A Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany

We have a mischievous expression in my family. It’s a phrase we use when one of us says or does something completely surprising—and you see something in someone that you never knew was there. The expression is: “Well, you don’t know everything, do you?” It’s a playful protest that while we think we know each other like a book—there are and always will be a few pages we somehow missed. There’s more to know about each other and this world we live in than we thought.

The Christian doctrine of revelation—in a more thoughtful way—says much the same thing. It’s a teaching that says, “You don’t know everything, do you?” The world around us, the people in our lives, even the God we worship and serve, we sometimes speak of and act as if we know like a book. Well, surprise. We don’t know everything!

Revelation means that something which was formerly hidden, and something we couldn’t have figured out on our own has been unveiled. A curtain has been drawn back to reveal something which was there all along, and something we can’t have known unless God himself shows us.

Let’s say that you know a man (let me interject to say that the man I’m going to tell you about is a real person but it’s no one here; at least not that I know of because I don’t know everything). So, there is a man who you know is a surly, grouchy curmudgeon. And to the human eye and ear he is. He doesn’t seem to have much good to say about anyone. He’s suspicious of what makes people tick and thinks by and large people are no darn good. He never gives money to any charitable organization because he thinks they’re all run by pie-in-the-sky do-gooders and that the recipients of charity usually only have themselves to blame for their misfortune. He opposes flowers on the altar as frivolous, and he doesn’t like expressions of affection.

One evening, you go to visit a friend in the hospital. On the way to her room, you stop in front of the large windows to look into the nursery at the newborns. Through the glass, you see the door at the back of the nursery open and a nurse comes in. The door remains open for a while. And looking through the door she’s just opened, you see into the room beyond. And there seated in a rocking chair, you are startled to see, is the old curmudgeon himself, gowned, with a newborn baby in his arms. You see the old man’s lips moving, his eyebrows arched, his whole face an open door of wonder. You can see that the man and the newborn only have eyes for each other.

A nurse stops beside you, sees what you are looking at and says, “Do you know Mr. Smith?” Yes, you do, you say, realizing in the same instant that maybe you don’t know him as well as you had thought. “That man is a saint,” the nurse says. “Do you know that he has been coming here every week if we need him for the past six years. He’s one of our nursery daddies. He holds the babies born to moms suffering from addiction. He helps them get through their first days and nights.” And then the door closes.

“Well, you don’t know everything, do you?”

When Jesus was transfigured on the Holy Mount, the door of God’s heart is opened, and the veil drawn aside. And we see that the love with which the Father holds his Son, is the same love that holds us like him too, the same love, like a shining light that the dark can never overcome. This light is God’s word of love that says, “we don’t know everything.”

Because when we get afraid, what we think we know is that we are all alone in this world. What we think we know is that if we don’t look out for ourselves, that no one else will. What we think we know is that ‘might makes right’ – always has, always will. What we think we know is that we’re not good enough for God’s loving kindness. What we think we know is that there is some darkness that the love of Christ cannot pierce.

The moment of God’s transfiguring love is his no! to all these propositions. Revelation is God’s light crashing into our darkness.

Recent scenes of the devastation and suffering in Gaza brought to mind a PBS special from many years ago about the life of Mother Theresa. During the worst fighting in the Lebanon of three decades ago, Mother Theresa came to Beirut to visit one of the Missionaries of Charity homes located there. But the convent was in a no-man’s zone where fierce fighting was taking place. In one of the scenes in this documentary, Mother Theresa is seen meeting with the American diplomatic envoy, Philip Habib. She is explaining through a translator that she will be visiting this particular convent the next day. Habib says with all due respect that she may not go as it’s too dangerous. Mother Theresa responds by saying that she had already prayed to the Lord Jesus for a ceasefire and so not to worry, she will be fine. Habib protests that this cannot be. It is too dangerous. We think we know what will happen if you try to go there.

