Monday, July 27, 2020

Year A Proper 12 2020 A Sermon from the Rev. Becky McDaniel

Sermon for July 26th, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12
The Rev. Becky McDaniel
St. Catherine’s School
Video service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

Collect: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52
Jesus put before the crowds another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

In today’s gospel Jesus gives us some of the most powerful images of the
kingdom of heaven, well-known and loved images like the mustard seed
and the yeast and the pearl of great price, images that the children I have
accompanied in Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
recognize immediately from their work with and exploration of parables.
Being at home for so long now, I find myself yearning to touch the tiny
mustard seed, to prepare the yeast and the flour, to watch the children
gently and reverently handle the small pearl during their time in the atrium.
Those precious moments of wonder seem so far; indeed the kingdom of
heaven is feeling very far off lately. Of course I know that the kingdom of
heaven is not distant, as Bishop Porter Taylor reminded us in his diocesan
sermon last week, “the gate of heaven is wherever you are.” He is right,
and as Jesus shows, the kingdom manifests as we tend it, as we care for
it, as we give it our attention and our trust. It is hidden and tiny when we
do not tend it or when we fail to draw our awareness to its presence.

For the last six months I have been thinking a lot about the kingdom of
heaven as the way of love. In all that we face, I find myself struggling to
move forward in hope if I do not pay close attention to the way of love.
Anger and frustration arise so easily these days. I have to stop myself,
and remember to begin from a place of love. It is a practice, and one that
is often three steps forward, two steps back. Just turn on the television or
the computer and you face the risk of getting swept out of love very 
quickly. Betrayal and cynicism are on the rise in our culture, and this is
particularly affecting the young. As a school chaplain, I have listened to
many young people express a deep despair and a growing doubt in the
power of love. In her enlightening book, all about love, bell hooks says

When [she] travels around the nation giving lectures about ending racism and sexism, audiences, especially young listeners, become agitated when[she] speaks about the place of love in any movement for social justice.Indeed, all the great movements for social justice in our society have strongly emphasized a love ethic. Yet young listeners remain reluctant to embrace the idea of love as a transformative force.”

Bell hooks cites cynicism and fear as the great barriers to love. It is
cynicism and fear that pull us away from the kingdom of heaven, away
from the way of love. She goes on to say that “being part of a loving
community does not mean we will not face conflicts, betrayals, negative
outcomes from positive actions, or bad things happening to good people.
Love allows us to confront these negative realities in a manner that is lifeaffirming and life-enhancing.”

So the question we all must ask ourselves as we walk this journey of love,
as we venture towards the kingdom of heaven, is how do we overcome
the cynicism and the fear that continue to creep onto our paths, especially
as they affect our children so profoundly? How do we not, in the words of
John Lewis, “get lost in a sea of despair?” How do we guide our youth to
reclaim the way of love?

In answering this question I would like to offer a story.

About this time last year I was serving at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
in Richmond, and our family ministry team led a youth mission trip in the
city. Rather than travel outside of our community, we put together a
program based on the principles of “becoming beloved community” to
study the history of Richmond and the need for continued work in healing
reconciliation. We stayed overnight at Richmond Hill and gathered for
daily worship before and after learning and working primarily in the East
End. One of the highlights of our time together was under the leadership
of Rev. Tee Turner, retired Baptist pastor and former director of the Peter
Paul Development Center. Rev. Turner led us along the slave trail, and we
began our journey at the foot of the Confederate monument of soldiers
and sailors in Libby Hill Park. In a profound opening talk about the history
of enslaved people in our city, Rev. Turner shared his experience with the
statue overlooking the James River. He told us about a transformational
moment in his life when he found himself looking at that statue and feeling
the intense pain that he as an African-American had suffered. And then he
said that he was suddenly overcome with a grief that arose from a very
different perspective. He realized that this statue represented not just
Confederate soldiers who had fought and died, but loved ones lost:
brothers, fathers, sons, and husbands. Rev. Turner said that the
Confederates "built that monument out of grief, and they need to be
healed as well.” Walking the way of love, Rev. Turner was able to hold
pain and anger in one hand and grief and forgiveness in the other. His
story prepared our hearts for the work to be done, and on our way back to 
Richmond Hill at the end of that day, one of the high school boys said to
me, “I think that I have learned more in this one day than I did all year in
school.” Because what we had learned was more than facts and historical
accounts; we had learned how to hold space for hurt, pain, betrayal, as
well as grief for those who would hurt you, forgiveness for those who
caused extensive damage and wounds that still need healing. We learned
what bell hooks wrote in her book: “Love allows us to confront these
negative realities in a manner that is life-affirming and life-enhancing.”
We, and the generations that follow, must embrace this way of love, this
doorway into the kingdom of heaven, what Jesus describes when he
speaks of the mustard seed and the pearl of great price: that which opens
us to another way of seeing the person standing across from us, the
person turning away in disagreement, and yes, even the person who has
betrayed us. Because love, if it is true and if it is tended, will indeed grow
like the mustard seed and make a kingdom of heaven for us all. There is
much work to be done; may we have the courage and the awareness to
do this kingdom work from a place of love. Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi! Thanks for wanting to comment. Please add it here, and after a moderator reviews it, it will be posted if appropriate. Look forward to hearing your opinion.
Blessings, Rock