Rowan Williams

“Humanity’s vocation is not simply to be optimally human in the sense of exemplifying it’s natural qualities as perfectly as possible, but to be actively engaged in the harmonizing of the created order as part of a ‘liturgical’ service offered to God.”

Christ the Heart of Creation, p. 104.

Advertisements

Christ is King!

This is not part of the Preaching with Luke series, it is what I am preaching today.

Text is below, here is the video feed:

Revelation 1:4b-8

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him, 
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

John 18:33-37

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

 

I’ve missed you all the past few weeks. The Sunday after preaching on November 4th, the kids and I worshiped with Allison at St. Stephens, Hurst, the parish she is serving, and then spent time last week in Alabama. You might remember my encouragement on November 4th to read about or reflect upon a Saint that inspires you. I tried, really, I did, to read Bernard of Clairvaux the week of All Saints, but my heart was not in a good place to receive his words. So that book goes back on the shelf to try again at a later date. Sometimes, the devotional material or spiritual discipline we have taken on isn’t as effective as we want it to be. Don’t give up! Instead of Bernard, I found Madeline L’Engle’s book on writing and faith to be an inspiration in my own journey. Also, please remember my invitation to join me in reading the daily office, Year One, starting next Sunday and continuing through the liturgical year. If you have thoughts or questions, let me know.

During Thanksgiving week, Allison, the kids and I had the pleasure to spend time with Allison’s family and some of our friends in Alabama and Mississippi. Walking on the beach, sharing delicious food, reconnecting with family and friends not seen in some time, and having lengthy and deliberate experiences with our children made Thanksgiving truly wonderful. We have so much to be grateful for, and it was easy to celebrate the abundance of God’s blessings in our lives during the travel.

One night at dinner we arrived at a restaurant just as two televisions tuned into the nightly news. Within a few minutes I noticed that both children were looking at the different screens, and then I realized that the news had four stories in a row about shootings and other violent deaths. They even had an image of a dead body. Now, we do not shy away from talking about death with our children, but we do so in age appropriate ways. We most certainly don’t talk about these tragic subjects the way the news does. We actually don’t watch the nightly news at our home, nor do we take the paper. This is not because we do not want to be informed about what all is going on in the world. Actually, through a news app on my phone, car radio, and a few others sources, I feel like I am just as informed as I have even been. We do choose to skip some media (and I am grateful to continue being off of Facebook!), because, while I do believe it communicates truth, many of these media stories and sources do not convey the full truth.

What I mean is that the 6 o’clock news will almost always report a tragic death, but very rarely will communicate a profound resurrection. The newspaper is loaded with stories of corruption, financial fears, and disappointing sports updates, but is light on celebrating the leaders and good work being done in our community. Social media is full of emotionally charged political ideologies, to the extent that many Christians forget that our earthly political leaders are only temporary.

I wonder if partial truth can be just a dangerous as “fake news?”

In the Gospel reading today we hear Jesus answer Pilate:

“You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Christ’s kingdom is about truth, ultimate truth, truth that originates from God.

Today in the Church we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. This is a relatively new Church feast day, originating from Pope Pius XI in 1925. He saw the rampant secularization of church-going people and knew we needed a reminder that politics, consumerism, and social status were not what follows of Jesus should be focused upon. Pius believed that we all needed a reminder that Christ is our King; our ruler, the one to whom we owe allegiance and show homage.

Christ the King Sunday is a day of holding things in tension.

  1. We are transitioning from the long season after Pentecost into our new liturgical year; next Sunday is the first day of Advent.
  2. We hear today from Revelation about the triumphant cosmic Christ, ruler of all creation, and also about our crucified savior, who shows his power in forgiveness.
  3. We live in this wonderful country of freely elected leaders, yet as Christians we claim citizenship in God’s kingdom, with Christ as our king.

We live in the already and the not yet. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Today we are reminded, that though many seek power in order to influence, and though many seek wealth in order to feel secure in this world, our salvation is found through God’s love for us and in Christ’s powerful forgiveness. We serve a king who is also a servant.

Christ as king establishes God’s kingdom of love, of forgiveness, and of acceptance for all people – a kingdom he invites us to continue to strive for in all that we do, in all that we say.

Understanding Jesus as King, only makes sense in light of the history of Israel. I am so glad we are engaged in God’s Story, the full narrative read through of the Bible, because only through this kind of exploration of salvation history can we fully appreciate the history and trajectory of God, a King, and God’s people.

If you will remember way back, the Hebrew people during the time of the Judges wanted to king to rule over them. God sent prophets to council against the idea. Just because other nations had kings, didn’t mean that Israel needed any king other than God. Eventually God consents to the request and Saul is made king. Saul was almost an okay king, then David did pretty well with a few indiscretions, Solomon was a good king but after him, there is a whole slew of wicked and awful kings. These were the kings who trampled on the poor and the led the people away from God. Once the people and leaders stopped looking to God as their king, things really fell apart.

