August 28, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Christian J. Baron, 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Luke 14: 1, 7-14

“They were watching him closely.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
Good morning. You should know that your new priest… ½ of the co-rectorship… is Dutch…I don’t mean here, that I have a great grandfather who was half dutch.
I don’t mean that I had one of those fake dutch costumes that they wear down south in Michigan at the Holland Tulip time festival…
I mean I’m seriously… purely… %110 Dutch… practically dutch royalty…
I’m so Dutch, I wear wooden socks.
I’m so dutch… that I have an odd sense of pride about my cultural heritage…
I am so dutch…. That I have never purchased a seat at a minor league baseball game. I’ve purchased lawn tickets…but never an actual seat…
That’s right. Ask Jodi, I usually buy the lawn seats 100% of the time. And then… you aren’t going to believe this… and then I go and sit in one of the seats that nobody is sitting in.
Maybe you have done something like that too… (sign of the cross).
The problem is… if I’m with Jodi and the girls… we need 5 seats…. And if we go and sit too early, we might be in somebody else’s seats.
Maybe we are in seats of season ticket holders…
Maybe we are in the seat of a person of great honor….
And occasionally, we have to have the awkward conversation that I deserve… “Oh, excuse me sir… Not sure what happened, but it looks like we were both issued the same seat.”
I respond with, “Well… look at that. Not sure what could have happened…. Must have been some kind of technology snafu… I’ll go find an usher and get to the bottom of this.”
Jodi looks at me… I don’t need to describe the look do I?
The kids start asking questions…. And I swear, that I’ll never do it again….
The reason I start with this story is to lighten the mood a bit. I do this often with my humor. I try to bring levity to a heavy topic. It really is actually a coping mechanism I think so that I don’t have to sit for too long in the weightiness of my culpability… of my participation in injustice.
I’ll frame the rest of this sermon in this way… As Episcopalians, we are often on the cutting edge of justice….
We often times have led the Christian Church in areas of social justice….
We have helped lead the way in the civil rights movement…
We have been one of the leaders of the new civil rights movement and for marriage equality…
We have been advocates for eco-justice and I’m sure we could list dozens more…
That is the good news…
The awkwardness, however, for Episcopalians, is upon US when Jesus talks about wealth, power, or privilege.
The Episcopal Church is the second wealthiest Christian denomination in America; we, as a denomination, have a lot of money and a lot of resources.
And with that wealth… and power… comes privilege and a greater obligation and responsibility toward our fellow humans… and to the God of the Universe.
We have a great deal… and therefore a great deal is expected of us.
And I think this week’s text invites us to consider our unique perspective. An Episcopal Church Perspective.
It first addresses us as guests.
When we are guests at God’s Holy table… at the Eucharist at St. Philip’s… we are to come humbly. We are always to remember that God’s table is open to us, but that we should come humbly.
I think it is a good reminder that this is God’s table, and God has welcomed us to this altar… to God’s altar…
to this table… to God’s table…
And we are to approach it humbly.
We are to come to the rail with our offerings, with all that we have and are invited to offer it all back to God; ur finances, the ways we have loved each other this week… the ways we have fallen short in our love… our sin… all of it… and we place those things on God’s table.
We offer to God the ways in which we have served God’s Kingdom….
We offer back to God the ways in which we were selfish with our spouses… and our Children…
We offer back to God…our politics…how we have spoken about our neighbor..
We hold our hands out, palms up, vulnerable, open, willing…
to give to God…
And with our hands still stretched out we receive those things back from God in the form of pure and perfect grace…the blessed sacrament of God’s love in the form of bread and wine. The everyday stuff of our physical lives to feed our souls through the grace of being welcome into God’s family.

It’s a pretty great deal actually.
God the ultimate recycler… turns our attempt at love into something far greater…. (Say more about this, what is the far greater it is turned into?)
And… this gospel also addresses us as hosts… Because we are.
We are God’s hosts of this place.
We are to host all who come.
We are hosts to the year round folks… and the summer folks too…
We are to host our new friends who drop in for the first… second… third time and more…
And… we are the hosts of God’s table to the community… to the whole county…
You know, one of the things that really attracted me to St. Philip’s… is that it truly is the via media. The middle way.
To the west, there is great wealth. Extreme wealth.
And to the east, we have great poverty… extreme poverty…
As a priest… as your priest… it is my job to collect you all.
Jodi and I will help create space to collect you all; rich, poor, and middle class…
every race… and ethnicity…
around the sacrament of God’s body and blood.
Around this table in which we all approach humbly… where we offer the place of honor to our new friends.
And we do this, St. Philip’s…Because the world is watching.
They want to know if we will build a wall around this table.
Will we hoard the grace to ourselves? Will we gobble up the grace as if there isn’t enough to go around?
Will we hold tightly to what has been given to us by the creator of the universe…?
The world wonders if our God is a God of abundance or if she is a God of scarcity?
Is there enough grace to go around, to spread to those who visit the baby pantry and the car seat check?
To the folks who need to use this space during the week for reunification purposes… or addiction programs… or for groups who have been court appointed to be here and in various groups? For the community to gather its gifts of singing to bless others with the gift of choral music??
How will these groups see us?
How will the understand us?
What will they think of us?
Will they see us… the hosts… as a people who are willing to give up our place of honor?
Are we willing to give up our seats in service to someone who will never be able to repay us?
If they (do you mean “we”???) don’t…. Then we’re in real trouble.
Because this place screams of divine hospitality.
The lakes and the woods.
The streams and the forests.
The summer… the winter… the spring and the fall… are direct expressions of a God who loves us and wants us to be happy.
And that’s why we have been raised here, or why we moved here.
It is a place for humans to flourish.
It is a place for justice to flourish.
So, in a couple of minutes… let us gather at this rail.
Rich and poor.
Let us gather the various ethnicities and races present .
As humble guests and hosts… may we reach out for the sacrament of Grace… not for comfort only, but for strength… to carry out the very mission of God.
And may we… and may I… extend that grace to all those we encounter this week and evermore.
Because friends… the world is watching us closely.