Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) (Green);

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Readings   1 Kings 19:1-7, 8-15A; Psalm 42 & 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Collect        O God our defender, storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Alt 1            Lord, you step upon on our guarded shore and confront our chaos: may we who are divided and overwhelmed by the forces of death learn from you to speak our own name and proclaim your works of life; through Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God. Amen.

Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt.

Alt 2           God, our refuge and hope, when race, status or gender divide us, when despair afflicts us, and community lies shattered, comfort us with the stillness of your presence, so that we may confess all you have done; through Christ, to whom we belong and in whom we are one. Amen.

Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002) alt. 

Prayer over the Gifts

Eternal God, you have made our Saviour Jesus Christ the head of all creation. Receive all we offer you this day and renew us in his risen life, in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

Prayer After Communion

Almighty God, guide and protect your people who share in this sacred mystery, and keep us always in your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

First Reading

A READING FROM THE FIRST BOOK OF KINGS

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.”
1 KINGS 19:1-4 (5-7), 8-15A

Psalm
PSALM
REFRAIN When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.

My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long they say to me, “Where now is your God!” R

I pour out my soul when I think on these things: how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God,

With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among those who keep holy-day. R

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God. R

My soul is heavy within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.

One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts; all your rapids and floods have gone over me. R

The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime; in the night season his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to the God of my strength, “Why have you forgotten me? and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?” R

While my bones are being broken, my enemies mock me to my face;

All day long they mock me and say to me, “Where now is your God?” R

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God. R

PSALM 42

PSALM
REFRAIN When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

For you are the God of my strength; why have you put me from you? and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me? R

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me? R

Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God. R

PSALM 43

Second Reading

A READING FROM THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE GALATIANS

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

GALATIANS 3:23-29

Gospel
THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO LUKE

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

LUKE 8:26-39

SERMON

Let us pray.

Eternal Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

AMEN

[10 am – We have gathered today to worship God and to welcome Breanna into the family of God – to join us in being “In Christ”, as St. Paul described it in the letter to the Galatians we read today. Breanna will be co-equal with all of us in this walk along the “The Way” to which Jesus calls us.]

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Paul writes to the Galatians, and through them to us.

But it just isn’t true – is it?

We are a people of tiny boxes – categories that we have neatly lined up in our own minds for the “kinds” of people we encounter in our lives and in the news.

Despite the nineteen hundred years of the existence of this passage of scripture, there are yet Jews in our minds. And, despite thousands of years of violence against Jewish people they still exist as a category in our minds and our preconceptions. We carry around scurrilous notions about their savvy with money, their control of the entertainment industry, and their undue influence in world affairs. So, despite St. Paul’s contention, there are still Jews.

There are still “Greeks” in our existence. I didn’t know what the stereotypes about Greeks were, but I looked them up for today. Apparently, some people think the Greeks are lazy, corrupt, effeminate, and untrustworthy swindlers.

My only experience of Greek folks is that they have been good cooks, but even that places them in a tight and narrow box.

But what was the category that St. Paul was writing about when he wrote that there was no more Greek, in comparison to Jews. Perhaps, and even likely, he was talking about “gentiles” – those on the outside of the Jewish religion of Jesus and his followers. The opposite of a Jew is a gentile – someone unclean, a sinner, and generally to be avoided.

So, there are decidedly still religious outsiders in our minds and our prejudices. The news has been filled with stories about outsiders being the perpetrators and the victims of violence, exclusion, and hate. Jews, Muslims, First Nations religious practitioners, Buddhists, Hindus, and on and on and on. There are Christians who worship God in a different way from us. There are, in fact, Anglicans who worship a bit differently from us.

All of these are “other” or “them” to our “we” and “us”.

If our practice of religion requires that we treat someone with disdain, hatred, violence, or even mere disregard simply because they are on the outside of how we do religion here, then we have missed the point of Jesus message of loving your neighbour as yourself.

For St. Paul, and ideally for his squabbling Galatian Christian readers and by extension to us here and now, there is to be no religious insider or outsider among Christians. The heirs of Abraham, Paul tells us, are heirs of the promises of God.

Paul writes that there is no longer slave or free among the followers of The Way; that distinctions of class, caste, and birthright are ended.

But is it true?

Have we managed to set aside any of these things and exist in the unity of the Christian family that Paul describes? I think the answer is likely pretty clear that as a species we have not.

The International Justice Mission, a team of Christian lawyers, estimates that there are approximately 40 million people held in slavery right this very minute[1]. They are working at the jobs that slaves have always done – mining, agriculture, and sex. There are even slaves still doing the job that the Israelites escaped Egypt to get away from – brick making.

Where enough people in the world to populate Canada can still be bought and sold in slave markets for bonded labour and sex trafficking, it is clear to me that we have not ended the scourge of slavery on each other.

There is still slave and free in the world.

“There is no longer male and female”, we are told.

Is there much evidence that there is no difference between men and women?

Have men and women been subject to the same standards? Have men and women been given equal share of opportunity to succeed by the measure of their own choosing? Can men and women expect to make the same amount of money doing the same work?

Can a person love who they choose without fear of deadly violence?

I think it is likely clear that there are gaps yet to be bridged. It is true that some progress has been made in gender justice in society, but there is still a lot work to do.

