Sermons at St Bede's Episcopal Church
SERMON – SUNDAY 23 FEBRUARY, 2017 by THE REV. JONATHAN B. PERCIVAL
Hi. Happy Lent. Or can you say that? Maybe it’s not always about happy. Although I don’t know. Lent probably has it’s moments. Especially when it starts out with Valentine’s day
At first glimpse, though, Lent is a little bit trying. We’re supposed to give up something that makes us happy. Usually something like chocolate. Or cheese. Marilyn’s going to take a shot at cheese. Don’t know if I’ll join her, but she does have a lot of influence around our household, so maybe nevermind the cheese. C
But in general I’m really not good at self denial. I tend to break right down and have to contend with failure, so I’m not going to promise on the cheese thing. Of course, maybe repeal will work as long as it’s accompanied by replace. If we repeal the cheese, what will we replace it with? Something good I hope. Have to think about that.
Of course, most of the Lenten denial stuff is pretty trivial. O you don’t think the chocolate thing is trivial. O O.K. But look, has any of us has had to go through what Jesus had to?! The Spirit led him out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan! Whoa. That’s pretty heavy.
Why did the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan? That’s not very nice is it? But Jesus doesn’t complain. Out he goes to contend with the devil, and he succeeds. Three for Jesus, zero for the bad guy. Let’s take a look.
Presumably Jesus is beginning to get really hungry. He must have been out there a little while. Stones into bread. That would take care of the problem. But what he says to Satan is ‘people don’t live by bread alone.’ We people need to be spiritually fed by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
I’m going to push that a little bit further. Even stones have their rights. The creation is not here to simply be manipulated by we humans for our short term convenience or pleasure. In the wilderness, Isaiah tells us that we’re supposed to make a highway, a straight road for our God; and we are told that the wilderness itself is to become a garden, filled with blooming flowers, nice things to eat. But doesn’t the wilderness itself have any rights?
To what degree are we supposed to fool with Mother Nature in a world of climate change and general environmental degradation. Should go-get-em business people be allowed to graze cattle in Myakka Park? Are developers O.K. to develop everything in sight?
Excuse me, but even the wilderness has it’s rights to be what it is. And anyway, where would Satan tempt us, if not for the wilderness?
No you will object, Jesus does change things around. Look, he changes the bread into his very body. Yes he changes the bread and he changes us, but he doesn’t do it by manipulation. He does it by entering in. He enters into the bread. He enters into us. And though it doesn’t always look like we’ve been changed a lot, you know you are not the same when you leave church today as you were when you came. Not if you’ve been paying attention.
Second time, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Well that would be tempting. Have you ever imagined being able to fly. When I was a little boy, I used to dream of flying, like Harry Potter with his quidditch, only freeer, up in the mountains, across the Rhine river in Germany where I did a lot of my growing up.
And how about those angels. They will bear you up lest you strike your foot upon a stone. I’d like to be born up by angels.
SERMON – SUNDAY 19 MARCH, 2017 by THE REV. JONATHAN B. PERCIVAL
She’s an outlier, a woman for one thing. What is Jesus doing talking to a woman? It’s not considered at all appropriate. And a Samaritan. Not a real Jew
In today’s story, Jesus engages the Samaritan Woman at her well in Sychar.
She’s an outlier, a woman for one thing. What is Jesus doing talking to a woman? It’s not considered at all appropriate. And a Samaritan. Not a real Jew.
In the event, he’s engaging her for her own sake, not his. He has the water of life. He isn’t recruiting her to be a proper Jew, or for his organization, for example.
We are concerned with recruiting for our organization. Of course, church finds it’s life in Jesus, so we are really doing this for the sake of others also. We want the water for ourselves and all the thirsty ones out there. That is why we are having our Angel classes after church. It’s one of the big reasons that Bishop Smith came to visit with Vestry last week.
We are looking for people who aren’t really part of The People, those already connected to a spiritual community which gives them enough to drink, but rather the unchurched, a growing population, something like almost 40% of the Millenials, the alphabet people. And there are others, people like ourselves who haven’t found what we have. Can we do something for them? Do we have something to offer spiritually.
Well, yes we do, in a variety of ways. Others do also. There is plenty of competition, but I would like to suggest that we have an edge, because we are struggling valiantly with the major modern issue of patriarchy while the biggest competitors, the biggest Christian churches, are not.
This means that we Anglicans, at least for the most part, are trying to understand and act in accord with Jesus example. We see it exemplified today with the woman at the well, this story in John’s gospel, where a woman outlier from the power structure is treated with respect as well as mercy.
She isn’t the only one.
When Jesus is invited to lunch with the pharisee. You remember. In Luke’s Gospel. A canaanite woman comes to him, anoints his feet with her tears and perfumed oils in a gesture of thanksgiving for divine forgiveness. The
Pharisee is horrified by this association. Jesus says: she who loves much is forgiven much.
Or, how about the Canaanite woman in Matthew, whose daughter needs Jesus’ healing, and he says: why should I give the children’s bread to the dogs? You get that. Why should I give the good things meant for Jews to lesser people? And the woman responds. “Even the dogs are allowed the crumbs from the master’s table”. O.K. says Jesus. You got me.
Jesus treats outliers, and especially women, with complete dignity as well as mercy. Often, they’ve come to him, hoping that, though probably unlikely, this will be true. And it is. And they respond with love. Of course, Mary Magdalen loves him. And Mary and Martha. And his Mom. And there are others mentioned. Joanna. It is the women who follow him, the Maries, his mother, Magdalene, one of the other ones, all through the night of the passion. They stand with him at the cross. The other disciples are gone. They stand with him. And it is Magdalen who goes to the tomb at first light, and encounters the angel. And they go before him to Galilee. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that women are prominent authorities in the early church. Junia, ‘of note among the apostles’. Magdalen ‘apostle to the apostles’. Many mentions of deacons and presbyters. The leaders’ of Paul’s house churches; Priscilla and Acquilla.
So what happened? The Great Image of church disempowerment is theBabylonian Captivity. Luther and Calvin use it frequently to describe thechurch of their day.
I think it fits to describe a church which has disempowered and in someways excluded over half the human population for most of its history. Weare just breaking through today, although let me be conservative about this.It is nothing new. It is what Jesus had in mind from the beginning.
Now there is a weight, I know. It is the gossamer weight of freedom. It is the burden of uplifting spiritual power for others. It is the authority of those who have not earned their authority or fought successfully for it, but accepted it as part of the definition of who they are, fully human beings,beloved of God, with all the spiritual gifts and strengths that implies.
And as our church, in this time and place, walks out of the captive Babylonian place, we, among all the rest of our brothers and sisters, can point clearly to the gospel of Jesus Christ as good news for all, men and women, Samaritans and Canaanites and their equivalent. We have a gospel that lifts up the whole of humanity, in all its wholeness.