The next day, there is an eerie quiet throughout much of Beirut, including the no-man’s zone where Mother Theresa will visit. And she does. A convoy of cars makes its way through cratered streets to the convent. Inside, Mother Theresa makes a tour and greets the sisters. She takes each sister’s head into her hands and touches her forehead to their forehead, and lingers like that, unhurried, going from sister to sister.

Upstairs is a large room set up like a hospital. We see the sisters going about their rounds, caring for the patients, who are the sickest of the sick, the poorest of the poor. They have been discarded as unsavable in the harsh triage of scarce resources which is a war zone. Some will live. Some will die. All will be cared for.

In one of the beds, which is really more of a large crib, is a full-grown man—at least in terms of his age. But his body failed to grow properly, and he resembles one caught halfway between a child’s body and an adult’s body, with nothing in proportion. In the background, you can hear gunfire returning and distant explosions. The camera shows him reacting with a wild, terrified expression, unfocused in blind terror. His body trembles uncontrollably. His head thrashes from side to side as if looking for an escape. One of the sisters comes to his crib-side and puts her hand on the man’s heaving, bony chest. She leans towards the man, her lips moving with words we cannot hear. Her eyes are intent on the man’s eyes. She rubs his chest to calm him. She is trying to call him back from the dark place he is lost in. Gradually the man’s tremors subside, and his terrified eyes soften and begin to focus till he finds the sisters eyes looking at him. He locks onto her eyes, and as the gunfire increases in intensity in the streets, coming nearer, they continue to gaze into each other’s eyes, as the man breaths easier and easier and easier.

In the midst of a crazy frightening world, he only sees her. They only have eyes for each other. Can you see them? What we think we know is that here are two more ‘little ones’ swept into the dark. But as the veil is drawn aside, we see that the Father’s heart is open still, embracing that moment with the love he has for his Son.

The light that comes in that dark place cannot be overcome.

On the Holy Mount of the Transfiguration, Jesus stands as the door opens between heaven and earth. Standing between Elijah and Moses, he will shortly hang dying between two unnamed thieves—drawing the dark of all we think we know into his redeeming light. When the moment of revelation has passed, Peter and James and John look up and see only Jesus. Only Jesus. God-with-us who only has eyes for you and for this world he loves. Amen.

The Rev. David H. May

A Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Did you notice that the Collect for the Day we just prayed includes a pretty bold assumption? The prayer assumes that Christ himself will call you. When? How? For what purpose? Well, who knows? But he will. And probably already has for each of us here, and not for the last time, I pray. What we ask God for is not the grace to be called, but the grace to say yes.

The Bible among other things is a treasure trove of stories of God calling to us. Actually, if you think about it, most of the Bible bears witness to all those times and places where God calls to one of us and we hear it, and something happens. The details of what God is calling us to do or say is usually a little fuzzy: go to the place I will show you, God says to Abraham; tell Pharoah to let my people go, God says to Moses; you’re going to conceive and bear within you the Holy One of God, God says to Mary. And in one way or another, every time God calls one of us, our hearts are broken by how big the love is that calls us: a love that calls us out of our world and into his, from our way of seeing things, to God’s ways of seeing things, and what God cares for become our cares, too.

For the Prayers of the People today, we’ll use a set of prayers that remember and thank God for all the great families in the household of Christian faith that started somehow, some way with God calling someone, and the breaking open of a heart by love. And I promise you, not one of them set out to create a new denomination. Luther did not set out to make Lutherans. Calvin did not answer a call to create Presbyterians. Wesley’s call was not to form the Methodists. William Seymour was not called to create the Pentecostal movement out of a warehouse revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in April of 1906. An Albanian girl named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu never planned to become a saint named Mother Teresa when God called her. For all of them, there was a day and a place when God called them to love what he loves, to care for what he cares for, to heal and mend something precious to God, and their hearts were broken open.

