To contact us:                                                                                               
                



Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
21 Pentecost - Proper 22
October 5, 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
Exodus 20:1-4,7-9,12-20
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
but  I  think  most  of  us  have.  I  saw  plenty  of  evidence  of  romantic  love  at  Calvary’
s  175th  anniversary  dinner  and  dance.   People  were  dancing  like  they  were  19  
years  old  again,  and  not  only  the  couples  who  were  there,  but  even  those  whose  
spouses  were  not  present  had  a  sparkle  in  their  eye  and  a  spring  to  their  step  
that  indicated  they,  too,  knew  about  having  a  partner  who  could  light  up  their face  
When  you  fall  in  love,  you  want  to  know  everything  about  your  beloved:  what  he  
(or  she)  thinks,  what  is  important  to  him,  what  makes  him  laugh,  what  he  has  
experienced  in  life,  what  has  wounded  him,  what  brings  him  joy,  what  his  dreams  
and  plans  are.  As  you  grow  to  care  for  each  other,  you  want  to  spend  more  time  
together.  You  long  to  share  each  other’s  pleasures,  to  help  bear  each  other’s  
burdens.   That’s  what  it’s  like  when  you  love  someone  -- you  want  to  know  that  
person  deeply,  understand  his  outlook,  care  for  him,  open  up  your  life  to  him.   

Paul  speaks  for  us  today  in  his  letter  to  the  Philippians.   He  expresses  why  we  
gather  here  Sunday  after  Sunday,  why   we  bother  to  affiliate  with  a  congregation,  
why  we  work  through  the  difficulties  that  arise  between  us  and  keep  striving  to  
live  as  a  family  of  believers.  We  do  it  because  we  want  to  know  Jesus,  truly  
know  him  --  not  just  intellectually,  but  in  our  spirits  and  our  souls  and  our  hearts.  
We  want  to  know  Jesus  in  our  daily  living,  to  know  that  we  are  walking  with  him  
and  he  is  walking  beside  us.  That  is  why  we  seek  a  congregation  and  become  a  
part  of  it:  we  want  to  know  God’s  love  for  us  in  Jesus  Christ;  we  want  to  be  
joined  to  Jesus-and-his-love-for-the-world  in  our  daily  lives.  

It  is  clear  in  his  letter  to  the  Philippians  that  Paul  has  a  deep  love  for  Jesus.  In  
our  reading  today  Paul  explains  that  he  already  had  the  things  most  people  strive  
for  in  life,  all  the  “good  stuff.”  He  was  born  into  a  noble  family  with  the  ‘right  
heritage;’  he  had  a  fine  career  as  a  Pharisee;  he  was  zealous  in  his  work –
recognized  for  going  ‘above  and  beyond;’  he  was  a  leader  of  leaders;  he  had  
status,  acclaim,  wealth  --  everything  people  work  most of  their  lives.    But  when  he  
encountered  Jesus,  it  became  as  garbage  to  him;  it  was  stuff  that  held  him  back  
from  living  in  full  alignment  with  Jesus.  He  gladly  left  all  of  it  behind.

Let’s  put  this  into  context  if  we  can.  In  today’s  world  Paul  might  be  someone  who  
worked  as  a  Chief  Financial  Officer  or  a  Chief  Executive  Officer  (CFO  or  CEO)  at  
a  large,  wealthy  corporation.  He  rose  through  the  ranks  until,  still  young,  he  sat  
in  the  corner  office  on  the  top  floor,  pulled  in  a  hefty  six-figure  income,  had  
many  people  under  his  authority,  was  invited  to  the  best  social  events  and  
presided  over  the  most  important  business  meetings.   He  lived  in  a  mansion  
surrounded  by  an  iron  gate.  His  face  graced  the  cover  of  Time  magazine  --  Man  
of  the  Year…  and  then  one  day  he  walked  away  from  all  of  it  because  he  had  a  
religious  experience,  because  he  met  Jesus.    He  claimed  his  life  was  better  
afterwards  --  teaching  people  about  Jesus,  making  tents  by  hand as  a  way  to  
support  himself.    He  lived  where  he  could  –  with  friends  or  camping  out,  staying  
in  cheap  motels.   No  more  Italian  suits,  rib-eye  steaks,  and  Dom Perignon.    Instead  
it  was  tennis  shoes,  lentil  stew  and  Jesus.   That’s  a  tremendous  shift.    But  Paul  
was  on  fire  with  love  and  devotion  for  his  Lord.  “I  want  to  know  Christ,”  he  said,  
“and  the  power  of  his  resurrection!”

