The Second Sunday of Pentecost
June 23, 2019
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Freed from the Law
Some or perhaps many Christians see life as a trial; they believe that they are on trial for the whole of their earthly lives with God as the judge and when they die, depending on how they lived following the letter of the law, they either get into heaven or go the other way. Here is a story that illustrates how following the letter of the law can get you into trouble.
A professional golfer was playing golf and had a caddy with a reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, the golfer said to the caddy, "Don't say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no." During the round, the golfer found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the shot. "What do you think?" he asked the caddy. "Five-iron?""No" the caddy said."What do you mean, not a five-iron?" he snorted. "Watch this shot." He hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy, handed him the five-iron and said, "Now what do you think about that? You can talk now." "Sir," the caddy said, "that wasn't your ball."
Today I want to talk very briefly about being freed from the law, clothing ourselves with Christ and being one in Christ. ‘Being freed from the law’. We read in the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in chapter 3: 23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. In Jesus time there was a household servant called thepaidagogos.He was not a teacher himself, but was usually an old and trusted servant who was of high moral character. He was in charge of the children’s moral welfare and it was his duty to see that they became an adult.He had one particular duty; every day he had to take the child to the door of the school and make sure they go there and back when school ended. That according to Paul was like the function of the law. It was the function of the law to show us that we are unable to keep it. It was there to lead us to Christ. The law can’t take us into Christ's presence, but it could take us into a position where we might enter his presence. And once we are believers we no longer need the law because we are not dependent on the law, but on grace.
Once we are in the presence of Christ, what does it mean to cloth ourselves with Christ. In the Jewish morning prayer, which Paul must have prayed all his pre-Christian life "I thank thee that Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman." Paul takes that prayer and reverses it. The old distinctions were gone; all were one in Christ. If there was one thing that could bring us together, it would be that we are all debtors to God’s grace and one in Christ.The love of God will unite a disunited world.
This disunity can be seen in our country with the indigenous people. The Venerable Valerie Kerr, Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry has held that position for a number of years. She, herself, is indigenous and speaks often to churches and groups throughout Canada about the issues faced today by indigenous peoples. She was asked recently, why can’t you just get over what happened, that was then and this is now, move on. She answered was she to get over missing and murdered indigenous women; access to clean water; teenagers still have to travel to go to high school; access to proper healthcare; lack of housing and food security.
This is now, not then, this is in Canada, and this is found in amongst our fellow Christians. How do we respond to this crisis amongst our brothers and sisters is the question we should be asking ourselves. If there is one thought, one take-away in this sermon it would be that we are all one in Christ. May we life that out to its fullest through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Day of Pentecost
June 9, 2019
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Together in one place
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.Today marks the beginning of the church when we hear that the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples with a great wind and tongues of fire. And I always thank the person who gets to read the first reading from Acts about the Day of Pentecost with no less than 10 or more difficult people’s and place names to pronounce. I want to concentrate, and you may think it odd, on the opening verse of that reading, not to avoid the difficult place names, but because it sets the stage for the church and its continued ministry. You might say that I’m missing the main point of the reading, the exciting part, but I think that it states a central truth of Christianity: being together in one place. The word, “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word, fiftieth day, today being the 50th day after Easter and has been described as the birthday of the church – Happy Birthday!
We hear about the coming of The Holy Spirit upon the disciples and other men and women who followed Jesus.Without the Holy Spirit the church would not have started and the disciples would not have continued in their mission. It is only because of the Holy Spirit that the church continues in its ministry. Today, we will baptize Cody and Benjamin Falkiner andat the end of each baptism we will say: Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. They will add to the voice of the church and God will get the glory.
Ascension Day was 10 days ago which we did celebrate here at St. Mark’s on Thursday, May 30. Jesus ascension may be construed as his leaving and abandoning us, but it is about Jesus coming to us in yet another way, in the third person of the Holy Trinity. There were 10 days between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit and yet the disciples remained together, waiting in one place. I want to talk about this one place, and howthe Holy Spirit has moved through St. Mark’s throughout our history.
