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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
16 Pentecost - Proper 17
August 31, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
We   want   to   see   Jesus.      That’s  been  true  of  Christians  down  through  the  
ages.   We  want  to  see  Jesus.  If  we  could  only  meet  Jesus  in  the  flesh,   spend  
time  with  our  living  Lord-bodily  so  that  we  could  ask  him  questions,  hear  his  
voice,  watch  how  he  deals  with  people,  and  come  to  understand  how  he  
would  live  in  the  world  today…  it  would  be  such  a  gift.  It  would  strengthen  
our  faith,  fill  our  hearts  with  joy;  and  the  love-we-would-have  from  being  in  his  
presence  would  enable  us  to  love  others  more  consistently.  If  only  we  could  
see  Jesus,  be  in  his  bodily  presence,  hear  him  speak,  see  in  his  eyes  the  love  
he  has  for  us  --  for  you,  for  me,  for  Calvary  Church  --  what  a  difference  that  
would  make  in  our  lives.  

Maybe  you’re  thinking  “any  minute  now  she’s  going  to  say:  ‘Jesus  is  right  
here  with  us  whenever  we  gather  for  worship,  and  especially  when  we  partake  
of  the  sacraments.’”   You’re  right;  I  am  going  to  say  that.  Jesus  is  here  with  
us  in  our  gathering,  in  the  reading  of  scripture  and  the  singing  of  hymns,  in  
the  meal  of  life.   We  know  that,  we  believe  that  firmly,  we’re  refreshed  by  it  
week  after  week.   Even  so,  if  you’re  like  me,  sometimes  you  still  think:  “if  I  
could  just  talk  to  the  embodied-person-Jesus  this  once…”  it  would  be  so  
helpful!     We  are  human  and  we  need  things  we  can  touch,  see,  hear,  interact-
with  through  our  senses.   God,  of  course,  knows  that  or  God  would  not  have  
bothered  to  send  Jesus  as  a  human  being  in   the  first  place.   It  is  our  human  
need  for  the  visible,  the  tactile,  that  causes  us  to   wish  we  could  see  the  
bodily  person  of  Jesus,  could  feel  the  touch  of  our  Savior’s  hand.

This  morning  we  receive  a  most  life-like,  and  life-sized,  portrait  of  Jesus  in  our  
epistle  reading,  from  the  twelfth  chapter  of  Romans.   If  a  picture  can  be  
painted  with  words,  the  apostle  Paul  has  accomplished  it  here.   As  you  read  
this  chapter  over  -  once,  twice,  three  times  -  you  can  see  God’s  Son  coming   
to  life.  Various  scenes  from  Jesus’  days  on  earth  arise  in  our  minds  as  we  
hear : “rejoice in  hope,  be  patient  in  suffering,  persevere  in  prayer,  extend  
hospitality  to  strangers…  rejoice  with  those  who  rejoice,  weep  with  those  who  
weep…  do  not  be  haughty  but  associate  with  the  lowly…”  Those  words  are  a  
mirror  of  the  Jesus  who  lived  a  human  life.  

To  the  poor  in  spirit,  the  mournful,  the  meek  Jesus  brought  hope,  telling  them  
they  were  beloved  of  God,  blessed,  noticed  and  watched-over  by  God.  Time  
and  again  in  the  gospels  we  encounter  Jesus  praying  –  when  he  was  weary,  
when  others  needed  his  intercession,  when  he  was  breaking  bread.   Jesus  
was  scorned  for  calling  a  tax  collector  as  one  of  his  disciples,  he  was  vilified  
for  eating  with  sinful  people,  he  gave  his  time  and  energy  to  the  poor,  the  
sick,  the  suffering  –  bringing  them  healing  and  encouragement,  telling  them  
about  a  God  who  loved  them.  The  more  we  read  this  passage,  the  more  we  
see  how  it  draws  a  life-sized  portrait  of  our  Lord.  “Live  in  harmony  with one  
another,  do  not  repay  anyone  evil  for  evil,  so  far  as  it  depends  on  you  live  
peaceably  with  all…  do  not  be  overcome  by  evil,  but  overcome  evil  with  
good.”   In  every  aspect,  in  every description,  this  is  Jesus.