And because it’s easy to think that God only calls these big important people, remember Moses at the time God called was on the run from the law, and Mary was a country girl in first-century Palestine whose unwed pregnancy was as hard to explain as you can imagine, and William Seymour’s father lived in slavery. So just in case you think God only calls the big important people, I want to tell you a story. It’s possible you’ve heard it before or some version of it. Most of us have a few stories like this that God has given us that are our spiritual North Stars, experiences of grace through which God is still speaking, still healing, still strengthening us, still picking us up when we’ve fallen. They are like the Holy Scriptures written on our lives that God gives us to read again and again. This is one of mine.

Over spring break in 1993, I went with a group of kids from The University of the South in Sewanee on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica. These kids were the best and the brightest. They came from the first families of Savannah and Memphis and Dallas and Charleston. They were smart, faithful, and were probably bound for careers in medicine or law or finance. They sang in the All Saints Chapel choir or did community work down the mountain or mentored underclassmen. They were really good kids. I was a seminarian at Sewanee and went as their chaplain. We’d been meeting twice a month for months to get ourselves prepared and to learn how to work as a team. There were three different communities we were going to serve while we were there. One was a school, one was the Missionaries of Charity house, and one was a community in nearby Riverton City.

Riverton City is just outside Kingston. It’s not actually a city. What it is is the city dump. And it’s a place where at that time about 5,000 people lived. Somehow, in the middle of the trash heaps they’d cleared out a large open space and built a school and a community center. We went there to lead a vacation Bible school for four or five days. We taught Bible stories and sang songs; we did artwork and played games. But mostly each of us walked around with little kids draped all over us, carrying little ones on our hips and slightly bigger ones piggy-back or on our shoulders. I don’t know how it was possible in that place, but those children were filled with as much joy and mischief, as much wonder and silliness as any other kids anywhere.

One of the kids from Sewanee, a young woman named Sarah, is the point of this story. She was a part of the group but not really. She hung around the edges, and I only really remember her talking one time. She was with us, but she kept herself to herself mostly. She was one of the kids who went to Riverton City. Something happened to her there. She came alive. Literally she came alive.

One afternoon after lunch, we were all laying around in the community center. It was nap time and there were these clusters of children and our kids just flopped out on the ground. Sarah was sitting on the ground, leaned against a plywood wall. There were three little girls lying on her asleep, on her legs on her lap on her chest. A fourth girl was combing Sarah’s hair and whispering in her ear from time to time. Sarah saw me looking at them. And she looked at the girl on her legs and the one on her lap and the one on her chest and the one beside her combing her hair. And then she looked up and mouthed the words, Thank you! And then she smiled such a smile and I thought, ‘Oh, there you are!’ She had found herself. It’s like it was the first time I’d ever really seen her. Where before she’d stayed back, kept her cards closer to her vest, there she was, fully present, alive as alive can be.

We came home maybe a week later, back to school, back to our regular lives. Maybe a week after we’d gotten back I was crossing the grounds near All Saints Chapel and I heard someone shouting, Hey! really loudly. I looked around and saw Sarah storming towards me. She was furious. Her shouting made other people stop and look to see what was going on. She stormed up to me and shouted, “You have got to tell me something!”

I said, “Sarah, what’s going on?”

“What’s going on?! I want you to tell me when I will stop hurting! All I can think about is those little girls who I left behind living in a dump, a literal garbage dump, and look at us here! When am I going to stop hurting? All I want to do is sell all my clothes and shoes and my stupid BMW that my dad just bought for me one day and everything else and give it all to those girls! Like Sessee who is smarter and better than any of us but lives in a dump. When am I going to stop hurting?!”

The thank you she had whispered at Riverton City for those girls where she found herself and the breaking heart always go together, because that’s what God’s holy love does for us.

The Lord had called to her in Riverton City, and without quite knowing what she was signing up for, she had already been given grace to say yes, and yes with her whole heart. She had been taken out of her world and into God’s where what God cares for were now hers to care for.

