August 11, 2019

2019 August11_FrIan

Proper 14- Year C

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Last Sunday and this Sunday, Jesus is trying to get us to focus on Heaven, not on stockpiling material possessions.

 

We are not good at ignoring material possessions. We are culturally conditioned to accumulate and amass “stuff”, stockpile for a rainy day, and make sure our children will be financially and materially secure after we die.

 

As with most of Jesus’ ministry, He is demanding of us the exact opposite of what we are inclined to do or are already doing! “Sell your possessions, and give alms.” This is a great lead-in for the annual Stewardship Campaign. Sell some of that stock, or donate your old car, or lower your standard of living, and give that money toward the work and ministry of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church!

 

It is never a bad time for the Rector to say “Thank you” for all that you DO give to the work and ministry of St Stephen’s, through your time, talent and treasure. And thank you for the extra financial support you gave during the mid-year Stewardship Campaign. We actually have a Budget Meeting tomorrow morning. The Wardens, Sexton, Treasurer and Rector will be looking at the 2020 Budget from the perspective of


“What is our mission, and what
do we need from you to support
that mission financially?”


We will then present that mission and budget to you in October for you to consider how much of it you want to contribute to financially. During the Stewardship Campaign, we will also ask you to consider how you will engage in our mission through volunteering your time and your talent. So, remember what Jesus is telling us today: “Sell your possessions, and give alms.”

 

We don’t have much guidance on the practical steps to aligning our hearts with our treasures and pointing them toward Heaven. As I mentioned last week, we are in the middle of Confirmation Class, and both the Baptismal Covenant and the Catechism are fresh in my mind. In the Baptismal Covenant, we, along with the Confirmands, will be asked 5 questions which provide a framework for us to lead Christian lives.

 

•    Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
•    Persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
•    Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
•    Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.
•    Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

 

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the nation with horrific shootings and grim news. So, I thought that this morning I would share some good news stories of real people sharing the Good News of Jesus. The stories are paired with these 5 ways of living a Christian life. The assertion is that attempting to live out the Baptismal Covenant is one get your treasure and heart both moving toward in Heaven; it is how we live the faith that we proclaim we possess.

 

•    Persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.

  • This month marks the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving to North America at Point Comfort in late August 1619. Old Point Comfort is now part of Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia. In a video address, the Presiding Bishop tells us that “The National Park Service is commissioning, and asking, churches and people from around this country to commemorate and remember that landing and the bringing of those first enslaved Africans to this country by ringing bells. And if possible, by tolling the bells of churches and to do so on August 25 at 3:00 in the afternoon [noon our time]. I’m inviting us as The Episcopal Church to join in this commemoration as part of our continued work of racial healing and reconciliation...we can join together with people of other Christian faiths and people of all faiths to remember those who came as enslaved, who came to a country that one day would proclaim liberty. And so we remember them and pray for a new future for us all.”
  • In the announcement of the event, the Bishop of Southern Virginia acknowledged his “own complicity in furthering and perpetuating the subjugation of my African American brothers and sisters.”
  • The Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, prays “that we will do the hard work of reconciliation that God longs for us to do. God forgive us. God give us courage and resolve. And God bless us.”
  • This is a good news story of repentance that we here at St Stephen’s can actually take part in.
  • www.episcopalnewsservice.org/pressreleases/commemorating-400-years-of-african-american-history-and-culture-an-invitation-to-participate-in-healing-day-bell-ringing/

•    Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

  • It may be unexpected, but this is not the first time I have mentioned Lady Gaga in a sermon. She has promised the victims of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy that she will fully fund classroom projects in their cities. In her letter, she wrote. “I want to channel my confusion, frustration, and fury into hope. Hope that we are there for each other and for ourselves. 14 classrooms in Dayton, 125 classrooms in El Paso, and 23 classrooms in Gilroy will now have access to the support they need to inspire their students to work together and bring their dreams to life.”
  • She also encouraged victims to get the help they need by saying, “If you’re struggling, please be brave and tell a trusted someone,” she wrote. “Don’t be scared to ask for help, I beg you. If you see a loved one struggling, please be brave and reach out, remind them it’s ok to not be ok, and listen to them.”
  • Lady Gaga grew up Roman Catholic, went to Roman Catholic schools, considers herself a Christian, and has recently lashed out at the hypocrisy of some of America’s high-profile leaders who claim to be Christian but whose words and examples are contrary to the Good News. Lady Gaga’s gift in the midst of tragedy is definitely a good news story of proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
  • www.goodmorningamerica.com/culture/story/lady-gaga-fund-162-classrooms-dayton-el-paso-64889555

•    Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.

