The 4th Sunday after Pentecost: Proper IX
St. Mary’s Church, Kansas City
July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The audio recording of this sermon can be found here.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke we hear the story of the first evangelists, how in the course of his ministry Jesus appoints seventy of his disciples, and sends them out to proclaim the Good News that “ The Kingdom of God has come near…” As Episcopalians this isn’t often how we think about evangelism. No, we would rather not think about it at all, preferring rather that we could just be nice and hope that people would catch on to our low-key Christianity. But when we do think about evangelism it is generally as someone else’s job, where a preacher stands on the street corner telling people about heaven and hell and asking each passerby if they knew where they would go if they were to die tonight, or a well dressed couple going door to door early on a Saturday morning interrupting our coffee and cartoons to ask us if we know about Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading, however, tells us that none of that is true. Evangelism isn’t standing on the street corner scaring people into believing in God, it isn’t going door to door as a salesman for Jesus, and most importantly it isn’t someone else’s job!
Today’s lesson begins with Jesus appointing the seventy, and as the beginning of a chapter may seem like it stands on its own, but like with all things, context is key and to truly understand the significance of this morning’s passage we must go back and look at the few verses immediately before it, which we heard in the Gospel reading last week. In that passage Jesus encounters three people who would be his followers and he has a conversation with each one in which he calls them to follow him and then gives them a pithy saying about what following him means. Luke then immediately goes into this story about the seventy….and you guessed it. Luke is telling us that to follow Jesus means to be an evangelist or to put it in language slightly more familiar to Episcopalians to follow Jesus means to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” These words from the baptismal covenant that we hear and reaffirm anytime a new member is welcomed into the Church and added to the body of Christ remind us that this evangelism, isn’t the job of other people, not that preacher on the street corner, or those missionaries going door to door, not even of bishops, priests and deacons, but all of us who have chosen to follow Jesus. It is a call given to us in the waters of baptism, a sharing in the eternal priesthood of Christ. It is not optional, but an integral part of who we are and to what we are called.
Now that we have determined that being an evangelist is the call of every Christian, the question we must ask ourselves is what are we to proclaim? I mentioned before that our message was not that of the street preacher trying to scare people into believing by telling them stories of heaven and hell. So, what is it? Jesus tells us in this passage, that he sends us out with the message that “The Kingdom of God has come near…” We often think of the Kingdom of God as something that hasn’t happened yet. Something that will be eventually, and even as something that we must help God build, that we must bring about. But, Jesus sends us out with news that something amazing has already happened. That God’s Kingdom has come near.. Jesus tells us that in himself God has come near to all of us. He tells us that God has come down to seek us out, and that no matter how far we have fallen, no matter how broken, unworthy, or dirty we think that we are that God loves us and wants to be with us. The Good News is that Jesus is the way that God does this and that the Kingdom has come, in him. That in his life death and resurrection he has destroyed sin and death and bought our citizenship with his blood. The Good News is that in Jesus we are already in the Kingdom and that he dwells with us . The Good news that we are sent to proclaim is that something has been done for us which we do not deserve and to which we can add nothing. That in the midst of our brokenness and despair God sought us out and claimed us for his own dying so that we might have life.
Lastly, we come to the question of how. How are we to proclaim this Good News? This message of the Kingdom? I mentioned earlier that we are not supposed to be door to door salesmen for Jesus going out in pairs on Saturday mornings. Now I know you might be thinking that the Gospel did mention going out in pairs, and your right it did. But one thing that Jesus is very clear about in our reading this morning is that we are not go door to door but rather that we are to “remain in the same house eating and drinking whatever they provide” It is not explicit in our text, but what I believe Jesus is telling us here is that we are to form relationships with those to whom we are sent, we are supposed to get to know them, to be their friend, to listen to their stories and to meet them wherever they are and to show them through our lives that God loves them. We’re supposed to share our lives with them and let them see through our words and example what Jesus has done for us and how it has changed our lives. We are to invite them to come and see for themselves the Kingdom that is already here, and the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, who loved them so much he died for them, and each and every one of us as well.
This mission with which we have been entrusted is not easy and it will make us uncomfortable, and push us to our limits. The world will often try to make us forget our mission, to distract us from what is really important but we must not forget what really matters because while we cannot build the Kingdom we are its Heralds and the only way the world hears the Good news is through us.
In just a few minutes will come to this table and with the whole Kingdom of God, Angels and Saints and our brothers and sisters from around the world we will stand before God’s throne of Grace and make present here and now the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the gifts of Bread and Wine. Let us remember and be thankful for the great gift God has given us and ask for the grace to be faithful laborers in the Lord’s harvest. For the Laborers are few and Harvest is plentiful and the whole world sits waiting to hear the Good News that the Kingdom of God has come near.