When Jesus calls us, because that’s what he does, he calls us to a life like his. Which even when it breaks your heart is still your heart’s desire. Follow me, Jesus says. When he calls, Lord, give us grace to say yes. Amen.

The Rev. David H. May

A Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany

I don’t know why exactly, but when we were kids, my sisters and I did something really rotten to our little brother. We told him that he had come to our family as a refugee from an Eastern European country. Why a refugee and why one from Eastern Europe? Who knows. But what that implied was that he wasn’t actually one of us, he wasn’t really a part of the family. Why did we do that? I have no idea. But we did. We were a pretty lively crew, the four of us, so maybe it was just a normal part of the general nonsense that regularly went on between us. Or maybe we thought it was just too ridiculous to be believed.

But it really struck a chord with my brother. For some reason, rather than just pushing back (which would have been the usual thing to do) he found himself wondering if maybe, just maybe, it was true. His memories couldn’t refute it because our memories only go so far back. Maybe he really was a refugee our family had taken in. Maybe he really wasn’t part of the family. It was pretty upsetting to him.

I didn’t exactly understand his reaction at the time. Why didn’t he just push back in the usual way? Maybe I didn’t understand his reaction then, but I do now. We had touched on a really tender place in us human beings without knowing it. It’s a basic need we all have to have, or our lives can go sideways. We all need to know that we belong, somewhere to someone.

I do want to say before moving on that there was hell to pay for this little prank we pulled on our brother. Our mother took care of that. But in a surprising way. But it also happened in the ways that it does for all of us, I’m afraid, where we’re on the receiving end of messages and actions that say you don’t belong. The world is called ‘the school of hard knocks’ for a reason. Who belongs at the cool table in the school cafeteria and who doesn’t. Who belongs in this neighborhood and who doesn’t. All of it. There’s a kind of great sorting of the wheat from the chaff that seems to be a part of human nature, or at least fallen human nature. Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, black, white, immigrant, native, believers, non-believers, and on and on, answering the question who belongs and who doesn’t.

Which on this day, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, in one way or another is the situation Jesus wades right into the middle of, standing in the Jordan River. His cousin John is there thundering away at the miserable state of affairs of people who assume they belong to God, or assume that they don’t, or aren’t too sure. None of that matters to John. For John, the people are grass, sprouting with dew in the morning and gone by sunset.  He shouts that God is coming and you had better get it together and clean up your act as if your life depends on it, because it does. But then he spots Jesus making his way with the crowds of people by the water. He knows at once who he is. He says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” So why is he there with all the rest? John didn’t want to baptize Jesus. He isn’t worthy and besides, Jesus doesn’t need it. But Jesus won’t have it any other way. His place right beside us has nothing to do with being worthy or not. His baptism upends all of that because with his baptism he says, “Here I am, with all the rest, right where I belong.”

After Christmas time, our lost-and-found basket here at church is generally fully restocked. There are scarves and reader eyeglasses and car keys and gloves and other little thises and thats that wash ashore from the high tide of Christmas. I was looking through all those things the week after Christmas to see what was there. I saw a sporty pair of green and black gloves, the kind that don’t have fingertips. I picked them up and thought about the hands that fit into them and wondered if they would ever be reunited with the hands they belonged to. Which, from that thought, in my mind at least, was just one small step to bringing to mind the lost-and-found basket that Jesus puts himself into with us when he is baptized. John thinks all of us lost gloves can find our way back to the hands we belong to. Jesus knows better; sheep get lost and can’t find their way back. John thinks we need to clean up our act to save our own skin. Jesus says God will do the saving for us. Jesus finds the place our lost lives belong.

