Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey St. Martin in the Fields Evensong Sermon ~ 1 October 2017


Sermon
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
St. Martin in the Fields
Evensong ~ 1 October 2017


When we read snippets of the scriptures in church every week, we are at risk of not really knowing the full story.  Or, perhaps the preacher decides to preach one week on the Hebrew Scriptures and then the next week dip into the gospel.  Or, we might come to Evensong, and the readings are taken from the Evening Daily Office, which we may only be following, if we pray the Daily Office.  


This may be like turning into your favorite television series one week after missing a week or two, or for those of us who read to our our children at bedtime, you may be working through a beloved book, but your spouse did the bedtime reading the last two nights, and you are dipping into the story lacking the previous two chapters.


Today’s snippet of the Gospel of Luke is a marvelous look at an early part of Luke’s Gospel, and in it, Luke does a wonderful of painting a picture of a day in the life of our Lord as he does his ministry and teaching.  


Looking at where this scene falls in Luke’s gospel, a reader quickly sees that this is the first time that Jesus is teaching outside of the synagogues.  He had overcome temptation in the wilderness, and had done an exorcism and a healing, and had taught in “the synagogues of Judea,”  but this was his first time preaching the good news of God’s love for all outside of the political/religious establishment.  He preaches, and then he “catches” some disciples.


We see the creative mind of Jesus when he felt “the crowd pressing in on him,” and he decided to go out into a boat in order to continue his preaching to the crowds.  


We see that Jesus has a deep and clear understanding that what he is doing is not a mere lesson, not mere words of wisdom, not merely advice.  Jesus “sits down” on the boat and taught the crowds from the boat.  This visual of Jesus sitting down would instantly conjur up the image of the rabbis and temple elders when they would teach and preach in the synagogues.  For first century Jews, the action of sitting down to teach would signal the most formal and powerful teaching by a religious authority.


After the teaching, Jesus knows full well how difficult it can be to move through a crowd of people, and so, instead, he asks Peter to go out into deeper water in order to fish. There, in the deep water, Jesus encourages Peter to make a change, and fish on the other side of the boat.  There, the nets became so full of fish that they could not hold the fish.


Sea of Galilee - Lake Gennesaret
Its area is 166.7 km2 (64.4 sq mi) at its fullest, and its maximum depth is approximately 43 m (141 feet).[3] At levels between 215 metres (705 ft) and 209 metres (686 ft) below sea level,[4] it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake).[5]The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.


Let’s be very plain about this part of the story.  Jesus tells his new followers to go deep in order to be fed.  In order to get what they truly want, they must think creatively, and then seek the treasures of the deep.   In the deep water, the portion of the sea fed by freshwater springs, and activated by the flow of the Jordan River, there is where Jesus instructs them to find treasure.  


Once they find the treasures of the deep, in the midst of the preaching and teaching and fishing, Jesus challenges them:


“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.


The Greek verb zogron (“catching”) was commonly used of teachers: they caught their students and thereby brought them new life. Peter, James and John make a total commitment...


The disciples give up everything and follow Jesus. God often calls people right out from their everyday lives, even from their places of work.  Moses while tending sheep, Gideon while beating wheat, and Isaiah in the temple.  The disciples are “caught” by God and then give up all they had to follow Jesus.

Going out on the boat, somewhat like getting up to the balcony, getting out in a boat, getting up to 20,000 feet


Going to the deep water, living water, the deep water in this story was living water - springs and river!  Here is where the treasure is.


Use some creative thinking ~ going out onto the boat and then throwing the nets over the other side


Being prepared to “leave everything and follow.”  What are we needing to leave behind so that we can truly get out on the boat, up in the balcony, up in the sky and see as God sees?  How creative have we been in our thinking, and in our work, and living - have we thought to throw the nets over the other side?  Have we attempted to put out our nets into the deep, living,” water?  

Here is where Jesus begins his ministry of preaching a gospel of love by healing those who were thought to be beyond the pale, of welcoming those who had been cast out, and of turning the assumptions of the world upside down.  So, we too, should embrace this gospel of radical love, and be “caught” by the nets of Christ.  


The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ Sermon ~ 1 October 2017



The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon
1 October 2017

When we read snippets of the scriptures here in church every week, we are at risk of not really knowing the full story.  Or, perhaps the preacher decides to preach one week on the Hebrew Scriptures (as this preacher did last week), and then the next week dip into the gospel.  This may be like turning into your favorite television series one week after missing a week or two, or for those of us who read to our our children at bedtime, you may be working through a beloved book, but your spouse did the bedtime reading the last two nights, and you are dipping into the story lacking the previous two chapters.