 The Baptismal Covenant, BCP page 304
The Second Sunday in Lent
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
Mr. David Wilcox
Genesis 15:1-12,17-18, Phil. 3:17-4:1
March 17, 2019
The audio recording of this sermon can be found here.
In today’s old testament lesson, we enter into the story of Abram, who would later be renamed as Abraham…you know the one “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham…” You’ll have to excuse my horrendous attempt at singing, but every time I think of Abraham, I hear that song in my head and I can’t help but sing or hum along(so I suppose that Sunday school did its job!) If you’re not familiar with the story it begins a few chapters before we enter it today, in Genesis 12. God appears to Abram in a dream and calls him to leave his homeland of Ur with all his family and possessions and to follow Him. He calls him to begin a great journey to a land far away which God says that he will give to him and his descendants…I should also point out that at this point in the story, Father Abraham isn’t a father and he has no sons, so, God’s promise of descendants and a land to call their own must have seemed outlandish. But, Abram stepped out in faith and began the journey. All God asked of Abram is that he trust him. And, that’s where we pick up today.
You see in today’s reading Abram has been on this journey for a little while now and he still has no descendants, and he wasn’t a young man, and his lovely wife wasn’t any younger. Abram was having a bit of a hard time doing what God had asked and trusting in what he told him…you might even say understandably so. This Unknown force who didn’t have a body had appeared in a dream and told Abram to leave all he had ever known to follow him down an unknown path…It’s a bit crazy if we think about it. Abram had such a hard time trusting God that he’d even created a backup plan, he’d made a will, so to speak and he had entrusted all he had not to the descendants that God promised, but to Eleazar of Damascus…so when God appears to Abram in his dream he begins with the most frequently heard passage in the scripture “do not be afraid” God then goes on, not to scold Abram for his failure but to remind him of his promise. Abram believes and this is accounted to him as righteousness. As a sign of his promise God creates a covenant with Abram, (It’s the bit with all the animals being chopped in two) in which he is mirroring a practice in which two kings would enter into a covenant with one another. The greater King would cut the animals in two and the lesser King would walk through them. In doing so these two kings were recognizing that if the lesser King broke their end of the covenant the greater King would do to the lesser what he had done to those animals. But, in this covenant between God and Abram is different, Abram is asleep and God promises that even if Abram(and his descendants) fail to uphold their end of the bargain God won’t punish him will fulfill the covenant himself. Abraham’s journey wasn’t an easy one and there were many trials that he had to endure, there were many times he failed to do what God called him to do but in the end God fulfilled his promise delivered Abraham to the promised land.
I wanted to go through the trouble of summing up Abraham’s story because in a way Abraham’s story is our story, for, ever since God called Abram out of Ur so many years ago, he has called all who would know him to journey with him as well. We both as a group are his children and heirs spiritually, and as individuals. Each one of us is called by God to leave behind our homeland, our identities, and old selves and to follow him into an unbelievable promise. Like Abraham we are called to embark on a journey which is risky, costly and takes an unbelievable amount of trust.
All our journeys started at different points in our lives. For some it started as an infant in the waters of baptism, for others it started later in life you felt prompted to explore faith and came to know Jesus. For some the journey has been relatively straightforward and easy, and for others it has been long and winding embracing much pain and adversity. For many there may have been times when the journey no longer seemed worth it. And, for all of us at one point our another there are things in our life that keep us from focusing on the journey, things that cause us to veer off the path and lose sight of God who is our guide, and sometimes we may even encounter things which make us give up on the journey for a time. When we fail in these ways it may seem like there is no hope and that we are lost forever. And, if we walked this journey on our own that might be true. God knows that we are dust and that all of our efforts will fail without his assistance.
God’s covenant with Abraham, his promise that he would fulfill both his own part and ours was accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is through faith in him that we are able to continue in our journey in spite of our failures. When we fall away Jesus is waiting at the side of the road telling us not to fear for he has gone before us and he will walk beside us no matter what the journey will bring and all we have to do is keep getting up and trying again.
In this Lenten season, the Church invites us to continue with renewed vigor our Journey to God, following in the footsteps of Jesus. And she gives us good and helpful tools for the journey, prayer fasting and alms-giving. But, too often we look to these as ends in themselves and fall into the delusion that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and that these tools can help us overcome those things that hold us back, too often we let ourselves be tricked into believing we can save ourselves. In the epistle to the Philippians St. Paul warns us to beware of the enemies of the cross, those who are of the world and would tell us that we can do it on our own. So, in this Lenten season, I want to encourage you to use the tools the church has given and let them point you towards your brokenness and your need for a savior, But I also want to invite you to take time to simply be and to rest on the promise of God that he will do all that is needed and all we have to do is believe.
In just a few moments as we receive Holy Communion, we will be given food for the journey and as we do I invite you to thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ, without whom we could never reach the journey’s end.
The sermons preached at High Mass at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!