  • We are all aware of and dismayed by the opioid epidemic. Many of the unseen victims are the children of those who are addicts or who have overdosed. The Episcopal Church’s Province III includes Dioceses in the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, DC. It is the epicenter of the opioid by some accounts. The Province and the Diocese of Maryland are offering a free weeklong summer camp to support of children in grades 4 to 8 struggling with a parent’s or loved one’s addiction. The Rev Deacon Jan Brown, founder of a Virginia-based addiction recovery support organization, said, “Some of the kids think it’s their fault, and if they behave better, mom or dad wouldn’t do that.” The camp will emphasize that it’s not their fault, and will create “a setting in which children can participate in meaningful, compassionate group sessions which honor their experiences and inherent worth, while enjoying all the opportunities that summer camp provides for kids to be kids,” said Rita Yoe. The camp will offer “a place of healing and safety, a place without any discrimination and stigma for the family and the child.”
  • The stigma of drug addiction often extends to the whole family. Children do not have a choice in what their parents do, nor do they have the autonomy or reasoning skills to extract themselves from a difficult and dangerous situation. The Diocese of Maryland and Province 3 are recognizing Christ in these young persons and loving them as they love themselves.
  • www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2019/07/16/children-affected-by-opioid-epidemic-invited-to-summer-camp-in-diocese-of-maryland/

•    Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

  • Episcopalians in New Hampshire are playing softball in prison. This Episcopal softball team gathers several times each summer in Jesus’ name to play against inmates at the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women in Concord. “It’s a ministry of presence. It’s a ministry of companionship,” said Benge Ambrogi, a parishioner who organizes the teams.
  • Benge says that the softball is “more of a friendly ministry. I don’t think that the everyday Joe in our churches has a lot of exposure to people that are incarcerated, and we might have a different perception of the type of people they are.” One prisoner wants to learn the game so she can play with her son once she’s out. Another joined the team just to get time outside in the recreation yard.
  • Some argue that activities like this for inmates are inappropriate in a setting intended as punishment for a crime. Social Worker Dan Forbes said that this is seeing prisoners “strictly from an ideological point of view – a distorted belief system.” Many inmates are trying to turn their lives around after years of trauma on the outside, and nearly all of them will someday become former inmates, according to Mr Forbes. In order to succeed in the outside world, they need to learn how to build positive relationships, and the softball helps. Forbes said that “The women understand that the community doesn’t reject them. The [civilian] players understand that these women are not horrible people. It just really changes up how people feel about other people.”
  • To lock up offenders and throw away the key is saying that there is no hope for their own repentance and reform. This Good News Story epitomizes the Baptismal Covenant’s call to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
  • www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2019/07/17/new-hampshire-prison-softball-league-connects-episcopalians-and-inmates-in-ministry-of-presence/

•    The first tenet of the Baptismal Covenant is saved for last: Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.

 

  • This one is from close to home and hot off the presses. Kelsey Davis is our Curator for Emerging Communities, and she organized and Agape Hike and Potluck with Bishop Mary, which took place yesterday. These are her own words which she sent after the event.
  • Potlucks are miraculous. Where else can you bring a side dish for made for 5, that when placed with the multitude of chip bags and veggie platters, manages to feed 20? Yesterday, we people from across our diocese gathered for an Agape Hike and Potluck. Agape is the Greek word for the unconditional love of God. Agape is what we are born into and what we learn how to breathe into this world as the baptized. The unconditional love of God that is given to us as a gift of grace is what we receive and share with others. The Agape Meals community is new and still emerging. And each time we gather, we remember this radical love through breaking bread together. Sometimes we share food through cooking; yesterday we potlucked. And no matter what the means, what we share what we have with one another. When we bring our gifts forward with open hands to altars and to altars in the world that look like scraggly picnic tables, with bread, veggies trays, hopes, and concerns laid down to share, something miraculous happens. We, the community are fed by one another in spirit and body. Potlucks are miraculous. Breaking bread is a mystery, for it always yields abundance. Agape love is always expanding, and that, my friends, is good news.
  • On a hike yesterday, the Bishop and Kelsey, with 20 other people, lived the Baptismal Covenant of continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Storing up treasures in Heaven can be that simple.

We can be a part of our own
Good News stories by living out
the Baptismal Covenant in our
own community.

 

Paul asserts that “what is seen was made from things that are not visible”. The actions of these people in these Good News stories were made from things that are not visible, and that is faith. These actions were faith in the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, and they illustrate that “the unconditional love of God that is given to us as a gift of grace is what we receive and share with others.”

 

We do not know when we will die; we do not know when Jesus will return. But we are supposed to be ready. Living the Baptismal Covenant is living out our faith by sharing the unconditional love of God. God’s love is our true treasure. Sharing it freely and frequently helps us realize that the material goods we have amassed are less important and that our hearts and treasure need to be more aligned with one another. Think of the 1 person you know who died happy, who, as they received the news of a terminal illness or lay on their deathbed said that they were not worried and were prepared for the next stage of the journey. If the person you know was anything like the persons I have encountered, they were ready because they had lived a fulfilled life, one in serving others and seeing the good in all the world, their hearts aligning with their treasure – the treasure of God’s unconditional love shared liberally.

 

So, stop accumulating material possessions. If you feel you need to get your material wealth in order before you die, then do it. But start giving away the unconditional love of God which is living the Baptismal Covenant, and do some work on the soul. Because remember, you have material possessions and you have your soul:

 

...but one of them
you can’t take with you!

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