A Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, September 12, 2021

By: David H. May, Rector

 

I am guessing that many of you are familiar with the phrase, ‘come home to Jesus’. I first became acquainted with those words somewhere in my childhood. Somewhere along the way I remember my mother saying to us, her – at the time – four rampaging, belligerent children, “you four need to sit your little selves down right now because we are about to have a ‘come home to Jesus’ talk”. Which sounded serious. So, the four us began to plead our case, of course, about how I didn’t do anything wrong it was someone else, or maybe I did do it but it wasn’t as bad as what someone else had done and besides I was provoked, or ok maybe it was bad and I did do it but everybody does bad things, etc., etc.

I learned that a ‘come home to Jesus’ talk was one where the light was about to get shed on everyone and stuff we would have preferred to keep in the dark was about to come into the light, and nobody’s hands were clean so (as I was once warned) don’t try that ‘Pontius Pilate stuff’ with me.

‘Coming home to Jesus’ means things are about to get real, get serious; because it’s time for truth-telling and fessing up and there’s no sense in blaming someone else when it’s time to ‘come home to Jesus’.

Which is hard. But what else are we to do right now? This phrase came to mind a few days ago when I had a conversation with a beautiful, faithful person who was up-to-here with it all and said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. No place feels like home right now – wherever I turn – including my own family. I don’t want to come home to social media where two days ago, I promise you, someone posted the question: “would Jesus wear a mask?” Which is the kind of thing, to quote the great Anne Lamotte, that is enough to make Jesus drink gin from a cat dish. I don’t want to come home to the endless ranting on television and at school board meetings and in the grocery store where someone has just lost it and is screaming at a cashier who’s just trying to do her job. Where does anyplace feel like home now?

Read more

A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

By: David H. May, Rector

We are just beginning the long, green season of the Sundays after the Day of Pentecost. In the season of Pentecost, we hear – Sunday by Sunday – the details of the day to day life of Jesus and his ministry and we hear about those who came to follow him in the Way of Jesus. Mark will tell the story for us this year. And in Mark’s hands, this call to follow in Jesus’s Way is not a gentle invitation. Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel is more demanding, less patient with us because there is a world of hurt that needs healing, now. Matthew will remember Jesus saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In Mark, Jesus call is a bracing, ‘Let’s go!’ Follow me! If you’re afraid, fine. Carry your fear with you as you go. But don’t become your fear.

Fear and what we’re supposed to do about that is a major theme in Mark’s gospel. And as Mark tells it, fear isn’t something we can or should avoid and it’s not something we should pretend we don’t have. And it’s certainly not something we should let paralyze us. One commentator put Mark’s view of human fear beautifully, writing, “We do want our kids to be afraid of crossing the street without looking first for oncoming cars. But we don’t want them to be so afraid that they won’t cross the street at all.”

The gospel reading this morning is a story of crossing over with Jesus. Jesus has spent the entire day with his disciples beside the Sea of Galilee teaching the growing crowd. “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.” “The kingdom of God is as if someone should plant seeds.” The crowds grow and grow through the day til Jesus is literally pushed back to the water’s edge. Someone brings up a boat for him to stand in to continue teaching.

As the day is ending, Jesus says, “Let us cross over to the other side of the sea”. Which for those who were there that day with him might’ve caused the first whisperings of fear in them. But not because they were putting out onto the water at night. A number of Jesus’ disciples were fisherman who’d spent plenty of time on the water at night fishing. What might’ve given them pause is that they were crossing from the west side of the Sea of Galilee to the east. The west side of the Sea was home, Jewish territory, a familiar place – why not stay there, I probably would have suggested. The east side of the Sea was the home of Gentiles with strange beliefs and ways of life, a place where it was unfamiliar and foreign. But that’s where Jesus says they’re going, so they go.

And on the way, out on the water in the dark of night, a sudden storm explodes on them and they start taking on water so they are in danger of sinking. Jesus is dead asleep in the stern, on a cushion, we are told as the storm rages. Now it’s possible that this odd detail might ring a bell in you, like, ‘wait, haven’t I heard this somewhere before?’ Well, yes you have. Someone whom Jesus himself will name as a way to describe his own ministry, Jonah, also spent time in the hull of a ship, asleep, while a storm raged all around him. Jonah was on his own journey, crossing over from his own clear cut hatred of strange, alien Ninevites to becoming God’s vessel for their deliverance. There will always be stormy waters, apparently, crossing over with from one side to another – from what I know to what God wants me to know. Maybe I don’t want deliverance for the Ninevites, for example, but God does.

Read more

A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

By: David H. May, Rector

 

Today is the first day of our Season of Stewardship. This is a time we set aside each year as a parish family to each say our prayers, to remember God’s goodness and blessings for us in our very own lives, and to discover that I have a desire to say ‘thank you, God’, and to express that – in this case – by offering a pledge to our parish church. I think it’s really important to pray about this. My own prayer often includes my fears and worries and cares along with my hopes and the desires of my heart. In my prayer, I seem to need to unwind myself from myself enough to find myself in a place where I can be still, finally, and side by side with God discover that God’s finger prints are all over our lives even if we don’t exactly remember God putting them there. A few weeks ago, sitting outside the church here, after unwinding enough with God I began to remember so many gifts given. And then something more. It was the sudden realization that God was there in the gift, and I thought: ‘Oh! It was you, Lord, you were there, and I didn’t know it. Not an idea of you, or a thought about you, but you.’ Two things in particular were remembered for me that day.

First, you know that way back at the end of March, 35 women came to stay with us through the Caritas program. One day, months later, after being away from the church working from our homes, I found a hand-written note from one of those women stuck up onto a bulletin board in the church. It had been there, all those months. I’d never seen it. What she wrote was her prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the hands which were preparing meals for her and the other women. But when I saw it, it was God – reminding me that God is with us even if we don’t always know it.

And a second thing remembered. It’s from a few days after we said good-bye to our dear brother Gersain. I found a balloon left from that celebration outside. It had lost its helium lift and had drifted away. I found it stuck up in a bush. It wasn’t a red balloon like fire, but the effect was the same – like when Moses saw a bush burning and heard God calling to him. God was in that place, beside us even if we didn’t quite know it.

Read more