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. 

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