Sunday, November 20, 2016

Clement Bows to Christ the King

St. Clement’s Feast Day, 2016
Beyond the here and the now…

The Gospel appointed for today is Luke 6:37-45

Truth be told, until I began my ministry here at St. Clement’s, I had never heard of St. Clement.

Francis, yes, we bless our pets and care for creation holding him as a model.

Nicholaus, yup, the kinderchoir is learning some music about waiting for this blessed Saint.

Clare, whose blessing, I will use today

“Live without fear: your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen.” (source: from Saint Clare)

And, then, of course, Julian of Norwich whose faith was such that her assurance “All will be well, and all will be well, and all matter of things shall be well” continues to comfort and reassure us.

But, I had never heard of Clement.   

Clement, swallowed up by the Black Sea and by time. Clement, whose feast day we celebrate today. Clement whose anchor is set within our windows amongst the other symbols of our faith.

Clement, a relatively obscure saint, was part of what is called the first post apostolic generation.  His generation of leaders in what had become the early church, had no first hand experience of the life of Christ. What they had was the experience of the faith as lived together--a faith and a way that ran counter to the culture of the time, a way that was one of following Christ rather than empire.

This was no easy way, in fact it was a way that all too often led to persecution.

But, for those early followers it was the only way.

And, in this way they declared the belovedness of all of God’s children--God’s children, not by virtue of blood, but by every virtue of grace. Loved, not out of merit, but out of compassion. 

And, this was the way followed by the first post apostolic generation of Christan leaders and it would be the way of the the second, the third and the fourth…

So on and so forth. 

In a story that extends to us. To us, because as Clement himself makes clear, we are in this TOGETHER!

As the next post apostolic generation. And, while we did not see Christ in the flesh, we have been called to be Christ in the flesh.  In our gather, we are the body of Christ, and carry the love of Christ out into the world. And in that truth, we extend and expand the story of God’s boundless love by making Christ visible in this place and this time.  

We are the Church. And, the story of the Church is our story. And the story of God’s love is our story.  There are those who would deny our place in the story, but this is a story that cannot be denied nor can it be limited to one particular way of being part of the story.  This is our story.  And, it is one of hope. 

Which brings me back to Clement, whose story is part of our story…

In the stories of Clement, not necessarily truth but tradition, his final months are spent in exile and hard labor when Clement is sentenced to work in a stone quarry in Crimea by Emperor Trajan.

And, hence today’s Gospel, one appointed for the feast of Clement. The verses we hear today precede the admonishment that the wise build their house upon the rock—a solid foundation that allows the house to withstand the winds and the waves. 

So, what is the rock upon which we will stand in the midst of the storm?

What is the hope that we hold that will allow us to be the Church in this generation?

The Gospel tells us it is forgiveness, generosity, companionship with those who need our gifts in order to see that we are in this together--the joyful and the suffering--all in this together.

And from this place of togetherness, I find hope and I find additional hope in the convergence of the Feast of Clement, OUR feast, with the Christian calendar declaration that this Sunday celebrates Christ as King. 

As I mentioned last week, in my first sermon post-election, last week’s apocalyptic text was meant to set the stage for this week’s celebration of the Reign of Christ. The scripture standing as a means of reassuring us that if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end, and that the reign of Christ will come and overturn the oppressive and exploitative powers of this world.    

The Reign of Christ represents a new way of being. Jesus turned our notions of kings and kingdoms upside down--operating outside of the rules that everyone “thought” they knew about how to live and who to serve.  This kingdom didn’t exist in order to justify or sustain the domination of the powerful.  

This kingdom exists for liberation, this kingdom exists for love, this kingdom exists as a place where ALL are welcome. There are no walls around this kingdom!

And we have been heirs to this kingdom and to this story, but have also been gifted with the power to shape the story. The house is still under construction, and we are being bid today to remember that if this house is weather the storm we must set our hope on Christ. 

And in setting our hope on Christ we are asked to carry that hope to those who live in fear of the powers and principalities of this world. 

