Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 1 Oct 2017, Proper 21
Year A RCL: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
Notice: Community leaders ask Jesus who has given him authority to do what he does,
& Jesus answers their question with a question.
Our lesson in Exodus & in our Gospel ask 5 questions each. Here’s a question about St. Francis, whose feast day we celebrate today: Since he is considered the most popular & admired saint, as we read in Lesser Feasts & Fasts1, why do so few follow his example to live simply & identify with the poor & suffering, which is what Jesus does?
Again this week we hear suffering & complaining in Exodus. People are thirsty. The solution to the problem is in plain sight. They just don't see it.
What do you expect to get when you strike a stone?
Water or a spark? Would you expect to get wrapping paper?
Notice the differences in these rolls of wrapping paper. [Color, feel/rough & smooth]
What do we usually use to make paper? [Wood; recycled paper.]
The brown paper is recycled paper. [Pink is papyrus.] The white paper is made from stone.
We use God's natural gifts to make paper. We can use God's natural gift to get water from a rock.
God has Moses access nature's gift in the Wilderness of Sin [pronounced SEEN2], which is Egyptian for the fortress which was there & is mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts.3 Its limestone rocks drip water. Hitting the rock's soft surface exposes the porous inside holding the water.4
It is easier to get water from a rock than to get people to stay faithful & trust God. This is hard in the Wilderness of Sin & in the wilderness of sin, which isn't a place but a way we live.
The wilderness of sin is a stronghold separating us from God & each other. In this stronghold we are likely to complain & forget the unmerited grace God continually offers.
We see St. Francis embrace & live fully into this unmerited grace.
We hear grace in our Psalm, which declares God is faithful despite our sin. God's love overcomes our rebelliousness.
Paul reminds us & the Philippians: God is at work in us.
God constantly reaches out to bring us into right relationship with God & into unity with each other. God's love reaches out to all people. This confuses the leaders in Jesus' day.
You & I are blessed to know God gives Jesus the authority. We declare this each time we say the Nicene Creed & the Apostles Creed.
We can thank God for sending us Jesus to do what he does to make life whole & beautiful & to help us live in holy unity as God wants us to live.
Our life in holy community reflects the beautiful unity of God the Holy Trinity. Our unity is important, as we read in Philippians. Our unity is important since we claim to love Jesus, who dies for us so we may live. Our unity is important for the lives we touch.
We strengthen our unity at this holy table. God nourishes us with Jesus' Body & Blood, which come from natural substances in bread & wine. God gives us these gifts to help us be strong like a rock & open to God.
Here we gain strength, confidence & wisdom to serve Jesus where we are, to reach beyond ourselves to our brothers & sisters in the human family.
Think of our brothers & sisters in our afternoon congregation with whom we can interact more if we put forth even a small effort.
Think how St. Francis interacted simply even with birds & other beings in nature as we see depicted on the kneeler here at the front. [Thank you, Altar Guild, for placing it where we can notice it.]
God’s grace does come unexpectedly like water from a rock. God fills us with grace. We just have to make an effort to notice.
Our scriptures tell us God wants us to be faithful in our relationship with God.5 Our Psalm tells us of the history of God’s redemption of us... 6 and assures us: God has acted in the past. We can trust God in the present & with the future.7
Share this is Good News!
Jesus died for the love of us.
How do you respond in God's love? How do you/we respond in situations like Moses & Jesus face when people challenge them?
What will help you remember to
ask God for help?
Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp., and The Seabury Press. 1979.
Broadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971S.
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.
Lesser Feasts & Fasts. New York: Church Publishing, Inc. 2003.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: Winston Press. 1985.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Scott-Craig, T.S.K. A Guide to Pronouncing Biblical Names. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1982.
“Yes or No? A Parable of Two Sons” and “Jesus Asks a Riddle”. Sermons4Kids. Accessed: 29 Sept. 2017. http://www.sermons4kids.com/.
1 Lesser Feasts & Fasts. P. 392. We’ll celebrate his official feast day Wednesday at Noon Eucharist.
2 Scott-Craig, T.S.K. A Guide to Pronouncing Biblical Names. P. 87.
3 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P. 955.
4 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation P. 142.
5 Broadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. P. 175.
6 Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. P. 146.
7 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 469.