From this week's sermon......
Have you ever noticed, that during the difficult times of life the value of the church as an institution becomes more and more clear. Like when our nation sought to bring healing to the deep wounds of September 11th - to find a way to overcome evil with good. Or as the Pakistani people try to make sense of Thursday’s murderous attack on their former Prime Minister. Or to parents as we negotiate the treacherous landscape of raising our children in the world today. Or the person facing cancer, or the death of a loved one, or impending surgery, or some unexpected frailty of life. From the oldest among us to the youngest, from the community to the individual, the church is a unique institution that can have a powerfully positive effect upon all phases of life.
I firmly believe that the church is a gift to the world from God. And that you and I are stewards of that part of the gift that’s located here in this place. And that stewardship has to do not only with providing the financial means by which the church can do the work to which God calls us, but also with making use of the tools God has given the church to help the world.
And perhaps one of the most important of those tools is the subject of our reading from Second Timothy. You see, within the gift of the church is to be found a precious treasure that truly has the power to help people. And as we try to navigate through all the many challenges of living as human beings in the real world, God has given us a resource that is tried and true. And so a young Christian man named Timothy – living in a world not unlike our own in terms of confusion, injury, difficulty, and war – is given this piece of sage advice:
“Continue in what you have learned…knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through Jesus Christ.”
Paul is telling Timothy to center himself – to anchor his life as a follower of Christ - in the Scriptures. For Timothy, those scriptures were the Law and the Prophets. For us ---- they are New and Old Testaments of the Bible.
A cartoon in The New Yorker shows a man walking up to the customer service desk of a large bookstore. The clerk, peering into her computer screen, says, “The Bible you say? Hmmmmm, let’s see. That would be in the ‘Self Help’ section.”
That cartoon rather wryly suggests one of the problems we face as we attempt to read and understand the Bible as modern Christians. In our consumer-driven culture and even to some in the church, the Bible has become just one more consumer option, one more source of therapeutic advice alongside books on dieting, dating, astrology, and life-strategies for becoming successful people. But this is a very false image - for the Bible is not “self-help” to nurture our own private narcissistic spirituality, but something far more important. You see, the Bible is the story of God’s work to re-create a world that is drowning in sin.
How are we going to create a new world for ourselves and our children out of a planet that is currently reeling under the influence of terrorists who believe it is right and good to blow up innocent women and children? How can we reach into the world of greed, power and injustice, and bring about the eradication of poverty, hunger, and racism? How can the world be re-made into a community where love reigns, justice flows, and peace prospers? Isaiah sees it as world in which children are never harmed, old people live active lives and are never left behind, swords are turned into farming tools that produce food and not death, and terrorist camps where hate is taught are turned into schools where love is learned and no one learns war anymore.
The Bible is about working with God to build that kind of a world for us, our children and grandchildren to live in. It is about converting this current world of brokenness and sin into a world of healing and life.
And one major way that God plans to accomplish this is by the creation of a group of people – the church – who will tell the world the story of Jesus, and who will dare to model the way of life of this new world for all to see.
We - you and I - according to this Book are the stewards of the hope of the world!
So what must we do as we face terrorism, and hatred, and bigotry, and oppression, and illness, and frailty, and death?
Well, we must find a center from which we can operate effectively and powerfully. A center that keeps us focused and oriented around the things that are important. A center that provides us the understanding and the resources that we need to help God accomplish his plan of saving the world. And that center is God’s eternal and unchanging Word - that Word that tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!” and that: “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
And so in these days it is important for you and me to speak clearly to the world.
about the trustworthiness of God to accomplish good in our lives and in our world even when it seems as though evil is winning the day.
This is the story of Sacred Scripture! That when in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve made a monumental mistake, God refused to let their sin be the end! And when Jesus breathed His last, hanging there on Calvary’s tree, when it appeared that it was all over - then Sunday came!
When you move to the center of our faith and take hold of this Word, you soon learn that the word “end” has not been written into God’s vocabulary yet. That the word “tragedy” is always temporary and never permanent. That the word “loss” is eventually transposed into “gain”. And even death itself gives way to life because God is still at work!
This is the message we are to bring to the world! There is a God who loves us, and will be faithful no matter what happens around us! And this is the life of hope we are to live and practice so the world will know that God is bringing us through! God has not given up on us - He will overcome even the darkest evil with good!
Friends, center your life here, on the sacred writings that hold so true. It is the Word the world most needs to hear and see in times like these!
Our Standing Announcements:
1st Sunday - Potluck Lunch following Mass
2nd Tuesday - Episcopal Church Women
3rd Monday - Vestry Meeting - 5:30 pm
Mon. Office closed
Tue ECW Noon in the Parish Hall
Wed 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist
Next Sunday: The 22nd Sunday After Pentecost - Bishop’s Visitation, Confirmation Service, & 60th Parish Anniversary Celebration
9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Reception and Lunch to follow