Tag Archive for 'faith'

Pentecost 3, July 3, 2011

INDEPENDENCE DAY SERMON, 2011

The Rt. Rev. Arthur E. Walmsley

Deuteronomy 10:17-21; Psalm145; Matthew 5:43-48

 

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

On this Independence Day weekend, I want to talk about our country and what faith says to our present situation as a nation and people.  We began our service today with an alternative to the usual organ prelude.  It was the first of several quotations from the writings of Thomas Jefferson set to music by the composer Randall Thompson, the beginning of a choral work written in 1933 to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jefferson, one of the major contributors to the birth of our nation.   The composer deliberately set out to write a type of “public music” that would lift up the origins of the American struggle for independence.  In fact one of the early performances of  the work would be as a tribute to the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the latter’s death in the waning days of World War II in 1945.

Neither Jefferson nor various others of the signers of the Declaration of Independence released on July 4, 1776, were devout Christians, Continue reading ‘Pentecost 3, July 3, 2011’

Pentecost 25 November 14, 2010

Malachi 4:1-2a                                                                   

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13                                                    

Luke 21:5-19

In the news this week: gold hit an all-time high of fourteen hundred and something dollars an ounce. Actually, adjusted for inflation, it wasn’t an all-time high, but the fact remains that lots of people are apparently buying gold. People do that as a hedge against uncertainty, out of fear about what the future may bring: inflation, deflation, the fall of the dollar, the rise of China . . . whatever. Lots of uncertainty around us in the world today.

There’s biblical precedent for this flight to gold. In the Book of Exodus we learn that when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to talk with God and get the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel became anxious because he was gone so long. He’d led them out into the wilderness on this faith journey to some sort of promised land, but what if it didn’t work out? What if Moses abandoned them? What if this whole God of promise thing was an illusion? So they took all their jewelry and melted it down and made a golden calf to worship. A god they could get their hands around. A god who wouldn’t go away or ask them to journey on faith. Gold: the god of certainty. The Bible has another word for it: idolatry. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 25 November 14, 2010’

Pentecost 13 August 22, 2010

Hebrews 12:18-29                                                             

Luke 13:10-17                                                                     

This week Anne and I were visiting old friends at their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve known David since we were both 12 at camp – my oldest really good friend. We shared a tent there, roomed together at college, were in each other’s weddings, and have spent time together nearly every summer of our adult lives. This year was different. David was diagnosed last winter with an inoperable brain tumor and has just undergone weeks of arduous radiation and chemotherapy. He’s on a walker, with balance and vision problems. He tires easily. He gained some strength while we were there, but the future prognosis remains uncertain.

In our time together, sitting on his porch looking out at the sea, we reminisced about the past, caught up on our children and grandchildren, shared some thoughts about the state of the world, joked with each other as we always have. But one thing we didn’t talk about was faith, because David doesn’t believe in God; religion has never been part of his life; he has no time or use for it. He’s respectful of it in my life. Indeed, out of the blue he sent a check for $30,000 to help with the building fund for Holy Cross. But God, Christ, Scripture, prayer, church – for him they’re all a delusion, a waste of time, something to be indulged in an old friend perhaps, but not for him.

So for me it was as though a whole dimension were missing in my time with this dear friend. We could not talk about prayer – was Jesus there at all for him in his weakness, his thoughts of death? Was there comfort in the psalms? Things in his past that troubled him, for which he needed healing and forgiveness? What was his hope for the future, for a future beyond death? How did he see his life in terms of God’s kingdom, of Christ’s great dream for humankind? Did his suffering deepen his understanding of the Cross? These are the questions I think I would be exploring if it were I in his place, but to raise them with David would only have been a mockery, and I would never do that to someone I respect and love. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 13 August 22, 2010’

Easter 3 April 18, 2010

Acts 9:1-6                                                                            

Revelation 5:11-14                                                            

John 21:1-19

If we were one of those churches that put our sermon title out on its sign board, or even had sermon titles, the title for this morning might be A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Happiness. I don’t mean happiness in some shallow, sugar-high way. What we’re about is way too serious for that. We could say “on the Way to Heaven,” but that sounds too focused on the hereafter. By happiness I mean what we seek most deeply and ultimately in life: fulfillment, salvation, purpose, peace, healing, forgiveness. There are lots of words we use for it, but they all point to the same thing, so let’s call it happiness. Deep happiness. It’s what we all want, in our hearts. What lies behind the struggles of our lives.

“Come and see,” Jesus said to people. The people were those who noticed him, heard about his message, about the mighty acts and signs he was performing. The people who saw in him something different, something that indicated that he might lead them on the way to this deep happiness. “Who are you?” they would ask. “What is your secret? Tell us so we can have it too.” And always Jesus would say to these people, “Come and see.” Continue reading ‘Easter 3 April 18, 2010’

Pentecost 3 June 21, 2009

Job 38:1-11                

Mark 4:35-41                                                                      

The Hebrew people, who wrote the Bible—both the Old Testament and the New—were a desert people. Water for them had a double, paradoxical meaning. It represented chaos, threat and danger. On the other hand, it represented life and new birth. We’ll get to that other hand in a minute, but let’s start with the chaos, threat and danger side of water.

Continue reading ‘Pentecost 3 June 21, 2009’