9.4.22 Sermon Transcript
Before we go on to our hymn of preparation and holy communion, I thought I might say something about that First Corinthians scripture. As I mentioned at the welcome, I decided to do this series when it was released a few weeks ago and I penciled it in for September and in the original series, they had skipped several verses as part of that reading. We read a few verses and then skipped several and then read a couple more verses. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but I really don't like doing it because we tend to grab the verses that make us feel comfortable and we skip over the difficult parts and I, as you may have noticed, like to read fairly long readings with some context. There are other valid approaches to preaching but that's my preference in part, because I think so many of us take just a verse. And so I made the decision several weeks ago to do that whole reading.
And then the fire at Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church happened this week and I went back to it. I went, I should probably skip that part this week. It's just a little too raw.
(note, I misspoke the name of the church live, it is corrected through this transcript)
Then I thought.. no. This is exactly when God is speaking. I want to be very, very clear this morning. I do not believe that the fire at Mary, Queen of Angels Church is God's judgement on the Roman Catholic’s in this town. I don't believe it's God's rejection of anything that they have done. I believe it's a fire that happened to a building that was about 150 years old and built largely out of timber. Fires happen. But it highlights what Paul is getting to in his message to the Corinthians See, it's not about the building.
I invite you to look around this morning. We love this building. Many of our us, many of our ancestors have spent time and treasure building up this building. There are memorials and things that we would dread losing. but this building isn't the church. That building isn't the congregation of Mary Queen of Angels Parish.
When Paul talks about being judged with fire It's not an image of hell or punishment or rejection. It's an image of purification. All that we do is tested and that which is not perfectly holy. Is burned away. That what is truly God's will might be revealed. You might notice in that passage. It said, even the inferior builder, I'm paraphrasing. The building will be burned away yet the builder will be saved… but only through fire. It's an image of purification. An image of wholeness and renewal promised.
What we build is temporary. Even if we build it well, even if we build it for holy purposes, even if we are doing exactly the best we can do, we are human and finite. What we build even to God's glory is human and finite. What God will reveal his holiness
What has been revealed this week in Fort Scott is a congregation and a community rallying around each other. The evening when the smoldering first turned to smoke and the alarm was called in, already people were making offers of assistance. At that point, it was just a minor fire. We didn't have any idea it was going to turn into this. And yet already the parish had heard… had people reach out. By the next morning, when it began to become evident how bad the fire had been, I got five different notes from you saying, what can we do to help? And I had to pleasure of responding to those notes saying, “I have already looked at their Mass schedule and I've already offered our building if they need it. Because that's the Church.
We have some really significant disagreements in our worship style, in our space, in our beliefs. But that's the Church. Rallying together, It's about the people. We are the body of Christ. We are different from one another. We may even disagree with each other. But we are the body of Christ and God dwells within us.
We are God's temple, not the building So, when we wrestle with those scriptures that maybe seem a little too on the nose, remember that God is with us. The fire is one metaphor. There are many others. God is working towards wholeness. In you, in me, in us collectively. What we build is temporary. What God builds is eternal. It is God that gives the growth and so if we are building things that are filled with the spirit, love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and generosity, and faithfulness, and gentleness, and self-control. Those things are eternal. Those things are what the temple of God seeks to produce in us and in the world.
Christ dwells with us. Christ dwells among us And so now we turn to that central ritual Holy communion. I invite you to join in singing our hymn of preparation. The four words by Michael Marion. words that of the and give Jesus took what God had provided and divided on that day bless that of the new Jesus had will preside we are meant to live Jesus took he'd been given break infinity we must change my name bless our gifts in God's grace as we serve that blessed Jesus took and blessed and broke and gave We, as God's temple, we as the body of Christ are called to take and bless and break, and give to recognize Christ's dwelling within us, to recognize that we are the body, to be broken, and given to the world.
We gather at the table to be filled, to be reminded, to be made a little more whole, to experience your love and your grace to be filled to overflowing that we might share that love and grace with others. We pause to give thanks We pause to remember We pause to anticipate what you are already doing here in this place, in our hearts, in our minds, in the hearts and minds of our neighbors, each of us created in the image of God. Capable of love and laughter, and creativity, of tears and sorrow, each of us, reflecting just a bit of your holiness. And so Christ invites us to the table Christ invites us to come forward and take a bit of bread, a cup of juice to be reminded of who and whose we are. So, I invite you to come forward.