We  want  to  know  Jesus,  too,  and  we  want  to  live  by  the  power  of  his  
resurrection  --  his  power  to  heal,  to  restore,  to  make  things  new  and  whole  and  
complete,  to  smooth  out  the  rough  places,  to  repair  the  damage  done  to  earth  
and  bodies,  structures,  relationships,  hearts.  Yes,  we  want  to  “know  Christ  and  
the  power  of  his  resurrection”  …although  we  may  not  be  eager  to  get  to  know  
Christ  the  way  Paul  did  --  leaving  behind  everything  we  have  achieved,  or  hope  
to  achieve,  in  this  life   so  that  nothing  stands  between  us  and  our  Lord.    That  
sounds  a  bit…   fanatical,  a  bit  extreme.  We  want  to  know  Jesus  and  the  power  of  
his  resurrection  because  that  is  life  for  us  --  not  just  life  after  death,  but  life  
now,  life  here.    So  we  understand  Paul’s  yearning,  if  not  his  methodology.

However,  Paul  has  something  to  say  to  us  in  the  situation  we  are  currently  
facing.   Paul  is  never  fooled  by  the  “treasures”  of  this  world,  by  the  pleasures  
life  here  has  to  offer.  He  is  aware  of  the  larger  picture  of  life,  of  how  things  
really  work  in  this  world.  After  all, he  has  been  on  both  sides  --  the  side  of  
power,  as  one  who  sought  after  and  persecuted  followers  of  Jesus;  and  the  side  
of  weakness,  as  one  who   suffered  abuse  and  imprisonment  for  Jesus’  sake.   Paul  
knows  this  life  better  than  to  think  one  can  have  success  without  tasting  defeat,  
that  one  can  live  in  the  resurrection  without  experiencing  death.    We  forget  that  
sometimes,  but  Paul  does  not.   He  does  not  leave-off  with  wanting  to  know  
“Christ  and  the  power  of  his  resurrection”  but  goes  on: “and  the  sharing  of  (Christ’
s)  sufferings  by  becoming  like  him  in  his  death…”  Paul  understands  that  there  is  
no  resurrection  without  death  on  the  cross.  

The  financial  crisis  our  nation  is  facing  gives  the  same  lesson  to  which  Paul  
attests.  Life  cannot  be  all  glory,  all  good times,  without  periods  of  genuine  
suffering.   Whether  the  people  of  our  nation  will  learn  this  remains  to  be  seen  --  
this  lesson  that  ever-increasing  wealth  for  everyone,  or  almost  everyone,  is  not  a  
sustainable  goal.   Someone  has  to  pay  and  the  payment  is  painful.    What  goes  up,  
and  up,  and  up  (be  it  profits,  or  the  stock  market,  or  record  home  sales  during  
only  modest  economic  times…)  what  goes  up  really  does  have  to  come  down,  
sooner  or  later.   When  we  step  back  and  look  at  the  larger  picture,  nobody  gets  
rich  quick  without  somebody,  somewhere,  paying  the  cost.  We  have  ignored  that  
truth  for  too  long  and  now  it  is  coming  home  to  roost.

The  consequences  of,  the  fall-out  from,  our  nation’s  recent  history  of  greed  and  
love-of-wealth  are  frightening.  No  one  yet  knows,  just  what  will  happen,  but  we  
have  certainly  heard  some  dire  predictions.  Folks  who  live  on  pensions  are  
nervous  about  whether  those  will  dry  up;  people  connected  with  small  businesses  
wonder  how  they  will  weather  the  uncertain  economy  that  lies  ahead;  we’ve  heard  
that  car  loans  and  student  loans  and  loans  to  buy  a house,  loans  that  small  
businesses  normally  need  from  time  to  time  will  be  hard  to  come-by.       Will  the  
result  be  a  rash  of  lay-offs  around  the  country,  decreased  wages,  a  shortage  of  
things  we  need  like  gas  or  food  or  parts  to  repair  the  appliances  or  vehicles  we  
already  own?    And  what  about  this  rescue  plan  the  Congress  has  passed is  
discussing   –  how  much  will  that  cost  us  down  the  line?    We  await  the  coming  
weeks  and  months  with  some  trepidation,  unsure  what  will  happen,  unsure  what  
will  be  required  of  us.