I told you there was hell to pay when my mother caught wind of what we’d done to my brother. She would have been perfectly within her rights to have gone John the Baptist on us, putting the axe to the roots as John said God is going to do. But that’s not what happened. What she did was go to the closet where there was a big box of pictures, stacks of black-and-white Polaroids back then. She picked through them, found the ones she was looking for, and then got my brother and they sat down at the kitchen table. And she told him a story, his story, using those pictures. A picture of her in the home stretch of her pregnancy just before he was born, him wrapped up in a blanket carried by our dad when he came home from the hospital, her sitting on the floor with him in her lap while our dog licked him, his first Christmas with the rest of us in front of the tree, between his sisters on a sled.  She said, “Trust me, I brought you into this world. You’re mine. You belong in this family. I’ll deal with your sisters and brother.”  That sealed it.

Isn’t baptism like that too? In the prayers over the water, we hear the story of God’s great saving deeds from the first day the Spirit blew over the face of the deep till that same Spirit rested on Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, and throughout the life he led to show us what it looks like to belong to God and to live like that. And what that looks like is a table around which are seated down-and-outers who suddenly feel like up-and- comers, and people you wouldn’t be caught dead with from the wrong side of the tracks and from the right side of the tracks and everyone in between. And because of the one breaking bread for us all to share, you see, we belong.

In just a few minutes, that same Spirit will be hovering over the water in that great baptismal font, and God will establish an indissoluble bond with Kate and Charles and Coleman and Brooke and Davis; they will receive the grace of heaven through the sacrament of baptism and be sealed as Christ’s own forever. And a place at the Lord’s Table will always be set for them. And for you. Because it is the Lord’s Table – the place we belong with him. Amen.

The Rev. David H. May

A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Driving to church a couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a story on the radio about the death of the sun – our sun, the one that’s a little scarce this time of the year, which makes the time it’s shining even more lovely and welcomed. The scientist being interviewed calmly described how the life of the sun will end. He said, eventually, the sun will burn all its hydrogen fuel and then cool and finally explode. He said the timeframe for this to happen is about 5 billion years. I was struck by how matter of fact he was in his description of these events. He said, “Then the sun will explode and the solar system with it and all the matter and debris will drift away forever into the infinite silence of space.”

While he was talking, I was stopped at a red light and saw two children, probably aged six or seven. They had enormous backpacks on their backs and were facing each other, talking and talking. (By the way, what does a six- or seven-year-old need that requires such a big backpack to hold?! Sorry, a question for another day.) Anyway, one of them was listening to the other with eyes wide open, and I saw her mouth the words, no way! and the other little girl nodded and laughing did a funny little dance that ended in a twirl where she lost her balance and the two little girls fell in a heap together. Up above I saw the jet trail of some big passenger jet streaking 30,000 feet up in the clear blue sky. It was filled with passengers on their way somewhere; a plane full of people, probably named Jeannie or Buck or Salmon, each with their own lives and their own stories. Like a 25-year-old flying out of a dangerous part of the world to safety and wondering if he’ll ever see home again, or an older woman on her way to a place she promised her husband before he died that she would visit for him, or maybe just someone trying to get home. And then, some kind of teensy flying bug I had never seen before in my life landed on my windshield. In its own way, it was perfectly perfect. Perfect little legs moving it across the slick windshield. And then it furled out tiny little wings and was gone so fast it was like some kind of disappearing act.

“Then the sun will explode…” the scientist was saying as the light turned green and I headed on.

I know 5 billion years is a long time. None of us will be around to see that ending. Truthfully, I don’t know what will be around in 5 billion years or if it will bear any resemblance to a day with a jet flying high in the sky full of lives or a magical bug lifting off from my windshield. But that didn’t stop me – for just a moment – from feeling this sharp pang, this oh no! in my spirit. Oh no, that plane full of people and the sky it’s flying in and those two little girls on their way from one great moment to the next and that amazing bug, gone, poof, forever.

These are sobering thoughts to share, I admit, to begin this new season in our lives with the beginning of the season of Advent. Why worry about the end of the world, especially if it’s 5 billion years away from now? Today has its own challenges that I can’t keep up with as it is.

