Sabbatical Sermon

NOTE:  Nancy and Don hare leaving May 14 on a sabbatical pilgrimage and will return ot St Paul’s on September 3. This is our sermon for May 14th….

Leave Taking  Easter 5 – 2017

Don:  On an airline flight 2 men sat next to one another & struck up a conversation. On discovering his seat mate was a priest the other man said “Well it is all so very simple. All religion can be summed up in “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you!”

The priest then asked what the other’s profession was. “Oh”, he said, “I am an astronomer.” Replied the priest and “That too is very simple it is just “Twinkle twinkle little star.”

Nancy:  The first letter of Peter acknowledges that we may begin our faith journey with a simple understanding, like newborn infants but reminds us we do not have to remain there.

Growing in the faith requires care and nurture, and feeding the spirit within us. Feeding it with spiritual milk as the reading suggested – feeding it by actively participating in a faith community; by engaging scripture and seeing within this spiritual library and specific books and passages the various levels of meaning as people of faith through the ages have struggled to understand how our life lived in God fits or contrasts with the world as we see it and experience it.

D:  The writer goes on to use the image of being “living stones”.  We know stones are inanimate… so how do they “live”? How can we become living stones let along build ourselves into a house?

N: Think of a coral reef. These small creatures focus their efforts on building a home that is strong, that is safe, and while it is not their primary purpose what they do benefits the environment in which they build it. It is work that is intentional and focused and brings about good for those beyond the one doing the work.

D: The stone becomes a cornerstone – chosen and precious. Remember that without power tools, working with stone was hard and laborious.  Stones for particular uses were often specifically chosen so that they would best fit the purpose and could be more easily shaped & formed for that purpose.

N: The writer of the Epistle indicates that we, as living stones, might not be chosen by a secular builder, but in God’s economy we may become the cornerstone in building something new in serving God’s people and creation.

This reading tells us that we are God’s people, chosen, not to simply be observers – but to be active in living into a deeper knowledge of who and whose we are and living out the work of God.

D: As with so many other places in the Gospels today’s passage begins with assurance in the admonition “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” That, like “do not fear” is a consistent theme of the scriptures… It is relevant because we are approaching a new time, a different time – which we have planned for and know about.  Yet it will still give us new people, new experiences and new things to think about. It will give us the ability to stretch and grow. And that can cause us to be troubled or have some latent fear about the unknowns.

N: Philip asks to see God in order to be satisfied. Jesus tells Philip that Philip can see God in Jesus. Unlike those apostles we do not directly and clearly see Jesus in the flesh or risen. Rather we see Jesus in and through other, in the breaking of bread, in the works of Jesus that we witness.

D: Jesus tells these friends and followers to ask God in Jesus’ name and it will be done. We understand that if we allow the spirit to dwell within us what we ask is more likely to be that which is in accordance with God’s dream to re-create the world as God would have it. And that work begins with God’s Spirit re-creating us in ways we cannot know or fathom.

N: Today we begin an experiment of a sort. A short time apart on different journeys, traveling in different ways, having different experiences which we will try to share with one another as we are able.

We know that if we engage this journey and these events and activities…

if we open ourselves to the experiences and the Spirit when we come back together in September we will be changed.

We will in some way be different and be better able to look again at the faith community known as St Paul’s  Jeffersonville in a new light and ask what God would have us do to live into the future where God calls us to journey.

D: A Jewish friend of mine described his son asking their rabbi “Why did God create people?”  The rabbi smiled and enthusiastically said “Because God loves stories!” Scripture is filled with stories, and as we gather here we tell various stories; and as we gather round tables in the parish hall we share stories.  In September may we have many stories to share.

May we recognize more clearly the presence of God on the journey…

May we be grateful that we have had the gift of this special time in which we have tasted that the Lord is good.

May we know gratitude for being formed as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood  – especially when we may see ourselves as odd rejected stones – so that we may we know ourselves to be chosen and precious and ready to share our story with others who need good news.

Don & Nancy

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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