“You can still see the wreckage of the cleansing of the Temple from yesterday, and here are the chief priests and elders again, to confront Jesus. They say they are “of the people,” but only the Romans believe that, we know better. They’re just puppets of the Roman Empire; Seems to me, if masses aren’t convinced of their authority, then they are in serious trouble, don’t you think? Now that Jesus is occupying the Temple, the chief priests and elders have to deal with him.”
As every parent with more than one child is aware, “It isn’t fair!” It isn’t fair, and sometimes it’s difficult to make it fair, even when you try. Because life isn’t fair. Not ever, not really. And that’s a problem for us because we want it to be fair. But the Gospel doesn’t promise us fair. Every child of God is blessed and beloved, but that’s not the same thing as a promise that life in this world will be fair. We are promised life, the opportunity to choose life abundant, to choose light over darkness, hope over despair... but not fair. The Beatitudes, also here in Matthew’s Gospel, are specifically about how God blesses those who don’t get a fair deal in this world: the meek, the persecuted, those who mourn, the poor. Jesus promises that they are blessed, but doesn’t say that it will suddenly be fair.
It’s been an emotional few weeks, as we worried about one hurricane and then the next, an earthquake in Mexico, and wildfires still raging out west, and then we stumbled into Monday’s remembering of 9/11, exhausted. But we paused to remember, as if we could help but remember that day. We are all part of that catastrophic heartbreak. We are intrinsically connected by what happened on that day. We have been shaped by how we and others responded, that day, and ever since.
Today we are gathering at our normal times, a sure sign that it’s the start of the program year here at St. Bart’s. I want to share a little St. Bart’s lore with you. Several years ago I put up a sign by the light switches near the door, it said: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
Sunday, September 3, 2017 – Pentecost +13 Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26:1-8 Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28 The Heart of the Matter Jesus and his disciples have just entered Caesarea Philippi – not quite a Labor Day vacation, but some intentional time with his disciples, as Jesus begins to prepare them for what is coming. All that … Continue reading The Heart of the Matter
Ken and I had been back from England for two full days when the horror unfolded in Charlottesville. The next morning, we went to Green Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Portland, because we needed to be in church. They were gracious and welcoming, and it was powerful to be there. We heard an amazing sermon preached by Pastor Kenneth L. Lewis, as we knew we would, and some rocking Gospel music by their band. But it felt a little strange to be visiting another church community that Sunday.
I had an assistant for a couple of years who dreaded having to preach on this Gospel. Now I love to preach, and I love this lesson, but I never let her off the hook. One of our tasks as preachers and theologians is to wrestle with the hard sayings, as the disciples frequently and complainingly describe Jesus’ more extreme teachings.
Last week I talked about miracles, and people seemed to find that helpful. I recounted what one of my college religion professors had said, that when the Gospels recount a miracle: – the Transfiguration that we heard about last week, or most important of all, the Resurrection – when such a miraculous story is told, it’s describing something so extraordinary that it can only be expressed in “supernatural “ terms. Something happened, something extraordinary and unprecedented...
I’ve always thought that the story of the Transfiguration ought to be made into a film by Steven Spielberg. Think of E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and so forth. The Transfiguration begs for special effects.