Sermons 2003-2004

The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004
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

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Proper 6C 2004 Galatians 2:11-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
One of the really interesting things about the Church and church history is that at times the more things seem to change, the more they are the same. Take the two stories Saints Paul and Luke are telling in the epistle and gospel for today. One commentator noted that they are really great stories. They both talk about the same things, and they both set forth two of the really important things in the Gospel. (1)
In his letter to the young church in Galatia, Paul describes what must have been one of the great fights of Church history. The background of it goes back to the very earliest time immediately after the Day of Pentecost when the Church started in Jerusalem. All of the first Christians were devout Jews who observed most of the Law of Moses, including lots of regulations concerning what you ate and with whom you ate it. This law included regulations that said that Jews and Gentile were not supposed to eat together, not share a common meal. And of course, from the very beginning, the Eucharist Holy Communion -- was a common meal. The church in Jerusalem took this very seriously, and any Gentile who wanted to become a Christian also had to become a Jew, be circumcised, and adhere to the Mosaic law. In order to gather at the Lords Table, you had to have this extra credential. That was the rule in Jerusalem, and everywhere else, for a while.
But then there was Antioch. Antioch was a large cosmopolitan city 250 miles north of Jerusalemdeep in Gentile country. St. Paul was sent by the church in Antioch where he spent a year after his conversion oddly enough, the church in Antioch was founded by Jewish Christians fleeing the persecution in which Saint Stephen was stoned to death, the persecution of which Paul was a leader until he was struck down on the Damascus road. The Church did things differently in Antioch from the way things were done in Jerusalem. In Antioch, Gentile converts did not have to become Jews, and Jewish Christians ignored the regulations about meals; so Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians ate together, and shared Holy Communion together and the agape meal which followed. Everybody pretty much ignored the Mosaic law about this and the Church in Antioch was thriving.
This whole issue was and is a big deal for some people, and the question of what sort of credentials you had to have to share the Lords Supper was one of the roughest issues the early church faced. It can still be. In some Protestant denominations, if you are not a member you are not invited to the Lords Table. When my stepson married a Roman Catholic, it was made very clear during the wedding that unless you were a Roman Catholic you were refused Communion. As I said, one of the really interesting things about the Church and church history is that at times the more things seem to change, the more they are the same.
Anyway, back to the story: Saint Peter, also known as Cephas, and who was the first of the Apostles and one of the two main leaders of the church in Jerusalem, came to visit the church in Antioch. At first, Peter liked the way they did things there. He shared meals with Paul and the Gentiles, despite what the Mosaic law required, and he fit right in.
Then Saint James the brother of Jesus and the other leader in Jerusalem sent certain people to Antioch to check up on things. Peter was afraid that these were traditionalists who Paul calls the circumcision faction. So when they arrived, Peter suddenly began to worry about the Law. He changed his mind, backed off, and became very careful and very public about keeping the Law and avoiding the Gentiles and eating with only the right people.
Saint Peter never quite got it right at first many times. It was Saint James who made the decision that Gentile Christians who became Christians need only observe two things from the Mosaic law to be acceptable to Jewish Christians: one, dont take as food idol meat, or what has been strangled, or animal blood. And two, abstain from fornication.
So Paul lost his temper and blew up when he saw Peter beginning to act so self righteously and holier than the Gentiles. He read the riot act to Peter in front of the whole congregation and the visitors from Jerusalem. It must have been quite a scene, with these two giants of the church, nose-to- nose, red faced, working and shouting at the top of their voices, to establish a theological point not unlike some meetings that have happened in the last year in the Church.
Its an important point. Who belonged at the table of the Lordwhat credentials were required for an invitation? Who was right, Saint Peter or Saint Paul? Peter, when pushed, relied on his credentials, on his Jewishness, his observance of the Law, his traditionalism for admission. Paul said something new; he insisted that, because of Jesus, credentials no longer mattered. He said that to Peter loudly, in front of God and everybody. In the end, Paul wonbecause he was right when he said, We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Something very much like this was going on with Simon the Pharisee in our gospel for today. Saint Luke recorded many stories in which people on the bottom of the social and religious ladder are presented at an advantage. In this one Jesus is the guest of a Pharisee. That means the house, the meal, and everything connected to them, were properPharisees were special guardians of the Mosaic law, and no detail of required observance and obedience escaped them.
At the same time, formal meals with out of town celebrities were also a spectator sport, and major social events for the whole neighborhood. The invited guest reclined facing into the area where the food was served. The rule was that anyone could show up to watch the meal and the discussion, but the uninvited guests stayed outside the circle formed by the invited guests feet. Prostitutes such as the woman in the story were often required to remain outside the walls of the house where they might listen as best they could. (2) Although for such a one to show up, and to make a scene was not unheard of. The real scandal, in Simons mind, was that Jesus allowed it. If Jesus knew what sort of person she was, Simon thought Jesus should have run her off as not being good enough even to get that close to him or to the table.
In effect, Jesus tells Simon the same thing Paul told Peter. Talking to Simon about how Simon had omitted every optional amenity a gracious host usually provided a guest was, like Pauls rebuke to Peter, a way of making a larger point which is simply that credentials do not matter when it comes to sharing the table with the Lord. To rely on your own strength, your own worthiness, your own credentialsespecially that perverted form of self-righteousness that says, at least Im not as bad as she is, is not only to court Jesus anger, but to guarantee it.
The reason the woman was closer to the kingdom of God than Simon the Pharisee because she did not hide from God Jesus -- and she did not hide from the truth behind a wall of self-righteousness, silly credentials, and no longer meaningful ritualistic laws.
To claim, by virtue of good behavior or anything else, the right to Gods presence and Gods favorand the attendant right to judge whether others so belongthis is such a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel, and ourselves, as to separate us firmly from God. I know of two people who for a long period refused to go to Church because the people who came were not, in their opinion, as perfect as they were. And so they found themselves separated from the community of the people of God and these two needed that community desperately. But their self-righteousness prevented them from knowing it.
Now, the second important thing only has power when that first one is heard and felt. The second thing is that everyone is invited. The second thing is that it really does not matter, finally, who we are. The source of our lives, the basis for our invitation into Gods presence, our invitation to come freely to the Lords Supper is Gods loving grace and forgiveness, nothing else. And to rely on anything else is to lose it all.
Gods love for us is absolute, total, unconditional and free. We cannot work our way into that love, we cannot sin our way out of it. We live by Grace and forgiveness. Our lives as Christians are not about somehow managing to get loved or saved or accepted by God. We have that; we are given that, we begin with that. Our lives as Christians and the practice of our faith are about responding to the gifts we have been given. Saint James said, But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act--they will be blessed in their doing.
Since all are unworthyincluding ourselves, we dont have to worry about that or spend a lot of energy on it. It doesnt really matter. Everyone is invited to the table; everyone is offered the gifts of grace and forgiveness. That is how we begin. Then, we are called to take those gifts, accept them, and share them with a world dying for that Good News. Jesus says to each of us what he said to the woman in the story: Your faith has saved you, go in Peace. And he calls us to hear that, to believe that, to live that, and to share that.

1. The Revd James Liggett, Sermon for June 13, 2004, Proper 6C, Worship that Works, Selected Sermons at Themes and ideas adapted from this sermon

2. The Revd Nicolas R.D. Dyke, Sermon for June 17, 2001, Proper 6C, Worship that Works, Selected Sermons at