We are creatures with the capacity to act in any way that we choose. We have been created with the free-will to do as we please.

Our actions are our own.

The thing about God-given freewill is that is was given in equal measure to every person.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

So, I think it’s pretty clear that, as a species, we have some things to work on while we fumble about on this Way that is laid out before us.

But … and this I believe to be important … God has entrusted us with getting there. He created us, He knows all too well what we are like.

In the eyes of the God of all creation, the one true God, we are all His. We are beloved of God. Jesus, God’s own Son, walked among us and was slain by us to prove that God loves us and trusts us.

In God’s eternal eyes “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one.”

The “one” is powerful.

While there is little evidence that we are leaving racial, religious, gender, or class difference behind in this life here on earth, the ultimate goal of God in one-ness.

Unity with God, is to be desired, is to be our goal for this life. God has assured us that oneness and unity are ours already.

We see the unity of the Body of Christ dimly in this world. Unfortunately, it is often in the wake of humanity being cruel and violent that we get to see glimmers of it.

Three years ago this month there was a shooting in a nightclub in Florida. It came to mind as I was preparing for today, for some reason. The same reason, I suspect, that the murder of Matthew Shepherd comes to mind each October.

Anyway, I re-read the text of a speech by the Lieutenant Governor of the state of Utah at the vigil following the massacre. Now just to set the stage a bit – Lt Gov. Spencer Cox is a pretty thoroughly Republican guy. He rose through the ranks of the Republican Party, a Mormon with strict religious views on lots of public policy topics. He’s not a Tea Party guy, but still a pretty conventional social conservative.

He rose to speak at a vigil this week to address a crowd of people gathered to memorialize the 49 dead and 52 injured in the nightclub shooting in Orlando Florida.

We’ll just pause there for a moment – there are, as we speak this morning, 49 families in Florida mourning their dead because someone decided that Gay folks shouldn’t have anywhere that they can feel safe.

So, The Lt Gov of Utah rose to address the crowd gathered for the vigil in Salt Lake City.

I can almost imagine the expectations of the crowd, “another politician coming to where the crowds are gathered to deliver the usual platitudes about ‘thoughts and prayers’.”

What happened though was a surprise. It was, I firmly believe, a glimpse of the one-ness, the unity, in which God created us to live. That He, in fact, died to usher in.

That man stood before that weeping and mourning crowd and delivered a heartfelt apology for his own transgressions against the community whose members had been slain and maimed in Florida. He apologized for the bullying, indifference, and dehumanizing behaviour he had exhibited toward specific people of his own acquaintance.

He asked forgiveness and, as best I can tell, was granted forgiveness for abusing children of God.

We are all people, the culmination of God’s creation.

We are all children of God.

We are all beloved of God.

We are all called to be ONE. [10 am – One with each other and now one with Breanna.]

Jesus’ message to all of his followers is that we should love each other in the same way that the Father loves him and he loves the Father. It is not, however, limited to people just like him.

He never promised that the loving would be easy. In fact, he pretty much promised that it would not be easy. [Breanna’s life will, even with your best efforts, not be an easy one.]

Humanity is well practiced at fractiousness and dis-unity. Suspicion, hate, and violence come easily to our species.

Yes – we are called to tell people about the good news of unity and one-ness with God that Jesus delivered in His time among us on Earth.

We are also called to dust ourselves off and move along if people are unready or unwilling to hear it – to respect the free-will that God granted to others as much as to us.

But whether someone joins us on the Way or not is not for us to enforce, NOR does it provide a reason to stop loving and seeking unity.

We are called to love our neighbours – all of them.

Love thy Jewish neighbour.
Love thy Gentile neighbour.
Love thy Muslim neighbour.
Love thy Black neighbour.
Love thy homeless neighbour.
Love thy immigrant neighbour.
Love thy Disabled neighbour.
Love thy Male neighbour.
Love thy Female neighbour.
Love thy Gender ambiguous neighbour.
Love thy Gay neighbour.
Love thy Straight neighbour
Love thy Atheist neighbour.
Love thy Christian neighbour.

Love them all as you love yourself.

It is not easy.

But like the love of the man forgiven the big debt by his creditor, we cannot anticipate that the people that are easy to love in this life will help us build the character and deepened love to which we are called – it is the ones who are toughest to love that will teach us the most about love and loving.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)

[10 am – Breanna, welcome to the family. You are beloved by God, by your immediate family, and by the family on The Way to which Jesus pointed.]

Let us pray.

Merciful God, you call us to Love. We are out of practice when it comes to those we dislike and those who are so very different from us. Teach us and grant us the grace to be:
– poor in spirit, that we may know your Kingdom of justice and one-ness;
– mournful, that we my be comforted of all the cruelty that humanity inflicts on itself;
– meek, that we may inherit the earth as you intended us to receive it;
– hungry and thirsty for your righteousness, that we my be so filled with the experience of your love that we may show it to others;
– merciful to others, that we may shown mercy when we fall short of your plan for us;
– pure in heart, that we may recognise you in the face of those who are different from us;
– peacemakers, that we may be instruments of your peace;
– and, ready to bear persecution, that we may inherit your kingdom.

AMEN.

[1] https://www.ijm.ca/slavery-today (Accessed 19-0622)