August 28: The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, August 28, 2022, was preached as a response to the appointed texts for the day in the Revised Common Lectionary. The sermon was delivered based on the manuscript below.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Although this year we are following
the continuous track of the lectionary
rather than the thematic,
there are places that some of our texts
are just congruent with one another.
Our passages from Luke and Hebrews
fit bill today
with Jesus giving a teaching
and the author of the letter to the Hebrews
encouraging Jesus followers to live into it.
In Luke today,
Fred Craddock points out that
“The everyday activity of home and marketplace,
farm and fishing boat
provided Jesus not only revelations
of the true character of his listeners
but also opportunities
to reveal the way life is
in the reign of God.”[1]

Jesus has been invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s house
and between that stage-setting that we hear in verse one
and where the passage picks up for us in verse 7
Jesus heals someone on that sabbath.
His host and other guests
are already looking at him suspiciously.
Being Jesus the chatty guest
who takes the opportunity
to share discourse and takes over dinner
Jesus offers, like Samual Seabury
free thoughts on the proceedings of this dinner
and the attendants and host thereof.
The long and short of it,
having seen the other guests jostling for the best place
is a challenge to be humble
and let the host – God –
raise up those whom God will raise.
Seeing how the host has invited fancy people –
like when Michael Scott pitches Andy and Jim
to invest $10,000 in Serenity by Jan –
Jesus challenges hosts
to make offers to those who don’t generally receive them
and likely have no true way of paying the host back.
While the language and categories Jesus uses
have tinges of ableism to our ears,
they speak to the truth for people with disabilities in Jesus’ time
and in various parts of our country and the world.
Jesus’ admonition is to
invite, welcome in, and feed
those most likely to have been cast off by their families
and by societies who determine
a person’s worth by the amount of work they’re able to do.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews
fleshes out Jesus’ parables of hosting and being a guest
with specific directions about caring for those
who’ve been marginalized
explicitly, not just conceptually!
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…
Remember those who are in prison,
as though you were in prison with them;
those who are being tortured,
as though you yourselves were being tortured…”
Today’s passage concludes with what will be today’s offertory sentence:
“Through him, then,
let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Do not neglect to do good
and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

These are all marching orders
for the church inhabiting a real world
with real people and real bodies
both inside and outside the building
and inside and outside the faith.
Neither Jesus nor the Hebrews writer
says anything about converting people
or expecting them to come to church.
That being said, any allusion or reference
to a shared meal at a table in the gospels
is an allusion to the Eucharistic assembly
if not necessarily the feast itself.
Whether into our homes
or into our buildings
we are called to welcome
those otherwise unwelcomed
those people avoid making eye contact with
those people cross the street to avoid walking by.
When Hebrews says
“Through him, then,
let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Do not neglect to do good
and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God,”
the epistle means they can’t be separated.
We can say the right prayers
we can have the right formularies
we can have the right pattern on our vestments
we can have the right amount of collaboration in worship planning
but as St. John Chyrsostom said,
“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door,
you will not find Him in the chalice.”
These are things we all need to work on.
That’s why our baptismal covenant
doesn’t start with the commitment to seek and serve Christ in all persons
loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Rather, it starts with
repenting and returning to the Lord
whenever – not if ever –
we fall into sin.
It’s by turning and returning to God in Jesus
that we can meet Jesus in all we encounter
that we can humble ourselves and let God elevate
those whom God will elevate.
It’s by turning and returning to God in Jesus
that we can draw our circle of welcome wider
true welcome into not just the building
but into the fullness of life in Jesus the resurrected Christ.

Earlier this month,
or maybe it was last month,
we sang “All are welcome”
as our opening hymn two weeks in a row.
It is often criticized online
for being factually incorrect
especially with its origins in a Christian tradition
that is known for its harsh stances
of unwelcome without utter conformity.
While the refrain “All are welcome in this place”
may be worthy of some evaluation
the text of the hymn is clearly aspirational
like our trying to be perfect in Jesus
the way Jesus is perfect in the father.
It’s the goal, not where we are yet.

Let us build a house where love is found
in water, wine and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground
where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ
the feast that frees us.
Let us build a house
where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
Let us build a house
where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured,
taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim
from floor to rafter.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place. [2]

[1] Craddock, Fred B.. Luke: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 176). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
[2] Haugen, Marty. “All Are Welcome.” © 1994, GIA Publications, Inc

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