Sunday, August 17, 2014

God’s Love in Action: What Does that Look Like?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 10 Aug. 2014, Proper 14

Year A RCL: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105, 1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

The world is an unholy mess of unholy wars among Christians, Moslems, & Jews.
This does not honor God whom we all claim to worship.
You may have heard the Episcopal News Service report of the war-related death of a child baptized by the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad (part of the Episcopal Church). In an attack by Islamic State, the child was cut in half.
The Vicar says he relies on 3 Ps:  protection,
We need protection, we need to provide for those people, & we need to keep going.”1
The Archbishop of Canterbury says:
We must continue to cry to God for peace & justice & security throughout the world.”2
 Let us pray: “O righteous God, you sent your Christ to establish a reign of justice, on earth as in heaven:
Prosper every effort to root out arrogance, intolerance, & prejudice, & to eliminate all forms of discrimination, degradation, & oppression; through him who died at the oppressors' hands, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives & reigns with you & the Holy Spirit, one God, now & for ever. Amen3
In our collect today we pray to have the spirit to think & do always what is right & that God will enable us to live according to God’s will. How can we do this in our human condition that our news & today’s scriptures remind us of quite clearly.
That condition includes human divisions – even among blood brothers, human weaknesses, our wanting to do things right & losing heart like we see Peter do on that storm-tossed water.
Yet our scriptures remind us Jesus is here for us.
God's Living Word is near us, on our lips & in our hearts.
This gives us work to do so others know Jesus.
When we share the Good News, we are those beautiful feet that run to bring Good News.
We build unity in the human family.
Building is work. Work requires rest.
 Jesus is alone with God, taking a rest 
after feeding the 5,000 &
sending the disciples off in that boat.
 Genesis tells us what happens when we don’t live in the unity that is God’s will for the human family:
We get jealous, like Joseph’s brothers.
We say things - without thinking - like Joseph does
in the verses omitted:
He tells his brothers his dream about their bowing down to him.  Then he tells them about another dream like it.
What a thoughtless kid brother!
No wonder they won't speak peaceably to him.
The Jewish Study Bible says:
They won't greet him with Shalom4
 – that's like one of us refusing to pass the peace.
 We see fear, not peace, in the disciples in today's Gospel.
They are still humans & their faith is not yet as deep as it needs to be.5  
So they are afraid in that boat on the storm-tossed water.
They forget Genesis 1 says God moves in the beginning of creation, sending a wind over the waters of chaos.
They forget Exodus 15 says God sends wind to part the Red Sea & turn it into dry land.
 Jesus gives them a new perspective
on those stormy waters.

Jesus reaches out to Peter, lifts him up & calms the storm.
 They see Jesus with new eyes & declare he is God's Son.
Suddenly their relationship with Jesus is deeper.

They have moved from a relationship with God based on the word of law given through Moses, to the relationship of faith in Jesus, God’s Living Word of Love, as Paul tells us in Romans.6

How do we live in God's
Living Word of Love?
 Exploring this is part of the work your Vestry has been doing since our retreat. We've shared our work with you in many ways. Our Vision & our Mission are being developed among us, not imposed by a few on the many.
 The Vision & Mission Statements are
for which we ask your perspective.
During our retreat work, we identified many words to consider, such as God’s, love, action, happening. This evolved into the Vision:
A happening community where
we live God’s love.
That phrase evolved into the prototype Mission Statement:
St. John's is an open, caring community where we celebrate God’s love through Jesus’ teachings & guided by the Holy Spirit in worship, fellowship, education, & service, embracing all God’s children, creatures, & creation.

This statement stresses our belief in God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.


Our previous Mission Statement is similar but specified God, not Jesus. You know in our region many people have no knowledge about what kind of beliefs Episcopalians have. God could mean we are deists. As one of you has said recently:
Most people don't even know we're Christians.”
 That's why it is important
that we specify Jesus & the Holy Spirit.
It is important that people know more
about us than we have red doors.
 My Beloved Brothers & Sisters, we have work to do in this Body of Christ to communicate in this community the fact that we are Christians. We believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son, & the Holy Spirit.
We know Jesus has died for us.
 We are sinners, who ask for forgiveness
& offer forgiveness.
  We know the Holy Spirit guides us to
 do this so that....
our love can overflow more & more with
knowledge & full insight
to help us determine what is best. from Philippians 1:9

Guided by the Holy Spirit, we can do the work God gives us to do here. Look at all you do.
  • Look at ECW (Episcopal Church Women) that helps people here, in the Diocese & beyond.
  • Look at our prayer life here, our Centering Prayer group & Daughters of the King intercessory prayers.
  • Look at your outreach: nursing homes, taking snacks to Friendship House, buying food for the Back-Pack program, supplies for Still Waters shelter, working at the animal shelter, leading Girl Scouts, giving & folding clothes for His Hands.
His Hands Ministry uses Mark 6:2 as its scripture:
“...such mighty works are wrought by his hands...”
One parishioner active in this ministry describes its mission this way:
To let our hands do the work of
His Hands to help those in need.”

That's the St. John's Body of Christ that lives God's love.

That's BEING Jesus' hands, beautiful feet
& loving heart here.

That's active work of this
happening community where
we live God’s love.

Episcopal News Service. “Anglican Vicar of Baghdad: Child I Baptized Cut in Half”. Accessed: 9 Aug. 2014.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 4 Aug. 2014.
Michno, Dennis G. A Priest's Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1998.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Wildsmith, Dana. One Good Hand: Poems. Oak Ridge, TN: ris Press. 2005.
1 Episcopal News Service. “Anglican Vicar of Baghdad: Child I Baptized Cut in Half”. Accessed: 9 Aug. 2014.
2 Ibid. Link in the article.
3 Michno, Dennis G. A Priest's Handbook. P. 259.
4 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 75.
5 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1018.
6 Note: Perspective influenced by Ibid. P. 1225.

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