Undoubtedly  the  future  holds  challenges  for  us,  for  our  neighbors,  for  people  
across  our  nation.   Life  will  not  be  easy.  But  with  this  crisis  may  come  an  
opportunity  for  us  to  know  Christ  and  the  power  of  his  resurrection  more  deeply.  
Painful  as  it  is  to  suffer  loss,  losing   material  things  we  have  come  to  depend  on,  
might  just  open  up  room  within  ourselves  to  depend  more  fully  on  God.  As  
suffering  increases  around  us  we  can  reach  out  to  assist  our  neighbors  in  their  
difficulties.  Then  we  will  be  sharing  in  Christ’s  suffering  and   might  just  become  a  
bit  like  him  in  his  death  -  by  giving  ourselves  in  love  for  one  another.    Some  of  
our  old  hopes  and  dreams  --  for  more  and  bigger  houses,  clothes,  possessions  --  
may  fall  by  the  wayside,  but  as  they  do  we  might  experience  the  wonder  of  
seeing  them  replaced  by  new  dreams  that  God  will  plant  within  us.   

There  is  only  one  way  to  “know  Christ”  truly  – to   know  any  other  person  honestly  
–  and  that  is  by  putting  aside  one’s  own  thoughts,  opinions,  desires  and  goals,  
for  at  least  a  time,  so  one  can  listen  and  receive  who  the  other  is.  This  is  
especially  so  if  we  are  to  know  Jesus,  our  own  agendas,  our  rivalries,  our  
material-desires  have  to  be  cleared  away  so  there  is  room  within  us  for  Christ.   
This  time  of  loss  and  uncertainty,  though  hard  and  unpleasant,  may  also  be  a  time  
when  we  lose  things  that  have  kept  us  from  being  closer  to  God’s  love  in  Jesus.  
If  so,  then  what  lies  before  us  is  not  only  a  threatening  situation,  but  an  
opportunity  for  increased  joy,  for  spiritual  blessings,  for  finding  parts  of  ourselves  
that  have  been  missing,  for  growing  in  trust  and  hope,  for  developing  within  
ourselves  a  sense  of  calm  and  well-being  even  when  the  world  outside  is  a  mess  
-  because  we  are  held  safe  in  the  love  of  God  in  Christ  Jesus our  Lord.

Following  Paul’s  leadership,  this  is  what  is  laid  out  before  us  today:  “(We)  want  to  
know  Christ  and  the  power  of  his  resurrection  and  the  sharing  of  his  sufferings  
by  becoming  like  him  in  his  death…”    We  know  Christ  and  his  resurrection  power  
when  we  also  share  in  his  suffering  and  experience  his  death.  But  Paul  has  
learned,  and  we  know,  too,  that  the  love  of  Christ  is  worth  it  --  worth  letting  go  
of  other,  lesser  treasures,  worth  pursuing  with  all  our  hearts,  worth  clinging  to  in  
happiest  times  and  in  the  most  difficult  days.   We  want  to  know  Christ  and  the  
power  of  his  resurrection – the  power  of  life  that  is  not  greedy,  but  generous;  
that  does  not  clutch  to  keep  what  it  has,  but  is  open  to  everyone  it  meets  and  
thus  has  neighbors;  that  is  not  fearful  and  anxious,  but  that  trusts  God  and  is  full  
of  joy.  

We  love  Jesus,  and  we  want  to  know  him  who  calls  us  sisters  and  brothers,  who  
lives  a  new  way  --  neither  Democrat  nor  Republican,  neither  Conservative  nor  
Liberal,  but  truthful,  compassionate,  honoring  the  humanity  of  everyone  who  is  
poor  or  weak,  calling  those  in  authority  to  be  just,  being  the  presence  of  peace  
in  the  world,  loving  all  people – even  his  adversaries,  fulfilling  God’s  will.   We  
love  Jesus  and  want  to  know  him  --  Jesus,  who  loves  us  without  fail,  who  lifts  us  
when  we  fall,  who  welcomes  us  home  no  matter  how  often  we  leave.   No  one  
else  loves  like  Jesus  -  so  constant,  so  completely,  so  comprehensively.  No  one  
else  cares  for  the  broken  and  the  hurting  like  Jesus,  calls  down  the  arrogant  like  
Jesus  and  yet  cares  for  them,  too.   We  want  to  know  Jesus  and  the  power  of  his  
resurrected  life,   given  to  us  at  baptism.     We  really  don’t  need  to  fear.  We  have  
all  we  need  in  Christ  --  for  today,  for  tomorrow,  for  the  future.    Like  Paul,  we  
press  on  to  know  our  Lord  as  deeply  as  we  can,  but  already  we  belong  to  Christ;  
already  we  are  wrapped-up  in  the  strength  and  power  of  his  resurrection  life.       
amen