Sermons on justice
To engage with the scriptures this week, please listen to Mother Barbara’s homily.
We are blessed that Diocesan Staff and Canon Christopher Streeter joins us in worship this weekend as a homilist. We invite you to listen closely to his homily and learn a bit about our tradition as Anglicans and how Jesus’ words of our Gospel this morning makes sense to us today.
Today we celebrated the presence of Christ among us, as we do each Sunday, and we also celebrated and raised awareness of the needs of our veterans. We were blessed with a presentation by Pat Bonanni who passionately shared his stories and his interest in advocating for those in needs, who are often our veterans who return home from service in need of compassion and care.
What if the widow in the parable, the one who shows up every day pleading her case, who is persistent in her message and in her cries for justice – is actually God? What if God is the one who nags at our hearts, wanting to be let in; what if God is the one constantly yearning for us, longing for justice to be within our hearts, with justice meaning our desire to be just and right in our relationships with others and with God. What if God is the persistent one and we are the ones who close the case file before even giving the case a chance?
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson 4 Epiphany Year B 2018 January 28, 2018 I was fascinated with the variety of expressions on the faces depicted in various places in the Holy Land of those who had seen Jesus, the living incarnation of the holy, the Son of God, and the source of our salvation. In each of the places where Jesus had been, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jericho and of course Jerusalem, there were mosaics, frescos, paintings and…
In Matthew’s gospel, today’s story is Jesus’ last teaching opportunity before he is crucified, so we have to imagine Jesus has saved the most important for last. Jesus is saying to us that our actions matter. We are to be accountable to what Jesus has asked us to do. This really is non-negotiable. You may notice that Jesus’ last teaching has nothing to do with orthodoxy, right belief, or how the church is to be structured, but rather, it’s all about orthopraxy – walking the walk, being authentic, making a difference in the world, being accountable for our choices or the choices others make on our behalf. We are living an authentic Christian life when we receive the bread on Sunday and on Sunday afternoon, as we plan our week ahead, we orient our lives to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and welcoming the stranger. Jesus did all of these things, which is why, when we do them, these moments are sacramental. Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you. In receiving the broken bread, we become Christ’s body, so that we can see, be, and do for Jesus, so we can be sent out into the world to move it toward justice, where wrongs will be set right, and only God’s love will pour from all hearts.
It is a courageous act of civil disobedience that helps change the tide of history. They are the first two links in a chain of many people who will eventually be lead out of slavery and oppression in Egypt by Moses. Liberation starts here, with two women willing to say “no” to an act of cruelty and injustice.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
The disciples took with them their broken hearts, their sense of foolishness for believing in something good, perhaps some hurt pride, because they thought they were right and it turned out they weren’t, or at least at this point in the story. They took all of this brokenness and betrayal and walked away. But Jesus comes alongside them, and they invite him to stay with them, perhaps just as a common gesture of the day, or perhaps because they had a sense that something wanted to be broken open within them. And it was. Jesus broke open the bread and broke through as the Risen Christ. The two travelers broke open their blindness to see another way. The now-disciples gave it all away, by their action of running back to Jerusalem, full of confidence, giving their story and their lives for others, so that bread could be broken for everyone, and all can be fed.
At the deepest level, however, the Sermon is not primarily a set of rules or directives. At the deepest level, the Sermon on the Mount is an act of imagination – and a rather wild and crazy act of imagination at that. In the Sermon, Jesus reimagines the world and invites us, the church, to live into this new, alternative reality.