Some  people  carry  a  picture  of  Jesus  in  their  pocket  to  remind  them  whom  
they  serve.  I  park  next  to  a  car  with  a  miniature  figure  of  Jesus  –  robed  in  
white,  arms  spread  wide  –  attached  to  a  spring  and  mounted  on   the  
dashboard.   In  recent  years  young  people  have  worn  bracelets  with  WWJD  
imprinted  on  them  to  prompt  them  to  consider  “what  would  Jesus  do”  in  
various  situations  throughout  the  day.   Years  ago  it  was  common  to  enter  a  
home  and  see  hanging-on-a-wall  the  famous  picture  of  Jesus  kneeling  at  
prayer  in  the  Garden  of  Gethsemane.   The  purpose  of  these  is  to  remind  
ourselves  that  Jesus  is  Lord,  Jesus  is  the  one  whom  we  follow  and  serve.   
We  would  do  just  as  well  to  print  the  twelfth  chapter  of  Romans  and  carry  it  
in  our  wallet  or  purse,  frame  it  and  hang  it  on  the  wall.   This  reading  is,  itself,  
a  life-like,  genuine  picture  of  Jesus.

Paul  has  written  these  words  to  us,  the  Christian  community,   to  encourage  us  
to  live  -  with  one  another  and  in  the  world  -  as  a  reflection  of  Jesus.  We  who  
are  grafted  onto  the  body  of  Christ  - the  Church,  who  have  received  Jesus’  
forgiveness,  who  have  an  endless  supply  of  God’s  love  and  mercy,  who  have  
been  caught  by  our  Lord’s  strong  hand  again  and  again  when  we  were  
sinking…  are  now  asked  to  live  like  him.   It  takes  great  effort,  and  patience  –  
with  ourselves  and  with  each  other  –  but  we  are  asked  to  keep  working  to  
represent  Jesus  Christ  to  each  other  and  to  the  world  by  being  like  him.  “Hold  
fast  to  what  is  good;  outdo  one  another  in  showing  honor… do  not  be  
haughty  but  associate  with  the  lowly… Rejoice  in  hope,  be  patient  in  suffering,  
persevere  in  prayer… extend  hospitality  to  strangers.”   This  is  how  we  embody  
Jesus  Christ  for  the  world.   And  when  we  embody  Jesus  for  the  world,  we  
become  living  instruments  of  God’s  hope  and  grace.

One  portion  of  this  reading  is  a  bit  be  troubling,  rather  difficult  to  understand.   
After  advising  us  not  to  avenge  ourselves  Paul  quotes  Proverbs,  saying  “if  
your  enemies  are  hungry,  feed  them;  if  they  are  thirsty,  give  them  something  
to  drink;  for  by  doing  this  you  will  heap  burning  coals  on  their  head.”  That  
has  always  bothered  me;  it  sounds  tricky  and  underhanded,  like  we  are  to  be  
nice  outwardly  but  mean  and  spiteful  inwardly,  which  would  not  be  at  all  Christ-
like.   But  though  the  passage  may  sound  that  way  to  us,  its  meaning  is  far  
different.  In  scripture  the  reference  to  “burning  coals”  indicates  ashes,  and  
ashes  are  a  symbol  of  repentance.  Paul  is  not  urging  us  to  be  kind  to  our  
enemies  so  that  God  will  punish  them  even  more  severely  in  the  end.   No,  we  
are  to  be  good  to  those  who  oppose  us  in  the  hope  that  whatever  obstacle  is  
between  us  will  be  burned  away;  our  aim  is  for  the  ashes  of  repentance  to  
bring  righteousness  and  reconciliation.  

A  couple  of  guys  went  to  a  city  for  a  convention.  Both  rode  motorcycles  and  
they  had  noticed  a  biker  bar  just  up  the  street.  At  the  end  of  the  first  day  of  
meetings  they  rode  over  to  the  biker  bar  to  unwind.   Before  long,  one  of  the  
regulars  at  the  bar  took  offense.   While  both  of  these  out-of-town  visitors  had  
come  on  motorcycles,  one  of  their  bikes  was  from  the  police  department.  
Apparently,  that’s  what  the  regular  customer  had  taken  offense  over.  He  stood  
in  the  middle  of  the  floor  and  made  a  very  loud  comment  about  not  wanting  
any  cops  in  their  bar.  The  visitors  were  not  looking  for  any  trouble,  and  they  
would  clearly  have  been  outnumbered  in  that  place.   So  the  one  who  owned  
the  police-issue  motorcycle  decided  what  to  do.  He  finished  his  beer,  bought  a  
drink  for  the  customer  who  was  getting  upset,  and  as  he  and  his  friend  left  
the  bar,  he  told  the  other  fellow  to  have  a  good  evening.    /  That’s  how  you  
“heap  burning  coals”  on  someone’s  head,  by  behaving  well  even  when  they  
are  not.  By  not  being  ‘overcome  by  evil,’  but  instead,  answering  evil  with  
kindness.    Then  just  maybe  the  other  person  will  see  that  he  is  not  
threatened,  that  his  hostility  is  unnecessary  and  unpleasant,   and  he  will  
abandon  it.