In one famous passage from St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582), she writes

Christ has no body but yours,No hands, no feet on earth but yours,Yours are the eyes with which he looksCompassion on this world,Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

We carry Jesus within us.  Our privilege and power become tools to serve, to love and to share the truth of God’s love and redemption.  We can testify to the truth and in so doing we can continue to set our hopes on Christ and build upon the rock that no earthly power can move.   Amen. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Proper 28C: A New Heaven and A New Earth

A Sermon After An Election

 Readings appointed for the day can be found here


Luke wrote these words, recording them for a time and a place beyond his time and place, to people who were scared. They were scared of the empire. They were scared of persecution. They were scared that the world would never change.

And, they wanted better.  They longed for the inbreaking of God, and the overturning of those structures they knew, through their experience, were oppressive.  For them, the coming of the messiah was not about heaven, it was about the here and the now.

It was about finding a new way forward because the present way had ceased to serve.

This Sunday, is the Sunday in our lectionary that precedes what we call “Christ the King”.  And, so the text we here is setting us up for a political transformation—from a flawed human governance to the governance of the sovereign Christ. 

This text is meant to affirm the hope that this is not all we have and that more and better will come to pass.

More and better will come to pass. This is what the Gospel offers us as truth. And, in this truth, Luke’s listeners would have found hope.

They would have found hope, because they knew that the 1st Temple in Jerusalem had fallen, and yet they continued. They found hope, because their story is one of exile but but also of liberation. They found hope in knowing that they were not passive victims but active participants in what would come next. They found hope because they knew that death would become life and the cross the empire used to inspire fear would become a symbol that would proclaim God’s love.

Again and again and again they found hope.

And, our tradition has set us within the story of hope. When we gather here, we proclaim in word and deed that what has been broken can and will be made whole.

In showing up for this hope, for God’s hope that we might become the creation that God had first envisioned, we make known that we will not sit in idleness but proclaim the way of Christ, the way of dignity and justice and love, to a world that so often seems to have lost its way.

So, in hearing these words of Luke we are being asked to remember that hope is our story and the abiding presence of God is our truth.

And, moreso, that if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end. 

And, my faithful people, we all know that right now is not okay.   

It’s not okay when children are afraid that they will be deported.  It’s not okay, when women are objectified and assaulted. It’s not okay when calls for unity are dismissed and fear of the other takes its place. Bigotry, hatred, racism, misogyny are real. 

And, it’s not okay.

And, out of this place of knowing, out of that deep place where our souls are burdened by the pain of knowing that it’s not okay. That is the place from which we are called to pray and having prayed, to trust.

Trust in God’s abiding presence. Trust in the in-breaking of God’s love. Trust that since it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

And then, out of that trust, we are called to act.

To act for love. To act for peace. To act for new life.

Act out of our baptismal covenant in all we say and all we do.

Act, knowing that our story is God’s story and that in abiding in God we abide in that place where death becomes life.

The Isaiah passage for today offsets apocalypse with tangible hope, and this text has been of great comfort to me of late,

“17For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress…21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”

The temple may fall, but from the ruins will come a new heaven and a new earth. 

We will delight. We will plant. We will work and we will build.

But, we won’t do these things for ourselves alone, we will do them for all. Because God’s vision is for all of us, and to assist in the in-breaking of God’s love is to life a life in which God’s mercy is extended through our own efforts. And, in faith and in trust, I stand certain that our efforts will not be in vain. Because our efforts are the manifestation of our faith in a God whose mercy is without bound. Our efforts will aid in the in-breaking of that new Heaven and Earth.

That holy mountain where none shall hurt or destroy any of God’s beloved children. God’s vision for us is one of joy and peace, blessing and prosperity. And so long as that vision is unfulfilled for any one on this earth, then our work as participants in God’s dream for the world is undone. 

There is a hymn that has come to mind this week, and I wish to close by inviting us to sing this hymn together…

Come Labor’s in your hymnal, number 541*

(link will take you to a youtube video of the hymn)

Let the people say,