|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
3 Pentecost - Proper 6
June 17, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
Again, this morning, I’m going to do my best to keep my sermon short – it’s becoming just too
uncomfortable without our air conditioning – a state that, I can almost promise, will be corrected in the next
day or two.
It’s a shame, actually, because I really like these lessons. There is so much in them that one could come at
them from any number of different directions.
One of the things that stands out is summed up in the last lines of today’s Gospel – forgiveness – and that
is certainly a central theme of all these lessons. But there is something else that strikes me, today, that
also runs through all of them that’s not quite so apparent: it’s a call for a combination of theology and
reflective awareness. I will explain.
Most of the theological content in these lessons is simply assumed – it’s present, but in the background.
The only really explicit theology is found in the opening verses of our second lesson – St. Paul speaking to
the Galatians – about what was the first great theological argument in Church history, with Paul taking on
Peter (whom he calls, here, by his Aramaic name, Cephas) and the Jerusalem “establishment.” The issue is
whether or not to require non-Jewish converts to be circumcised as well as baptized in order to become
part of the Church – become Christians, and the occasion Paul describes, here was part, at least, of the
first great controversy to be met by the young Church, and dealt with at the first ever council of the Church
– the Council of Jerusalem.
Paul wins the battle – both at the Council and in its aftermath – by calling his opponents to a deeper
awareness and understanding of what faith in Christ means and demands, and what it means to be justified
by faith in Christ.
The same call to awareness and understanding are also key in the other lessons, from Second Samuel and
from Luke’s Gospel. Where Paul functions in the conflict he describes as a teacher to his errant listeners,
in each of the other lessons, the teacher – Nathan in the Samuel lesson, and Jesus in Luke – tells a story,
and draws his listener into realizing the right course of action, only to find that he, himself, is the
transgressor in each of the stories – David, himself, in the first; the Pharisee in the second.
But in all three cases, the teacher draws the hearer into a deeper understanding of what the Faith requires
of him – the demands it makes on him – and then leads him into reflecting on his own standing in regard to
the faith – his own relationship to the demands, to the God who makes those demands, and, finally, his
relationship to God’s people!
And in none of the three lessons is the person or persons the teacher addresses a “bad” person, an evil
person even though one of them, at least – King David – does a despicable thing! In each case, the person
has simply failed to THINK, failed to consider the ramifications of his actions; failed to look beyond his own
needs and considerations, and take into account the other person – the person hurt by his own actions!
The lessons offered us by these readings are obvious, simple and direct!
Paul shows us that the theology of the faith is important. Who God is, what God’s relationship with his
people is, God’s hopes and desires for his people, and the requirements God places on his people are all
important for believers – for us – to know and to understand.
And with that knowledge must come an awareness of our own place in God’s world; of our relationship to
other people; of how our actions – or inactions – affect them; of our responsibility toward them.
Yet here the first common element of these lessons that I mention enters the conversation in the
assurance that when we fail in our responsibilities to God and to his people – whether those people be
loved ones, or acquaintances, or people half-way around the world we’ve never met and never will – there
is forgiveness available to us, waiting for us, but ours only when we have come to understand our failing,
realizing our sin, and have repented.
Each of our lessons this morning shows God to be a god who reveals himself and his will to us, and who
teaches us; a god who requires of us that we recognize other people as God’s children, that we care for
them and that we take care of them; a god who forgives us when we fail in our debts to God and our
responsibilities to God’s people, and ever gives us more chances and more opportunities to atone by
doing it right the next time!
But to meet our burden of responsibility – to know and to be aware of our place in God’s creation and God’
s expectations of us – takes work in learning about those things, and work at developing the awareness of
our own place in God’s plan, and those same expectations so that, unlike King David, the Pharisee and the
leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, we will remember always to treat God’s people with compassion, and
in love and wisdom.
This morning’s lessons draw us to look at one of the meanings, one of the ramifications, of last week’s
lessons, and of what I meant when I said I was proud to be a member of a Church that not only doesn’t ask
its members to check their brains at the door, but actually REQUIRES its members to bring their brains with
them to worship God!
The faith proclaimed by the Apostles and by their descendents for two thousand years gives us a Church
that honors and engages ALL of who and what we are – and it is a Church that proclaims a God who
demands our thought as well as our devotion; demands that we work hard to know him and to know his
world; demands that we work hard at understanding our place in God’s world – and that we work hard at
understanding what our place in God’s world demands of us for God’s world and for his people.
In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.