Fast forward to the first century, and the Jewish people were anxious for a new king. They were tired of being ruled by foreigners and wanted a king who would lead their people in battle against their oppressor and to freedom and power. So again, God consents to their request, but this time God sent Christ the King.

Christ was not the type of king that most of the people were waiting for. While many wanted a king who would fight against their enemy the Romans, Christ fought against the hypocrisy and greed in people’s hearts. While the leaders of faith wanted a king to help define themselves as a people group and get separation from foreigners, Christ the King and his followers worked to ensure that the divisions between people caused by money, power, gender, race and class would cease so that all could live in faith community together.

Nearly 2000 years after the Resurrection, we await the return of our king. His physical presence is absent but his spirit continues to guide us today.

If Jesus Christ is our King, then the weight of the world shifts from our shoulders to his.

If we follow Jesus Christ as our King, we seek his will in our lives and in the world, rather than riches or power.

Because Jesus Christ is our King, the earthly leaders might we cheer for or jeer at, take a back seat to the truth that we are only resident aliens; here on earth for a few years hopefully to make it a better place than we found it, but destined to join our creator in eternity.

I wonder how you and I might remember and celebrate that Christ is our King throughout this week.

Will we follow our king’s leadership and work for justice and mercy, telling many about God’s love and profound forgiveness? Can we place our allegiance to Christ our King above all other allegiances and associations?

Thank God we have a king who models a better way for us to live with each other. Thank God we have a future to look forward to, one full of hope and peace. Thanks be to God, who from the beginning has patiently waited for us to acknowledge the Divine reign, and to follow and serve Christ our King. Amen.

 

 

What is unfinished…

It has been too long again. Time away from this blog project is typically not productive. As we approach Lectionary Year C – Luke’s year, I am reminded of the need to finish up this book of sermons that I am working on.

I’m using Scrivener as the program to write and organize the sermons.

I’m also beginning to think about other subjects, projects, and thoughts I like to blog about. I do feel like I need to continue these Luke sermons posting, and apologies in advance, I might be posting week by week some that have already been posted to keep up with the lectionary calendar starting December 2nd.

I recently re-read a journal entry from 2007 that mentioned my desire to wrte a book about Christian discipleship. Wow, that means I have been thinking about this book for at least a dozen years. Again, a project that needs to be worked on and finished.

The painting above popped up as I opened my photo’s program on the computer. It is a very unfinished work I was playing around with a few years ago. I love the idea of abstract, of texture, and of color creation. The painting is also a reminder that I haven’t painted in a long time and that I would enjoy returning to learn that craft.

Perhaps for me, 2019 is the year of finishing things. Let’s hope so! I wonder what the year 2019 will be for you?

 

PS: I ‘m still off of the facebook, but I did sign up for Instagram. ericjliles – just like this blog if you want to find me there.

 

 

Recent sermon: Clothe yourself with Christ

Find the audio for my sermon underneath the video of Greg’s sermon (his is great!)

http://www.saintmichael.org/sermons/?sermon_id=605

 

Galatian 3:1-29

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. 5Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

6 Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, 7so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ 9For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.’ 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’12But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, ‘Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.’ 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’— 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The Promise to Abraham

15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, ‘And to offsprings’, as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring’, that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17My point is this: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

The Purpose of the Law

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now 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.

 

What is your favorite article of clothing? Why is it your favorite?

Perhaps it was a gift, perhaps it is something comfortable that you would prefer to wear most of the time, maybe it is a fancy piece that you get to wear only on special occasions.

My favorite outfit to wear is jeans, a tee shirt, a Columbia lightweight fishing shirt and sandals.

I like to wear these clothes because they are very comfortable, I can move around easily in them. The collar is open and doesn’t make me sweat like this one does. I feel most like myself in these clothes.

But I do not get to wear these clothes all of the time. Sometime I need to wear my clergy uniform. Sometimes I need to wear a suit and tie. Sometimes I need to wear a swimsuit. The articles of clothing we choose to wear are usually appropriate for the setting and activity we are to engage in.

Today we hear from Paul letter to the Galatians,“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

You see Christ is the clothing we should intentionally put on ourselves each and every day. No matter the activity or setting we plan to find ourselves in, putting on Christ ensures that we are reflecting our true selves.

Today we are engaging our 4thweek of our sermon series, “Freedom, a journey through the book of Galatians.”

In Galatians, we are encountering Paul here at his most angry. He has defended his authority as an apostle and is continuing to instruct the Galatians about the Christian faith.

