Sermon

Proper 25, Year A

          The collect asks God to increase in us the gifts of faith, hope and charity; make us love what you command.   In the time of Jesus, God’s commands were numerous – over 600 rules for the Jewish person to heed.  How difficult to keep all the laws, and yet the Pharisees and Sadducees and the chief priests and the elders of the temple did it.  They kept the letter of the law, but not necessarily the heart of the law.  So this morning they are still trying to trap Jesus with a test.  What is the greatest law?

          Who knows what they expected him to say.  Instead he gives us the commandment, the law that we try to live by today…”love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” is part 1 and the part 2 is to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I’m thinking that they are impressed with his answer – not that they like it, but he sure had a good answer.  Jesus returns the favor and asks them a question, a question they cannot answer and it ends the game.  “From that day no one dared to ask him anymore questions.”  Can you love what God has commanded? 

          The theme for the Diocesan Convention was ‘travel light…leaving baggage behind.’  We spent heard about baggage from Bishop David and why it’s necessary to leave it behind.  Baggage can be things –possessions we can’t give up; possessions we love more than God or our neighbors.  Baggage can be relationships that have hurt us and hinder us from moving forward – like a diocese that has been isolated and abused.  Baggage can be ideas or habits that we’ve had for so long, we aren’t able to hear or see what new things God is doing in our community. 

Bishop David demonstrated with an amusing visual on Friday evening.  He left the Renewal of Baptismal Vows service at the peace.  When he returned he had traded his cope and miter for a fishing vest, waders, sunglasses and a hat.  He talked about when he first began fly fishing he got all the equipment and clothing so that he could fit in with other fly fishermen.  Then he proceeded to show us what he wears when he goes fly fishing.  He removed the heavy 39 pocket vest filled with all the gear.  He removed the waist high waders.  He was left in a pair of shorts, his clergy shirt, and he slipped on a pair of sandals.  Okay, I’m sure that he wears a t-shirt instead of his purple clergy shirt, but we got the idea.  Baggage needs to be set aside.  It weighs us down and hinders our ability to act.

          This reminded me of an experience I had at a women’s cursillo many years ago.  I’ve told this story before.  We were half way through the weekend and were doing an exercise of washing each other’s hands.  One woman sat at her table and sobbed.  She couldn’t have her hands washed.  Now understand she is one of the those people who are so positive, generous and loving to others that they make your day brighter just by being with them.  It took several minutes, but she was able to share her thoughts with us.  She carried so much baggage that she literally felt like she was holding it all in big shopping bags.  She couldn’t open her hands to let someone wash them because she would drop all her bags, and so she could only clench her hands shut.  Yes, she eventually was able to open her hands and place them in the basin of water, but we had no idea that she felt that way or that she carried such burdens.  We could see the joy that came from setting that baggage down.

          If we are holding on to baggage, we need to spend our time and energy focused on it – holding it, carrying it.  We can’t focus on God or on the people around us, our neighbors.  We can’t keep God’s commandment to love God with all we have and to love ourselves and our neighbor.  That is why Jesus tells those who will listen that those are the greatest commandments and all the laws are encompassed by them.  Putting God first helps us to let go of baggage.  What helps you remember to put God first?

          Our meditation this morning uses the example of making the sign of the cross.  The cross is a symbol many Christians use to help them remember to put God first, but something else may be more relevant or helpful for you.  Prayer beads, an icon, the Lord’s Prayer, a butterfly, a rainbow – whatever works for you. 

This week, think about what helps you focus on God being present.  What baggage would you like to give up?   What do you need to give up?  What do we as the community of St. Anne’s carry as baggage?  I invite you to mentally bring that baggage to the altar at the Eucharist and set it down.  Leave your baggage and open your hands to receive Christ.  Then you will be able to go out with love to put God first.   AMEN.

Sermon

Proper 18, Year A

 Do this for the remembrance of me…

Note:  This is a Children’s sermon, and there are props and dialogue which will not be recorded in this sermon because it hasn’t happened yet.

 For those who are not here in person, this is the set-up.  I bring out a small table and a large bag.  The children are invited to come forward.  I begin to pull things out of the bag and set them on the table.  Some wrapped boxes…toy plastic flutes…some party hats…a pan with something baked in it…a package of candles.  Put some candles in the cake (that’s what is in the pan).  

Ask the children if they know what all of this might be for.   A birthday party?  Yes!  Do we all have birthdays?  Do you celebrate your birthday with most of these things?  Would you have a party with cake and candles, hats, presents and maybe toys to share?  We commemorate (remember in a special way) our birthday.  In the Hebrew scripture this morning we hear a story about the first commemoration of the Passover.

Moses and Pharaoh have been arguing about letting the people of Israel go from slavery in Egypt.  God has sent plagues to make Pharaoh and the Egyptians miserable so that he will let the Israelites leave.  The tenth plague is coming – “about midnight, the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die”, from Pharaoh to the slave to the livestock.  God tells Moses to have the people prepare, and put the blood of the lamb around their door.  When God comes through in the night, God will “pass over” the homes marked with blood and no plague shall destroy the firstborn of that house.  Further, God says, “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.  You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord…”  And it happened just like God said.  To this day our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate the Passover feast in the spring remembering how God saved the people that night and how God has saved the people many times before and after.  To the children: Now if you will have a seat in the front or you may return to your parents if you wish.

As Christians, we don’t celebrate Passover.  The last time Jesus was in Jerusalem and celebrating the Passover meal in a room with his friends, he changed the commemoration.  He did something new.  “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat: This is my body.’  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”  (Matthew 26:26-28) 

Does that sound familiar?  That is our Christian Passover.  Every Sunday we remember how Jesus has given us life.  We celebrate the eucharist as a commemoration of what Jesus did.  He gave himself to heal the world.  Our part is to remember his gift and to try every day to love each other. 

God is always present.  Usually we need God the most when we are alone.  How can you remember that God is always with you?  For many Christians, the cross is a way to remember that God is present all the time.  I know that some of you have crosses you wear that have special meaning – maybe they were a special gift or a birthday present.  This morning, I have a cross that I invite you to take.  It’s one that can be stuck above your bed, or on the dash of your car, or on the door of your locker; somewhere you can see it to remind you that God is there.  When you need to talk to God, you can.  Put it where you might need a reminder to feel God’s presence in your day.              AMEN.

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