January 20, 2008
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
Come and worship with us!
All are welcome!
To serve the
To grow the
Each year, whether we are in year A, Year B, or Year C of our Lectionary, the Season of
Epiphany begins with the Prophet Isaiah. The Epiphany Season, itself, can be as much as
nine Sundays long, and the lessons may cover a good part of the Old Testament – but the
Season always gets started with two or three readings from Isaiah.
Today, on this Second Sunday after the Epiphany – which was, itself, a Sunday, this year – we
have just heard our third reading from the Prophet. Last week I pointed out that our lesson
was the first of what are called the 4 “Servant Songs” or Isaiah – poems that have been
especially associated, in the mind of the Church, with Jesus, himself, since the First Century!
The connection was an easy one to make! Jesus had gone out of his way, in fact, in word and
deed, by teaching and by example, to demonstrate his own servanthood – even to the point
of stripping off his robe, wrapping a towel about himself, getting down on the floor and
washing the feet of his disciples like a slave!
And his disciples understood. From the very beginning, as the Gospel began to spread, and
the Church to grow, the Christian Community was a servant community dedicated to healing
the sick, feeding and clothing the poor; a community in which the members sold all they had,
gave all they had for the ministry of the Church.
And then somewhere along the line, as the years, and the decades, and the centuries
passed, they forgot. We forgot.
We probably did pretty well in most places during the centuries of intolerance and
persecution. It was a struggle just to be a Christian in those early centuries, and the
struggle made it easy to keep an eye on the mission, to keep the goal in sight – and the
Church spread, the Gospel was preached, and more importantly, the Gospel was seen! And
people were drawn to it.
Then the persecutions stopped. The Faith became, first, a legal religion, then the favored
religion, and, eventually, it became the only religion throughout Europe and into the Middle
East – and with its new status it became easy to forget.
Oh, the Church did much good; even did many great things. When Rome died, and the old
culture with it, it was the Church that preserved the best of that old culture through the
centuries of darkness that followed; and it was the Church that set the stage for the
renaissance, for the beginning of the Age of Reason, even the Scientific age, and all that
But a couple of other things happened, too. The Church became very much a part of the
society, and, indeed, of the “establishment.” And the Church became very, very rich –
indeed, the wealthiest institution in Europe, and perhaps the world. And the Church
became, in many, many ways, the center of its own attention!
Oh, reform movements came along with regularity – St. Francis and his followers, for
instance, and many like him and them. They’ve served to keep reminding the Church, over
the centuries, but they’ve never really managed to change it back.
The Reformation came, much of it well intentioned, but the resulting new Churches tended
to settle in as their own establishment, and most of the abuses they had been reacting
against were adopted, in their way, by the reformers, themselves.
The Church had forgotten its first call: to be a servant!
When the Church does “reach out” beyond itself, it has long-since convinced itself that it’s
real job, its real call is to “preach the Gospel;” to bring salvation to sinners; to introduce
Christ to those who do not know him!
Worthy goals, indeed! Crucial! Central! To proclaim Christ! To proclaim the Love of God!
Absolutely laudable and true!
But we forgot how He did it!
He did it as a servant.
He didn’t do it by proclaiming that he was the Son of God! By proclaiming his greatness! He
didn’t perform great, showy miracles, and tell the witnesses to fall down before him and
worship him. He didn’t tell them to give him their money so he would be well cared for!
He sat with them where they lived. He ate and drank with them. He talked with them. He
shared in their lives – shared his life with them. He fed them when hungry. He healed their
sick. He taught them about their Father.
And they loved him; they followed him. They loved him and followed him to the point that he
threatened the status quo of the world they lived in – threatened the establishment,
threatened the rich and the powerful – until they killed him!
And I don’t think we remember very well, today, what it was he did, or how he did it!
I’m going to share with you something I’ve never shared before – it’s a personal belief that
could probably get me in trouble if the wrong people heard it – so don’t tell anyone!
I don’t believe we “save souls” by preaching the Gospel. I don’t believe we “save souls” by
preaching about salvation. I don’t believe WE save souls, at all. God does that – and I’m
perfectly willing to let God worry about that, and do the job. God’s good at it.
Rather, I would remind you of this morning’s Gospel, where, hearing John the Baptist speak
about this young man, Jesus, and point him out, two of John’s disciples followed Jesus and
when they inquired, he told them simply, “come and see.” He didn’t say, “come and listen to
me: come hear me preach or teach.” He said “come and see.”
Come and see who I am. Come and see what I do.
Come and see!
Our job – the job of the Church – is to repeat Jesus invitation, and to fulfill it. It is to invite
people to come and see Jesus. Our job is to show people Jesus – and to show him to them
the same way he did: by sitting with them, and talking with them; by eating and drinking with
them; by laughing and crying with them.
It is to show them Jesus by healing them when they are sick – sick in body or mind, sick at
heart or soul. It is to show them Jesus by clothing them when they can’t clothe themselves;
by feeding them when they’re hungry; by visiting them when they’re sick or in prison.
It is to show them Jesus by holding their hand when they need a human touch.
Our job, here at Calvary, is to build the Church, certainly. We talk about that, and we work on
that. But as we do, we need always to keep in mind why! Why do we need to build the
Because if it’s so we can have a nice place to meet on Sunday morning for worship, if it’s to
have a comfortable, well-equipped parish hall for our gatherings, if it’s so we can enjoy
good food and good times, together, then we’ve missed the point – we’ve forgotten, just as
the Church has tended to forget for so many, many centuries.
And if we’re trying to build the Church so that we can preach the Gospel and save souls,
then we’re delusional, as well as misguided and forgetful.
We need to build this Church so that we will have a place where people can come and see
Jesus – meet Jesus; a place where it can be seen that Jesus lives! And we have to build this
Church so that we’ll have a base from which to go out, bringing Jesus into the world with us.
Bringing Jesus out where the world can see him, meet him, feel him, touch him – in us!
Jesus IS the Gospel. Jesus IS salvation. Our job, as the Church in this place, our purpose,
our goal and our meaning, and all we need to DO, is to tell the people, “come and see” –
and Show them Jesus!
In his Name who is the salvation of humankind. Amen.