Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Proper of the Day: the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Today is the first 'green" Sunday in a long time. The period between the First Sunday after the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, and again from the the Day of Pentecost until the First Sunday of Advent, is sometimes called Ordinary Time. In this case, it's not because its mundane and you don't have to come to church, but because the Sundays were counted in an "ordinal" fashion, hence "ordinary time." So today is the Second Sunday after Pentecost. I personally like the older English term for this season, Trinitytide, but in reality, Trinity Sunday is one of the Principle Feasts and not an entire season, so I reluctantly concede the point. At St. Thomas's, we sang Lord have Mercy rather than Glory to God, and included the Confession for the first time since Good Friday. We also used some different service music and will continue to do so for several Sundays. There's so much variety in the service music of the Hymnal, and our choir is excellent at leading the congregation in singing, so it's fun to explore some of what's there.

We didn't announce it, but today we also made the switch to the Revised Common Lectionary, mandated by General Convention to take place after the First Sunday of Advent on 2007. The RCL, as it's called, is what most lectionary-based (i.e., we have a set schedule of Scripture that we follow Sunday by Sunday) denominations use. It's ecumenical in that lots of folks, including Lutherans and Presbyterians and Methodists, also use it. Here's a nice explanation from the Office of Music and Liturgy. We were helped in that two kind donors donated a new Gospel Book and new Lectionary Book for use at St. Thomas's, and using the RCL lessons. For the first time in a very long time, our lectors don't need inserts for the lessons, and neither do I when I proclaim the Gospel! Yay!

Today's Gospel was a difficult one, in my opinion. Here's what I offered today. Some of it is in outline form, so you will not get the full effect of what I actually said. I struggle with fully-written-out sermons. I prefer them myself, but I'm told I'm more engaging when I work from notes. We'll see how things go.

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
Proper 3A 2008 RCL
Isaiah 49:8-16a; Ps 131; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

In the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity, Amen.

Lots going on in the world.
· Gas prices.
· Groceries
· Recession.
· Job uncertainty.
· In Manhattan at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen….

Is Jesus nuts? Telling us not to worry? Not to plan for the future? Don’t think about tomorrow? So no insurance? No investments? Not supposed to think about retirement?
· Old Lutheran belief about insurance.

And what’s with this birds of the air and lilies of the field. When was the last time he studied nature? Birds die, all the time. Lilies last a few days, and they die, too. What kind of an assurance is this?

“Strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

A conditional statement? Not really. Look at the reading from Isaiah. That’s his vision - his preview, if you will, of the KofG. Listen to it what it looks like…

Because we in the US don’t have kings, we might call it Gods Economy in today’s language. If each of us both individually and as a community strive to live as God would have us, there will be plenty to go around. We have glimpses of that right now. I had breakfast yesterday morning with IHN, and there was more food than you could possibly imagine. Same as on May 10 at our Renewal of Ministry. And look at out food pantry. It’s overflowing with gifts! There actually is plenty. When each of us uses our talents, treasure or time on God’s behalf, then the world becomes a better place - right now. God’s economy is advanced, right now.

What Jesus is saying is, Avoid the gut wrenching, all –consuming worry, the kind that tears you up inside, that makes your stomach sour. It’s not good for you. Plan yes. Make investments, yes. Do all the right things financially, absolutely. But keep your eye on the main prize. Keep first things first, Jesus is saying. Ps 131 – the absolute calm of mother and child. The child instinctively knows where its mother is and how to eat. There’s a suggestion here of us being like a child in our trust in God. Orientation to God, and everything else will be OK.

Not easy. This is 21st C America. We’re living in the toughest times we’ve seen in nearly twenty years. It’s hard for many of us. We’re constantly told that what’s important is more and more and more.
· Jeep/Dodge ad about 2.99 per gallon for three years.

This week, pause for a few minutes each day and ask yourself what you worry about. What is it in your own life that takes absolute priority over nearly anything else that you think about? What is it that takes the place of God in your life? I can tell you what it is for me. And I say this with trepidation, because today’s Gospel convicts me. But I wake up every morning and think about our financial situation here at St. Thomas’s. I worry about where we’re going to get the money to finish out the year. And I know in my heart of hearts that’s not the main thing. The main thing, that which God is calling us to do, is to fully be the Episcopalian presence here in Vernon. It means concentrating on the goals we have set for ourselves. Because Jesus promises that if we seek the Kingdom first – what God wants us to do – then the other things, like financial stability – will be given to us as well. That goes for me personally, you personally, and this congregation as well.

But I confess my own doubt and fear about this. I hear and read what wonderful Good News Jesus is saying to me today, and frankly I’m a little skeptical. I’m one of those of little faith that Jesus is talking to! So for me, I need to come to the Holy Table and thank God for that singles greatest thing that God has done, the gift of reconciliation by Jesus. Compared to the salvation he makes real for me, what are my worries worth? And then with that eternal assurance, I need to confront my fears, my worry, about our deficit of $45,000 and instead think about how to be even more hospitable and open as a parish, and how to work on inreach and outreach, and ways to strengthen Christian education. And I hope you are thinking about this things too. When you have ideas, or just want to talk about out goals, I hope you’ll give me a call, or if not me, another member of the Executive Committee. All our names are listed on the back of the bulletin. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

My sisters and brothers, The Good News is the best news there is, but it isn’t necessarily the Easy News. It may be hard to see in the midst of the economic and civic strife we face. But it’s there. Do what God is calling you to do, as individuals, as families, as members of St. Thomas’s, as Christians. None of us may be able to quite see how that will advance God’s economy, but we see previews of it even today. Hold on to those previews. I can’t promise you that God will give you everything you want. But I believe that in God’s economy, all of us will have everything we need, by God’s grace and by the actions of each of us, following God’s will for us in our lives and in the life of this community. I’m holding on to this promise for dear life.


Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Your PA said...

RCL doesn't mean "Roman Catholic Litany"??? What do I know? I'm Methodist!!! :)

However, as I was stuffing the bulletin, I read through that insert and it prompted me to let go of some of my worries, so I felt better over the weekend because of it...It came at the right time. Can't wait for this week's!

RFSJ said...

Glad to hear it - thanks!