2. Sermon based on Luke 14:1, 7-14
3. Jamaica Plaque Presentation
4. Chorale in B flat major Boyvin – Offertory
Sermon, Proper 17, Year C, 2022
Proverbs 25: 6-7, Psalm 112, Luke 14:1, 7-14
“Supper at Emmaus”- Caravaggio
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us about how we are to come to our true place in the reign of God and find ourselves seated at God’s “welcome table.”
In this story, Jesus is eating a meal on the Sabbath with a leader of the Pharisees. The first verse of this passage says that they were watching Jesus closely. I’m assuming that “they” were the group of Pharisees who would have been invited to this meal.
Jesus watches the Pharisees take their places at the meal. Where they sat was quite important, for the seating indicated where people stood within the group, who were the most honored, and who were the least important.
The Pharisees were strict followers of Jewish tradition. The more they followed the tradition, the better they considered themselves to be. They judged one another on their accomplishments in the department of law keeping. And those who were the best were the ones chosen to sit in the place of honor at banquets.
Inevitably the Pharisees had come to believe that their relationships with God were determined by how well they kept the laws, and that they earned God’s favor by keeping God’s commandments.
We fall into the same trap ourselves. We try to live by God’s laws. We try to love God and to care for others. We are proud of our accomplishments. We are proud of being good people. But that proudness we develop can adversely affect our relationship with God, and with other people.
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I. Theme – Our lives should exhibit humility and love
Feast of Simon the Pharisee” – Peter Paul Rubens (1618-1620)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
Today’s readings remind us that our Christian way of life is characterized by humility and love. The wisdom teacher Sirach warns his readers to avoid arrogance, violence and pride. The author of Proverbs counsels about having a humble attitude and being content with one’s own social status. The author of Hebrews urges readers to make Christian love a practical reality in their lives.
At a banquet, Jesus teaches the meaning of true humility.Jesus’ teachings on humility challenge us, and cause us to go deeper—it is not enough to humble ourselves in the presence of others, but to actively reach out and invite those who would not be invited to join in. We are called to live out our witness, especially when it is hard and goes against the grain of the world. How does the invitation of Jesus challenge us at the table as we celebrate?
Some of us may know the honor of sitting at the head table at some social or business function. Because recognition of our importance is a coveted honor, the scene in Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast is familiar to us. Who has not looked for his or her place card near the host and been disappointed to find other names at the seats of honor?
The twinge we feel when we do not make the head table at important meetings reveals the fact that we still have a trace of the old nature in us. We want to look rich before people; we forget how rich Christ has made us before God.
Our earthly status is always insecure; it waxes and wanes, and the retirement party inevitably comes. Newcomers take our place, and we are expected to go fishing–or at least stay out of the way of our successors. Not so in God’s service. Once a saint, always a saint here. We are never retired from work in the kingdom. Our future is to be more glorious than is our present in God’s service.
God continues to give freely to us who are poor in what matters most. Our attempts to emulate God’s generosity and hospitality are received and honored when done in the spirit of humility that befits God’s image in us. Then, like God, we too can enjoy the company of those who can never repay us.
Matthew has told us of the beheading of John the Baptist – killed because John denounced Herod Antipas’ marriage to his brother Philip’s wife when Philip was still alive (a violation of Jewish law). Jesus is reeling over this.
His reaction is to withdraw privately to a desert-like, remote place. So Jesus withdraws to be alone with his thoughts and his sorrows – in a “deserted place” to regroup, to recharge. But it doesn’t work, of course. The eager crowds are on him – there is no rest for the weary – and he can’t let them down since he is compassionate. Out of his own heartache, he bring riches.
This is the story of the feeing of the 5000. It is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that gets recorded in all four gospels.
Augustine was born in Thageste, North Africa, in 354. His mother, Monnica, was a committed Christian and tried to raise Augustine in the faith.
In Augustine’s time, Christians were not baptized until later in life for fear that they would stain their souls with their post-baptismal sins. Augustine took this as a license to sin, and sin boldly. Although brilliant, he had a passionate and tempestuous personality and was infamous for his profligate lifestyle, complete with a scandalous mistress, creative cursing, and drunken debauchery.
Augustine had a quick and insatiable mind. He studied philosophy, rhetoric, and law and was an accomplished professor. Drawn to Neoplatonism and Manichaeism, Augustine remained restless, unable to find a system of thought that both engaged his mind and soothed his soul.
