Sunday, June 25, 2017

Servants Like the Master

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is its equal in every way: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

But we have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, we are not truly sorry and we do not humbly repent.

Romans 6:1, our lesson today: Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? μὴ γένοιτο! By no means! God forbid! Let it not be so! How can we who died to sin go on living in sin? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Might walk in newness of life. Might walk in newness of life. Might walk in newness of life.

Might walk in newness of life. But God help us, we live in a venomous age of hatred, hating one another, hating anyone different from us. And though we’re aware that it’s a malignant national contagion, we are “carriers,” we continue to spread it. “Love God, Love Neighbor,” the basic commandment of our Lord we sneer and contemn. A nation of Typhoid Marys of Hate, we infect the earth, we poison creation: we conservatives hate liberals, we liberals hate conservatives, what’s the matter with us? We are not Christian, baptism and spouting the Baptismal Covenant and the Nicene Creed do not make us Christian, only taking up the cross and “becoming Christ” makes us Christian. We do not love Jesus, we have sunk into the shadow, and there is no health in us, miserable offenders.

The world and, for shame, our God Blessed America have fallen back to Genesis 1, The Beginning, when darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God had not moved over churning chaos, and God had not said, the Word had not spoken.

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of ha-adam was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil continually. And Yahweh was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:5,6)

We grieve the Holy Spirit. I am no longer glad to be human, no longer proud to be Christian in a nation of consummate hatred, how does God stand us, how can we stand ourselves? Do you hate? God forbid. Are you a carrier of hatred, are you spreading hate? God forbid, but if you speak hate, if you write hate and press send, if you forward hate, if you pick up political, ethnic, racial or personal slams on the internet and share hate, liberals damning conservatives, conservatives damning liberals, Christians damning Muslims, demeaning others in the darkness of hatred -- if we do that, we spread hatred, Christian, it is Sin, we must stop it, you are to stop it, only you can stop it. We are neighbors, every American is “your neighbor as yourself.” Thou shalt love.

Thirty years ago I had a parishioner, his name was Westin Schumacher (a slight name change so you cannot look him up), he was the most dense, thickly obtuse, self-unaware human I have known in all my years. Wes never “got it”, could not “get it,” he had no comprehension of the dullard offensiveness of what he was, was saying, was doing, was repeating. Wes always had an inappropriate story. With his southern drawl, he considered himself funny with his racist jokes about black people, Jews and others. 

In due course, I commended Wes, along with half dozen other people from my parish, to a Cursillo weekend at Beckwith; and as we did in those days, as soon as Sunday church was over, Linda and I piled into the car and, we had developed a large Cursillo community in our parish, so with everyone else who wanted to go, we sped the five hour drive to Beckwith for the Sunday afternoon Cursillo closing, a joyful celebration to cap off the Cursillo weekend. 

The bishop was there, Charles Duvall, as preacher — a focus of that particular Cursillo weekend, and therefore of the bishop’s closing sermon, had been learning to become self-aware of one’s attitudes, and especially here in the South, to examine oneself about subconscious biases, prejudices, unconscious racism, to become Christ instead of self, to become self-aware and consciously avoid racist comments, racist humor, to become introspective, thoughtful and self aware to spread love, not hatred. To become Christ.

It’s been long years, and I do not know how they do it now, but in those days the Cursillo Closing Eucharist ended with The Peace, when those of us who had driven from afar as a surprise, would greet and welcome our new Cursillistas. As I took Wes Schumacher’s hand, congratulated and exchanged The Peace with him, he pulled me aside, chuckled, and began to tell me the filthiest N-word joke in his repertoire. It was clear Wes had not thought a thought all the Cursillo weekend. Wes had not heard one word of the bishop’s sermon. Wes was unaware, obtuse, AWOL, vacant. The stupidest man I have ever known, he was oblivious to himself, to his sin, to his evil, his wickedness, to the inappropriateness of his thoughts, he mouth, his very being before Most merciful God. 

I wonder today, as an American — I listen, read, watch and wonder what introspection, self-examination fellow Americans do who call themselves Christian, go to church Sunday morning, hear the gospel read and preached, hear the love of Jesus and his commandment to Love God Love Neighbor, confess “we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves; we are truly sorry and we humbly repent,” accept the blessing of Absolution, and heedless of Paul’s warning, presume to eat the holy Bread and sip the holy Cup — and then, oblivious, Revert to Mr. Hyde once out the door and, Carriers of Hate, resume spreading hatred of those who are different, other. 

Examine yourself is a harsh commandment, a hard saying: examine yourself. But we serve the God of love: you shall not be a carrier of hatred.

We have this wonderful Book of Common Prayer, but we don’t go every place it can take us. I have an assignment for you. I’ll never know if you do not accept it, but you will know, self-observant you will know. Your assignment is self-examination: Easter is behind us, Lent is over and done, but self-examination is your assignment for the week ahead. 

You and I know that you love God or you would not be here this morning to pray, worship and eat and drink. We both know that you love God — but do you love neighbor? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself? Or have you, do you spread hatred? Examine yourself.

Please take a prayerbook from the pew rack in front of you, and turn to page 316. Page 316, three one six. An Exhortation. Based on St. Paul at 1st Corinthians 11, to examine yourself “lest you eat and drink damnation.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-29 KJV) 

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh κρίμα damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:23-29 KJV)

Page 316, remain seated and follow along as I read aloud, your daily homework for this week.

An Exhortation

Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one body in him, and members one of another.

Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty God our heavenly Father never-ending thanks for the creation of the world, for his continual providence over us, for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh, and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life. But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament.

I therefore call upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and drinking of that Cup. For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have  offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before  Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven.

And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food. And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory in the Church  evermore. Through him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which isour bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come boldly before the throne of grace [and humbly confess our sins to Almighty God].


Sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida, Sunday, June 25, 2017, Proper 7. Romans 6:1b-11. Matthew 10:24-39. The Rev Thomas Weller. Posted never in pride but in humility and shame, and keeping a promise to a beloved friend. TW+

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