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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
22 Pentecost - Proper 23
October 12, 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 32:1-14
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
I  heard  a  discussion  on  the  radio  while  I  was  driving  to  Calvary  last  week.  I  had  
been  flipping  through  the  channels  and  this  topic  caught  me  by  surprise,  so  I  
stayed there  and  listened  for  a  few  moments.  The  question  posed  was  whether  or  
not   it  really  does  “take  a  village  to  raise  a  child,”  and  the  question  was  asked  
based  on  this  incident.   In  a  fast  food  restaurant  a  16  year  old  girl  had  “sassed”  
a  grown  man.  The  man  took  offense  and  hit  her  in  the  face  to  teach  her  some  
manners.   Listeners  to  the  radio  program  were  asked  to  call-in  and  give  their  
opinion  regarding  this  man’s  response  to  the  young  lady’s  disrespectful  behavior.   
Was  his  action  justified,  given  the  way  she  had  spoken  to  him  in  public?       
Personally,  I  was  surprised  to  hear  that  example  used  to  discuss  the  idea  of  
whether   it  takes  a  village  to  raise  a  child.   It’s  a  good  topic,  but  in  the  given  
incident  the  man’s  reaction  seemed  extreme.   One  caller  to  the  radio-show  said  
that  the  man  could  have  responded  in  an  appropriate  way,  but  that  hitting  the  girl  
was  out  of  line.  

After  I  changed  stations  I  found  myself  wondering  about  that  whole   topic.    It  
does  take  a  village  to  raise  children,  and  frankly  I  admire  communities  where  
adults  know  young  people  in  the  neighborhood  well  enough  to  say  something  if  
they  see  a  young  person  getting-into-trouble  or  behaving  badly,  and  where  
parents  generally  support  such  intervention.   It  makes  a  better  neighborhood  for  
everyone.  But  in  order  for  people  to  do  that,  there  has  to  be  a  village  to  work  
from.   And  a  village  is  a  specific  thing;  it  is  not  simply  a  collection  of  people  who  
happen  to  live  in  close  proximity  to  each  other.   It  isn’t  just  the  people  you  see  
on  occasion  at  the  bank  and  the  grocery  store.  Regular  interaction  on  a  barely  
personal  level  does  not  make-of-people  a  village,  a  community.  I  kept  thinking,  if  
that  man  in  the  fast  food  store  had  known  the  girl’s  family  -  her  mom  and  dad,  or  
her  uncles,  her  grandparents,  would  he  have  responded  by  hitting  her?

In  order  for  people  to  be  a  village,  a  community  --  or  for  that  matter,  a  
congregation  --  a  certain  relatedness  is  required,  a  particular  kind  of  
interconnectedness,  a  specific  way  of  “being  with”  each  other.  It  takes  a  “village”  
or  a  “congregation”  to raise  children,  to  step  in  and  give  comfort  when  someone  
loses  a  job,  to  tend  the  elderly  in  their  last  days.  Simply  living  in  the  midst  of  
“people”  doesn’t  cut  it.   What  if  those  people  do  not  know  each  other   so  as  to  
have  been  touched  by  what  is  beautiful  in  the  other,  to  have  developed  patience  
with  what  is  difficult  in  the  other?  If  the  people  around  you  are  strangers  –  to  
each  other  and  to  you  –  how  can  they  watch  your  children,  give  you  
encouragement   when  you’re  unemployed,   tend  your  aging  parents?   It  takes  a  
village,  and  a  village  has  distinct  characteristics  --  there  is  familiarity,  even  
intimacy.  People  know  each  other  --  for  good  and  for  bad:  knowing  each  other  to  
care  and  knowing  each  other’s  business --  but,  at  least  you’re  not  a  stranger.  In  a  
village  people  notice  who  is  missing,  who  is  hurting,  who  is  celebrating  --  and  
they  respond.   In  a  village,  when  hard  times  come,  people  lean  on  each  other  --  
share  what  they  have,  pool  their  resources,  talk  with  each  other  to  ease  the  
worry,  band  together  and  assist  those  who  are  struggling  most.   

So  is  life  in  a  congregation.   When  we  were  baptized  into  Jesus  we  were  
intended  to  live  as  part  of  the  community-of-believers  -  the  Body  of  Christ,  the  
Church.    Christians  are  not  meant  to  live  merely  individual  lives  as  followers  of  
Jesus;  we’re  in  this  together,  to  learn  from  each  other,  to  care  for  each  other,  to  
work  alongside  each  other  in  the  one  ministry  of  our  Lord.   It’s  too  hard  to  go  it  
alone  in  this  world.   It  isn’t  possible  to  be  a  Christian  without  other  Christians.   
Despite  the  fact  that  we  get  annoyed  with  each  other  at  times,  no  matter  that  
‘this’  or  ‘that’  person  in  the  church  family  rubs  us  the  wrong  way…  still,  we  
cannot  be  God’s-people-in-Jesus-Christ  without  each  other.  We  were  baptized,  not  
to  be  “lone  ranger”  Christians,  but  to  live  and  grow  in  a  “village”  --  in  a  
community  of  believers,  in  a  congregation.

