Wednesday, August 19, 2015

HOMILY - THE REVEREND JOHN SMITH - DISCERNMENT: ¨...Be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time...¨

Homily -Sunday, August 16, 2015

As you may know, the liturgical church year is divided into 2 parts of 26 weeks each.  The first 26 weeks begin on the first Sunday of Advent and continue through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Eastertide, and Pentecost, which marks the end of the first part.  This first part celebrates the hope for a Savior, Jesus' coming among us, his Resurrection and final departure, and sending of the Holy Spirit.  The second part of the year, the 26 weeks of ordinary time we are in right now, has the goal of helping us put into practice what the coming Jesus means in everyday living.  So Jesus has come among us.  Now, how do we live out his example and teaching in the here and now of day to day living?

This is what St. Paul is talking about with the Ephesians, and always, by extension to us:  Be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time (the old translation of "making the most of the time" was "redeeming" time- in the sense of entering into the re-making of history by God's Spirit in our lives), because the days are evil. (refering to violence, or, more exactly "sacred violence," violence done because people think God wills or sanctions it).

Today we read from the Book of Kings.  David has been put to rest, a great King, but one who has surrounded himself with the bread of death and died realizing this was not God's will. (Remember his wailing at Absalom's death)  Now, Solomon his son inherits the Kingship, and instead of asking for long life and riches, he asks "Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil."  This request pleases God and God grants Solomon his prayer.
The church gives us these passages in Ordinary time because they place us in the context of asking ourselves the question:  If Jesus has come among us, and our lives are joined to his in baptism, how then should we live?  The answer to this question begs the question of God's wisdom for our lives.

In the same vain, but shifting gears a bit, we come to the Gospel this morning.  First a true story.  In my first parish in Arizona, another St. Michael's, there was a wealthy parishioner who was a wonderful steward with her money, definitely the largest pledge in the parish (believe me, a godsend).  This woman liked to travel and announced to me, and some of her friends in the parish, that she was going on a month long vacation to Africa.  She went on the trip, and, to make a long story a bit shorter, she never came to church again.  

The first week after her return when she wasn't in attendance, I thought maybe she was extra tired or suffering from jet-lag.  But when this was the case for the next two weeks, I decided to call on her.  She received me at the door and invited me in.  I asked about her trip and said we missed her at church.  She then went on to talk about the trip to Africa and the very charismatic tourguide that accompanied her small group.  She explained that her life and thinking about her faith began to change as they visited some important sites, especially one where the native people had practiced cannibalism.  The presentation there was very dramatic and really affected her, turning her stomach inside out!  The guide pointed out to her and the group that they too were cannibals if they ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus in Holy Communion.  She went on to tell me that after that experience she decided not to receive Holy Communion ever again.  I did my best to try to talk her out of her resolve, but I was completely unsuccessful.  I spent about four more years in that parish and she never came back, except maybe once for a funeral of a dear friend.

We might smile, or more likely be sad, to hear this woman's story, but it's understandable.  In the Gospel today, after Jesus says again "I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Who ever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."  The Jews dispute among themselves:  How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  And then Jesus says "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life (a history for the individual and world that is open-ended, not over when with death) and I will raise them up on the last day."

What is Jesus teaching here that requires real wisdom to understand?  The Jews in the story, and indeed most people alive today, think that to live requires, unfortunately maybe, the sacrifice of life.  Sorry, but some must suffer and die in order for us to live, they think.  God requires sacrifice to banish evil from the world!  But is this what Jesus, God's own Son, is trying to teach?  Jesus freely gave his own life upon the Cross "for the life of the world."  Jesus desired to be the final sacrifice that the world requires.  He tells us this can still be the case if we will believe in him.  History can open to a world without end where all people are brought into Holy Communion.

Jesus' one Sacrifice has become Sacrament.  Sacrament now replaces sacrifice.  What if, as followers of Jesus, we saw our daily lives as bringing all people into the Holy Communion we share in the Eucharist, discerning in all wisdom how to shrug off the world's requirement of the suffering and sacrifice of some so that the fortunate rest might live?  For Jesus there is no either/or.  He came for all people, like the hymn, just as they are, each loved, each forgiven, by his Father and ours.  Amen!

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, Saint Alban Mission (English), Antigua

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Right Reverend Armando Guerra Soria, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate emeritus, IARCA

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, the Rt. Reverend Armando Guerra, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate emeritus of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America (IARCA), rector.


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