So, here we are today with Jesus who enters the temple.  What an image, Jesus enters the Temple, where he teaches, where he preaches, where he opens the scrolls and expounds on the scripture he finds there. And then the elders get on his case, and argue against his interpretation:

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

You see, I could then preach an entire sermon about biblical interpretation, about the elders’ approach, and Jesus’ approach.  However, I would be missing important context.  What just happened before Matthew 21: 23?

What just happened?  What do you think?

Thankfully, like most Episcopal Churches, we have removed the Bibles from the pews.  So the question remains, what is going on in Matthew 21?

If I told you that Matthew only has 28 chapters, what might you guess about chapter 21?

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
“They brought the donkey and the cot, and put their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them...other cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road….and were shouting: Hosannah to the Son of David, Blessed be thh One who comes in the name of the Lord.  - This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
“Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of thsoe who sold doves.  “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers”

He healed the Blind and the lame
He curses the fig tree
“If you have faith and do not doubt, …. You will say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea” it will be done….whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

To sum up…

He enters the city as a conquering hero, in the same style as the worldly powers such as the emperor.

He cleanses the temple, calling out the corrupt “religious merchants” who were trying to profit off people’s religiosity.

He healed the blind and the lame - specifically forbidden by the religious powers.

When he saw a fig tree that was not producing, he cursed it...teaching them, and us, that faith like love, is an active verb, a way of life, and there should be fruits of faith that can be visible.

So, when the “elders” question his authority, they are not merely questioning his scriptural interpretation, but questioning his activity, his overturning of political and religious corruption and hypocrisy, and forcefully cleansing the temple, and dramatically inspiring those who would listen to live out their faith.  Jesus then turns the table on the questioners, and asks them “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”  They could not answer him.  Encountering the religious hierarchy, he called into question their own authority.



So, too, St. Francis was no stranger to challenging the religious hierarchy, and was clear that his authority came from God.  Quite often, when when we see a snapshot of him blessing animals, freeing a city from a wild wolf, or of him preaching to the birds, we are missing out on the larger context.  Just as reading the gospel in snippets can leave us unaware of the larger story, the entire story of Francis is life-giving.

Francis was deeply enraptured by the Incarnation, by Christ in the World.  He saw Christ in all persons, in nature, but also in even those who were poor, those without homes, those on the run, those regarded as unclean by society.  Francis surely walked the gorgeous fields around Assisi, and certainly preached to the birds, I have no doubt at all.  Likely the birds also preached to him.  However, we must expand our thinking about Francis, not merely a concrete statue in a garden, or a latter day spiritual environmentalist.  He certainly loved creation, but because it was a visible sign of God’s love for us, of Christ’s embodiment in all things, and of the Holy Spirit all around us.  

When Francis was told to “repair the church,” he first went to a church ruin, and began literally rebuilding and repairing the church.  However, God wanted him to also repair and rebuild, and restore the Church.  By his great love for the Trinity, for God in three persons, and for God expressed in the natural world, and in all people, even the poor and neglected, Francis did repair the church.  And it still needs repairing.  



Friday, September 29, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon ~ Michaelmas 29 September 2017



The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon ~ Michaelmas
29 September 2017

The marvelous Feast of Michael and All Angels, called Michaelmas reminds us of the many ways that God’s care watches over us, and God’s love wraps around us in real and tangible ways, even if we are are not always aware of it.   Surely, we know, when we take the time to sit, and really pray, that God’s creation is more rich and more grand than we can wrap our minds around in our everyday comings and goings.

Jesus speaks of the ways that God has been at work in the world from the very beginning, and then welcomes his hearers into the deep reality of God’s Kingdom even in their everyday lives.  Today’s gospel reminds us that Jesus was no mere wisdom teacher, and that God is not merely the one who created all things at the very beginning, but is at work caring for the world, and wrapping his love around the world, even in first century Palestine, and even today.  Jesus gives a glimpse of the deeper reality of God that is omnipresent.

“Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

God is at work in the world, and is on the side of the good. We have glimpses of the panoply of angels scattered around the Holy Scriptures.  We are not given detailed descriptions of these figures, but they are real enough for the Hebrews and for the followers of Jesus that they are mentioned throughout the Bible.  Jesus speaks of angels rejoicing over penitent sinners in Luke 15, and warns against misleading a child because the child’s angels behold the face of God (Mt 18:10)   In the Hebrew scriptures, we have stories of the messengers of God, figures who at first seem to be human, but then perhaps disappear, or are revealed to be otherwise.  

Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in today’s epistle. He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon.

Remembering the angels remind us that we humans are not at the top of the heap of created beings.  Of course, we may live and move and think that we are at the pinnacle, however, some heavenly inspired humility is important for us.  In addition, the model of the angels who serve God, and live out God’s love is a glorious model for us.  The stories of the angels reminds us that it seems that God empowers his willing servants to do good in the world on God’s behalf.  Our own call to love and to serve is in concert with these dramatic stories of the angels.