You can hear in his voice the frustration, “you foolish Galatians.” (can you imagine receive a letter from your pastor that included those words?!?!!!)

Paul is upset because the Galatians have succumbed to a teaching about the Gospel that is based in following the law of Moses rather than upon the grace of God through Christ.

Paul says to them, if you had kept your eyes on the cross of Christ, you never would have fallen for this nonsense! Remember when the Gospel was first proclaimed to you?

Initially the people in Galatia were moved by good preaching to begin a new life of faith in Jesus.  – this new life was one defined by a deep and abiding sense of freedom, peace and joy… did any of that have to do with following the law of Moses? Paul asks.

What made you a Christian is God’s grace.

What changed your life is the power of God’s Spirit.

Why now are you listening to voices telling you to follow material things?

For Paul, Abraham’s significance as ancestor of faith has nothing to do with circumcision nor with the law of Moses (remember Abraham lived centuries before Moses) but rather, God’s calling and blessing of Abraham had everything to do with Abraham’s faith.

The real sons and daughters of Abraham then are those who share his faith, in the one true and living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul quotes the book of Genesis, “all nations shall find blessing through Abraham.” Paul understands that this blessing comes through shared faith, which is now wide open to the Gentiles (Galatians) without any prerequisite of converting to Judaism first.

Not only does scripture show that the true children of Abraham become such by faith.

Obeying the law can never bring a person into right relationship with God. One can only enter proper relationship with God through faith, through preserving through all manner of difficulties and trusting in and reliance upon God.

Right relationship with God is lived out in personal acts of allegiance to God and not merely a matter of following the demands of the law. The intention is different. It is not that following the law itself is bad, but the understanding that following the law; doing all the right things, and not doing any of the wrong things, can somehow put one in correct relationship with God that is the issue. Paul’s point is that unless one is able to observe the law in every details in all circumstance for one’s entire life (an impossible task), then we can only escape our fate of separation from God through what Christ has done for us.

So then through Christ, the promise to Abraham has come true. All nations should find their blessing through the father of faith in the one true God. This blessing had been limited to the Jews, God’s chosen nation, but now, as Paul is writing, is open to all. As the Galatians accepted this truth, the power of the spirit came upon them.

If faith is all that matters, what then was the point of the law?

The law was given for a time – it played a role as guardian up until the time when Christ came.

The law was a temporary measure for a particular purpose. It was meant to make us aware of our shortcomings by setting up the standards by which God required of God’s people.

Through Christ our relationship to God is now one of love rather than of obligation.

Remember that humankind is made in the image of God. We carry the very intention, creativity, and love of the divine within us. Paul’s encouragement to the Galatians, and to us today, is to put on the garment of Christ. So that inside and out, we are identified with Christ. We are a new creation, in our baptism we become one with Christ, he is us, and we in him.

Those who have been baptized are to put Christ on, just as actors in a play perform the character of others, we are perform Christ to the world. You are Christ’s hands and feet in the word today. Your actions show to others the truth of the Gospel, and the love of God.

What does a follower of Jesus look like? You don’t necessarily know them by their clothing, their jewelry, or the stickers on their car, but you know them by their love.

We are to put on Christ, like a garment, each and every day, so that through our love we can witness to the world the transforming power of God’s grace, made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

A current Sermon! Sabbath Rest

Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. 

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be pleasing to you, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Occasionally those of us who have been engaging in the preaching life for a long time, say over a decade, come across a passage of scripture we have not yet had the privilege of meditating upon for a sermon. This week as God and I wrestled with this text from Mark, I realized that I needed to hear these words, and to reorder my life. I hope there is a connection here that helps you to do the same.

At my bachelor’s party over 12 years ago, my best man prayed that my wife Allison and I would love each other towards our best selves. This prayer continues to be a blessing both in our marriage, and also as think about my life as a follower of Jesus.

I know that God wants me to live into my best self, and I know that I do this through my discipleship; my following of Jesus. I want in all ways to follow Jesus’ teaching, the path he is revealing to me, and the example of his life and ministry.

Today we are given an interesting pair of stories about Jesus’ life and ministry that deal with the Sabbath. First, Jesus and his disciples are traveling on the Sabbath and the disciples pick some grain, which upsets the Pharisees. And second, again on the Sabbath, after questioning the purpose of the Sabbath, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand.

Let’s go back to the beginning to remember where the Sabbath comes from, and why this passage from Mark and these disputes with the Pharisees and Herodians is such a big deal.

At the end of the first story of creation in the book of Genesis, after God finishes the work of creation, God rests on the seventh day, blessing that day and making it holy. Thus setting for us the example and model that we should also keep a Sabbath rest, one day every week.

