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?

The hard news in the phrase ‘come home to Jesus’ is that it’s time for me to come clean, staring right here.

The Gospel news in this phrase is that there is a place to come home to.

The gospel reading tells us that Jesus is on the road with his disciples, his friends – people like you and me – people he loves to pieces, people he would and has taken a bullet for. In his own spirit he knows the time has come and that he will shortly turn towards to Jerusalem where his life will shine a light on the things powerful people there would prefer be kept in the dark.

And he asks them, ‘who do people say that I am?’. And they name exalted figures: John the Baptist who enjoyed enormous popularity among the people, or the great Elijah – the man of God, or one of the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Joel – people who the living God still speaks through.

“But”, Jesus says, “what about you. Who do you say I am?” And Peter gets it right in one breath and says “You are the Messiah” and gets it wrong in the next urging Jesus – in so many words – not to shine his light where it will get him in trouble; there’s another way to do this.

To say who Jesus is for ourselves, I think, is the beginning of finding our home in this sinful and broken world where nothing feels like home right now. You are the Messiah of God who binds up the broken-hearted and sets the captive free; you are the one who opens blind eyes to see the image of God in every human being; you are the one who loves the loveless; you are the one whose death and resurrection sheds light on the unforgiveable and brings forgiveness; you are the one who finds the lost. You are the one whose sacrifice of love is the pattern for our lives and traces the steps we are to follow and the cross you ask us to bear. To say who Jesus is for ourselves ends up being the way we say who we are and find our way home.

Our nation is remembering what happened twenty years ago yesterday on 9/11. The events of that morning (remember how beautiful that morning was?) brought an unimaginable pain and shock and grief and rage in its wake that we are still trying to make sense of I think. It was a trauma that can still be felt today. But for me at least there’s another part of that story that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry urges us to hold fast to when it’s hard to find any place that feels like home right now.

Bishop Michael urges us to remember the firefighters and first responders – who knew it was bad, you can see it in their faces in videos shot in the lobby that morning as they grouped themselves up before beginning to climb the stairs up; who were willing to lay down their lives for others. But remember too how in those few days after, we laid down our lives for each other by treasuring and sharing a deep sense of our shared humanity. People – for a brief moment – would do anything, anything for one another. I remember reading an op-ed piece where a Texan wrote, “today I am a New Yorker”.

So that can be true about us too. That’s closer to our true home, though it feel like we’re a million miles away from that home now.

The Gospel reading this morning is a ‘come home to Jesus’ word for us all. Laying down our lives for one another and coming clean is the hard word. The Gospel word is that we have a home to go to in Jesus. Amen.