Sermons 2003-2004

"Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always"
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

Advent 3C 2003 Zeph 3:14-20; Philippians 4:4-9; Luke 3:7-19

This is the Third Sunday in Advent. This Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday, a pattern that repeats itself in Lent. It was designed to offer a break from the heavy penitential tone of Medieval and Reformation Advent and Lent, a Sunday when the promise to do without something or other for Advent and Lent was set aside -- just for this day. In many churches a rose candle is lit on the Advent wreath to mark the coming of this Sunday.

It is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the plural imperative form of the Latin verb "gaudere", to rejoice. It comes to us from the antiphon from the medieval service missal for this Sunday, "Gaudete in Domino semper": "Rejoice in the Lord always". Those of us who are inclined to prefer classical music probably remember the glorious strains of the final movement of Brahm's Academic Festival Overture. It is music beloved of graduation ceremonies in the western world. That closing is the music of "Gaudeamus Igitur: Let us therefore rejoice," soaring music that captures as well as anything the spirit of Let us rejoice in the Lord always.

Gaudete Sunday really does symbolize the tension we Christians, especially we Christians who follow the ancient liturgical sequences of the church year, feel during Advent. Turn on your radios, and the secular stations are playing Christmas music. Frosty the Snow Man; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer; Im dreaming of a White Christmas; You better watch out, you better not cry Santa Clause is coming to town; country and western Christmas songs and laments; blues and jazz Christmas tunes -- all seem to compete equally or better with Silent Night, It came upon the midnight clear; Hark the Herald angels sing; Joy to the world; O little town of Bethlehem for space on the air waves.

I think I did hear "" one time since Thanksgiving -- the only Advent hymn on the air. Christian radio is better, but without much recognition of the Advent season, at least not the ones we can receive here. And there is even grumbling among Episcopalians about Advent hymns, with some reason.

In the world there seems very little of the watchful waiting that is characteristic of the way we observe Advent here within these walls. We count the number of Advent candles lit each Sunday, not shopping days until Christmas. We gather up our resources to see that the work Jesus has given us to do will be carried out through the year; WalMart is flooding email circuits with the offer of a twenty dollar complimentary shopping coupon and West Marine has a three day only electronics sale -- fifteen per cent off on the first item, fifty per cent off on the second, a sale ending today on the Third Sunday in Advent. (Truth be told, for some of us with boats, the West Marine sale just might be cause for some sort of rejoicing!)

And speaking of shopping and sales and Christmas gifts, there is a great deal of tension associated with three little words on some of the things we buy: "Some Assembly Required." Some can mean hours.

A story about "the father who had ordered a tree house for his children for Christmas one year. The time came to assemble the tree house. He laid out all the parts on the floor and began reading the instructions. To his dismay, he discovered that the instructions were for a tree house. However, the parts were for a sailboat! The next day he sent an angry letter to the company complaining about the mix-up. Back came this reply:

"We are truly sorry for the error and the inconvenience. However, it might help to consider the possibility that somewhere there is a man out on a lake trying to sail your tree house." (1)

And there are other tensions associated with this time of year. How well I remember that this was about the time when decisions had to be made whether or not to go to parents' homes for Christmas -- and equally difficult, the decision as to which set of parents to visit first or to stay with and with whom should we eat our first Christmas dinner and with which set to eat the second. And the atmosphere of tension surrounding those decisions: someone was always able to find reason to be miffed or upset however judiciously and balanced such decisions were made.

And even the Scriptures appointed for Gaudete Sunday point out this tension. Taken out of its context, the verses from the prophet Zephaniah seem very apt == and that's no doubt why they appear in our lectionary for today. But the tiny little three chapters Book of Zephaniah follows the classical pattern of the ancient Hebrew prophet.

The first two and a half chapters are filled with the hell fire and brimstone judgements that will be rendered on ancient Israel if they do not return to the cult of Temple worship for which Zephaniah was the spokesman. As Zephaniah becomes more wound up he extends the judgment to Israel,s neighbors and to the peoples of the world. Seems like everybody is going to be destroyed, even the animals of the earth and the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.

But at the end, halfway through the third chapter, there is a sudden about face. The prophet stops shrieking divine vengeance and retribution and punishment. Perhaps he -- or his disciples who may have added this passage later -- realized that God loves his people, all of his people, as a parent loves a child. Suddenly it is Gaudete Sunday: Sing aloud, O daughter Zion. rejoice and exult with all your heart. the Lord, your God, is in your midst. he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always.

Even curmudgeonly judgemental old Saint Paul rises to the occasion in closing his letter to the harried church in Philippi. In it are echoes of the Saint Paul who penned the lovely tone poem of First Corinthians Thirteen, the Saint Paul who in his final days in prison in Rome had learned that God,s grace and love were far more powerful than judgement:

Gaudete in Domino semper: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say; Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything."

And so we come to wild-eyed John the Baptist, hurling thunderbolts at almost everyone it seems, except the one for whom he was preparing the way in the wilderness. St John the Baptist was a Hebrew prophet in the classical mode, full of name-calling and threats of death and destruction and divine wrath. But there are several interesting things about this passage in Luke.

The first is that, when pressed for details about what then to do, John the Baptist gives instruction that sounds rather like some of the ways Jesus intended in "Love your neighbor": Give your neighbor one of your coats if you have two and he or she has none; don't collect more tax than is due so your own pockets can be lined with money; don't oppress others or extort money from them by threat of force.

The second is that John the Baptist seems to have had no idea of the good news Jesus was bringing into the world. Although John realized that he himself was not the Messiah, he still had the mindset that Jesus would come as a conquering king, a great military hero, who would establish God's kingdom only in Israel, and sit in judgement on everyone else.

And so, later on when the reality of Jesus became widely known, John sent word by his disciples to Jesus asking, in effect, "Are you really the Messiah ? --subtext, you are not at all what we expected by a long shot. So, should we wait for someone else so we wont be disappointed?"

As Saint Luke records it: (7:21-23): "Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.""

Even so, almost lost in the apocalyptic prophetic language is the concluding note in today's gospel passage that John proclaimed the good news to the people: the Good news that the Lord was among them.

A last story that has something to do with the Summary of the Law and Advent and its a lot like the Christian Gospel, the Good News, in a nutshell:

In Kurt Vonnegut's book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Eliot Rosewater, an eccentric dogooder, was discussing with his wife the birth of twins to a half-witted townsperson named Mary Moody.

"I'm baptizing them tomorrow," he says. "I didn't know you -- you did things like that," Sylvia replied. "I couldn't get out of it," said Eliot. "She insisted on it, and nobody else would do it. I told her I wasn't a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. I told her nothing I could do would count in heaven. But she insisted just the same."

"What will you say?" inquired Sylvia. "Oh -- I don't know. I'll go over to her shack, I guess, sprinkle some water on the babies and say, 'Hello, babies. Welcome to the earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of babies: Darn it, you've got to be kind.'"

Because God loves us so much, we love the Lord our God with everything we are and have. And we love our neighbors like ourselves. And even if we don't love ourselves some or most of the time -- we still love God and our neighbors all of them, all of the time.

Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always!


(1) Quoted from Don Shelby in an eSermon by Dr. James W. Moore. (2) Charles H. Bayer, WHEN IT IS DARK ENOUGH, CSS Publishing Company, 1994