Sermon by Susan Moss - Aug 12, 2018

Good Morning St. John’s!

 

Our summer sermons series of renewal ended last Sunday at the service and picnic with Church of the Holy Apostles. Vivian Ihekoronye, an organizer with ISAIAH spoke of the blessings and challenges of growing up in St. Paul, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants and urged us, a people of faith to practice faithful citizenship

Though our Summer Sermon Series has ended I want to continue today with the theme of renewal.

Will you pray with me again the collect of the day—found in your service bulletins:

God of all trust, may we who confess your faith, express it in our lives with abundant joy, unbounded hope and dependence on your word. AMEN

Where do we look to understand what it means to express the faith we confess in our lives…with joy, unbounded hope and dependence on God’s word?

One source is today’s lesson, attributed to the Apostle Paul, in the Letter to the early Church at Ephesus.

Over the centuries, a succession of empires…ruled over the city of Ephesus. Yet no matter how many times it changed hands, it remained one of the most vibrant metropolises of the ancient world. Nearly 300,000 people lived there at its height.

Though its busy seaports ferried goods from Asia to Greece, to Italy and beyond, Ephesus’ greatest claim to fame was its temple to the goddess Artemis. One of the “seven wonders” of the ancient world, it was almost four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. When Apostle Paul preached in Ephesus, it prompted a riot led by silversmiths who crafted shrines to the goddess and feared for both their livelihoods and the future of the temple.

This letter is addressed to Gentile (not Jewish) Christians in the last third of the first century. It was a community of faith that seems to have little perception of being part of the rich heritage of Israel…whose members were experiencing a radical transformation of their personal and social identity in a time of religious and political strife.

The letter is designed to instruct them and renew them.

“… no longer live as the Gentiles live.”  You are now in Christ Jesus; no longer aliens; no longer outsiders, no longer strangers to the covenants of God’s promise.

To those uncertain of their new identity in Christ, living in such a prestigious pagan city, the letter gives concrete instructions about life and faith to those struggling to understand what their new identity meant; to those asking: What ought I do? How ought I to live?

The portion of the letter we hear today is a mix of ethical instruction addressing everyday, ordinary matters. But they are not trivial. In a style typical of Greco Roman and Jewish world the letter to the Ephesians provides a catalog of virtues and vices ; concrete guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior for followers of Jesus.

They were “Rules for the New Life” with the demand to

“Put away your old self” and “be clothed with a new self.”

Let’s take a closer look at Ephesians 4.25-5.2

V 25 Put away falsehood, … let us speak the truth to our neighbors.

This rule echoes the prophet Zechariah …and Moses’ 9th Commandment

Why? Because we are members one of the other.

Concern for the community of faith now becomes the operative principle for understanding how we are to live.

No longer is it a matter of an individual making decision in isolation, as if only the individual’s welfare is affected.

V 26, 27 Be angry but do not sin. Another instruction from Hebrew scriptures, this one from Psalm 4   Anger is a common and normal human emotion. But if we hang onto anger, resentments grow. If we allow them to build up over time, anger and resentments turn to rage, revenge and bitterness- and becomes destructive to the community.

Therefore: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

V 28 Thieves must give up stealing.  Just as Moses instructed to the Hebrew people, Christians were expected to “work honestly” AND additionally to work not only for one’s self benefit but also to be able to help the poor.

V 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths.  The speech of Christians was expected to be appropriate to the occasion as well as morally uplifting.

V 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, echoes the prophet Isaiah.

In other words, do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad.

I wonder… what would make the Holy Sprit sad? What do you think?

VV 31 and 32

Get rid of bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling slander and malice.

No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort.

Put them away and replace them with kindness, tenderheartedness and a forgiving Spirit towards one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.

V 5.1Be imitators of God as God’s beloved children

  1. 5.2 And finally: Live in love…just as Christ loved us.

First century “Rules for the New Life” that continue to instruct us to renew us today.

 

 

How many of you have heard the term Beloved Community?

Beloved Community was coined by Josiah Royce, an early twentieth-century American philosopher (1855-1916). But most learned it not from Royce but from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke of the Beloved Community as his ultimate goal.

King envisioned the Beloved Community as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. … a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth

Have you noticed how often our world famous presiding Bishop Michael Curry, speaks often of the Beloved Community?