Yet this is where the Spirit of God is leading us in the Gospel reading for this first Sunday of Advent. Each year, we hear Jesus describe the end of all things and how he will come again to us. We hear his words, or try to, but it’s hard when you’re on board the train racing towards Christmas that feels like it could jump the tracks at any moment. More sober souls among us have always been inspired by these readings to search out the signs of the times to calculate precisely when the Lord will come again even though Jesus says no one knows when that will be except the Father.

Honestly, sometimes, I think his second coming could be lost on me. I was raised with these images of how it’s supposed to be, Jesus coming like a hero on a winged white horse breaking the darkness of the collapsing world with the light of his love. But what if – Jesus being Jesus – his second coming will be more like his first coming? There are similarities. There was a great heavenly light in the mighty firmament of heaven the night he was born (which you’d think more people would have noticed), and the angels of heaven – a multitude of them – came pouring out of heaven singing, rejoicing. But all that seems to have happened largely unnoticed except by a few bedraggled shepherds. What if Jesus’s Second Coming is more like his first? It will be Jesus, yes, with a heavenly light show in the sky to end all light shows. But it will be him, coming with the same perfect love God gave us as a baby. And maybe his coming will be in the way he always comes among us now, somehow hidden in a stranger, or someone hungry, and coming when you least expect it we’re told.

So, keep alert. Keep awake. But how do you do that?

My grandmother used to put a rubber band around her wrist. I asked her about it one time, asked why she did that. She said that when she noticed it on her wrist, she’d snap it to help her remember something she was supposed to remember. I asked her if it worked and she said, “sometimes.” Are we supposed to have something like that to keep awake, that we can snap and remember the Lord is coming? What is it that we’re supposed to do?

Well, “Look at the fig tree,” Jesus says. It’s just like him to bring us back to earth a little. Consider the lilies of the field, or a seed planted in a field, or a fig blooming tree. Don’t try so hard. God is already speaking through all the life that’s going on all around at every moment. So that every square foot could be crammed with parables of the Kingdom if God reveals that to you and you were paying attention at the time. Like two kids rejoicing, or a plane full of stories, or a tiny magical bug, or even a church full of people, where you notice a face you see every Sunday but realize you had never really seen before, until now anyway. Stay awake to that, love what God loves, care for what God cares for. And sense the preciousness of all of it – including you! – to God, which is what Jesus came to give us in the first place.

Whether Jesus will come again to us in 5 billion years or five minutes from now is less important than living like he’s about to come into our lives now – not because you have to, but because you can, because he was born for us to see and love like him, awake for his next coming. Amen.

The Rev. David H. May

A Sermon for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Years ago, I had a conversation about God with an acquaintance who later became a friend. My friend was an alcoholic who had finally gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired, and he had become ready – as people in recovery will say – ‘to give up the high cost of low living’ and started going to AA meetings. And at these meetings, he heard people talking about their ‘Higher Power’ whom they chose to call God. He heard people say, “If you don’t have a Higher Power, you need to get one.” They said if at first, it’s not God, don’t worry, for now it can be your sponsor or it can be the sky you look up at at night or it can just be the group – anything bigger than you are. But get one.

My friend said, “I know I need a Higher Power to stay sober, but I don’t believe in God.” And then he talked about the God he didn’t believe in. He described God as being harsh and far away and judgmental, and ready to punish him for just being human. I said, “Well I don’t believe in that God either.”

He didn’t know it, but his description of God was right in line with the description of the Third Servant in the Parable of the Talents we just heard. Remember, he says, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid…” I don’t know where my friend got his idea of what God is like. I don’t know where the Third Servant got his idea of what the Master is like either. All we know is that the Master said, “I’m going away and won’t be back for a while. So, while I’m away, I’m entrusting you and the others with everything that’s mine, all my property. So, here’s a talent for you to use and take care of while I’m away.”

