Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sermon; 13 Pentecost/Proper 15C; Is. 5:1-7; Heb. 11:29 - 12:2; Luke 12:49-56

Well THAT was an interesting set of readings.  If you ever had the idea that being a follower of God somehow made everything okay and ensured your safety and security in this world, think again.

In our first lesson God is letting the children of Israel know the consequences of their bad behavior.  God has done all he can for Israel.  He planted a vineyard, Israel, on a fertile hill, the Promised Land.  He cleared it of stones, all the nations opposed to Israel.  He built a watchtower, the Law.  With all of this attention to the children of Israel, God had an expectation that they would produce grapes, an expectation that they would yield good fruit.  What it produced instead was wild grapes, bitter fruit.

What was the good fruit God expected?  There's a list, but at the top of that list is justice.  To quote from another prophet, “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.”

The expected good fruit, however, turned into the bitter fruit of bloodshed, a lack of mercy, trampling down the poor, widowed, and orphaned, and abuse of the stranger and foreigner.  It sounds a lot like today.

In Hebrews we heard a roll call of faithful servants – Rahab, Barak, Samson, and David.  And then we heard the litany of how people of faith were treated – with torture, floggings, stoned, sawn in two, and executed.  Being a Christian was a dangerous proposition during that time.

The author of Hebrews is reminding readers that Christianity can be a dangerous thing; taking up one's cross actually meant following the path of Jesus on the road to execution.  Even so, remember that you are not alone.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and we are encouraged to persevere through all sorts of trials and tribulations.  No matter what we face on earth, know that you have not been forgotten by those who went before, nor have you been forgotten by God.  Part of our call as Christians entails persevering to the end.

Today's gospel reading is just as cheerful as our previous two.  “I came to bring fire to the earth.  I haven't come to bring peace, but division.  Households will be divided, three against two and two against three.  Father against son, son against father.  Mother against daughter and daughter against mother.”

There are a lot of interpretations around this passage, some better than others.  But the bottom line is that when you throw Jesus into the mix, strong opinions tend to surface, division are formed, battle lines drawn, and it does indeed seem that Jesus' mission is far from peaceful.

When I first looked at these readings, I immediately went to my Facebook page, copied a few lines from each, and asked, “Is anyone interested in a guest-preaching gig this Sunday?”

Obviously nobody took me up on that request.  So here I am trying to figure out what bitter grapes, people sawn in two, and a Messiah bent on division all have to do with us today.

In the gospel Jesus said that he was under great stress until a particular baptism was completed.  While not quite the same, you all received a notice this past Friday that has probably already generated a fair amount of stress here at St. Luke's.

The first thing to know about this is that both Cn. Neysa and Bp. Michael will be working with John Barnard, the Vestry, and all of you as you move forward.  I am also working with John and the Vestry to make things as smooth as possible.  But that doesn't mean there won't be bumps along the way.  And this is where our readings for today come in.

First from Isaiah:  know that you are God's beloved.  You are the vineyard of God and you are in a fertile place.  St. Luke's, as a whole, is that fertile place, and each of you are a choice vine.  God has given you everything you need to be fruitful, and God expects you to produce good fruit.

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.

From Hebrews: hold to your faith.  Uncountable people before you have faced greater trials and tribulations than you will face.  That's not to minimize or make light of our situation, but it is to point out that you are not alone.  You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have your spiritual backs.

Persevere in the race set before you, keeping your eyes on Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Remain faithful.

And from the Gospel: pay attention to the signs of the times.  The world is changing around us.  We need to be able to look at what's happening and say, “How can God work in this situation?  What can we do to show the love of God in a new way?”

It just may be that when you choose to do something new, when you choose to show the love of God in new and different ways, your brothers and sisters in the household of God will be divided.  So when you look at the present time, look at it through the eyes of a loving God and then act accordingly.

Do justice.  Remain faithful.  Be imitators of a loving God.  If you do these three things, then I am convinced you will be okay.



spookyrach | 12:09 PM, August 16, 2016  

Love the thought of a 'great cloud of witnesses who have my spiritual back'. Sometimes I forget that we're not in this alone. ;)

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