Slowly, but surely, we are beginning some activity. The Evening Prayer service on Zoom on Wednesday evening was delightful. It was great to see familiar faces again. That service will continue this coming Wednesday, thanks to the work of Tina Barton and Tom Miller. If you would like to have the link, please let the Office know. Some of us gathered this morning in the side yard at 9 for a service of Holy Eucharist. Holy Eucharist on the porch is Wednesday at 8 AM and in the side yard weather permitting on Sundays at 9. Remember that masks are mandatory as is social distancing.
We continue to seek bids for replacing the roof on the Chapel. They have been frustratingly slow in coming. Meanwhile, we continue to be amazed at your ongoing generosity. The bills are all paid as of today, with just a little bit left in the bank. Thank you for not adding money issues to the host of other concerns.
Our sympathy is extended to David Bryant and his family on the death of his father Emory this past week and to Susan Smith and her family on the death of her husband, Mark, in Florida yesterday. Please remember them in your prayers and please remember the sick, the distressed and harassed and fearful, our country and town, and don’t forget to be thankful for our many, many blessings. Let us know if we can help you.
Genesis 18: 1-15
Romans 5: 1-8
Matthew 9: 35-10:8
How wonderfully clear the Gospel is for this morning. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers few so go. . .” and to his disciples “go” for some specific purposes, ones that are the same as Jesus: cure the sick, cast out demons (bring healing ) and preach. Preach one message, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you”. God reigns. The fullness of the love and compassion of His Kingdom is near. He is in charge. Jesus and His love are close, right in front and behind and all around you, and He and His love will not be confounded. That is what Jesus says is Gospel, is Good News, and it brings life and hope and peace to those who hear and receive it.
Considering this passage there can be little doubt about at least two things. First, we are Jesus’ disciples now, the ones He sends out now armed with the power of the Holy Spirit and with the same obligation to bring healing, compassion, love, life the Good News of the Kingdoms’ nearness, Jesus presence here and now. And secondly, the crowds among whom we live are perhaps even more harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, that those of Jesus’ day. Confusion, fear, judgementalism, division, and the death of even the knowledge of things spiritual seem to hold sway. People are hungry for good News!
What exactly, though do we have to offer? The Rev. Dick Reid, once Dean of Virginia Seminary, loved to talk about grace. He referred to grace as a gift certificate, not a rule book. Or as one of my favorite definitions describes it, “as one-way love”. Romans this morning puts it this way; “While we were still weak (sinners), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” This is foundational to Pauls’ preaching and teaching. Jesus died for us, not when we proved ourselves worthy, not when we had become good enough, not when we had it all figured out, but while we were still weak, struggling sinners. This, says Paul, is absolute proof of God’s unswerving, unconditional love for each of us.
This is a decidedly different message than what we so constantly hear from the world around us. The world tells us all the time that we must have the right opinion, the right skin color, the right background, and education to matter and really be counted. We are constanly asked to prove ourselves from security checks to temperature checks, to stellar performances. Commercials encourage us to make ourselves lovable (or at least sexy and attractive) with the right hair color, make up, clothes, and scent. So much so is this the case that the Gospel is so foreign a concept as to be unbelievable. So, then we become slaves to public opinion and perception, slaves to our own fears and the need for love and acceptance. Yet the message of utter acceptance and unconditional love lies at to very heart and soul of our Christian faith, a gift certificate, not a rule book, no hurdles to be jumped and no hoops to jump through. You are loved and I am loved by God in Jesus, proven undeniably by the sacrifice of HIs Son. Karl Barth was one of the great theologians of the last century. He wrote tomes about Christian theology. One day he was asked what was the most important thing he had learned as a result of all of his thought and research. Hs answer was simple. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
That is the Good News, astonishing as it is amazing, almost incredible as it is. It is also true that from the knowledge of Jesus and His gift certificate of one-way love flows a certain way of life, but it is not a life of slavery, bondage and rules. Rather, it is a life of freedom, the freedom that only unbridled, unconditional, unfettered love can give us. It is deep acceptance of us with all our deepest fears and longings and needs. In baptism we are sealed, signed, marked as Christ’s own forever and nothing, no one, can ever remove or erase that mark that has moved us to the realm of love, surrounded us with the nearness of the Kingdom.
Let there be no doubt. The harvest is plentiful. We disciples and believers have quite a job ahead of us, a job of joy to tell all ears of the gift certificate of one way love made out to each of us by God Himself, of grace. That certificate says “I love you and want you and I long for you, my child”. Open your eyes and ears and hearts to know the unbridled, unfettered, unconditional love and acceptance that will bring you peace, freedom, joy and life. Indeed, the Kingdom of God has come near and we are the proof.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son
Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to
strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior
Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,
to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou
art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus. Amen.
O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts
of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold
and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend
them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both
they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together
by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the
fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
May the Lord Jesus Christ who serves with wounded hands help you to serve each other.
May the Lord Jesus Christ who loves with a wounded heart help you to love each other and your neighbors.
Praise God wherever you may go and may you see the face of God in everyone you meet
And the blessing of God Almighty: Father Son and Holy Spirit be with you this day and always. AMEN