A Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 31, 2022

By: Kilpy Singer, Associate Rector

 

There are a few topics which our culture considers “off limits”, like for dinner conversation with new friends or at family gatherings. Politics, religion, money. But it’s funny, isn’t it, that some of our least favorite conversation topics seem to be Jesus’s favorites. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches and preaches and prays about those very things like politics and money that make us so uncomfortable. Like in our scripture today. With little obscurity, Jesus talks about greed, about money, about possessions. And while I can’t speak for you all, I found it a little uncomfortable. In part because it’s felt personal, and in part because it was challenging. Is Jesus really asking me to give up my inheritance, or my retirement account? Am I supposed to feel bad for having things? What is Jesus really saying to us here?

Looking at the passage, the younger brother asks Jesus to get involved with his family business. He wants his brother to divide the inheritance with him, and this actually seems pretty reasonable. Wanting to split the family money evenly is a decent way to handle things, but for some reason it sets Jesus off into parable mode. Well, if we look back at the context of the time, we can start to see why. At the time, it was customary for the eldest son to be responsible for the estate, and he did this with the family inheritance. Younger brothers were allowed to have portions of the estate, but the eldest always received more, because he was in charge of more, and supposed to keep things going for future generations to live off of. So, the more the younger brother takes, the less the older brother has to handle the needs of the land and the larger family. Based on that reality, the younger brother starts to look a little less reasonable and a little more greedy…since he’s concerned with his own welfare, over and above anyone else.

To warn the younger brother about the consequences of such a mindset, Jesus tells the story of the landowner whose fields produced abundant crops, so much that they required whole new storage facilities. Things were so good that he was taken care of not only for the present moment, but for the future, and what else was there to do but eat, drink, and be merry. Once again, that seems pretty reasonable. Work hard, play hard. You earned it. But Jesus doesn’t call this man a fool because he worked hard and had savings to show for it. No, Jesus calls him out because of how he thinks about and uses this money, this good fortune.

Read more

A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 24, 2022

By: David May, Rector

 

I spent time at the Missionaries of Charity house in Kingston, Jamaica about thirty years ago with about two dozen college students on a three-week mission trip.  Some of you may have already heard me talk about this place before.  It’s funny – in the course of a life – what a few days here and there can do.  The Missionaries of Charity is the Roman Catholic order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa.  Their job is to care for the least of the least.  Their job is to see the face of Jesus in the old man dying of cirrhosis from decades of drinking who no one in his family can tolerate anymore.  Their job is to show God how much they love him by taking care of those who’ve slipped through the cracks (or been pushed through) who have no one and nothing left.  That’s the job they do that we all talk about and marvel over.  They would probably tell you that their job, mostly, is to pray.

We volunteered at the Kingston house while we were there and did whatever the sisters told us to do.  We swept and mopped floors.  We put fresh sheets on beds and helped prepare and serve meals and clean up after.  Things like that.  Whatever the sisters told us to do.  They were amazing.  The sisters were from all over the globe: brown and black and white.  They were young and old.  They were from Europe, South America, Asia, North America – a little community of the Kingdom already gathered as a sign of what God is up to in the world.  It was an amazing, amazing place.  It’s hard to describe.  There was so much brokenness and pain – so much suffering; so much that showed that this world is not the way that God means for it to be.  But all that brokenness was side by side with the radiant grace of Jesus shining through, transforming everything.  It was just stunning, literally. It took you breath away.  I could see how you would give up everything to live like this.  But I also knew that we’d be leaving in a couple of weeks – which makes it easier to think about giving up everything.  These women, on the other hand, weren’t going anywhere.  This was just their normal life.

Several times in the course of a day, the sisters would finish whatever it was they were doing, wash their hands and face, straighten their habits, and silently walk up the stairs to the second-floor chapel to say their prayers together.  The first time I figured out what was going on and where they were going, I fell in line behind them.

Read more

A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 17, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I recently read a beautiful essay by writer Sean Dietrich about Tennessee. Dietrich describes the hospitality of the state I call home with humor and fondness. I consider this remarkable because he lives in Florida and Tennesseans are not known for much kind talk about Florida, especially during football season. In response to a stranger telling him how he’d moved to Tennessee from New York years ago because Tennessee was home to the nicest people, Dietrich says…
He’s right. I’ve only been in Tennessee for 24 hours. But so far, two waitresses have called me “sugar,” three people have held the door for me, and one guy on the street was thoughtful enough to sincerely try to save my soul from everlasting damnation.

My guess is that each of you carry stories and memories of the place you grew up calling home. And that although I am terribly partial to my place I know that there are many places in this world that are beautiful and full of kind people who offer hospitality to strangers and friends alike. But I hold one top spot for my home. Our biscuits. I will fight you about biscuits because they make those best in Tennessee.

Offering hospitality is at the heart of today’s readings. We all have ideas about how to be hospitable to others, how to greet and welcome people into our homes, into our communities. Hospitality is described as an art. The span of the concept of hospitality can range from the way a table is set and what food is served to accounting for the feelings and needs of each guest.

Read more

A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 10, 2022

By: David May, Rector

 

We are now fully underway into the long season of the Sundays after the Day of Pentecost.  This season takes up almost half of the year and focuses on the brief few years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and what it was like to be with him in that short time and what he did that made life bloom.  The liturgical color for this season is green.  You don’t have to look far to understand what the color green symbolizes or why the Church clothes itself with this color this time of the year.  Just look out the window.  Green means that something is alive and growing.  This is our great growing season.

Sunday by Sunday in this long green growing season, the gospel stories place us in the company of Jesus, with people like us.  With people who are positively smitten with Jesus and love what being in his company does – to overcome what seems unovercomeable.  Listening to Jesus – as we do Sunday by Sunday – his first disciples see that his trust in them could make something of them.  They had gone out when he told them to, to help people; and in doing that they found God.

As a starting point and a place to grow from, he told them to go out like lambs among wolves.  Look, sure, you may get eaten from time to time, but never mind.  You will also find God.  These stories in this long, green, growing season can show us how to be lambs and not just more wolves and how to find God.

Read more