Many sermons have been preached about this talent describing it as an ability you’ve been given, like painting or singing or an ability to read the financial markets well. But that’s not what the word that Jesus used meant. It meant a sum of money. In fact, a lot of money. When Jesus first told this parable, a talent was roughly equal to the amount of money a regular worker would earn in 15 years; a really unimaginably large amount of money. If you used the median income in the U.S. from the 2020 Census and multiplied that by 15 that would be $1,035,315. The point is, he gave his three servants everything he had – all his property – to use and take care of while he was away. And it was a lot. It was all he had.

I don’t know about you, but I might be afraid about that, too. What do you do with something that big? The odds feel pretty high that you could mess it up.

My father-in-law purchased a new computer and a printer for me to take with me to seminary. He said, “You’re going to need these.” This was 1990 and the computer and printer together cost almost $5,000. Could the use I would get out of them, could anything I could possibly accomplish with them, be worth that much?! I thought it was way too much. But he’d said, “I want to do this for you because you’re going to need them.” He had more faith in me than I did. I remember thinking of him when I sat down to start working on one of my first paper and thinking, “OK, not sure it’s worth all this but here we go!”

We’re coming to the end of the Church Year and every year we’re given three Gospel readings to prepare us for Advent and a new beginning that lies just ahead of us – as brand new and unimaginably fresh as a brand-new baby. Last week, Harrison preached beautifully on the first of these three Gospels and next week, we’ll hear Jesus’ great vision of the separating the sheep and the goats at the end of all things. Along with today’s Gospel, all three of these readings ask us to lift up our heads (maybe from the latest alert on our phones) and look down the line a little and to think about the future and what’s out there. How do you think about the future? Where are we headed? Which in the short-term in our lives is pretty unsettling because it feels a little dicey. Where are we headed? Are things going to get worse – more contentious, more angry, more violent? How does this time we’re in end – with a whimper or a bang? Do we just buckle down and get through this, circle the wagons, hope for less, put that ‘still small voice’ speaking in our souls on hold with its words of forgiveness and justice and mercy and peace till things calm down a little? When the world goes temporarily ‘to the dogs’, what do cats do till all the woofing ends? If it ends?

All the commentators on this passage wonder about the same things. But they all agree that that’s why this passage is such a precious word for us. This word sees further and deeper that this present moment. We have been given a gift as great as the one described in this parable, almost beyond being able to count. You, we have been given a life that God sees as eternally precious, born from God’s own loving gift of creation and bound for love at the end. In the meantime, we are now, already, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, our true home. And Jesus says that God’s Kingdom is among you now because he is among us now, here and there, now and again, like yeast growing secretly in the dough, signposts of grace to light the world on its way home to God. It’s worth risking everything for – not burying in the ground because we’re afraid.

Sometimes I think our lives are like parables – signs that the future Kingdom of Heaven is already among us. Like this one. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a group of people who went out to plant 3,000 daffodil bulbs so that in the spring the beauty of God’s work would be there for all to see and a sign that God’s grace still abides. Some wondered if it cost too much to get that many bulbs. Some wondered if there were so many bulbs that maybe they wouldn’t all get into the ground and the unplanted bulbs might dry out and wither and be wasted. But then many people showed up so that there were enough and more than enough to get the job done. Some bulbs were planted expertly at just the right depth. Some less so. Some were planted in good soil. And some in not such good soil. But they were all planted. That happened here at St. Mary’s a week ago. We’ll have to wait to see what God will do with this. But I’m glad we did it. I hope we keep planting seeds of the Kingdom with our lives, acting from love and not fear, giving and receiving forgiveness, trusting that the future belongs to God no matter how much the world seems to have gone to the dogs.

Dear friends, we – God’s Church on earth – have been given a great gift. Like the servants in the parable, we have been given all that God has – the promise that God’s Son, the Lord Christ, has laid down his life for us to bring us all home. Apparently, he has more faith in us than we do. Still, God’s grace abides, and the Kingdom is among you now. Amen.

The Rev. David H. May