Date: Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Title: Living from the Inside Out
Preacher: David P. Jones
Scripture: Luke 9:28-36
Date: Last Sunday after the Epiphany; Feast of the Transfiguration: February 7, 2016
Title: Love is All We Need
Preacher: Rev. Meredith Potter
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Date: January 31, 2016; Epiphany 4 (on the occasion of the annual meeting of St. Gregory's)
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Date: Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 24, 2016
Date: Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 17, 2016
Date: January 9, 2016
Date: First Sunday after Christmas, December 27, 2015
Date: Christmas; December 25, 2015
A sermon preached by Bret Chandler, Youth Minister
Nov. 22, 2015
The Romans were very interested in earthly kingdoms. First of all, they established the largest geographical empire in history. But, second of all, they did it by maintaining a variety of earthly vassal kingdoms: kingdoms that paid tribute to Rome and were a part of the Roman Empire, but could run themselves without direct Roman control.
King Herod, for instance, was a vassal puppet king. He could run Galilee as he wished so long as he gave tribute to Rome and acknowledged Roman superiority.
Rome dwelled on earthly kingdoms, and we see this as we read our Gospel lesson where Jesus stands before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.
Now according to the Gospel of John, the Jewish leadership had handed Jesus over to Pilate claiming that he should be put to death because he is a criminal. So you would think that Pilate’s first questions to Jesus would be about his accused crimes. But instead Pilate’s first question to Jesus is, “Are you King of the Jews?” Like a good Roman, Pilate emphasizes what interests Romans most: earthly kingdoms.
So Jesus answers him with a question,
“Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” And Pilate responds,
“Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Only after Pilate references the Jewish nation, who live under Roman power, does he finally ask Jesus, “What have you done?”
So Jesus at last has the opportunity to reply to those who have accused him of being a criminal. Finally, he can reply to the all-important question, “What have you done?” Jesus ironically answers, “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.”
Jesus does not answer Pilate’s question. Instead of seizing the opportunity to requite himself of any wrongdoing, Jesus seemingly entertains Pilate’s fascination with kingdoms,
And hearing the magic word, Pilate responds to Jesus, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answers, “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.” Notice that Jesus testifies to the Truth not to Pilate.
Now our Gospel lesson cuts off from there, but we know how it ends. Even though Jesus told Pilate that he was not a King of this world and that he had no threatening army, Pilate still had Jesus condemned and crucified as King of the Jews.
Pilate was never able to fully grasp what it means for Jesus’s Kingdom to be of a different world, and looking around the world today, we can see that not much has changed since Pilate’s time. The expanding threat of terrorist groups like ISIS, for instance, show that despite their pretense for heavenly glory, they are interested only in making earthly kingdoms.
But this Gospel lesson is only partly about those with political power who focus on earthly kingdoms. More importantly this passage is an invitation. See Pilate may not have been a follower of Jesus, but when Jesus was telling him that his kingdom was not of this world, Jesus was extending an invitation to Pilate—his enemy—to join that Kingdom, to be a part of the Kingdom to come and put his worldly resources to that end.
And even though we may be followers of Jesus, we still have the same invitation as Pilate: to serve the kingdom to come, not the institution that is, or the building we have, or the programs we run. What Jesus invites us to is not about what is, but what is to come. Everything we have as a church, as a community who follows Christ, as individual believers, are to be for paving the way for what has not yet been realized. We are a community of “not yet.” We are an Advent community.
And this matters for how we live our lives. For instance, in order to get our bearings as Christians in moral dilemmas it has become popular to ask, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” But the invitation of the Gospel tells us that to ask ourselves is not quite appropriate. It gives too much power to the situation. Rather the Gospel invites us to ask something more radical. Not, “What would Jesus do?” But rather, “What action, in this situation, points to the New Kingdom?” “How is the Spirit calling me or us to transform this situation of today so as to offer hope for the Kingdom of tomorrow?”
So I ask this question, as we worship today, as we engage in ministry, and as we prepare our church for the future: How are we a community of people of the world to come? How does what we do as a church transform what is so as to give hope for the glory that Jesus says is coming?
In a world of now, now, now! We are a community of “not yet!” And it can make the church seem like a big tease. When I was a kid, I remember how difficult it was for me to go to sleep when I was excited for what to come the next day. Christmas Eve was the same, I could never fall asleep—Either that or I would wake up way too early, and end up just waiting hours to open presents. One year I woke up at 2 in the morning and went downstairs and ended up helping my mom finish wrapping the presents. She was certainly in a moment of “not yet!” But the funny thing is, looking back at those times, I remember my excitement more than the actual event or material things I was excited about.
In this world, our excitement comes and it goes upon realization—it passes. New things become old. But that’s the power of Jesus’s invitation: the New Kingdom, the Kingdom to come never gets old—it continually refreshes what is.
When we feed somebody in the name of Christ, we fill their bodies but we also give them hope and expectation for when we all will be filled eternally. When we accept somebody who is rejected in the name of Christ, the love they experience is filled with the joy of that eternal comfort all will know when Christ comes again. When we see Christ in others, even in our enemies, we acknowledge that we all belong to the same God and that we all will be made new.
We are invited to participate in the transformative Kingdom that continually makes us anew and inspires hope for what is to come. It is an exciting invitation. It is our invitation. Are you coming?
10:00 AM Holy Eucharist with music