Monday, September 25, 2017


Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, Parish Retreat at
Trinity Center, Pine Knoll Shores, NC
24 Sept. 2017, Proper 20 Year A RCL
Exodus 1 6:2-15; Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Notice: our scriptures point us to love of God & peace versus anxiety & anger.
Know this: “If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you,”[1] as Peter Marshall tells us.
When we get off balance in our relationship with God & each other, we complain.
Like the people in Exodus, we may focus our complaint on an individual. When we do like they do, we are complaining against God, who gives us life & relationships to share.

Think of the difference we see between familiar characters in stories of Winnie the Pooh, created by A. A. Milne: We see upbeat 
Tigger, who leaps into action, 
expecting the best J,  &

downbeat Eeyore, who holds back, expecting the worst L.

Know this: The human family & the church have both characters. AND each of us has both. Depending on our situation & the people in it, we may tend to be more Eeyore or more Tigger.

We see Tigger & Eeyore as we encounter A.J. Jacobs in his book, The Year of Living Biblically. What we read during our Parish Retreat [& in our conversations about his unique year have heard & will hear in our on-going conversations this year about the book] is a range of emotions, responses, & what sound like contradictions.
Notice what A.J. says about his secular family with Jewish heritage on the 2nd page of his Introduction:

“The closest my family came to observing Judaism was...[putting] a Star of David on top of our Christmas tree.”[2]

The Bible is new to him. Like him & the people in Exodus who see manna for the 1st time, we may see a gift of God's grace & respond with wonder & ask: “What is it?”

In Hebrew “manna”[3] means “What is it?” The people have not seen this flaky stuff “still called 'manna ' in Arabic” & which Bedouins use...It comes from insects which ingest tree sap & excrete it on branches where it crystallizes into solids which fall to the ground.[4]

Using another natural phenomena, God sends quail in the Sinai.[5] The difference in birds & bread for the people in Exodus is they come in the quantities needed & times of year in addition to the usual months they are there[6].

As The Jewish Study Bible notes: great numbers of quail migrate between Africa & Europe; exhausted, some drop to the ground where people easily collect them.[7]

The Creator of all uses natural processes to provide people what they need. Is it any less of a miracle & blessing from God when what we need comes from a natural phenomena?
Will you miss seeing the miracle if an employer hires you, has trouble paying what was promised & later pays you more?
How do you have grace to let go resentment & open your eyes to see God at work?
How can you open yourself to be a willing instrument of God's grace?
How can you live more biblically?

By the 7th month of living biblically, A.J. speaks of his prayer life with his spiritual adviser, Yossi. An ordained Orthodox rabbi, who never served as such, Yossi tells A.J.:

“Stop looking at the Bible as a self-help book...It's about serving God.”[8]

Yossi tells about 2 men regularly saying their daily required prayers while at work & describes each one's habit. Asked who prays better, A.J. says the man who prays in his closed office 20 minutes.[9]

Yossi says the better praying is by the man who ducks into a supply closet & grabs 5 minutes for prayers between phone calls. He “was doing it only for God. He was sacrificing his time. There was no benefit to himself.”[10]

Notice what we hear Paul tell the Philippians & us about living in the flesh, fruitful labor, & having the same struggles. How do we balance our lives between the earthly & the heavenly things?
Standing “firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” helps us shift our perspective beyond self. It helps us see as Jesus sees in our Gospel instead of seeing like the early-rising workers expecting more.

Jesus tells us the love with which we do God's work counts more than the amount of work we do.[11] The “payment” we receive is God's grace, a free gift we cannot earn.[12]

Like A.J. learns about prayer by practicing it, we practice & hone our abilities in our work as the Body of Christ. This essential work keeps us embraced in this holy fellowship, centered in God's love.

Whether we are Eeyore or Tigger, God's love feeds us like manna in the wilderness. God invites us to share God's Love with our brothers & sisters in the human family.
As Christians we serve God by
serving others.

Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp., and The Seabury Press. 1979.
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.
Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2007.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Voyle, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010.
Voyle, Robert J. “The Art of Resolving Resentment”. Forgiveness Forum: Teach Your Congrgation How to Forgive. 2014.

[1] Quoted by Robert J. Voyle in “The Art of Resolving Resentment”. P. 73.
[2] Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically. P. 4.
[3] Jewish Study Bible. P. 140.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid. Jacobs. P. 93-94; 208.
[9] Ibid. 208
[10] Ibid. P. 208.
[11] Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . P. 226.
[12] Ibid.

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