While Augustine was serving as professor of rhetoric at the Court of Milan, his mother Monnica’s pleas and prayers for her son to return to Jesus finally reached their climax.
In the summer of 386, Augustine heard the story of Placianus’s and his friends’ conversion after reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert. He was jealous of the revelation given to them and was pacing his garden, wishing for some clarity in his faith, when he heard a child’s voice telling him to “take up and read.” Augustine believed this was the sign he sought and took it as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw.
His Bible turned to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (13:13-14). Augustine felt the words were speaking directly to him. He was deeply convicted about his life of sin and felt called to dedicate his life to God. Shortly thereafter Augustine made the acquaintance of Bishop Ambrose, and, under his influence, came to view Christianity as both intellectually respectable and morally desirable. Augustine was baptized on Easter Eve 387.
His baptism and conversion to Christianity transformed Augustine completely from a prominent debaucher to a powerful defender of the faith. Upon returning to Africa, he gave away all of his possessions to the poor, with the exception of the family home—which he converted into a monastery. He was ordained a priest in 391 and consecrated as bishop of Hippo in 395, a position he held until his death thirty-five years later. He was described by his friend and fellow bishop, Possidius, as a man who “ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his See.”
Augustine’s writing provides his greatest legacy to the Church and the world. After his conversion, the quick, insatiable intellect he had applied to rhetoric and philosophy turned to theology and ethics. Augustine answered God’s call to “love the Lord your God with all your mind,” and fulfilled it well. Yet Augustine’s writing and thought were not dry and detached but passionate and evocative, engaging the heart as well as the mind.
Augustine’s Confessions is one of the earliest and most well-known examples of spiritual autobiography. In Confessions, Augustine tells the story of his life and faith: the good, the bad, and the ugly. 350 sermons and 100 works also survive Augustine did not hide his past sins and early debauchery but confessed them freely. In Confessions, he admitted that, as a young man he prayed, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” And in a letter to some bishops, he once wrote, “I too have sworn heedlessly and all the time, I have had this most repulsive and death-dealing habit. I’m telling your graces; from the moment I began to serve God, and saw what evil there is in forswearing oneself, I grew very afraid indeed, and out of fear I applied the brakes to this old, old, habit.”
Augustine of Hippo is commemorated in The Episcopal Church’s calendar on August 28.
One question preoccupied Augustine from the time he was a student in Carthage: why does evil exist in the world? He returned to this question again and again in his philosophy, a line of inquiry motivated by personal experience. Augustine lived in an era when the pillar of strength and stability, the Roman Empire, was being shattered, and his own life, too, was filled with turmoil and loss. First he lost his mistress, then his mother, and finally his son. To believe in God, he had to find an answer to why, if God is all-powerful and also purely good, he still allows suffering to exist.
Augustine’s answers to this question would forever change Western thought. First, he states that evil exists because we have free will. God enables humans to freely choose their actions and deeds, and evil inevitably results from these choices. Even natural evils, such as disease, are indirectly related to human action, since they become evil only when in contact with people. According to this theory, a disease spreads only because men and women put themselves in harm’s way. Augustine gave a more theological explanation later in his life: we cannot understand the mind of God, and what appears evil to us may not be evil at all. In other words, we cannot judge God’s judgment. The roots of both of these answers stemmed from two philosophies, Manicheanism and Neoplatonism, which shaped Augustine’s ideas.
He helped formulate the idea of original sin – “the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin.” Adam by his fault transmitted to us not only death but also sin. The grace of Christ was therefore indispensable to human freedom .
Photo by Elizabeth Heimbach on the Rappahannnock
Aug.28, 11:00am – Morning Prayer
"Feast of Simon the Phrarisee" – Peter Paul Rubens (1618-1620)
I love David Lose’s comment on this passage -“If there was ever a gospel reading that invited a polite yawn, this might be it. I mean, goodness, but Jesus comes off in this scene as a sort of a progressive Miss Manners.” He later backs off of it.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. And so this, and all reported encounters with religious authorities, are going to clarify and sharpen the division between Jesus’ vision of right now, right here, being the time and the place for the realization of God’s Kingdom, and the authorities’ anxiety to keep social peace as defined and enforced by the Roman occupiers.