Sermons 2008
Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 25A 2008                                             Matthew 22:34-46


            "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."  Said the Lord to Moses in Leviticus 19.   What does this mean?  The answer for some Christian people and Churches, is that holiness means an anxious purity, choosy about the company it keeps, spiritually superior and dismissive of the common herd – a holier than thou-ness.


            We see this sort of self-conscious, even self-assertive holiness at work in today’s major disputes within the Anglican Communion.  Take the ultra-conservative Anglicans  boycotting the Lambeth Conference  Simply  because they cannot accept fellowship with the majority of their fellow Bishops who believe that Love thy neighbor meant all your neighbors, regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.


            This is a brittle holiness that depends on putting others down and hurling charges of heresy.  


            We see this nervy, defensive, self-assertive version of holiness at work in our gospel today, when a group of religious leaders try to trap Jesus in his words.  They test Jesus on the holiness meter, to see if he’s "biblically sound." Of course, Jesus has lost patience with all of this, if he ever had any. He shows them that he understands the bible far better than they do, though of course this wins him no respect.  Jesus is just too much for the pure and holy—he mixes with sinners and claims to act in God’s name, as if God actually loved everybody alike.  


            So Jesus has to go.  To get rid of him his enemies show how little their sacred texts and truths of their religion actually mean to them.  The things of God become tools of violent persecution.  Jesus suffers and dies for his commitment to the things and people of God because the things of God aren’t what many people seek from their religion.


            The alternative, the real holiness, is not ideology first, as is the case whenever militant religiosity sets the tone, but is commitment to people everywhere.  Not an appeal out of any selfish motive, not self-preserving, not holier than thou.  Rather it’s an agape love as bold and assured as it is tender and patient.  And because we are sure of the love and calling of God to be his hands in the world, we have nothing to prove.  We can be genuinely open with people, tolerant, patient, generous.  We’re not threatened; we don’t have to impose our will on others. (1)


            This sort of holiness:  Bob Woodruff was co-anchoring ABC World News when he went on assignment to Iraq.  He was embedded with an army unit when he was severely wounded by an IED.  His wife, Lee, quickly flew to Germany, where her husband was being taken for medical treatment.  Later, she and Bob wrote a book about their ordeal.  In her memoir of that ordeal, Lee wrote about friends who helped her through those terrible hours. There was her friend, Karin, who brought her "a goodie bag for the plane, with magazines, candy, gum, aspirin, and a toothbrush."  and gave her a big hug, did what she could, and then left.  Lee wrote:  "It was friends like Karin whom I would come to rely on and be amazed by….friends who refrained from calling repeatedly… friends who dropped off meals and slunk away….They made Costco runs for toilet paper, took my children for playdates, and drove them to soccer practices, confirmation classes, and countless other activities."  Friends who came to the house and got things organized -- who brought food and flowers -- who took her children to their homes.  (2)


            This is the sort of holiness to which the Lord called Moses.  A holiness in a commitment to generous and just and fair dealing.  A holiness manifest in refusing to hate rich or poor, as ideologues of the left or the right seem to do. A holiness that will not slander or harm the community of God’s people.  The holiness of God is both meekly humble and  robustly self-assured;  a large-souled generosity and kindness.  A holiness that loves all people,


            Our God is holy because our God is generous, life-giving, secure in Godself—"I am who I am" is the confident identity this God gave to Moses.. Our God is holy not because God is turned away from us in self-preserving self righteousness.  Our God is holy because our God is turned towards us, loving and accepting us, guiding and sheltering us and our world and our complicated lives, open to us. We are called to love our God with everything we are and have and hope to be.  And to love all of God’s people as he loves aus and as we love ourselves.  (1)




            1.  Adapted from Scott Cowdell, "A HOLINESS WORTH HAVING", a sermon for Matthew 22:34-46, Lectionary Homiletics,

            2.  in SermonWriter for Proper 25A 2008