people who had trusted in those walls to stand suddenly lost their lives when the walls gave way.
Which brings me to the walls in today’s gospel reading—the walls of a prison cell, walls built strong, not to protect the person within them, but instead to protect the person in power, Herod. John the Baptist, locked in this strong and stout prison cell, is in the greatest danger of his life.
The historian Josephus says that Herod became alarmed when he heard that John’s exhortation to the Jews—“to live righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety toward God, and so doing join in baptism”…had caused others to join the crowds about John, because they were aroused to the highest degree by his words. Eloquence that had so great an effect on the people might lead to some form of sedition, for it looks as if they would be guided by John in everything that they did. Herod decided, therefore, that it would be much better to strike first and be rid of John before his work led to an uprising, than to wait for an upheaval, get involved in a difficult situation and see his mistake.”
So John meets his fate, and Herod has him beheaded.
In today’s Old Testament reading, Amos uses the metaphor of a wall built with the plumb line of God’s righteousness and justice, a wall that separates the people of Israel from God. The people have forgotten what God has asked them to do, and instead are resting in ease and luxury behind the firm and stout walls that they have built, by taking the land of the poor and leaving them with nothing. So those walls of luxury that the people have built have divided them from one another and from God.
So Amos goes to Bethel to prophesy. The priest there, Amaziah, doesn’t lock Amos up, but he tells Amos to get out of the sanctuary there—”because the walls of this sanctuary are for the king, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
The walls of this sanctuary at Bethel aren’t surrounding God’s house. Instead, they are walls that protect a political, earthly power. So Amos, prophesying and reporting the word of the Lord, is not welcome there.
In contrast to these walls built to protect political power, the lectionary offers us visions of God’s reign.
Today’s psalm describes the reign of God. In the first part of the psalm, the people ask God to restore them, to take away the wall of God’s anger that has separated them from God. They ask for God to show God’s mercy and grant them God’s salvation.
In response to this prayer, one of the people in the congregation responds with the vision of God’s salvation—a salvation unlimited by walls. God’s salvation holds within it both heaven and earth.
“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”
The psalm ends with the vision of the Lord entering the created world on a pathway of peace, making God’s truth, righteousness, and peace real in us and on this earth. God cannot be contained by walls. God’s arrival in our midst makes walls unnecessary.
The writer of Ephesians has this same understanding of the immensity of God’s reign.
“With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s good pleasure that God set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in God, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Later, in Chapter 2, and we will hear this passage next Sunday, the writer says that “Jesus is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups (the Jews and the Gentiles) into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
Now that Jesus has broken down the dividing walls of hostility between us, the walls of the household of God start rising up.
The writer of Ephesians tell us that this household of God is built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets. This household has Jesus Christ as its cornerstone.
“And it is in Jesus Christ that the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
So the wall becomes a metaphor for Jesus himself, the one who gathers up all things in God, things in heaven and things on earth, ad holds them together in himself.
Imagine a church taking the words of Ephesians literally and choosing to have Jesus Christ as its only walls!
St Paul’s on the Hill in Winchester, VA, the church where I worked full time for a summer in seminary, is getting rid of its physical walls. The church building is being demolished this week to make way for affordable housing for older people in the Winchester community. The original plans, which the congregation started five years ago, included coming up with some sort of worship space for the congregation on their five acre property after the affordable housing project was completed, but those plans have changed.
The Rector, Susan McDonald, says in the article that appeared in The Winchester Star about the church that to rebuild the church itself “just didn’t feel like the right thing to do, because you are putting money into a building and trying to maintain a building. It didn’t feel like a Gospel way, the way forward.”
“We are kind of waiting to see where God calls us next. So it’s bittersweet that the building, our home, is going. But also to see the legacy that we will be leaving behind as a congregation, having that happen and having that room used for that purpose, is really rewarding for people.” Despite the demolition, McDonald says that church members’ spirits remain high. “We are still worshiping,” we are still an active church. We didn’t close the church, only a building.”
So sometime early this week, St Paul’s on the Hill will literally become a church without walls.
We are blessed here at St Peter’s by the strong and stout walls that the Christians who came before us left to us as their legacy—a visible gathering place for the household of God.
As inspiring as the witness is of the Christians over in Winchester, I don’t believe that we will ever want to tear down our strong walls. These walls have withstood many things, one of the worst being a fire that almost destroyed the church not long after it was built. More recently, these walls held firm through an earthquake. Although we were a church without walls during Covid, we are grateful now to be back within these walls to worship. We love these walls.
But we must be careful not to let the walls of St Peter’s have the sole purpose of keeping want and trouble out, to be coming here only for comfort and protection from the world around us.
Unlike the people at the sanctuary at Bethel, we want to welcome prophets even though prophets can be trouble! But we need to hear the words of the prophets, for they call us to back to God’s truth and righteousness when we go astray. Prophets call us to the holy work of welcoming Jesus in our midst. And don’t forget, Jesus himself was considered by many to be a prophet. Jesus leads us to break down the dividing walls, that is the hostility, between us so that we can grow into being the household of God. When we imitate Jesus, we too can strive to gather up all things in God, reaching beyond rather than staying huddled within the physical walls of our church.
So our work is to continue to be a place of hospitality, where all are welcome to gather in God’s name.
Our work is to break down walls in our community, which we currently do by working to eliminate hunger by providing healthy food for people who come to the food distribution.
Our work is to break down the dividing walls of inequity out in the world. Our current work is to bring resources to those who are in need and will benefit, as the children in Jamaica at the Victoria School will when we go there in August to meet them and to distribute the school supplies which you all have so generously donated, and closer to home, to help provide sanitizer for students in Caroline County.
Our work and our prayer is to be full of God’s peace, so that mercy and truth can meet together in us, and righteousness and peace can kiss one another—for when we are full of God’s peace, we know that we are already dwelling in the immensity of God’s reign, even within these walls, and as we reach out in Jesus’ name beyond these walls.
Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998, 2008.