The Podcast can be found here.
This sermon has two endings. The first is for the church in Butte as this was the day of our first Annual Meeting as The Episcopal Church of St. Mary and St. John. The second ending can be found below. The podcast has the second ending.
Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed, "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth."
A parish got a new priest. During his first service, when a certain prayer was said, half the congregation stood up and half remained sitting. The half that was seated started yelling at those standing to sit down, and the ones standing yelled at the ones sitting to stand up… The new priest did not know what to do. His congregation suggested to consult a 98-year-old man, who was the oldest inhabitant of the village. The priest hoped the elderly man would be able to tell him what the actual tradition was, so he went to the old people's home with a representative of each fraction of the congregation…. The one whose followers stood during the prayer said to the old man, "Is the tradition to stand during this prayer?"… The old man answered, "No, that is not the tradition." … The one whose followers sat said gladly, "Then the tradition is to sit during this prayer!" … The old man answered, "No, that is not the tradition." … Then the priest said to the old man, "But the congregation fight all the time, yelling at each other about whether they should sit or stand..."… The old man interrupted, exclaiming, "That is the tradition!"
We have all sorts of traditions in our church… from the color of the various church seasons to the silent prayers of the priest during the Mass. Some traditions have been assigned significance that wasn’t there in the first place… for example, there is now the proper order in which to light the candles on the altar, but we have candles on the altar not for some great theological reason, but because someone once said, “it sure would be nice to be able to see what we are doing up here.”…
Now some of our traditions do have more meaning. Take for example “The Peace”… The original intent of the Peace was because someone once said, “Oh, I see so and so is here... it sure would be a nice for me to catch up and make a lunch date with them prior to them sneaking out the back door after communion.”… No.. not exactly… We extend the peace during the service as an outward sign of our common life and fidelity, not for a seventh inning stretch.
Another of those traditions deals with our responses following the reading of the various lessons appointed for the day… We have the wonderful lectors that prepare each Sunday to read those lessons.. and following that reading they say, “The Word of the Lord”… but have you ever noticed that some say, “THIS is the Word of the Lord” as opposed to “The Word of the Lord?”…. It is only the priesty types that notice these things, but those two statements are actually quite different.
To say, “This is the Word of the Lord” is to limit what is read to the text.. the actual printed words…. Taken to the extreme it would be worshiping the text.. the bible – we don’t do that. It is sacred scripture, but we do not worship it, that would just be another form of idolatry. The proper way to end the reading is to say, “The Word of the Lord”… In this case “The Word” is not the printed text.. The Word is God… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”… When we say, “The Word of the Lord,” we are saying, “This is the action of God.. this is the very presence of God and how he has moved.. How he has acted in the world.”… It takes it to an entirely different level – We don’t read the scripture to hear the words… we read the scripture to hear how THE Word – how God has moved, so that we might better understand His nature.
Here is another way to think of it… during the Eucharistic prayer we speak the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me.”... we think of a remembrance as a memorial... but the original word in the Greek is anamnesis... which is not speaking of a memorial... it is speaking about making present... Do this.. in the consecrating and receiving of the bread and the wine.. the body and blood... do this and make me present.. make me real.. here with you today…
Often when we hear the readings of Holy Scripture.. we think of them as events in the past.. as history.. we forget what Paul says, that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword”… The Word of the Lord is alive and active… What God spoke then, He speaks today… What Jesus spoke then, Jesus speaks today… and with regard to Jesus’ prayer that we heard in our Gospel reading – what Jesus prayed then, He prays today.
And what did he pray… “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”… protect them – keep them safe from the wickedness of the world and from the evil one – so that they may be one… so that they may be united…. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed that we might be united, but we don’t look at the world around us and respond sarcastically, “That sure didn’t work out!”… He prayed it 2,000 years ago… but he continues to pray it today…. Jesus’ prayer for unity was not a thing of the past that we have somehow managed to bungle up... it is his prayer for today... Which points to the fact that with God, there is always a second chance.. and a third.. and a forth… “Hey Jesus.. How many times must I forgive my brother? Seven times.”… “No.. seventy times seven times.”
