Notes for a More Coherent Sermon—Trinity 10

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON
11:00 AM., Sunday, August 1, 2010
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

1st Lesson: 1 Corinthians 12: 1 – 11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of
tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Gospel: Luke 19: 41 – 47(a)

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation.”

And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

And he taught daily in the temple.

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

The epistle today contains a message familiar to fans of Star Trek. Spock’s view of diversity—“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations… symbolizing the elements that create truth and beauty”—is not far from that of St. Paul. Our faith was founded on mutual respect for, and delight in, diversity. Diversities of abilities, diversity of understandings, diversities of structure. At the core is the commonality of God’s love for all, expressed differently by each of the triune God—the creator, the redeemer and the sustainer. God embodies diversity in expression, but unity in substance. The divine spirit works within all of us, encouraging both our uniqueness and our desire to work together with others to build a community.

Over the year in Toronto there are celebrations, from The Cabbagetown Festival to Caribanna to the Beaches Jazz Festival to Gay Pride week that are visual statements of the diversity of the people that make up Toronto, the
commonality of public celebration and our mutual desires to share what makes us unique with the broader world. God moves through the many faith communities in similar ways—we worship in Quaker silence and in gospel hall exuberance; we march for social justice and pray in cloistered communities; we feed the hungry and study 1,800 year old manuscript fragments. We are diverse in our responses to the presence of God, responding differently to the common call of service to God and all within creation.

We are called to be a part of a diverse community, but we don’t truly know the end result of our actions in response to this call. We don’t know the future. We live in the present, bringing our personal history and communal
experiences with us as we try and shape the future. We are called to live such that we, even surrounded by foes, don’t retreat into solitude and isolation. We are to remain present in the world, acting in the public spaces, teaching in the communal centres, being a force for loving transformation even if we aren’t sure of the way towards the goal. We are promised that if we feed the hungry we will be in the presence of God; we are assured that we will be blessed if we work for peace in a world of conflict. We come to know the shalom kingdom by its echoes in the current moment. We shape the shalom kingdom when we care for one another, when we don’t accept violence as inevitable or treat war as normal, when we don’t create barriers of hatred and distrust between ourselves and others, when we seek to live in harmony with creation and not as its exploiter. We build the shalom kingdom in our efforts to live in it in the here and now.

The world around us is not a peaceful place, but it always contains the seed of peace. We read of wars and read of reconciliation; we learn of a nationalism based on violence and hate, the essence of Nazism, and learn of a nationalism based on love and inclusion, the essence of Ghandi’s philosophy. We have free will and examples around us of a world closer in harmony to divine will for creation; we need to learn to see what is around us and be open to the quiet, sustained prompting urging us always towards the light, towards hope, towards peace. It takes an act of won’t to turn away from the light, to turn from what is truly human and liberating to what is hardening and burdening and corroding.

When Jesus came into the presence of something he saw as a betrayal of what was good in a communal, religious life he didn’t turn away or engage in dialogue. He acted. Like the anarchist black bloc, he destroyed privately controlled property to make a broader statement. Those that were making a profit from the strongly felt desires of those coming to the temple to worship and make sacrifices were attacked and driven away from their commercial activities. A place of commerce was turned upside down and the spirit of worship permitted to return. The response of the religious community to this action of Jesus deserves note—he wasn’t turned away; he wasn’t criticized. The gospel tells us that after he overturned the tables of those that sold in the temple precepts he taught in the temple for many days. Jesus was not rejected by the religious leaders for his violence; Jesus wasn’t viewed solely as someone who responded forcefully to greed and hypocrisy. Jesus was treated as someone who had something to say. He had views and knowledge worthy of passing on and the skills to do so.

We are given similar opportunities to Jesus on a daily basis. We are challenged by the homeless on heating grates and the lingering presence of nuclear weapons. We are confronted by injustice and greed and hypocrisy in the news and in the records of legislative debates. We are challenged to turn swords into ploughshares or at least put an end to military trade shows. We are called to action to bring our faith to life in the public arenas, not to take power but to make the world better for those around us. Equally, we are called to help make sense of faith, to teach our traditions and reasons for our actions, to help others make sense of the many ways that a living faith can be expressed, to give shape to a vision of a peaceful, just, hopeful world—the shalom kingdom being born. We don’t know how the future will unfold, but we can shape it by the way we act in the present.

We may not be certain of how to act in the world, but we do know that we will act in it, either by doing something or by not doing something. We need to start by making the basic decision of what side we are on and from this all things develop. As the Niahnawbe elder Art Solomon tells us in words I wish to conclude with:

“If we choose to be on the side of that great Positive Power we have no choice but to set our hearts and minds against the destruction around us, but thought without action is useless. We must be on one side or the other and how we involve ourselves must be the free choice of everyone. If we choose to act, we must act intelligently and with common sense. It means we will do everything in our power to understand the questions that we choose to involve ourselves with. But whatever we are, we must be action people, even if the only action possible is prayer.”

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