The Things of God

Sermons

Preached by Brother Jude Hill on Proper 22 Yr A (Sunday, October 22, 2017)

Proper 24(a)

22 October 2017

Advent SFO

 

 

+In the name of the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Whose head is this and whose title?’.  They answered, ‘The Emperors’  Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.’

 

Another one of those stories that shows the tricky and devious side of Jesus, the Jesus that turns the tables on those who are trying to trip him up and catch him out and who in the end trip themselves up and end up with egg on their faces!

 

Yet this particular story is one that so many Christians and none Christians use to say that Christians should not be political, not be involved in political matters.  They use stories like this as an excuse to keep themselves out of political issues and out of standing up and speaking up on many issues.  But is that what Jesus is saying?

 

I’m preparing a retreat I’m giving next year and recently began to read through the Gospels to look at the things Jesus said: the responses he gave to people who asked him questions or the teachings he gave people as they crowded round him or sat and listened to him, the answers to the questions his disciples put to him in private and to the questions levelled at him by the authorities of his time….. and when I heard his instructions as to how I am supposed to live I was shaken up. 

 

 

As someone who has vowed, yes vowed, through the Baptismal Covenant to follow the teachings of this man who lived two thousand years ago and to try to the best of my ability to be inspired by his teaching and follow his life and example I was startled by how short I fell of doing that.  I also saw how impossible a task it is – but I also realized that does not excuse me from trying!.

 

At the very heart of Jesus’ life and teaching is the core of one of our Baptismal Promises and one, I believe, that is central to being a Christian:

 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

 

 

WOW that’s a tall order and it aint easy….. thankfully it says STRIVE!   strive…… and to strive means something we are called to work towards, to go all out for, something to aim at.  We are all called to be involved in working for justice and peace among all people….. among ALL people, for all people, not just those who look like us, or smell like us, or vote like us but ALL people….. even those I really don’t like and don’t want to be around!

 

AND

 

To Respect the dignity of every human being?

 

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, that means acknowledging that every human individual, just like ourselves, is made in the image and likeness of God and worthy of profound respect as a child of God made in the image of the divine.

 

I believe our Christian Faith hangs on this baptismal promise.  It is central to being a human being called to share in the life of the divine and one we must struggle with in order to bring about the Kingdom of God on this earth in our time and place.  But it is far from easy!  Taking the Christian Life seriously is not easy!

 

 

 

 

 

Today my brothers and sisters we are living in a world that is in a real mess!  We are living in a world where the majority of people have little if any respect for their fellow human beings.

 

•We are living in a world where people in authority, from leaders of Governments to leaders of local churches have no moral integrity,

 

•We live in a world where people who are charged with the care of their vulnerable brothers and sisters: the elderly, the children, those with special needs.

 

and who feel there is nothing wrong with perpetrating various forms of abuse on them for their own gratification….

 

•We live today in a world that is on the very edge of a destructive world war because leaders who have the responsibility of billions of people play with their lives like narcissistic children playing a war game with toy soldiers on a board in the back yard shed….

 

•We live in a world where millions are dying of starvation because the sin of greed perpetrates the hearts of so many people who are afraid of sharing what they have been given out of fear that one day they may need something.  Psychologists tell us that greed activates a compulsion to hoard more and more beyond even what a person ever need and activates the fear of never having enough.

 

•Greed means we are on the verge of destroying our beautiful and magnificent planet on which we live, ‘this fragile earth, our Island home’, not caring for or having respect for the dignity of those in generations yet to come.

 

 

When I was growing up and attending a church school as I did, I remember one visiting priest coming to the chapel and preaching about the duties of a Christian and saying that one day we gathered there may have to stand up and answer for our faith and may be attacked for our faith and mistreated for our faith and how we would respond to that.  When I put on this Franciscan Habit 40 years ago, people stood up for me on the bus, it was embarrassing, People would often thrust money in my hand, I never paid for coffee in a coffee shop or a sandwich, I hitch hiked all over England for 20 years and never feared……. now people at best laugh at me or shout rude words at me, often spit at me and call me words I wouldn’t repeat from a pulpit.  Next week you James will put on the Franciscan habit and discover what it is like to be treated like this.  I pray you will have the strength and courage to wear your habit with pride, integrity and the devotion it takes and never be ashamed of what it stands for.

 

Our world is changing and we who call ourselves Christians are called to respond to that change.  We can no longer consider coming to church on Sunday a nice things to do and just let the world go on.  Pope Francis recently told people, yes, it is good to pray for the poor and hungry, but don’t just pray for them, get out there and buy them food and feed them.  Get out there and volunteer in agencies that help them.  That way you are answering your own prayer!

 

Today our world is changing and we who call ourselves Christians have to work out how we are going to respond to that change and those of us who fight under the banner of the Episcopal Church have to ask how we are going to live out our Baptismal Covenant in the year 2017.  While each of the churches in San Francisco shrink in number and grow in age our Muslim brothers and sisters grow larger and are committed to the teachings of Mohammad.  Whether you agree with what is written in the Koran or not or the Muslin tradition, the one things you can say is that those who follow this tradition as faithful and practice what they believe. 

 

 

Each of us here today has to answer the question, how am I going to live out my vocation today?  My baptismal Covenant.  Vocation isn’t just for those who have turned their collar round or wear a Religious Habits…. it’s for us all.

 

We have to ask, no CHALLENGE ourselves:

 

►Perhaps working for some agency that seeks to bring change?

►Perhaps helping fund some organization that is seeking to bring change to our world.

►Perhaps rolling up our sleeves and standing on the front line with some group or organization that seeks to bring about change and  make a difference in some way.  Our own Dr Shelley Fernandez, no spring chicken, in her 80’s went to India and is going again next week, to set up Judo schools to help the girls against who are raped and treated as mere objects just because they are women.  There are things ALL of us can do.  It is never too late to start making a different in the world.  It is never too late to live to the full our baptismal covenant!

►Yes, we are all called to pray about it and study what is happening, we all need to be informed on what is happening, but as Pope Francis said, that is not enough, it is our responsibility to, as Ghandi once said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’  Roll up your sleeves and get involved in some way as best you can.

 

Whatever we do, what is clear, we cannot sit back and use the excuse God and the World in which we live are two separate entities….. our Faith is an incarnational one, God came to earth in  Jesus Christ and by his ascension takes back our human flesh into the Godhead, this divine/human interchange means we are one. 

 

As Jesus said:  the Kingdom of God is among you.

 

It is here, now, it is our task, our vocation, our Christian duty to fight to make it real in the here and now.  Amen.