A Sermon for St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church by The Reverend Craig Lemming, Associate Rector
Sunday, September 11, 2022
Proper 19 / Year C / Track 2
In the name of God who looks for truth deep within us and makes us understand wisdom secretly. Amen.
I have a secret to share with you. There is a small community of lay pastoral caregivers in this community of faith who have the audacity to do what today’s Gospel is calling each of us to do. These caregivers are writing and mailing greeting cards to members in our community who are facing health challenges, or grieving, or celebrating birthdays or other landmark moments in their life journey. They are making phone calls, sending text messages, emails, or connecting on social media with those they miss seeing at church. They are knitting and delivering prayer shawls to those who need to feel the warmth and
comfort of God’s love around their shoulders. They are cooking and delivering nutritious meals to those recovering from surgery. They are offering healing prayer and healing anointing. They are visiting those who are not able to be here on Sunday mornings with Holy Communion. They are praying confidential intercessions privately and bringing public petitions to Sunday’s Prayers of the People. They are showing up consistently to love and serve others, behind the scenes. They are being that shepherd who leaves our flock to go and find that one beloved sheep who may be feeling lost, afraid, sick, or forgotten. They are being that woman who lights her lamp to search carefully for that precious relationship to be restored. Here’s another secret. Every Sunday, right here in this Sanctuary, God calls each of us to invite our friends and neighbors to rejoice together as a community that those who were feeling lost know that they matter, know that they belong, and know they are sought out and loved by God and by us.
Perhaps that’s why God gets so angry in today’s Lesson from Exodus. Sometimes we, like the Israelites, get so wrapped up in making an idol out of our complaining, whining, and whingeing, that maybe we need to hear that fabulous quip from Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess again: “Stop whining and find something to do” (1). In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches the authorities who are complaining, whining, and whingeing about him again how to find something they and we all need to do.
Great sinner that I am, what I adore about Jesus is that he has the audacity to not only welcome sinners like me at his table but he chooses to be seen publicly feasting with my kind and loving us in public. And let’s face it, the stories at the sinners’ table where Jesus is are juicier and we sinners are far more interesting that those seated at the judgey, self-righteous, holier-than-thou tables. When they grumble in disgust saying, “This fellow, Jesus, welcomes sinners and eats with them,” our Lord Christ responds with an equal and opposite quip in that seemingly simplistic yet profoundly complex form of ancient wisdom teaching, the Parable. The Parables of Jesus shock, provoke, and turn our expectations upside down and inside out. His parables disrupt preconceived notions of what is righteous so that God’s Truth can be discerned anew deep within us where the Holy Spirit makes us understand wisdom secretly. The Parables of Jesus sink deep down into that tender place where, as we prayed in The Collect of the Day, the Holy Spirit directs and rules our hearts to do the will of God: to do love audaciously, extravagantly, and outrageously, behind the scenes and out loud in public. To be the woman who finds the lost coin and the shepherd who finds the lost sheep.
I leave you with one last secret in an adaptation of that famous prayer attributed to Saint Teresa of Ávila:
Christ has no body but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks with
compassion on this world.
Christ has no online presence but yours.
No blog, no e-mail, no Facebook, Instagram, or Tik-Tok but yours.
Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes.
You are Christ’s body.
Yours are the texts and tweets through which love touches this world.
Yours are the Facebook posts through which the Gospel is shared.
Yours are the Instagram Reels through which God’s hope is revealed.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
No hands, no feet, no phone, laptop, or computer on earth but yours.
Christ has no in-person or online or hybrid presence but yours.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
May God bless us to be Christ’s Body and be that well, so that all of us may be reconciled in right relationship and rejoice together again.