Sermon preached today at St. Luke's Epsicopal, Blue Ridge, GA, by The Rev. Victor Morgan
Easter 3 (MP-1) (2019)
A young mother returned from her first Mother’s Day service in an Episcopal Church and was sorely disappointed. It seems that Mother’s Day in the church in which she grew up was much bigger – second perhaps only to Christmas or Easter. But in this service the day got bare recognition . . . and they even ran out of red carnations.
Well, here at St. Luke’s we aim for the middle way . . . the via media between making it Holy Mother’s Day and ignoring the holiday all together. While continuing to focus on the theme suggested in our appointed lessons, we nevertheless, try not to short change our mothers or fail to note the importance of the home.
This last – the importance of the home -- is of particular is importance at this time. How so? Because the homes in which many of us grew up are almost non-existent . . . not completely but almost. The homelife pictured in the early days of television – anyone remember the Cleavers on “Leave it to Beaver”? – is gone with the wind. Today’s homes are little more than places where an assortment of people sleep and play electronic devices solo.
Gone are the days when mother, father and children sat down and ate meals together and talked.
Gone are the days when mother read Bibles stories and passed on the Faith to the young.
Gone are the days when manners and knowledge were taught and where respect and civility were insisted upon.
Gone are the days when family members worked alongside each other at common tasks and enjoyed it.
Gone are the days when there were boundaries and consequences for crossing those boundaries.
Could what happened this past week at the school in Colorado be a sign that all is not right, not only in our schools, but in our homes? Of course, there are other factors – mental health being one – but this one seems – at least to my way of thinking – paramount.
Homes, as I said earlier, were once places where the faith was passed on and such boundary markers as the 10 commandments were learn and practiced. Where is this happening today? Where is this transfer taking place? Certainly not in public schools, nor in most homes. And we are reaping the consequences.
* * * * * *
The home – ideally mother and father and perhaps grandparents – is the place where young people need to be given space to grapple with life’s “ultimate questions”.
What are these questions? Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? and How can what is wrong be put right? Another – actually related to these four – might be added to the mix: What is human destiny? Why are we here anyway?
If I am just here by chance . . . if I am a blob of protoplasm . . . if I am just a product of blind evolution . . . if there is no God directing the show . . . if all -- myself included -- ends in oblivion . . . all is meaninglessness, and what I do is meaningless. If that is the case, grab and consume all can. Live for the day. Do as you please.
But if there is a God, and I am here for a purpose, and God wants me to live one way over against another, and there is something after this life, a hell to be avoided and a heaven won . . . then all is changed.
Both our readings this morning have something to say about human destiny and life beyond this life. In the first – our Old Testament lesson – David, Israel’s great yet flawed king, has suffered a great loss. The child born to him by the wife of Uriah the Hittite is dead. Following the infant’s death, we hear David speak these words: “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
His words are rich in pathos but short on hope. There is no definite conviction here of any assurance that he will see the child again. At the most, the matter ends with a question mark. But, what a remarkable difference there is between what David’s says on this occasion and what Jesus says to the disciples just prior to His arrest and crucifixion:
“Let not your hearts be troubled . . . In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you . . . I will come again.”
What has happened between these two statements? Here is my suggestion. Picture the question mark I just mentioned, the one standing behind David’s words about his young son. Imagine that question mark being stretched . . . elongated . . . unhooked. What would you have if this were to happen? An exclamation point!
And this is precisely what happened with the coming of Jesus . . . in particular what happened on Easter morning. A question mark is stretched into an exclamation point. Human destiny is no longer up for grabs. Hence, Jesus’ words to Thomas: I am Way, the Truth and the Life.
He is not only our Saviour but our Forerunner . . . πρόδρομος (prodromos) in the Greek . . . one who goes ahead and makes it safe to follow. (Hebrews 6:20) In the light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, how might one who has been united to Him in faith and baptism answer those ultimate questions of life?
Who am I? A child of God, a sheep of His pasture, a sinner of His own redeeming, and inheritor of the Kingdom of God.
Why am I here? To re-take-up the vocation given to Adam in Eden: To bear God’s image and reflect His glory into the garden of the world. And in the time leading up to Jesus’ Second Coming, to bear witness to Jesus and His resurrection.
What is wrong with the world? Sin or rebellion against the Creator. St. Paul in Romans, chapter 1, diagnoses the problem like this. He says humans give up the knowledge of God . . . their foolish hearts are darkened . . . they worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator. What is the result? Death on a number of different levels.
How can what is wrong be put right? What humans could not do God in Christ has done. The breach between God and humans has been bridged. Now, united with Christ, we can find victory and purpose, destiny and life.
Life’s great question mark is stretched into an exclamation point. If all this is true . . If Jesus really has gone to prepare a place for us and is coming to receive us unto Himself? If sin and death have been dealt with and conquered? . . . What should be our response? Go and wait to be taken up into heaven? Go and complain about the miserable shape the world is in . . . rail against the darkness?
No. Go be the light. Go and make disciples, as Jesus instructed in the Great Commission. Go and serve in the world as Christ did. Go and be the best mother, father, grandparent you can be. Rock the cradle so faithfully that strong men and women may be raised up for the future. Go and build homes where love, grace, forgiveness and civility are modelled.
And just perhaps, when all is said and done, this is best hope we have.