Sermons 2005
"Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Proper 10A 2005 Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23

“Let anyone with ears listen,” Jesus said to the crowds that day from his seat in a boat on the water. “Let anyone with ears listen.”

One “gray afternoon in June, tourists in Tewkesbury Abbey in England experienced something rather unusual. A pure, clear, child’s voice floated in the dim light. It reached into every corner, every chapel and chantry. No matter where you were, you could hear it. It seemed to come out of nowhere and yet it was everywhere. The voice sang hymns—Advent hymns, Easter hymns, everyday hymns—one after another for more than an hour. Reactions to the singing were varied. Some tourists looked bothered or mildly amused. Others paused to listen and then move on. Some seemed drawn to find a quiet spot to listen and then to pray. One tourist, determined to find where this lovely sound came from, found Brendan. Almost hidden in the high, dark, richly carved wooden choir stall, nine-year-old Brendan, a chorister on vacation, sat with his hymnal going page by page singing completely unselfconsciously his favorite hymns.

“At Evensong that afternoon, Brendan sat with his newfound tourist friend. The boy with the angelic voice was also quite a character. He insisted on helping his friend find her place in the prayer book and hymnal. He whispered and squirmed until other adults rolled their eyes and found new seats. He commented on the visiting choir’s anthem and was utterly involved in the sights and sounds of everything that was going on around him. He missed nothing. Brendan even seemed to know intuitively who would “play” with him—sing with him—and who wouldn’t. ‘ (1)

“Let anyone with ears listen.”

In the autumn of 1988, the year after I had retired from the Army, I was in England on business. The business that I had required that I stay over the weekend, so early on Sunday morning, I caught the train to Canterbury, arriving there just in time for the main service at Canterbury Cathedral. I loved being there so much that I decided to wander about the Cathedral and the old medieval town until it was time for Evensong, leaving me just enough time to catch the train back to London.

Not many tourists were still around that evening as dark closed in; the few of us there were invited to sit in the Cathedral Choir with the Men and Boys Chorus. I was in with the boys surrounded by those lovely voices, the men singing back across the aisle. The story of Brendan the chorister at Tewkesbury Abbey reminded me of that time in Canterbury Cathedral. It was that experience of such a lovely and holy day that set my feet seriously into the process toward ordination and eventually here to this lovely place. I listened to the music and I heard God calling me.

“Let anyone with ears listen.”

In our Gospel passage for today, Jesus was having a bad day. He had healed a man on the Sabbath and the Pharisees of the day attacked him about it, arguing that it was against God’s law to heal on the Sabbath. And rather than listening to what Jesus told them about it. What Jesus said was this: “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” That was not the answer they wanted to hear; it was not in line with their rigidly literal interpretation of the Deuteronomy and Levitical code. And so they began to plot how they could kill Jesus, claiming that his power to heal was not from God but from the Devil.

It was not a good day for Jesus, and so he left. But the crowds listened and heard and followed him. He continued to heal and preach that day, finally climbing into a boat, with the crowd listening from the hillside bank. And he taught them many things.

One day during my time at Virginia Seminary, the preacher in chapel was none other than The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, both northern and republican. Archbishop Eames was the chair of the Commission that produced the marvelous and eminently sensible Windsor Report.

But his text was this, that from the boat Jesus taught them many things. What a wonder it would have been to be there, he said, and heard it all. Jesus clearly spoke for some time, and we certainly don’t have it all in the Gospel. We couldn’t. It is impossible for the human ear to listen and retain everything. Modern scientists who have studied these things suggest that human beings can remember at best one fourth of what is heard and that that amount declines rapidly over time.

In this case we can only hope and pray that the most important of those many things did survive into our Gospels. But we can only wonder at whether they did or not. During my time as a cadet at West Point I heard Billy Graham and Red Barber, among other great preachers during mandatory chapel. And I can’t remember a thing any of them said – only that they were there. The one sermon I do remember was the Sunday following an Army-Navy game when the Corps of Cadets returned late, very late that Saturday night before. It was entirely possible that a few were hung over! He knew we would not be attentive, so he shortened the entire service to 10 minutes and for a sermon, read a very short poem – about which I cannot remember a thing except that that was what he did for us – and sent us back to bed. His popularity rose immensely after that.

So we can only hope that a largely illiterate people steeped in the oral tradition were able to retain and pass on to us in the Gospels the most important of the many things Jesus taught that day.

Those of us who are subject to allergies can relate to this parable of the sower. Wheat is being cut across the county and the large fields surrounding the rectory were cut over the weekend, filling the air with clouds of dust, which the late afternoon wind layered across house, yard, and vehicles. One of the ordinary miracles of our time is that modern agricultural technology and techniques can wrest the hundredfold harvest of which Jesus spoke from the marginal soil that predominates in Northumberland County. Specifically targeted herbicides eliminate the danger of thorns and weeds, and genetically engineered and selected wheat seed are able to produce grain-bearing plants that resist both winter cold and summer drought.

Jesus describes the process and problems of wheat growing in the Palestine of his day in this parable of the sower. But then, he stops to explain what he meant – at least, that’s what the gospel says. Some scholars think that any explanation of the meaning of the parables is a later addition to the story by either the gospel writer or an editor. It doesn’t matter. The beauty of Jesus’ parables is that for those who use their ears to listen to them with heart and mind and spirit and soul, the parables will teach us the many things Jesus taught that day. And the other thing about parables is like something about sermons: there is the one that’s written, the one that’s given, and the one that’s heard – and they usually aren’t the same.

And even with the explanation, Jesus still leaves it up to us as to what we hear in the parable of the sower. Whether we are seed fallen on the path, on rocky ground, among the thorns, or on fertile soil – that’s something only each one of us can know and decide for ourselves. My own experience is that I’ve been sown on all of them at one time or another and I suspect that we all have been.

So which one are we today?


1. The Brendan the chorister story is from a sermon by Susanna Metz for 3 July 2005, Selected Sermons for that day, at

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579