July 23, 2017 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

 

The Collect

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Old Testament

Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.

 

The Response

Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23

Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"

Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.

Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
try me and know my restless thoughts.

Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

 

or

 

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you, whose care is for all people,
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
for your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;
for you have power to act whenever you choose.

Through such works you have taught your people
that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope,
because you give repentance for sins.

 

or

 

Old Testament

Isaiah 44:6-8

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
let them declare and set it forth before me.

Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be.

Do not fear, or be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it? 
You are my witnesses!

Is there any god besides me?
There is no other rock; I know not one.

 

The Response

Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth; *
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, *
and glorify your Name for evermore.

For great is your love toward me; *
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.

The arrogant rise up against me, O God,
and a band of violent men seeks my life; *
they have not set you before their eyes.

But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.

Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.

Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

 

The Epistle

Romans 8:12-25

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

The Gospel

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Jesus put before the crowd another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

 

The Homily

The Rev John C Powers

Sunday, July 23, 2017, St. Bede's Westport

Pentecost VII-Proper 11

TODAY, ANOTHER PARABLE.  LAST WEEK WAS THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.  IT WAS CHRIST’S TEACHING ABOUT HOW GOD WILDLY TOSSES TALENTS AND GIFTS TO ALL OF US, SOME FALL ON DEAF EARS AND OR ON HARDENED HEARTS, OTHERS TAKE ROOT IN THE RECEPTIVE SOIL OF FAITFHUL PEOPLE AND BEAR FRUIT. 

TODAY’S GOSPEL IS ANOTHER PARABLE WITH AN AGRICULTURAL REFERENCE.  IT HAS A TWIST.  THE SOWER SOWS GOOD SEED THAT TAKES ROOT BUT SOMEHOW IN THE NIGHT WHEN WE’RE NOT LOOKING, BAD SEEDS, WEEDS, INVADE THE FIELD.  IN THE PARABLE THE WORKERS CAME TO THE OWNER ASKING IF THEY OUGHT TO PULL UP THE WEEDS OR GO TO HOME DEPOT AND BUY SOME “WEED-BE-GONE."  THE OWNER SAID NO TO BOTH SUGGESTIONS.  IF YOU PULL UP THE WEEDS AND YOU MIGHT WELL PULL UP THE GOOD AND FRAGILE NEW PLANTS AS WELL.   "WAIT, WAIT" HE SAID.  BE PATIENT, AT THE TIME OF HARVEST THE WEEDS CAN BE GATHERED AND BURNED AND THE GOOD WHEAT PUT SAFELY INTO THE BARN.

THE FIRST MESSAGE OF THS PARABLE IS WAITING AND PATIENCE.  MOST OF US ARE INFECTED WITH THE DISEASE OF URGENCY, THE QUICK FIX, THE FAST FOOD, ONE STOP SHOPPING.  WITHOLDING JUDGMENT CAN MEAN WE’RE FENCE SITTERS.  BUT HERE JESUS IS TELLNG A PARABLE THAT SPEAKS OF WAITING, AND LETTING GOD SORT OUT THE CONCLUSION OF HISTORY, OF WHO IS IN AND WHO IS OUT.

IN TODAY’S EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, PAUL ASSERTS THAT LIFE IN THIS WORLD AN ANXIOUS TIME OF SUFFERING.  ALL CREATION IS WAITING FOR FULFILLMENT, WAITING WITH EAGER LONGING FOR SOMETHING.  JESUS IS SAYING THE FIELD IS WAITNG FOR THE HARVEST BUT IT’S FAR FROM PERFECT.  HE SAYS WAIT FOR THE HARVEST WHEN THERE WILL BE A SORTING OUT.  PAUL TEACHES THAT THE WHOLE CREATION IS IN LABOR PAINS AND IS IN PROCESS OF BECOMING.  SCIENCE SAYS THIS, THAT THE CREATION IS ALWAYS IN MOVEMENT AND FLUX AND IS NOT YET WHAT IT IS TO BE. THE TECHTONIC PLATES MOVE BENEATH US HENCE OKLAHOMA EARTHQUAKES THAT SHAKE THE EARTH BENEATH.  TORNADOES THAT CHANGE THE LANDSCAPE.  THE SEAS ROAR WITH HURRICANES AND TSUNAMIS.  VOLCANOES ERUPT.  ON A HUMAN LEVEL, WE CAN CHANGE AND GROW. GERT BEHANA, THE ALOCOHOLIC SPIRITUAL WRITER, SAYS ABOUT HERSELF, “I’M NOT WHAT I WAS, I AIN’T WHAT I’M GONNA BE.”  IN OTHER WORDS WE ARE WORKS IN PROGRESS LIKE THE EARTH ITSELF.  WAIT, HAVE PATIENCE.  JESUS IS SAYING DON’T CUT OFF RELATIONSHIPS, DON’T WASH YOUR HANDS OF YOUR ENEMY, NEVER SAY NEVER, WAIT IN HOPE.  NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.

