Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pressing on to the Upward Call

Lively conversation followed today's service at "Coffee Plus". Below are the readings and the sermon given under the title:

"Pressing on..."

The Lessons Appointed for Use on the

Sunday October 5, 2008

Year A
Proper 22

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."

Psalm 19 Page 606, BCP

Caeli enarrant


The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.


One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.


Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,


Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.


In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.


It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.


The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *

the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.


The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.


The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *

the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.


More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.


By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.


Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.


Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said, "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, [PBB1] put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.[PBB2] Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.'[PBB3] So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time."

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:

`The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone; [PBB4]

this was the Lord's doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes'?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you[PBB5] and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

“Pressing On…”

You shall love God and you shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. Sound simple enough? What if I told you that to love your neighbor that meant beginning with your mother and father? Simple enough for some but certainly not for all!

Some Christian Psychiatrists postulate that to love your neighbor, you must begin with mother and father. How can that be when there is so much abuse and so many wounds among so many? The reconciliation of brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons can be a daunting challenge for many of us. Jesus recognized this, did he when he spoke of the conflict that he would bring into this world between those within one’s most immediate family.

When Jesus spoke of loving our neighbor, he noted too that when the dying victim lie at the roadside, it was not the priest or the Levite that ministered to the unfortunate, but it was the Samaritan, the roundly detested Samaritan who became neighbor to the helpless and hapless one.

Still it is good to have standards for behavior as set forth by the Ten Commandments. After all, if Wall Street and investment bankers has known not to worship the graven image on the so called “Almighty dollar” we might not find ourselves in the midst of the financial crisis we’re mired in just now. It appears we have no choice but bail out the very bankers who indulged in those practices that delivered us into the economic crisis we’re in. You and I would not be rewarded with such a bail out would we?

At the same time that Sallie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and a host of other financial institutions were being baled out of the financial implosion of their excesses one 90 year old woman in Ohio was being evicted from her home…a home she worked for all her life. Predatory lenders wrote her a reverse mortgage when she in turn could not afford and so when the sheriff came to evict her from her home, she could not face the loss of her home and did the unthinkable.

Ah yes…the Ten Commandments stand firmly placed in the center of the human condition. It is still a good idea to set aside a day of rest, to respect the holy name of God, to honor our parents even when they don’t turn out all that well, not to steal, lie, kill or covet what belongs to another, and to keep the promises you made to the one you promised to love. The whole of the Law of God is not so hard when you think of it.

And whether we live on Wall Street, The Capitol or on Main Street, USA, the law of God is still in force and still makes sense even when humanity thinks that there may be a way around the ways of God.

Those that wear the fancy robes such as I wear Sunday after Sunday had better watch out too. Jesus came into the world for many reasons. But chiefest among them was the cause of forgiveness of human sin. He wanted us to know what the Scribes and the Pharisees seemed to forget so easily…that the folks who had been expelled from the Temple were God’s beloved too.

They were common folk like fishermen. There were the notorious sinners like the prostitutes and the tax collectors, the poor the sick, the lame, the lepers of his time…and now there are outcast and the marginalized of our own time

Sometimes the Doctors of the Law of God wrote these folks out of the embrace of the love of Jesus.

But I’ve got news for you…wonderful news; for whether you are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, liberal or conservative…you are among the beloved of God.

And beyond that whatever sin you have committed or can’t quite conquer…God love you too…for this I know. The sublime words of the Blessed Apostle Paul are true, “forgetting what lies behind, I press on toward the upward call of Jesus to make it my own”….For as I die to the old way of sin and death, and as I press on toward this upward call, I emerge into the risen life of Jesus Christ our Lord.


There was lots of lively conversation today at "Coffee Plus" about the Gospel passage. We wondered about the landpwner, who we ended up thinking of as God, the Watchtower, which we thought of as the Temple in Jerusalem...its hedge as the walls that surround the Temple and the grapes as the people of God and their righteous deeds, especially in the Christian context as love, forgiveness and reconciliation. The slaves of the landowner are the prophets who were shamefully treated in each generation. The tenants are the Chief Priests, the Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law and the elders, who study each word of the law and forget its spirit.

Particularly, we noted that when Jesus came, he sought out the common fisherfolk, and then the tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the lame, the maimed...all of those who had been systematically excluded from the Temple life...Jesus gave the inclusive and healing touch to. Ultimately the son was also killed by those tenants..and so was Jesus. Thus the stone which the bulders rejected became the head of the corner upon which Jesus would build the new community of faith. And THAT is truly amazing in our eyes. Thus we ALL become the beneficiaries of the Grace of God and the Goodness of God and the Love of God. And THAT is amazing in our eyes.

We have a grand time at "Coffee Plus", our adult forum after church. We meet from around 11:30 until a little after noon or so. It is time well spent. Come join us any Sunday.

Fr. Paul

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