Our God is a God of second chances.. and today… today, He prays that we will be united.. and He is giving us a second chance… to be the kind of church He has called us to be…. The great thing about second chances with God is that they aren’t about picking up the pieces, bandaging the wounds, regrouping or any of that… Second chances with God are about making all things new…. It means a setting aside of the past.. and a hope for the future... it is God acting, not just back then, but today.. it is reality... God IS speaking... Christ IS present... Here…. There is only one catch, you have to decide to take that chance.
How does that work in reality... [This is a very personal story that I have chosen not to post... If you want to hear it, you'll just have to show up :) ]
There are many decisions that can be put off, the Scarlet O’Hara approach.. “I’ll think about that tomorrow”... but There are many days and circumstances that lead to those decision points... when you can no longer avoid or dodge an issue... you must stand, draw the line - not in the sand - but with blood, sweat and tears... [omitted].. things could have gone either way... the past could be the past... the future could be our hope... but that day.. that present.. was where we had to be
For our church.. that day has arrived.. and it is today. The Lord Our God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”... and today we are being made new... We are a new church... The Episcopal Church of St. Mary and St. John... We have no past. We have today and we have our hope for the future... How will we live out that future? I’ve got an answer for that … and I think it is a good one… [stained glass window]... we know for certain there were two people at the foot of Jesus’ cross and they are depicted in that window... Mary the Mother of God... and John His Beloved Disciple.. That is us... that is our future... to be together at the foot of the Cross of Christ.
Whenever you walk into this building that is the first thing I want you to look at… Whenever you talk to someone about this congregation that is the first thing I want you to tell them about… that is who we are. What is the cross …
The cross is the hope of Christians
the cross is the resurrection of the dead
the cross is the way of the lost
the cross is the savior of the lost
the cross is the staff of the lame
the cross is the guide of the blind
the cross is the strength of the weak
the cross is the doctor of the sick
the cross is the aim of the priests
the cross is the hope of the hopeless
the cross is the freedom of the slaves
the cross is the power of the kings
the cross is the water of the seeds
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen
The cross is the source of those who seek life
We thank you, Father, for the cross and for allowing us to live in its holy and eternal presence. Amen.
Is there an area in your life that you might need a second chance?... In your relationship with God?... In a relationship with a spouse or family member?... with a friend or in a job?... There are many decisions that can be put off, the Scarlet O’Hara approach.. “I’ll think about that tomorrow”... but There are many days and circumstances that lead to those decision points... when you can no longer avoid or dodge an issue... you must stand, draw the line - not in the sand - but with blood, sweat and tears... What if you decided that today was that day… This is the day that I make my stand for unity… I may be rejected.. I may be scorned.. I may get punched in the mouth… but today I will stand.
The Lord Our God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”... and today might just be the day that He will make something new in your life.. if.. if you are willing to take that chance.
A sculptor had ruined a huge piece of beautiful Carrara marble. It was left in the courtyard of the cathedral in Florence, Italy, for almost a hundred years. Artisans thought it was beyond repair. But in 1505, a young sculptor by the name of Michelangelo was asked if he thought anything could be done with "The Giant." He measured the block and carefully noted the imperfections caused by the bungling workman of an earlier day. To his mind came the image of the young shepherd boy David. So he carefully made a sketch of that biblical character as he envisioned him. For 3 years he worked steadily, his chisel skillfully shaping the marble. Finally, when one of his students was allowed to view the towering figure, 18 feet high and weighing 9 tons, he exclaimed, "Master, it lacks only one thing, and that is speech!"
Behind some of our biggest messes is a masterpiece that God desires to create…
Let us pray… Our Father, may everything I do begin with Your Inspiration, continue with Your Help, and reach perfection under Your Guidance. With Your loving care guide me in my daily actions. Help me to persevere with love and sincerity. Teach me to judge wisely the things of earth and to love the things of Heaven. Keep me in Your presence and never let me be separated from You. Your Spirit made me Your child, confident to call You Father. Make Your Love the foundation of my life. Teach me to long for Heaven. May its promise and hope guide my way on earth until I reach eternal life with You. Amen.