(Communion was served here)
I can think of few if any better demonstrations of who belongs in God's temple. Than Christ's table offered to all who come offered to serve as the foundation and the center of our community. Last week, we heard the story of Peter's vision how he was led to understand that the centurion's family belonged. That these Gentiles had had the Holy Spirit poured out upon them that there was nothing standing in the way of their baptism of this new church joining Jew and Gentile together in shared belief even in the midst of difference in practice and understanding. A reading from first Corinthians today was written at a time when the temple still stood. The second temple built by King Solomon then greatly expanded by Herod dominated the landscape of Jerusalem. This is a scale model that is at a museum in Jerusalem. It is an ongoing project as archaeologists discover more and more about what the city would have looked like in the first century. The model is continually rebuilt. New structures are added, new details. to give a sense of what Jerusalem was like in the time of Christ. These buildings in the foreground are not small. Some of them still exist and yet the temple, the western wall that we see there that is all that really remains of the Jewish temple to this day. Massive buildings on top of Herod's platform, the temple towering above all. The temple, a symbol of God's chosen people. The central place worship where proper sacrifice was given The temple, a symbol of the rather rigid purity codes that had developed within the first century practice of Judaism. Lines between clean and unclean. sections where anyone could come, the marketplace, sections where only Jews could go, and only Jewish women only so far, and then the Jewish men could go into the next courtyard, and then only the Jewish men who served as priest, the Levites, and then eventually he got to the place of sacrifice where only the priest on duty could go, and that massive structure and back behind the smoke of the altar is the Holy of Holies. And then the high priest could go and only on certain days carrying out specific religious functions. It is the seed of God. It is where God dwells and it is separated and holy and we can't go there. We have a very different understanding in Christ. Christ dwells among us. I should note that our modern Jewish brothers and sisters also have a different understanding of their relationship with God. That's a conversation for another time but this is not just like the fire image was not to slander our Catholic brothers and sisters. This lesson on the temple is not to demean our Jewish brothers and sisters but to illustrate our different understandings of the one God who creates.
At that time, they had become very rigid Peter has a vision God tells Peter, do not call unclean that which the lord has made clean. Another metaphor, do not call unholy that which the lord has purified, has refined. The vision is about food and in fact, to this day, some Christians will cite this vision as a reason we don't adhere to kosher food laws. But that's not what the vision is really about. That's not what Peter takes from it. What Peter takes from it is that he should welcome these Gentile messengers and go indeed to the Gentiles house and recognize what God is doing amongst these Gentiles and welcome them into the church, the community of faith. Those who follow Christ We've talked about Paul's vision A Pharisee zealous for the law, knowing right from wrong, knowing how to enforce those purity codes, having a vision that transforms his world. Does not convert him from one faith to another but gives him a deeper understanding of who God is in the risen Christ. He becomes the foremost apostle to the Gentiles. He becomes willing to be foolish in the eyes of men. because he recognizes that God's wisdom is foolishness to human practice He preaches a radical message of inclusion. Yes, still with faith, with grace at its center. Grace that is sufficient. and he and we ever since, have lived in that tension, between the law, and the law of love. We live that tension between deciding what is right and acceptable in our community and what is out of bounds.
We live in that tension of responding to those whom we think are sinners with grace. Recognizing that all of us, Paul writes, fall short. All of us fall short. We are finite. We are not yet fully healed. We are not yet fully refined. We have not yet been purified, sanctified, but we are in the process. God is working within us. God dwells within us individually and collectively. That's Paul's message to the Corinthians, a community that was having some conflict. This isn't a theological treaties. This is practical pastoral advice to a community that Paul dearly loves which is led by a number of leaders has members who were brought to faith by different pastors. Who is Apollos? Who is Paul? The workers don't matter. It's the it is God within us Paul writes beautifully of metaphors
He challenges the Corinthians. He says, they're infants Not to demean them but to illustrate how much all of us still have to learn. While we live in a state of jealousy, of envy, of strife, when we draw a hard lines and cast each other out, we haven't reached that point God wants us to be as a beloved community drawing each other in. Paul writes, I had to feed you milk baby food. Now, keep in mind, he preached to them Christ and him crucified, Christ risen. Deep theological topics. But even that is just milk, Paul writes. There is more that we have to learn. I had the privilege of doing a funeral earlier this week for Norma Jean Fitzsimmons. Some of you will remember her. She was a long-time member here. She's lived in Oklahoma with her son for many years. and at the funeral, there were several of her great grandkids and they were being kids Couple of them were toddlers and they were kicking the seat and they were wiggling and running around and their parents were mortified and according to some of the faces in the room, their parents weren't mortified enough because they shouldn't stop it. and I will admit to you at one point in the service, I was getting a little irritated and distracted and then it hit me I've been reading this lesson for several weeks. I've been thinking about this series that takes me honestly a little bit outside of my comfort zone. Trying to internalize the message that I can preach actively. We're just children. We don't get it. We don't understand what we're doing here. Not really. and God loves us so deeply
Yes, in the moment when they were supposed to be quiet and still, some of the adults were a little irritated but my gosh, as soon as the formal time was over, they were tickling and running after them and picking them up and loving them. and that moment of irritation was forgotten because they're so darn cute and they're just kids and they're growing and that's us. That's us when we're 95 and we think we've got it all figured out. Or maybe 18 and we think we've all got it figured out. We're just babies. God has so much more to teach us. Even us now. God is calling us to grow in faith, in hope, in love, in grace, beyond our human capabilities. Christ and him crucified. Christ who takes on flesh suffers the worst that we have to throw and loves us, forgives us, joins us yet again, shows us the wounds and says, let's eat. Let's be the beloved community Go and share what I've given you with others. God dwells among us. God fills us with God's spirit, with God's own body. God makes us the body of Christ, not for ourselves, not for our glory, but for the world. Christ to the world, we sing. The world to Christ we bring, not because we have some special merit, not because we have all the answers, not because our practices are perfect, but because the world is broken and we are too and so we can bring the world to Christ to be healed, to be made whole, We are not master gardeners. We are not master builders. We are building on other foundations. We are building on ground that others tilled. Ultimately, we are building on Christ. We are building on, we are gardening in God's creation. It is God that gives the growth. We live in this tension between what we do mattering and not really mattering at all. It matters that we respond to grace that we are filled with grace, that we overflow, that we share with others.
It doesn't matter much whether we get credit or which brand is on it. Our differences are important and ultimately not important. We live in that tension because it is God that gives the growth. Last week, I shared from Eric Law's experience of recognizing when he needed to yield and when he needed to claim. And then he saw in the cross, both humility and a claim of power that overcomes our brokenness. That we can engage in that cycle of yielding and claiming that we can be filled with God's grace that is sufficient for us and for others.
I want to close this week, just having begun to scratch the surface of the series and we'll unpack some of these messages about health a bit more in the weeks to come. But one of the places they start is what they call the feeling wheel. Emotional intelligence, mental health, which is often deeply rooted in feelings and how we express ourselves and this is a tool that the Gottman Institute uses to help in their counseling with couples and individuals.
How do you feel? peaceful, powerful, but there are rings and I know you can't read what's on the screen but evermore descriptive terms. I often get highly stressed working on my sermon especially when I'm going into territory. I'm not real familiar with and Robin will tell you, I get a little cranky. This wheel has helped me look at why am I feeling that? How am I expressing that? What is the core issue behind whatever I'm making the issue? to examine ourselves, to examine our communities a little more. Very often, we will lash out or focus on something that may in fact be a problem but that's not really the issue. The issue is our insecurity or our sorrow or anger. I've got copies of this around the building. You might pick up to work with and then there's some suggestions on the back for other ways that we can work on being healthy as a community but I want to emphasize one thing about this series.
This is not about things you should do. Obligations wait. We all know that we should be healthy. and yet, if you've watched television, if you've walked down a supermarket aisle, one cereal says it promotes heart, heart health, your best friend says all carbs are bad. Which is it? Well, it depends. On your particular body chemistry, on where you're at in your journey, healthy is relative. How exactly are we supposed to find time every week to work, to exercise, to meditate, to journal, to eat three nutritious meals a day to connect with friends, to have alone time, to have meaningful time with our families, get eight hours sleep every night. We know what we're supposed to do and often our talk about health overwhelms us. It's mandates and restrictions What this series is about is not mandates and restrictions. This series is about what God desires for us and the different ways that God will accomplish that desire within us individually and as a community. Each week, I will repeat this message. Whatever your body is, however your body shows up in this space or online, you are made in the image of God and your body and your whole person are welcome here.
This series is not going to tell you to change your body, your mind, your emotions to fit a sense of what or who a person should be. Instead, we are going to explore together what kind of health God desires for us and calls us to enact in our communities just as we are just as imperfect as we are. Because God's grace is sufficient for us. God's power is made whole in weakness. That's what I believe. Thanks be God. Amen.