NOW HOLY WAITING IS NOT LIKE WAITING AT THE AIRPORT GATE UNTIL THE FLIGHT IS CALLED, OR AT THE SUPERMARKET CHECK- OUT LINE.  THESE ARE WAITS THAT MAY JUST BE TEDIOUS.  BUT THE REAL HOLY WAITING IS NOT ROUTINE WAITING, IT’S AN INTENTIONAL WAITING IN HOPE FOR SOMETHING THAT IS NOT YET SEEN, WAITING WITH LONGING FOR WHAT IS BEYOND WORDS, WAITING FOR THE GREAT DAY OF THE LORD WHEN ALL OUR ANXIETY AND ALL THE CREATIONS’ GROANING CULMMINATES IN GOD.

WE ARE THE LIKE THE PATIENT MOTHER WAITING FOR THE BIRTH OF A CHILD WITH THE HOPES AND FEARS THAT NEW BIRTH BRINGS.

DOCTORS SOMETIMES DON’T PRESCRIBE MEDICINE, THEY DON’T SUGGEST SURGERY, AND THEY DON’T EVEN SUGGEST PHYSICAL THERAPY.  IN THEIR WISDOM, THEY ARE PRESCRIBING "WAITING," WAITING TO SEE IF THE BODY WILL EFFECT ITS OWN CURE.  THAT KIND OF WAITING CAN BE A SPIRITUAL PRESCRIPTION AS WELL.

DON’T DISCARD YOUR ENEMY, DON’T BREAK THE WOUNDED RELATIONSHIP, OR PLOUGH YOUR OPPONENT UNDER.  WAIT AND SEE.

WE ARE LIVING IN “NOT YET” TIME.  “NOT YET” TIME IS GOD’S TIME AND GOD’S TIME IS ALWAYS TIME FILLED WITH HOPE.

WE LIVE WITH THE DEEP THEOLOGICAL TRUTH THAT NO CHRISTIAN CAN EVER SAY TO ANOTHER:  “I HAVE NO NEED YOU.”  IN OTHER WORDS, WE CANNOT DISPENSE WITH ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE BODY SIMPLY BECAUSE OF DISAGREEMENT.  YOU MAY BE SURE THE OTHER PERSON IS A WEED.  YOU MAY BELIEVE THAT THE REST OF US NEED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH PURITY OF HEART AND DOCTRINE WITHOUT THEM.  BUT, NO.  WAIT, PRAY FOR UNITY, LOOK IN YOUR OWN HEART, LISTEN, HAVE PATIENCE.  LIVE WITH EAGER EXPECTION OF WHAT IS TO COME.  OUR FAITH TEACHES US THAT THERE IS AN UNDENIABLE WEEDINESS IN ALL OF US, IMPERFECTIONS THAT BLUR OUR OWN VISION AND OUR OWN PERSEPTION OF THE TRUTH.  WE CAN APPLY THESE SPIRITUAL PRACTICES IN THE POLITICAL ARENA.  IN THESE TIMES OF STRONG POLITICAL DISAGREEMENT AND CONFLICT, WE NEED TO WAIT AND SEE, NOT GIVE UP ON OUR OWN STRONG VIEWS, BUT WAIT. 

ONE THING IS SURE.  THERE IS NO FIELD IN GOD’S DYNAMIC CREATION WHERE ONLY GRAIN GROWS AND ONLY FLOWERS BLOOM. 

ABOVE ALL, WE WAIT IN EAGER EXPECTATION AND HOPE WITH ALL OUR HEARTS THAT IN THE END GOD WILL HAVE HIS WAY WITH ALL OF US, AND WITH THE WHOLE CREATION, AND CHRIST WILL REIGN FOREVER AND EVER.

AMEN.

 

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