Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 20th Sunday after Pentecost, 2 Oct. 2016
Exodus 3:1-7; Psalm 148:7-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Matthew 11:25-30
What refreshing, nourishing words of God’s love & care for us we hear in our scriptures!
We see God's love & care for us in many ways in our lives, just as we see it in many ways in the lives of Moses & Paul & our Patron St. Francis, whose Oct. 4th feast day we celebrate today1. These men accepted the yoke & carried the burden God gave them.
Jesus says: “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.”
This reminds me of my childhood delight seeing & sometimes getting to stroke the adorable donkey bearing the burden of strawberries as its owner makes his rounds to our street in Mexico City.
I remember asking Santa for a donkey. In Santa’s wisdom, I got this one, "Burrito", which has long outlasted the livedonkey I envisioned in my childish, literal thinking.
We find literal thinking in St. Francis.
Since he is patron saint of animals, you see a variety of animal replicas among us in the pews! You are welcome to cuddle one as needed. We used some of them for comfort & fun at our Parish Retreat last weekend.
Fun stimulates creativity.
A rich young man with little responsibility, Francis knows about fun & pursues it. He also pursues military glory. Time as a prisoner of war changes his perspective, not his literal thinking.
Francis comes home & sees with new eyes, hears with new ears the suffering of his fellow humans, ignored by most well-off people in his day. He listens & responds literally to God’s call to repair God’s church: He rebuilds a dilapidated church2.
Later he sees with new eyes the “church”, & builds relationships with & hope for God’s beloved children: the poor, sick, disadvantaged, “invisible” people.
Poor, sick, disadvantaged, invisible people live among us.
With new vision, Francis responds to God's call & lives differently, giving away his possessions. He takes off his shoes & gives them away....
I wonder if he knows he is standing on holy ground like Moses stands on where he sees the burning bush & removes his shoes.
Moses learns this: God sees & cares about suffering, burdened, mistreated, oppressed people – our brothers & sisters in the human family, who still need our help today.
God calls Moses to work with God to make a positive difference for God's suffering children.
In Galatians, Paul reminds us how he answers God’s call to follow Jesus & share the Good News of God’s Love that we know through Jesus’ dying for us on the cross & rising to new life so that we can have new life & the Holy Spirit to live in us & guide us in what we do.
Paul says he carries the marks of Jesus. These are from beatings & stonings he endures to share the Good News of God’s Love. These marks are like branding we do to cattle & like people in his day branded their slaves.3
Although Paul’s marks are different from the stigmata St. Francis has [like Jesus’ wounds on his hands, feet & side], Paul & Francis respond positively to the same challenge we have:
share the Good News of God’s Love.
Paul & Francis sacrifice to share the Good News & make a positive difference for many in their days. Notice, God reaches us where we are:
Francis gains his new perspective slowly.
Paul has his blinding encounter with Jesus as his travels to imprison people who believe in Jesus.
God catches Moses’ attention with a unique view in creation to entice his curiosity as he goes about daily work with the herd.
God reaches us where we are.
Our job is to respond & work with God & each other.
In our Gospel, Jesus invites us to carry a lighter load, sharing his Love. Jesus says:
Come to me, all you who are weary & carrying heavy burdens & I will give you rest.
God’s steadfast love & mercy, which we see in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection & ascension, lighten our work load, a truth St. Francis came to know after his youthful struggle with his rich lifestyle. Before he had grace to change how he was living, Francis didn’t have a clue about what God was calling him to do.
Do we have a C.L.U.E. about what God is calling us to do?
After our Parish Retreat last week, we do have insights into the C.L.U.E. God is revealing. We are growing into our Calling, Living, Understanding & Evolving in Jesus name in our generation like Francis, Paul & Moses did in their generations.
Remembering the wisdom of Santa, who gave me what I needed & what would last instead of what I wanted, which wouldn't last, I see more clearly the wisdom of waiting & trusting God as we do the work of praying, forgiving, loving, & working together, using our gifts, even our mistakes, learning, trusting God, living into the future God envisions for us.
Beloved Brothers & Sisters,
fellow children of God,
what work is God giving us to do together?
Batten, J. Minton. Selections from the Writings of St. francis of Assisi.Nashville: The Upper Room. 1952. Pp. 5-9.
Brown, Judith Gwyn Brown. Bless All Creatures Here Below: A Celebration for the Blessing of the Animals. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1996.
Cole, Joanna. A Gift from Saint Francis: The First Creche. Illustrator: Michele Lemieux. New York: Morrow Junior Books. 1999.
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing. 2010. Pp. 622-623.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed: James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1970.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha Expanded Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 1973.
Saints: Who they are and how they help you. Gen. Ed: Elizabeth Hallam. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1994. Pp. 81-83
1 Information on Francis in this sermon comes from the several sources in the Bibliography & our tour guide in Assisi.
2 As our tour guide in Assisi noted.
3 The New American Bible for Catholics. P.1276.