Archives: Proper 4

Sabbath of Joy

Our scriptures today are all about Sabbath, which is supposed to mean rest. But “keeping the Sabbath” across generations in the church often turned into grim adherence to strict traditions rather than true rest and refreshment.

It was as if people were supposed to work hard at resting!

We sometimes think of Christianity as hard work—and it undoubtedly is.

We have to work against our old familiar sins and pray for God to help us increase in virtue and generosity.

But at heart, Christianity is not about work.

Suffering and struggle are vital parts of the journey that have their own unique spiritual value, but suffering and struggle and work always lead somewhere else. And that somewhere to which they lead is joy.

The Bible is full of joy.

The entire purpose of the Bible is to communicate the joy of salvation—it even says so: “We are writing these things to you that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4).

The psalmist says of God, “You show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11). The opening line of our psalm this morning is, “Sing with joy to God our strength.” (Psalm 81:1)

And Jesus says to us directly of his entire message to us, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11).

The church is a place of joy that encourages the believers and strengthens them to go out and serve in the world.

In Acts we read that “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52).

Paul writes over and over to the congregations of the early church about how their prayers and good works and simple presence as people give him such joy. He tells the believers in Thessalonica, “Yes, you are our glory and joy!”

Paul writes about an upcoming visit to the Romans, “Join me in earnest prayer to God…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” (Romans 15:30-33).

That is my prayer for St. Francis this summer as well, that we may abide in joy and take refreshment from one another’s company in this church.

You have worked so hard! I want you to take these summer months to really enjoy church. Continue reading

Abolitionists 2016

We’re going to start with seems like a happy little story about great faith, and we’re going to make it really complicated.

But we’re going to make it complicated because that is what we have to do to be faithful to the Holy Spirit.

Let’s review what happens in our gospel story today. A centurion has a slave that becomes very ill. He sends Jewish elders to Jesus to testify to his good character, that he is in fact a significant financial benefactor of the Jewish community, and ask that Jesus heal his slave.

He says that he is unworthy for Jesus to come under his roof, and that he understands how power works.

Jesus is amazed at his faith and heals the slave.

Hooray, everyone lives happily ever after!

Well, everyone lives happily ever after if we ignore the elephant in the room. The man who was healed is still enslaved!

Luke doesn’t seem to care that slavery is a basic fact of life in his society, in fact, it was so normal that it wouldn’t have occurred to him to care.

But we have to care. We have a moral responsibility to care.

We have to care because it is not normal in our country today, because we have a deep and twisted past in this nation around slavery, and because it is still an all too regular fact of life in other countries around the world.

In fact, I can’t really say that slavery is not normal in America today, because the commercial lanes of human trafficking are alive and humming right here in Indiana.

As strange as it is to have to stand here in a pulpit in 2016 and say slavery is a problem that we need to deal with, it is.

And here we have a Biblical text in which Jesus seems to offer no protest to the institution of slavery.

He heals the enslaved man, but he does not free the enslaved man.

What do we do with that? Continue reading

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