This  is  how  the  world  encounters  Jesus  --  when  men  and  women,  and  
children  too,  behave  in  like  manner  to  Jesus.   We  meet  Jesus  in  our  daily  lives  
when  someone  responds  to  us  with  kindness,  with  patience,  as  Jesus  would.    
Most  often  we  probably  do  not  notice  it,  but  every  now  and  then  we  do.  Back  
in  May  when  I  was  beginning  to  look  for  an  interim  position,  I  asked  Bishop  
Borsch,  who  teaches  at  the  seminary,  if  I  could  stop  by  and  talk  to  him.  He  is  
a  retired  Episcopal  bishop.  I  was  thinking  of  approaching  the  Episcopal  
Diocese  to  inquire  about  the  possibility  of  interim  ministry  and  I  was  hoping  
Bishop  Borsch  would  give  me  some  pointers  --  who  to  talk  to,  what  sort  of  
documents  to  bring  with  me.  

When  I  arrived  at  his  office  he  invited  me  in,  offered  me  tea  or  coffee,  and  
asked  me  to  tell  him  about  my  parish  ministry  experience.  I talked  a  while  and  
he  listened  intently.   Then  after  about  20  minutes  he  picked  up  the  phone  and  
called  the  Church  House.  I  heard  him  say  “This  is  Bishop  Borsch  and  I  have  
Kris  Hill  here  in  my  office.  She’s  a  highly  qualified  Lutheran  pastor  of  many  
years  looking  for  work  as  an  interim.  I’m  going  to  send  her  down  to  talk  with  
you  and  I’d  appreciate  it  if  you  would  do  whatever  you  can  for  her.”  I  was  
surprised.   We  had  never  talked  extensively  before  that  day  and  such  a  warm,  
personal  introduction  from  him  was  much  more  than  I  had  expected.  
Last  week  I  encountered  Bishop  Borsch  in  the  hall  shortly  before  chapel.  I  
thanked  him  again  for  his  gracious  introduction  to  the  Diocese  and  told  him  I  
would  soon  start  as  the  interim  rector  at  Calvary.  His  face  just  beamed  and  he  
said  “that’s  good.”   Then  in  chapel  I  saw  that  he  was  both  presiding  and  
preaching  at  the  service.  He  preached  on  this  text  from  Romans  12.  His  
balding  head  shining,  warmth  and  earnestness  glowing  in  his  eyes,  he  said  
the  definition  of  holiness  is  doing  good  for  others  and  rejoicing  in  the  benefits  
they  receive.   I  caught  my  breath,  thinking  “why,  that’s  precisely  what’s  he’s  
done  for  me.”   And  suddenly  I  knew  I  was  seeing  Jesus  --  bodily  --  in  the  
person  of  Bishop  Borsch  -  his  warm  welcome,  his  kindness,  his  quickness  to  
help  me  when  I  was  nearly  a  stranger.  

We  do  see  Jesus,  in  his  body,  right  here  among  us  --  in  these  pews  at  
Calvary  church.   We  might  not  think  of  it  that  way,  but  it  is  true.  Jesus  comes  
to  us  in  the  bodily  form  of  our  neighbor,  our  friend,  the  whole  congregation,  
the  lovely  hymn  we  are  singing,  the  silence  that  fills  the  air  before  we  break  
into  prayer  together.     Most  of  the  time  we  do  not  recognize  Jesus,  but  
sometimes  we  do.   Christ  comes  like  a  prayer  shawl  wrapped  around  our  
shoulders,  holding  us  tight,  when  we  feel  weary  or  forsaken.  Christ  comes  in  
the  presence  of  that  one  person  who  brightens  a  room  with  a  smile  or  a  joke  
or  just  her  radiant  spirit.  Jesus  comes  in  one  who  takes  time  to  listen,  in  the  
happy  sound  of  children’s  voices  calling  out,  “Go  in  peace  to  love  and  serve  
the  Lord.”    Like  all  the  faithful  of  every  time  and  every  place,  we  want  to  see  
Jesus.   What  could  be  better  than  to  be  in  his  presence?    Jesus  is  here  --  
with  love  that  is  genuine,  holding  fast  to  what  is  good  (in  us  and  among  us),  
rejoicing  when  we  rejoice,  weeping  when  we  weep,  overcoming  evil  with  good,  
gladly  bringing  us  hope.     What  wonder,    what  joy,   if  others  could  come  too,   
and  meet  Jesus  here  in  us.
Exodus 3: 1-15
Romans 12: 9-21
Matthew 16: 21-28
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector