Monday, January 18, 2021

Year B 2nd Epiphany 2021 Eternal Truths in a Self-Absorbed Times

 Year B 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, 17 January 2021

Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Eternal Truths in a Self-Absorbed Time”

Collect: Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

John 1:43-51

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Good morning, friends. I so appreciate you, and I treasure that I get to serve as the Rector of St. James the Less. Even in these days, especially in these days, we need each other all the more.

Since last March, our world has turned upside down. And yet, we are still here. We are entering into a week that will test the mettle of our character, both as a nation as each of us individually. Never would I, could I, have imagined what took place on January 6th at the Capitol. 

Harrison had recorded his sermon before the events on the 6th, which is why we did not hear him allude to it in his message. I was able to add two prayers for our nation, though. Because of that I wanted to peel back the cover on how things happen now. In my 30 years of ministry, there have been many a night when I had to rewrite a sermon on a Saturday night because of what transpired that day. Now, we are preaching to empty rooms days before the sermon is delivered to you. So it takes days to prepare the sermon, 10 minutes to give it, 20 if you are Harrison... 

(Love you, Harrison.)

...10 minutes to preach it, a day to edit, a half day to upload. The added steps take significant time and effort to make it happen. Think back to March when I was holding up shaky hymn sheets compared to where we are now. And this will be where we are for the coming months. 

For most of us, that is so hard to hear. We are tired of this. We want to get back in the church. We want to get back together. We want to shake hands and hug necks. When I think of Sundays past, my favorite parts were the Greeting Line after service, and even more, serving each of you in the Eucharist. Taken, blessed, broken, and given. That is how we looked at the bread, the host. But it could also be a description of us. I would even say that it should be a description of us. 

We are a privileged lot. Many of us have comfortable lives, and have been relatively protected over the last few months. We have been Taken from the hardships, the true hardships, that so many of our brothers and sisters have faced. We have been Blessed. We have the freedom and opportunity to still worship, even though apart, jointly. We interact in the chat or the comments. We connect in classes and online coffee hours. We call, send cards, share memes and jokes, to make the days go by easier. 

But looking ahead, these are the hard days. These are the days when we are done, or feel like we are. A vaccine has miraculously emerged in mere months. Wow! But even so, we need to decide to continue on doing the hard work and remaining apart for the safety of the most vulnerable. We are being Broken, broken of the need to get our own way, broken of the privilege of demands, broken from the desire to ignore the hard truths that this virus a little over a year old has killed 2 million people worldwide, just shy of 400,000 in the USA alone. They say, “Ignorance is Bliss.” We are being broken of the privilege of remaining Ignorant.

But like the bread, we are finally Given. I believe that if nothing else, these last months have taught us how much we need Church. Stephanie, my wife, was talking to me about this. She was so right, and I hope she will write this up as an article. She gets all the credit. But we miss Church, and will not take it for granted ever again. We miss each other. We miss what we are about. I believe that coming out of this time of being Taken, Blessed, and Broken, we will see a season of being Given. I predict that we will see a resurgence and renaissance of sharing and incarnating the Good News of Jesus Christ! The world needs Good News now as much as any time in human history.

In today’s Gospel reading, I eventually needed to get back to the Gospel reading, we see Nathaniel in his cynicism. When his brother says he has found the promised Messiah, Nathaniel expresses his doubts. When Nathaniel hears Jesus is from Nazareth, we hear his true thoughts. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

I love his brother’s response. I think that we can shift and use this very often in the emerging world post-pandemic. “Come and see.” Nathaniel was taken from where he was, blessed by his brother, broken of his old way of seeing, and given out as a disciple and apostle of his Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friends, do not see these days as a punishment, but rather a crucible. The Church will be here to proclaim Truth and Love, and to stand in stark opposition to any who say otherwise. Pilate asked, “What is Truth?” Jesus was silent in his trial, but had previously taught his followers that he was the Truth. (“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6)And more so, “The fool says in their heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 10:4) But we know that “God is love” (I John 4:8) Truth and Love. That is the business we need to be about.

Friends, I do not know what today will bring. And I do not know what will transpire between when I record this and when it airs on Sunday. Or between now for me, and when you hear it. But these eternal truths are the same today, tomorrow, and always.

We are called to bring light, not heat to the world. The world has enough heat with all that is transpiring. We are called to bring out the God-flavors, not to leave a sour taste in peoples’ mouths. We are called to share and live in Truth, for Truth will set us free. We are called to Love, for they will know we are Christians BY OUR LOVE. Nothing else. 

Love, Peace, and Grace be yours! And get ready to be Given, to the Glory of God! Amen


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Blessings, Rock