Notes for a More Coherent Sermon—Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON:
11:00 a.m.., October 4, 2009 – Feast of St. Francis
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave.
Toronto, Ontario

1st Lesson: Galatians 6: 14 – 18

But God forbid that I should glory, save in
the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by
whom the world is crucified unto me, and I
unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature.
And as many as walk according to this rule,
peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the
Israel of God. From henceforth let no man
trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks
of the Lord Jesus.

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with your spirit. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 11: 25 – 30

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I
thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, because thou hast hid these things
from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father:
for so it seemed good in thy sight. All
things are delivered unto me of my Father:
and no man knoweth the Son, but the
Father; neither knoweth any man the
Father, save the Son, and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come
unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest. Take my
yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am
meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find
rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

Today we commemorate St. Francis of
Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the
environment. He grew up in privilege and
yet embraced poverty; he wanted to be a
soldier and ended up being a voice for
peace; worldly in his youth, he came to
embrace a mystical relationship with the
divine. He lived the contradictions we all
do, and yet never compromised in his desire
to express the love of God in everything he
did.
St. Francis of Assisi has long been the
focus of reflection and a source of
inspiration. His call for a live of voluntary
poverty in a community of service has
inspired many who’ve joined L’arche and
Catholic Worker communities. His view
that priests should be self-supporting
participants in the life of the world inspired
the worker priest movement. His insistence
that no Franciscan speak poorly of Muslims
or the Qu’ran, arising from his experiences
in the Muslim Middle East, was an early
expression of interfaith respect and
dialogue.
His example of prayer and mediation
inspired people to join cloistered orders to
seek through active contemplation a closer
relationship with God.
In my lifetime St. Francis inspired
generations to reconsider the relationship of
humanity to the physical world, finding in
the life of St. Francis an example of respect
for all of creation.
One can even find an echo of the ideals
of St. Francis is current models of palliative
care and the hospice movement. St. Francis
did not fear death and did not fear those
that suffered. He approached everyone as
being equal in the sight of God and worthy
of respect, love and dignity.
St. Francis did not want people to see a
faithful life as a burden but as a joy. For
him, as for Matthew, there is not a harsh
set of expectations for those called to a
faithful life. It is our approach to life rather
than the rules of life that is most important.
God gave us a physical existence to
embrace; a community to embrace; a world
to embrace—if we cut ourselves off from
what we are offered we remove ourselves
from the presence of God. God wants us
to feel that our relationship with the divine
is a comfortable one, not one of fear.
If we are live openly in the presence of
God, delighting in what we are offered
within creation, we will life differently and
with fewer burdens. If we don’t worry
about status or power but do what we can
do to the best of our ability with pleasure
we will be happier and will also create a
space in which there is a little more light
and a little less misery in the world. If we
don’t cut ourselves off from the natural
world, if we act as if we are truly a part of
creation, we will inevitably move towards a
more sustainable relationship with the
world. And we will do so, not by extensive
effort, but through the very normal path of
wanting to show respect and care for a gift
that we ourselves are a part of.
While firmly rooted in the current
moment, St. Francis consistently reached
out to God in prayer, poetry and song—
giving praise for everything that came his
way and thanks for opportunities to care for
God’s creation. He preached to birds and
mediated between humans and a wolf;
comforted lepers and engaged in debate
with leaders of the Muslim world. He saw
all of his actions as a form of prayer and
thus took on the most menial of tasks and
the most exciting of tasks with equal
delight.
St. Francis offers us a reminder that
there is always good in the world that we
can help bring into the light. If we do
simple things like sharing what we have
with others, sharing the burdens and joys of
life, sharing in fulfilling the expectations of
a faithful life outlined in Micah that we are
called “To act justly and to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God.”, then we
will accomplish more than we can possibly
imagine in bringing to birth the shalom
kingdom.

“The Divine Praises”
Francis of Assisi

You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good,
Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Savior.

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