Pentecost 26 November 13, 2016 - The Rev. Samuel Torvend
Sermon for November 13, 2016 | Pentecost 26
Jesus said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.”
If anything, the election this past Tuesday was received by many in our nation as an unexpected earthquake of incredible magnitude, a shift in the tectonic plates of our political and social landscape. Supporters of both candidates were and remain incredulous – some elated and some despondent at what was considered almost impossible according to the now discredited pollsters.
It is in such times of unexpected and startling change, unsure of the future, that it is good to be together in this place where we worship the God of love and justice revealed to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; where we encounter the Living One who transcends every political system, every principality and power, and yet is present to each and every one of us in the most intimate manner possible, as close to us as the blood coursing through veins: animating our souls, our hearts, and our minds with love for the neighbor, particularly the neighbor in need, the neighbor who is filled with fear and anxiety.
Let me say how good it is to be with you, dear brothers and sisters, as we gather around the Book of the Gospels
in which we encounter the Living One speaking to us of our deepest identity in him., speaking to us of his mission to proclaim, through you and me,
the good news of God’s kingdom, that kingdom of love and justice, of forgiveness and peace already – already – in our midst. Indeed, if there were ever a time to hear the gospel, to read, mark, learn, and let its promise of life take root in our souls as we experience an earthquake of profound moral significance, is it not today?
How glad I am to be with you as we pass the baptismal font
, dipping our fingers in its waters, tracing the sign of the holy cross, the cross of human suffering, over our bodies, and thus receiving anew God’s promise to be with you and me in life and death, in weal and woe. How good it is to be bound to each other through the sacred waters of the font in which you and I have made a solemn renunciation
of the “evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God,” destroy the creatures of God with hate speech and mockery. How good it is to be with you in a church where the bodies of women are not
disparaged or objectified but rather, with the bodies of infants, girls, boys, men, the disabled and the able-bodied, straight, gay, and transgendered, of all social conditions, of all ethnicities and every race – where all these bodies are anointed with sacred chrism
and thus honored as God’s beloved, as Christ’s royal priesthood in the world. How good it is to be with you, dear brothers and sisters, in this place where only last Sunday we renewed our mission in Christ to persevere in resisting evil, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for God’s justice and peace among all people, to respect the dignity of every human being, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation
(Book of Common Prayer 304-305) in a time when it appears that the work of protection may soon unravel.
How good it is to be with you in a church where we are led by a woman. How blessed are we here by the compassionate and intelligent leadership of a priest
who serves all persons in their joy and sorrow and nurtures a spirit of welcome and belonging, a spirit of welcome and belonging that seems utterly elusive in our current political climate. How lucky the young girl, the young woman, who recognizes in our rector the possibility that she too, one day, can serve the people of God as a leader.
How glad I am to be with you as together we receive the most precious Body and Blood
of the One who was arrested and brought before governors and testified to a kingdom within this world yet not produced by the rulers of this world,
a kingdom in which the arrogant and the rich are sent away empty while the hungry are fed and, in the strange logic of the gospel, the lowly are exalted. How glad I am to be with you as the wounded and risen Christ gives to you and me his expansive love in the form of bread and wine and shares, in the most equitable manner, sufficient food and drink for each and every one gathered at his altar, the economic disparity of our nation vigorously resisted in this Lord’s Supper. How glad I am to be with you as we receive in bread fragment and wine cup that Presence which crosses borders and walls, walls that will not
confine or inhibit the uncontrollable presence of the risen Christ.
On many college campuses in this country, that which was dreaded has now been heard in the past four days: the increasing use of hate speech openly directed against African and Mexican Americans, undocumented students, Jews and Muslims, women, gays and lesbians. Dear brothers and sisters, how good, nay how necessary
it is for us to gather in this place where we rehearse the vocabulary of grace
, of gracious speech, of telling the truth with utter candor but telling the truth in love, even if that testimony leads to rebuke or arrest.
How glad I am to be with you as we leave this place with these words echoing in our hearts: “Let us go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord,”
to love and serve the Lord in our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, in our African and Mexican and undocumented neighbors, in our disabled, our hungry, and homeless neighbors, in our struggling neighbor, mother earth, and certainly in each other.
“You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.” Yes, dear brothers and sisters: let us pray for the wisdom and courage to testify, to testify to the mercy and faithfulness of the living God. Amen.