Saturday, October 3, 2015

22 April 2012 - The Rev. Peter M. Carey - Emmanuel Episcopal Church - Easter 3 Sermon

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Easter 3 Sermon
22 April 2012
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

Clinging to a rock 75 feet over the ground I looked down to see two skinny women holding onto an even skinnier rope that extended up over my head to the edge of the cliff.  My forearms were already burning, and though they said we should climb with our legs, I found myself holding on for dear life, not trusting footholds, and surely not trusting the combined 230 lbs of human ballast, which was supposedly preventing me from death or disfigurement.

I was distracted by my mistrust.  I was concentrating too little on the moment in which I found myself and too little on the beautiful place where I had climbed.  My fears of heights had overtaken my excitement to finally be in the mountains of North Carolina on Outward Bound.  My mistrust in my colleagues had overtaken my sense of accomplishment that I had actually climbed 75 agonizing feet over the ground.  My forearms were burning, and I was forgetting to put my weight on my legs.  For at least 60 or 65 feet I had trusted the rope, my colleagues, the rock itself, my own abilities, and the techniques that I had learned.  However, as the rock began to pitch back, and I was climbing backward, my trust failed me, and I was left clinging to the rock.  Alone.  With burning forearms.

Have you been there?  Have you ever found yourself losing the trust, or faith, in those around you, in your family, in your friends, in your church, in God?  Our trust, or faith is most often solid when things are easy, when things are going our way, when we are coasting downhill, when we have gas in the tank, when we feel in some modicum of control over our situation.  Even when the pitch gets steep, we can trust our abilities, our friends, and our God, that all will be well.  When the pitch begins to tip back is when things get a little testy, when we get a little freaked out – or at least I do.  Not only was I not on solid ground, I was not even on vertical ground, I was sloped backwards.  There was some internal gyroscope in me that there was something just “wrong” about where I was, and so I began to cling even tighter.

Have you been there?  Just think of those early followers of Jesus, those Jews who had turned to Christ, but now Jesus had died.  And then when Peter was doing healings in his name these followers were “astonished.”  And so Peter takes them to task.  They shouldn’t be astonished, they should have learned by now that they can trust God.  They should have an enduring and an abiding faith in God.  “Why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”  They were forgetting the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God of the ancestors, and the Father of Jesus.  Of course God could heal the lame man, of course the blind could see, of course all would be well, and not just well, but abundantly joyful and wonderful.  Of course.  To put it another way, Peter was “calling them out,” was giving them one of the first “come to Jesus” talks.  They were clinging to their disbelief and their mistrust just as I was clinging to the rock.  They were clinging to the old, while God was breaking open something radically new.

“Offer the appointed sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord,” says our psalm today.  We need to offer ourselves, our souls, our bodies, our gifts, our money, our time, and then we need to put our trust in the Lord.  Not in our forearms which may want to cling to the past, not in our petty beliefs of the status quo, no.  We need to put our trust in the Lord.  Why?  Well, we are to put our trust in God so that God can break us open and pour love into us.  “See the love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”  No longer tied up to the things of the past, no longer resting on the ground, no longer clinging to the rock, but trusting that God has us on belay, that we can trust that God will hold the rope, and that we can move forward, upward, and deeper than we ever have. 

God has us on belay, we can trust God and cease our fearful clinging.  Through Jesus, we are welcomed into the light, if only we follow.  When we turn to God in trust, our hearts are filled with love and we become children of the light.

I want to walk as a child of the Light
I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars to give light to the world
The Star of my life is Jesus.

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

I want to see the Brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear Son of righteousness shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father. 

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

I'm looking for the coming of Christ
I want to be with Jesus
When we have run, with patience, the race
We shall know the joy of Jesus. 

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

Ephesians 5:8-10, Revelation 21:23, John 12:46, 1 John 1:5, Hebrews 12:1

Composer: Kathleen Thomerson (1970)

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