Notes for a More Coherent Sermon—Sept. 2nd: Serving God in the Moment

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON
1 P.M., Sunday, September 2 , 2007
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

1st Lesson: Galatians 6: 11 – 18

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 6: 24 – 34

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we
drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to worship in a wide range of settings—from Quaker meetings to an Orthodox Church baptism; took part in worship in homes, on a lakeshore and in Cathedrals; shared in Latin Masses and in praise and testimony services. God’s presence
could be felt in all these expressions of worship. It is not the form that matters to God, but the substance.

For Paul, writing to the community of believers in Galicia, outward form versus inner substantice was very important. The community was divided on whether converts to Christianity also had to be circumcised
and follow Mosaic law. Paul’s advice was to focus on what was essential to the believer, which was acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah for all people, and not be divided as a community by what individuals choose to do to express their faith. What ultimately counts is not a particular rule of life but rather the possibility for a new life in a new creation, a new relationship with God and with one another. It is not the joining of one faction within a community of believers that is so important, it is choosing to be one with God that is truly essential.

This new relationship with God does have demands, but they are internally driven and externally tested—not externally imposed with no real concern as to whether the following of the rules is heartfelt or mere habit.

Paul’s words in his Epistle are echoed in Matthew’s Gospel. The current moment is the important moment. It is now that both beauty and fear exist. We are offered the opportunity to live within the boundaries of the new creation, a choice we are freely offered but not compelled to make. The Gospel of Matthew is written with a clear
understanding that we are individuals who can make choices, that we are free within creation to accept or reject love, to accept or reject compassion, to accept or reject the gifts God offers us. There are consequences to our choices, and it isn’t always easy to choose the path of a freely embraced faith, but the choices are always there for
us. The advice in Mathew’s Gospel today is like the advice in 12 step programmes to deal with things one day, one moment at a time.

The process begins with choosing where you belong, what power you will worship. You can choose where you belong—-with God or with wealth but you can’t belong to both. You can’t walk two paths at the same time; you have to know where you are and who is with you on the journey. Once you make this choice, other choices are easier. It may
not always be easy, but at least one will have the basis to make all other decisions.

If we choose God, we are choosing to live in harmony with creation; if we reject God we are choosing a different way. Ultimately, choosing wealth is to choose neither the world or God but in the final instance to have chosen appearance over substance.

Having chosen God, and therefore chosen life, we change everything including our relationship to time. Suddenly all things, in all times and in all places, can be made new. If we focus on the moment we are in and not the future we will change how we relate to each other, to creation and to God. And if we focus on the needs and demands of the moment, we will change how the future unfolds.

It is easier both to do nothing and to accomplish something hard if the focus is on the moment. We can mediate, pray, seek to be open to the presence of God when we stop being overwhelmed by the pace of the
world and seize the moment in order to be still. The voice of God is more intensely perceived, the music of creation more fully understood, when we stop ourselves from dealing with the world in order to be closer to God.

In a different way, we can undertake massive transformations of ourselves and the world we live in through our actions in the moment. We may not be able to be sober for 20 years but we can be sober for one minute, a process that can grow to become 20 years. We may not be able to feed everyone in the world, but we likely can share
something with a hungry neighbour which can solve the problem in a small way and perhaps lead to greater sharing in the future. It is always in the moment that we act and if we can focus more on knowing how to act at this time and in this place the future will come about in a way more fully in harmony with the potential God laid out in the moment of creation.

Being more fully aware in the moment does include being aware of the entire scope of time, from creation to the end of the world. It does demand an awareness that what we choose can have an impact far greater than we can determine. It is our actions in this moment that will
help determine if a nuclear power plant will be build 20 years from now—my remembering to turn out lights when I leave a room contributes to a culture of conservation. My action in the moment is not just my own but one shared in by all those upon who it has an impact. Matthew tells us to trust ourselves to make decisions in the spirit of who we choose to serve. We will need to make grand decisions, like
whether or not to pick up a grain of salt on an Indian ocean shore, or small decisions, like what type of coffee to drink, but all decisions big and small are made in the moment. As people of faith, the more we practice living in the moment of God’s time that more we will be living in God’s shalom kingdom.

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