Sermons 2003-2004

Proper 14C, 8 August 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

Proper 14C 2004 Luke 12:32-40

Today’s lections can be summarized under two themes: Do not be afraid. And be ready.

I was indulging myself in bedtime reading with a Robert Ludlam thriller when I ran across a Chinese proverb that seemed to fit right in with today’s lections. Who would have thought it? The proverb is this: “The caterpillar sees its end as death; the wise men see it as a butterfly.”

Do not be afraid. Be ready.
When I was a cadet at West Point had to read and report on several works of literature in French. I always chose works I had previously read and enjoyed in English so that I would have some sense of plot and character and not become too tangled up in the translation. As it turned out I gravitated toward the classic novels of Alexander Dumas. My first year there, I read Les Trois Mousquetaires – the Three Musketeers --the tale of Dartagnan and his side kicks Artemis and Porthos. The second year I read Le Comte de Monte Cristo – the story of Edmund Dantes. The book has been made into English language movies several times. It’s a perennial favorite.
Dantes is one of the more interesting characters in literature. He became the Count of Monte Cristo. In the beginning of the story Edmond Dantes, the young sailor, is about to become captain of his ship and marry the girl of his dreams, the lovely Catalan, Mercedes. But there is of a double-cross, a false accusation, and Dantes spends14 years in the dungeon of the Chateau D'If. Fourteen years of darkness where the only bright spot was the old priest, Abbe Faria, who told him of a treasure – a great treasure -- buried on the Isle of Monte Cristo.

When the old man dies, Dantes hide his body in his own cell and wraps himself in the shroud in the priest ‘s cell. Burial at the Chateau d'If consisted of being thrown over the steep cliffs into the sea and so Dantes escapes. He then travels with smugglers on the Mediterranean Coast until finally he is alone at the mouth of the treasure cave. The closer Dantes came to that treasure the more terrified he felt. His terror was not that the treasure was a fiction, but that it really was there. After fourteen years in an isolation cell, how could he face such changed and marvelous circumstances? He was very much the lowly caterpillar facing the end of the prisoner Dantes, and not yet the butterfly Count of Monte Christo. Dumas observe that it is one of the strange phenomena of human nature that we feel a dread of the daylight more than the darkness. (2)

One commentator has noted that it is this kind of fear that Jesus had in mind in today's gospel when he tells his disciples, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Soren Kierkegaard, the late Danish Lutheran theologian and pastor known for his book “Fear and Trembling”, wrote that between God and man there is an eternal, essential difference which cannot be allowed to disappear. For Kierkegaard it was God's authority, his sovereignty and absolute claim on us for our allegiance. Such an allegiance is what faith is all about and it makes us joyful, high-spirited, eager, and brave in our relationships with one another and with God. Kierkegaard commented on how much we fear God's sovereignty in our lives – with fear and trembling -- and how much we fear and tremble at the allegiance – the faithfulness – demanded of us in return. Such allegiance seems so risky it scares most people to death. But it isn’t supposed to be that way.

From the very beginning Jesus has been trying to spread the Good News that the God who loves us is eager to have our lives overflow with his grace and be abundant with his love and concern. "Consider the lilies of the field," said Jesus, "how they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. And do not be anxious for your father knows what you need. So seek in his kingdom and all these things shall be yours as well."
The great Nativity story of shepherds keeping watch in their fields by night – the shepherds were afraid -- terrified -- when they saw the angels. But what are the first words the angel speaks? “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Too often we forget that God loves us and so too often we stand in fear and trembling that God will judge us harshly. When we do that we reject the good news of great joy for all the people; we deny Christ and we deny his sacrifice for us on the Cross. “I do not nullify the grace of God,” said Saint Paul, for if justification comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing.”
There are people who turn “Do not be afraid; be ready” on its head. William Miller (1782-1849) in the 19th Century concluded from his study of the books of Daniel and Revelation, predicted that March 21, 1844 was the precise date when Christ would return to earth. When this day came and went without the promised appearance of Christ, Miller changed his prediction to October 22, 1844. It came and went. Many of his followers deserted him but many stuck around and became today’s 7th Day Adventists

Hal Lindsey’s book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” over 30 million copies sold, predicted that 40 years after the establishment of the modern Nation of Israel Jesus would return to earth and 7 years after that return the church would be raptured to heaven. Israel was established in 1948. Christ should have returned in 1988 and the church raptured in 1995. In 1997 Hal Lindsey was forced to change his predictions.

Harold Camping, president of the Family Radio Network, predicted the world would end in September of 1994. Grant R. Jeffrey wrote a popular book called Armageddon stating that the year 2000 was the most likely date of the world’s end. (3)

There seems to be a perversity, a willfulness, in human nature that through the centuries has turned its back on the good news of Jesus Christ and on the God who loves us. It seems to border on the heretical and blasphemous, this turning away from the good news.

Martin Luther wrote that although there are many ways to seek the kingdom of God, they are all departures from that one way of believing in the good news of Jesus Christ and practicing and applying the gospel. This way involves first of all loving God and loving our neighbor. And then getting on with the work God has given us to do. And being joyful about it. There is no reason for Christians to be gloomy people, not in the least.
A few years ago Curtis Mayfield died. We may remember him as the lead singer of the Impressions in the 1960s. At the height of the Civil Rights struggle Curtis Mayfield wrote his most memorable lyrics. Listen to this chorus from one of his songs:

People get ready
There's a train, a comin'
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket,
You just thank the Lord (4)
Jesus told us, “Do not be afraid. Be ready.” And get of the Good News train.

1. Robert Ludlum, The Altman Conspiracy,
2. In John G. Lynn, “Fearful Flock”, in Trouble Journey, CSS Publishing, Lima, Ohio, 1994, eSermons, Christian Globe Network
3. Brett Blair and Staff, “People Get Ready,” Collected Sermons, eSermons, Christian Globe Network
4. Email Illustrations for 8 August 2004,