|Epiphany, Jan. 2021||January 6, 2021||Epiphany, Year B,||Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year B, 2020||December 24, 2020||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20|
|Fourth Sunday of Advent – Messages of Hope||December 20, 2020||Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Luke 1:26-38, 46-55|
|Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one”||December 13, 2020||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28|
|Second Sunday of Advent – Repentance||December 6, 2020||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
||Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8|
|First Sunday of Advent – The Waiting||November 29, 2020||First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-27|
|Last Pentecost – Christ the King, Year A||November 22, 2020||Christ the King Sunday, Year A||Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46|
|Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee)||November 15, 2020||Pentecost 24, Proper 28||Matthew 25:14-30|
|Pentecost 23, Year A||November 8, 2020||Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, Year A||November 1, 2020||All Saints' Sunday, Year A||1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|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 8, Year B
Sermon Date:July 18, 2021
Scripture: Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Mark 6:30-34
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 11, Pentecost 8, Year B 2021
Bishop Curry, Royal Wedding sermon – the “Power of Love”, May, 2018
If a prophet walked in the door of the Church today, Church with a capital C, what message would that prophet bring from God?
Would it be something along the lines of what Jeremiah had to say in today’s Old Testament reading?
We can’t rule out the possibility that Jeremiah might thunder to the Church, “Woe to my Church who has scattered the sheep of my pasture!”
The world needs the leadership of the Church more than ever!
And God has expectations of us.
We are the Church, the Body of Christ!
And as the Body of Christ, our job is to make every effort to graciously and fully exemplify the qualities that Jesus, our Lord and Savior models for us, so that we can carry out God’s work in the world.
We are the ones that God expects to lead people in the way of life.
After all, the Holy Spirit empowers us, the Church, to be Christ’s presence in a world inhabited by people divided and suspicious of one another, a world torn by violence, economic injustice, and disregard for the natural world which sustains us—a world divided in infinite ways.
Now I know that you have probably heard a million sermons on the 23rd Psalm, several of them from me.
Well, today I’m preaching one more, because Psalm 23 sums up so succinctly what the Church needs to be about in this day and age to make a difference for good in this world and to help make the way straight the path for the reign of God to come on this earth.
Psalm 23 begins with the familiar line, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
The utmost concern of the Lord, who is our shepherd, is for the flock. The shepherd provides for the physical needs of the flock. That’s where the green pastures and the still waters come in
God expects us, as the Church, to provide for the physical needs of God’s people, to address economic injustices in this world in ways both great and small. Jesus states bluntly in Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew that those who have cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the prisoners, and for strangers have cared for Jesus himself.
Through the centuries, the Church has been about the business of caring for the physical needs of people. Today, people benefit from experiencing Christ’s presence in tangible ways delivered by real live people—things as simple as one person handing another a bag of food or providing help on a utility bill, or having people show up to build a ramp for someone, groups putting new roofs on houses, or gleaning on a hot summer day to harvest fresh food for a food bank, or showing up to visit in a jail or a hospital.
Christ’s presence is visible to the world in adventures like the mission trip several of us took together many years ago now to Staten Island, to help the Moravians at Castleton Hill Moravian Church with their annual gigantic clothing distribution, and the one we are about to make to Jamaica to hand out the school supplies you donated to over three hundred students. Our various collections of things throughout the year are in direct response to the physical needs of our neighbors. To meet these needs helps, even if in a small way, to address economic injustices.
The shepherd not only cares for physical needs, but for the needs of the soul. “The Lord restores my soul,” the psalmist writes.
And we, the Church, must be about providing restoration for God’s worn out world, for the entire earth and for its people. This restoration begins right here each Sunday for us who show up to worship together and to get fed and sustained around God’s table.
Jesus himself understood the importance of taking time for restoration. In today’s gospel, the disciples have returned from their missions of healing out in the surrounding areas. They are all so busy that they have had no leisure even to eat. So Jesus invites them to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Jesus had spent forty days in the wilderness before he began his own ministry in Galilee, and he often went out alone to pray. He knows that the disciples need to have their souls restored.
This sort of restoration is a gift that the Church can offer to the rest of the world. Our society in large part revolves around the stress of a 24/7 news cycle that keeps people upset and heightens their divisions. The Church needs to be intentional about restorative work in the world, including the cultivation of quiet minds, for the world is constantly under assault by those who love chaos and destruction and distractions from wholeness and peace.
For centuries, monasteries have welcomed people who seek solitude and rest. In these quiet places, tired and discouraged people are restored as they find God in the quiet setting that retreat centers offer.
Our diocesan retreat center, Shrine Mont, is a place of reflection for the restoration of the soul, surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. Shrine Mont is open to everyone. And many people have grown closer to God and grown spiritually while in that place.
