What did we ever do to deserve a reading as fantastic as today’s Epistle? Ephesians is a standout among Paul’s letters for its eloquence, its spiritual depth, and its sweeping vision, and we’re seeing that as we preach through it these six weeks, but this particular passage, where Paul prays for the readers, is a highlight. I suggested in this past Thursday’s Mini-Messenger that before you came to Mass today you pray through it twice, once for yourself and once for us as a church, and I hope you’ll take the lectionary insert home and do that again sometime this week. Put it on your fridge. Carry it in the car. Try to picture what would happen here if God answered this prayer fully for you and for us.
We’ll be going through this passage from beginning to end, so take a look at the text. Follow it as we go through. In fact, if you don’t want to listen to me today, please just keep reading the Ephesians lesson over and over, because I can only hit a very few highlights. Let’s go. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Paul is telling us that for what needs to happen to happen, he has to turn to God the source of all life. Paul can’t do it. We can’t do it. Only God can do it. So what is it? Here’s the first part of what he wants God to do for you: I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Beginning last Sunday, Episcopal churches started reading through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In the green season, ordinary time, our lectionary gives us epistle readings that go more or less straight through the book week by week. This was designed, by the folks who put the lectionary together, to give congregations the chance to study the New Testament Epistles a bit more deeply in context. The rest of the year, in the great Easter and Christmas cycles, all three readings are connected thematically, but in the green season we step out of that pattern, and the Epistle reading is its own thing. Fr. Caleb started us out looking at Ephesians last Sunday, and your clergy have decided to preach straight through it in the way our lectionary suggests. So we’ll be in Ephesians for a few weeks.
One of the things Mark and I love about going to Europe on vacation is seeing the ancient buildings, places that may house a cell phone store now but have been in use for one thing or another for centuries. We carry a very old GPS with Europe maps on it with us for navigation, and though every once in a while there will be something like a new interstate interchange that confuses it, basically, you know, the road you’re on has been the road to Avignon since 900AD, so the maps still work. It’s the same with churches: the building we went to Mass in one Sunday dated to the mid 1300s, although the site has been a church since the 7th century, and we spent a fair amount of time in silence at Senanque Abbey, where the church was built in 1148 and the overwhelming weight of nearly 900 years of daily prayer hangs palpably in the air.
With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning. It’s really good to be back up here after a bit of a hiatus. My son Clive was born in late May and so it’s been awhile since I’ve preached.
But here I am with stuff to say!
It always feels a bit redundant to mention the importance of attending mass every week from the pulpit, because the people who are present to hear the sermon are literally in the act of attending mass! Who exactly am I supposed to be talking to? So there is a risk of indulging in a collective exercise of self-congratulation -- isn’t great to discover that we’re the special ones already doing it right?
“Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection.” (Words from this week’s collect.)
I want us to consider two questions this morning, the first of which has to do with our being devoted to God with our whole being. The question is, how are we being faithful to God and more specifically how are we being faithful to God and what he has called us to do?
Throughout the morning’s lessons we hear of individuals’ responses and reactions to being given a task by God. That is what a call is—being given a message to deliver or another action to take on God’s behalf. We have heard about Ezekiel, St. Paul, the 12 disciples and Jesus himself in these lessons and what happened to them when they were faithful to what God asked them to do.So, let’s look at each of these characters as it relates to their call.
Separation of children from their parents is emotionally unhealthy, unwarranted, and unfeeling. We come to our worship at the end of a week that has been particularly troubling. I have an 18-month old great grandson. He can’t speak his name although he responds when he’s called. He doesn’t have any idea what his telephone number or his address is? Consider how his parents and the rest of the family would feel if he were even temporarily to be at the mercy of a particularly inept federal agency. Those who love him would feel powerless and profoundly distressed. And yet that is happening in our nation as we prepare the fireworks for a celebration of our independence. Perhaps we can find a pathway through this crisis in our lessons as we seek anew the love and compassion of our Lord in the words of Scripture as a motivation to strive for an end of this unfortunate moment in our nation’s history.
We don’t always have a choice among the lessons appointed for a particular Sunday. This week was different. Mary contacted me and asked if I would prefer a reading from Lamentations or from the Psalms. As you would do, I read both of them. The psalm was easy. I just opened my prayer book and read Psalm 30. Then I opened one of my Bibles and turned to Lamentations 3: 21-33. The Bible I chose at random was one given to me and all of my colleagues in the Chaplains Orientation by the Massachusetts Bible Society. I took that Bible with me as I boarded the first of several ships I served on as a chaplain in the Navy. I planned to read the Bible from Genesis through the Revelation to John—from cover to cover. I read and underscored verses that I found particular meaningful. When I turned this week to Lamentations I found that I had indeed underscored these verses: “