Responding to severe racial tension in the streets of Charlottesville VA–just one year ago, Curry proclaimed:

The way of Beloved Community is our only hope. In this most recent unveiling of hatred, bigotry, and cruelty, as Neo-Nazis marched and chanted, “The Jews will not replace us,” we have seen the alternative to God’s Beloved Community. And that alternative is simply unthinkable. It is nothing short of the nightmare of human self-destruction and the destruction of God’s creation. And that is unthinkable, too.

We who follow Jesus have made a choice to walk a different way: preached Bishop Curry, the way of disciplined, intentional, passionate, compassionate, mobilized, organized love intent on creating God’s Beloved Community on earth.

God’s Beloved Community:  Grand and daunting vision.

How do we get there? Where do we see it?

The practical concrete instructions to the Ephesians helps us get there.

Day by day, Pausing for renewal when we need it.

I saw it I felt it looking across the room at the picnic last Sunday with Church of the Holy Apostles.

I see it and feel it at First Nations Kitchen and the partnerships with so many of our Episcopal Churches, St Johns included.

I see it in the partnership St Johns enjoys with and Hearts to Homes.

I even saw it in Roger Cohen’s column last Sunday in the Times.

I was chatting earlier this year with Brian Chesky, Cohen writes, the co-founder and chief executive of Airbnb.  He told me about trying to raise $150,000 in 2008 for his idea of a peer-to-peer home and room rental company. Everyone called him crazy. They scoffed at the notion that people would trust one another enough to allow strangers into their homes. They derided the idea that those strangers would be nice enough, or honest enough, to respect properties.

“Airbnb, without fundamental human goodness, would not work,” Chesky said. A decade later, Airbnb is in more than 190 countries. It has had more than 300 million guest arrivals. It is valued in the tens of billions of dollars.

Still, Chesky said, the Airbnb model has prospered by “pushing people to be more understanding and accepting of each other.”

Beloved Community showed up for me again on the front page of the Thursday’ Strib. Above the fold, in color was a picture of Mpls Police Chief Medaria Arrondondo  embracing the hand of a homeless man. Not just shaking it but embracingthe man’s hand with both of his hands while looking at him in the eye with an expression of respect.

Inside was another picture. A picture of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey giving a homeless woman a hug. Tiffany DeCoteau . Both the Chief and the mayor were visiting Tent City on East Franklin and 16th Avenue S. Sgt. Grant Snyder led the tour through the encampment, dispensing food and hugs and listening as people shared their problems-from lack of affordable housing to the perils of living on the streets.

Arrandondo said that the move comes at a time when law enforcement officers nationwide are re thinking their approach to such intractable social problems as homelessness. The change he said, is most striking in the dehumanizing language the police had been using to describe the homeless: vagrants and transients.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, in L.A. the largest gang intervention, rehab and re entry program in the world. Boyle writes and speaks extensively about Beloved Community and “kinship across lines of difference.: His first book Tattoos on the Heart was in part, the inspiration for the founding of Circle of the Beloved, ECMN’s chapter of The Episcopal Service Corp.  Craig Lemming Circle’s founding program director took as it’s aspirational the phrase kinship across lines of difference from Boyle’s book.

I had just finished his latest book: Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship the night before I read the story in the STRIB.

“ It is true enough, Boyle writes, “that we could make the world more just, equal, and peaceful, but something holds us back, in all our complicated fear and human hesitation. It’s sometimes just plain hard to locate the will to be in kinship even though, at the same time, it’s our deepest longing. So no matter how singularly focused we may be on our worthy goal of peace, justice and equality, they actually can’t happen without an undergirding sense that we belong to each other…  “

 

Summer is not over! And neither is St John’s Season of Sabbath and Renewal. Let us continue to be partners in transformation; to eat together and listen deeply with abundant joy and unbounded hope.

Let us take to heart and be renewed by the “Rules for New Life” from today’s letter to the Ephesians and vision of The Beloved Community.

 

 

Resources:

1.The HarperCollins Study Bible New Revised Standard Version

2.Preaching Through the Christian Yr. B Craddock Hayes Holladay Tucker

3.https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/exploring-ancient-ephesus-11753958/

4.https://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/message-presiding-bishop-michael-curry-where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community

5.https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/03/opinion/airbnb-is-the-new-nato.html

6.Barking to the Choir: the Power of Radical Kinship

Gregory Boyle, Simon and Schuster 2017