I want to begin by pointing out that the bible speaks more of signs that of proof as evidenced by the fact that the word signs is used 76 times and proof is only used 3 times. We have seen signs of the Holy Spirit in the community. We begin with Seneca Ketchum was the first evangelist and founder of the parish. Here are a couple of quotations about him, stated after he died: “Very few had as much of the milk of the human kindness as he had, and few had less tears shed over his grave” said his nephew Jesse. Archdeacon Alexander Bethune described him as “an earnest-minded but not very sane individual.”And yet, in spite of this, the parish grew through the power of Holy Spirit.
Canon Henderson, the longest serving Priest at St. Mark’s, followed some years later and served 40 years from 1861-1901. I picked a year at random, 1888, when Canon Henderson had 20 funerals, 10 weddings and 44 baptisms. Those sorts of numbers kept happening year after year in his ministry which must have tired him out and yet, in spite of this, St. Mark’s ministry kept going through the power of the Holy Spirit. Canon West McMaster served at St. Mark’s from 1929-1951. He served the depression and the war and it was during that time that the parish was first out of debt in 109 years in 1946 and through the power of the Holy Spirit the parish continued on.
The Day of Pentecost must have been strange and perhaps scared some people away, but later in Acts 2 we what happened:So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.Those final words we will hear later in the Baptism service and will continue to observe as we come together in this one place. That what the church is; coming together and in one place. It’s not something that we do alone through personal piety, but that we come together.The one place has changed over the years, but everyone moved together as we moved places and buildings. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we keep going. Amen.
The Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Love, Love, LOVE
I would like to begin today’s sermon by reading a letter. Dear John, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I've felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you'll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie. P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery.
Today we read (John 21:1-19) about love. We often say God is love and we find that full quotation in 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Love is a word we all use and something we all seek. Sometimes we use the word in many different contexts: I love spring, I love canoeing, I love cake. And sometimes we reserve use the word “love”, as in the phrase, “I love you” for those who are nearest and dearest to us. Much of this has to do with the weakness of our language. The original language of the bible, Greek, can help us in this area. There are three Greek different words for love: agape is love with no conditions attached – a higher moral love; phileos is friendship love - love of family and friends and eros is physical, sexual love.
Today’s text about love puts Peter front and centre in this post resurrection story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and they talk and use two of three definitions of love. Peter’s name, as you may know, is derived from the Greek word meaning, “rock” – petros. I remember a supervisor of mine who called me Petrocos. I knew the word was a derivative of petros and it took me a while to get up the courage to ask him what Petrocos meant. He said, peering down his spectacles, “pebble”. Peter, the Rock, had his human side and must have felt fairly small after his discussion with Jesus who challenges him on the kind of love we are to have for Jesus. We know earlier in scripture he said to Jesus, I’ll be there for you, I’ll follow you and yet denies him 3 times. The three-fold question, "Do you love me," to Peter in today’s reading is a reminder of the Peter’s denial. Jesus and Peter use two of the three different meanings of love in their discussion – agape (higher love) and phileos (brotherly, family love). Peter used the brotherly love in his first two answers to Jesus who is asking Peter if he has that higher, agape, love for him and the third time, Jesus comes down to Peter’s level and asks him if Peter has brotherly love for Jesus. That agape love requires sacrifice.
Love is difficult, oddly enough, when it comes to families. There are sometimes family members that are difficult to love. I was on the road in the car this past week and recently heard about two families with two different stories. One of them I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) in the states which spoke of a man who had been brought up in the most loving and supportive family. He became the opposite; a drinker, womanizing, violent person who made his children’s lives hell. The other story on NPR was a parent who was awful to his children and they were the nicest good people you could meet. I think we could all think of a family or a friend or a friend of a friend who is hard to shove love or any kindness to. I have to tell myself to keep striving for love, that continuous action until the end, often sacrificing my time, energy and love on that person.
The word love in the Greek language in today’s passage is in a Greek tense that speaks to a continuous action. We believe in a God who continuously loves us, forgives us, accepts us and calls us into his kingdom. It is a continuous action by God for us and we, in turn, are to love, forgive, accept and call people into his kingdom. Amen.