God later gives to humanity the Ten Commandments – not as putative rules to limit our fun or experience, but exactly for the opposite reason: to help us live abundant lives full of love, peace, and creativity.

Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy.For six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord… Therefore, keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout your generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign forever between me and my people that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exodus 31- Eric’s translation)

Sabbath rest is a commandment given to God’s people as a gift. This gift is often difficult for many of us to remember or to accept, but if we are going to become our best selves, we need to prioritize engaging in the Sabbath every week.

Now today’s passage in Mark about Jesus on the Sabbath offers a few confusing details for us living in the 21stcentury.

The first story is not about the disciples stealing. It was lawful for people traveling to glean from the fields, but the Pharisee’s objected to this “work” on the Sabbath, both travel and food preparation should have been done on another day. Jesus disagrees with them, not because he treats the Sabbath lightly, but because he understands the larger picture. He offers a legal opinion, one from scripture itself, that sometimes certain demands of the Sabbath law are to be set aside in favor of pursuing greater value, or for meeting greater needs.

The proper function of the Sabbath is to promote life and health and to remember God’s role as creator and liberator. Jesus reminds the Pharisees, and us today who struggle with any system of rules and regulations of faith, that the Sabbath was created for us, not us for the Sabbath and Jesus takes his place as Lord, even of the Sabbath.

Jesus did many things on the Sabbath to which the Pharisees objected. These teachers of the law were only really interested in going through their check-list of things “to do” and things “not to do,” and not really interested in a deepening relationship with God. God gave the law to help people be in right relationship with God and with each other. The Sabbath was set apart so that one day out of seven we all would be intentional about seeking God above everything else.

Everything that Jesus did on the Sabbath (here are just two examples), most of which infuriated the Pharisees, were things that were about being in right relationships. Jesus healed to put people back in right relationship with each other. Disease was such a stigma during Jesus’ lifetime that people who suffered with a disease often had to live away from their community. This is not how God intended for us to live with each other. Disease is part of life, part of our fallen and broken world. And we are supposed to love and support each other through disease, through trials, and through mistakes; that is what living in community means.

Resting on the Sabbath is vitally important because it helps us to maintain healthy boundaries, healthy living habits and right relationships. It is too easy in our culture today to become self-absorbed. Sure we all work hard for what we have. Sure all of us at times put in that extra effort to get a reward. But if we are not weekly taking time to rest in God, we can begin to think that this life is all about us and for us. And that my friends, is that bad kind of pride.

Resting in God on our Sabbath ensures that we do not become too prideful about our lives or accomplishments. When we stop and rest and spend time with God, we are able to see the blessings of this life, of creation, of God’s provision for us. When we slow down we can see that these things come from God’s hand.

We were not made to be prideful or angry. All of us know that when we start to get angry it helps to count to ten. This is part of what it means to slow down. By resting in God on the Sabbath we come to appreciate that we are not made for boastful pride or anger, and through our resting in God, we are better able to handle the stresses that each week brings.

Think of the Sabbath like eating. The human body can survive without food for maybe three weeks (some of us longer than others). But you all know that when you don’t eat your body gets weak. Your immune system stops working as well as it should. If you go without food long enough your body loses the ability to properly maintain itself and function.  Our souls are like that. If we do not feed our soul on a regular basis, it begins to lose its immunity to the junk the world throws at us. If we don’t refuel on the Sabbath with rest in God, our spirit becomes weak. And if we go too long without Sabbath, our spiritual life can also lose the ability to maintain itself and function, and we must seek serious help to get back on track.

 

I’m not interested in being prescriptive here on how you can best engage Sabbath living. That is for you and God to work out together. I do want to encourage each of you, and I hope you will encourage me, to make a commitment to Sabbath rest. By doing so, we can live into our best selves and most faithfully follow Jesus as our Lord. By engaging in Sabbath rest, we can more fully live into the abundant, sustaining, and ever deepening relationship with God and each other that we are meant to have.

A quick warning: Proper Sabbath rest is unsettling, not only to us and our personal sensibilities, but it is upsetting to the powers of our world. We are only 79 verses into Mark’s Gospel in our passage today and already the Pharisees and Herodians (two very different groups) want to destroy Jesus. He hasn’t violated any laws, he is simply reminding people that Sabbath is more than following a strict set of rules, it is about reorienting our hearts towards God. When we orient our life properly to God, we may find some resistance. Remember Jesus encountered plenty of resistance and when we did, he returned to rest in our Father through prayer and was sustained for the journey.

Find a day every week to celebrate Sabbath. Resting in the Lord each week is not an option. It is a command and it is a necessity to live a healthy and full Christian life. The Sabbath is for us, a day set aside every week that by resting in God, we can become our best selves. Amen.