Our own setting also offers solitude and rest. No wonder St Mary’s in Colonial Beach has held several retreats here at St Peter’s. As we consider future ministries, something that instantly comes to mind is that we can be intentional about welcoming people who are seeking solitude and restoration and invite them to spend some time here. We could clean up our little piece of riverbank and provide access to it to make our space even more welcoming.
Reviving and restoring the natural world has never been more important. Human beings have spent generations squandering the gift of God’s creation and have abused our place within that creation. The news is full of disasters caused by changes in the climate. Just this week, we’ve read about floods in Germany and fires raging in the Pacific Northwest. The people of God who take stands for the environment are doing God’s work—for God loves all that God has made. God expects us, the Church, to love creation and to work actively to restore it.
The Lord leads us along right pathways, that is, paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.
How easy it is for the Church to shirk its calling to get out there and to help people to identify and get on the path of righteousness, because we Christians get all confused and divided over what the right pathways even are. We get caught up in what turns out to be minutia in the big picture of helping people to get on right pathways. We get angry and judgmental and self-righteous with one another over issues great and small. We get divided and hostile, and we’ve, oops, stepped off the path of righteousness ourselves. Those who were hoping that we, the Church, could show them the way wander off in disappointment and seek their guidance somewhere else.
The Good Shepherd himself, Jesus, reminds us that the right pathways, the paths of righteousness, turn out to be The Way of Love. Jesus said that the two great commandments are to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and the second is like unto the first, to love your neighbor as yourself.
Our task as the Church is to invite people in this divided world onto The Way of Love. The writer of First John puts it like this, “Beloved, if God loves us, we ought also to love one another.”
If you want to hear an absolutely inspired sermon on the Way of Love, watch a video of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, preaching at the wedding of Harry and Meghan in a church packed full of British royalty. I’ll admit to the wicked pleasure of laughing at the nonplussed expressions of the royals as the camera catches them reacting to Bishop Curry’s exuberant preaching style.
But Bishop Curry’s words are riveting. I’ll share only one quote from the sermon with you right now (promise me you’ll take 13 minutes at some point to watch the whole thing). At the end of the sermon, Bishop Curry talks about fire.
“Teilhard de Chardin said that fire is one of the greatest discoveries in all of human histories. De Chardin went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire. Love is the very fire and energy of real life! Dr. King was right: We must discover love. The redemptive power of love. When we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”
The Way of Love, full of infinite wonders, is the path of righteousness that can lead us all to God.
The next thing that this Psalm reminds the Church to do is to stay steady in the face of danger. The Church, if it is doing its job, accompanies people through the rough and life threatening places that people go through in this life.
A glaring failure of the church around the world and especially in Germany in World War II was to turn its collective back on our Jewish brothers and sisters, denying a safe haven to those who tried to escape and by not taking a stronger stand against the growing discrimination the Jewish people faced, looking the other way when they were put to death by the millions in the Nazi concentration camps.
Staying steady in the face of danger on another’s behalf looks like Jonathan Daniels, one of our own martyrs, who died in 1965 in Alabama when he used his own body to shield a 17 year old black girl from the bullets fired by a county deputy enraged by the civil rights work going on in his community.
Being present to those who are in danger includes the Church’s current work on learning more about and trying to figure out a way to address the inequities that racism in this country has brought to all of us. Being present to those who are in danger includes the care that so many of you, as the Church, are coming together to provide to help members of this congregation as they travel through challenging times in their own lives. When we accompany someone through something awful, or exhausting, being a steady presence for that person, we are doing the Lord’s work.
The 23rd Psalm also reminds the Church that we are to spread a table in the presence of enemies and those who trouble us. The image of a feast laden table brings to mind hospitality, conversation and a sense of unity, a radical way of dealing with enemies. Jesus teaches in the Gospel according to Matthew that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Our job as the Church is to about reconciliation, to be seeking peace and pursuing peace.
When I was at VTS, Hasom Naoum, an Anglican priest from Jerusalem, came to study for a year. He talked about the role of Christians in the Middle East as that of being peace makers, to help to build bridges between the Jewish people and the Muslim people. Since his VTS days, Naoum has become Jerusalem’s Anglican Archbishop. Christians in Israel run hospitals and schools in which people of all faiths are welcome, bringing to life the idea of spreading a table in the presence of enemies, doing the work that God calls the Church to do in this world.
The end of the 23rd Psalm reminds us that we are part of the great communion of saints, that God’s goodness and mercy are with us, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we, the Church, can be a consistent and steady source of sacrificial love. We can unite, and we can heal. By traveling the way of love ourselves, we can make straight the pathways for our Lord, when he comes at last to bring to fulfillment God’s promised reign on this earth.