With  these  readings  we’ve  had  from  Philippians  the  last  several  weeks,  I’ve  been  
tempted to  refer  to  the  Apostle  as  “Uncle  Paul.”   It’s  his  manner  of  addressing  the  
church  at  Philippi  –  and  consequently  the  rest  of  us  who  get  to  read  this  letter  
in  later  years  –  that  makes  him  feel  like  “uncle.”    Paul  speaks  with  deep  affection  
for  the  community  of  Christians  in  Philippi.   His  care  is  not  just  for  them  as  
individuals  but  as  a  people  who  worship  and  serve  the  Lord  together.  Paul  
addresses  them  like  a  kindly  uncle,  steering  them  toward  unity,  urging  them  to  
see  beyond  their  conflicts,  praising  them  for  their  legacy  of  faithfulness  and  
devotion  to  the  Lord.  This  letter  must  have  fallen  into  their  hands  like  a  blessing  
from  God,  easing  their  hurts,  giving  them  courage,  bringing  the  people  of  the  
Philippian  church  together  again  in  common  cause.

Let’s  imagine  Paul  has  addressed  this  letter  specifically  to  us,  to  Calvary  Church.  
He  knows  our  recent  struggles --  the  loss  of  our  dear  rector,  Father  Bob,  and  all  
the  things  that  accompany  such  a  loss  --  some  members  drift  away,  there’s  a  
decrease  in  worship  attendance,  giving  declines,  the  questions  about  when  we’ll  
find  a  new  rector  and  what  direction  our  parish  will  take.   It  is  unsettling  to  go  
through  the  change  from  one  rector  to  another.   At  the  same  time,  our  country  is  
undergoing  significant  change.    We  are  in  the  midst  of  a  presidential  election;  
one  way  or  another,  will  have  a  new  president  come  January  20th,  2009.   On  top  
of  that,  the  financial  crisis  has  now  spread  beyond  the  borders of  our  nation.   Last  
week  we  heard  about  banks  closing  in  Europe,  the  nation  of  Iceland  needing  an  
emergency  loan  to  avoid  bankruptcy,  and  stock markets  continuing  to  plunge.    Our  
nerves  are  on  edge   as  a  whole  society.    Here  at  Calvary  we  wonder  what  the  
future  will  bring.    In  the  meantime,  we  are  a  community,  a  congregation  that  
needs  and  wants  to  maintain  a  healthy  way  of  interacting  so  our  life  together  can  
be  sound  and  open,    both  stable  and  ready  to  grow.  

Aware  of  all  that,  uncle  Paul  speaks  to  us  saying,  “my  brothers  and  sisters  whom  
I  love  and  long  for,  my  joy  and  crown,    stand  firm  in  the  Lord  (as  I  have  shown  
you).”     This  address  is  not  simply  for  one  or  two  people  Paul  knows  here;   it  is  
not  made  because  Paul  is  especially  fond  of  Tom  or  Bill  or  Jane;  this  address  is  
made  to  “Calvary  Church”  as  a  whole;  that  is  where  Paul’s  concern  lies.   He  
urges  Eudora  and  Sydney,  or  Janet  and  Gloria,  or …  put  in  whichever  names  you  
think  of  --  any  two  people  who  are  at  odds  in  the  congregation  --  uncle  Paul  
loves  them  both  and  urges  them  to  be  of  the  same  mind  in  the  Lord.   They  don’t  
have  to  agree  on  decorating  the  undercroft  for  Christmas  or  who  to  vote  for  in  
the  general  election,  but  in  the  life  and  work  of  the  congregation  they  need  to  
“have  the  same  mind  in  the  Lord,”  for  the  good  of  the  church.   Paul  loves  this  
congregation  and  does  not  want  to  see  it  harmed  by  our  jealousies  and
disagreements,  by  our  hurt  feelings  or  personal  dislikes.   Paul  calls  on  us,  also,  to  
help  Euodia  and  Syntyche  put  aside  their  differences  and  work  together  in  the  
Lord,  for  the  sake  of  the  Body  of  Christ  here  at  Calvary.  

This  is  practical  stuff,  not  very  romantic,  maybe  not  inspiring  --  but  Paul  knows  
this  has  to  be  accomplished  before  any  spiritual  work  can  be  undertaken.  We  
must  be  a  well-functioning  body  of  people  if  we  are  to  give  comfort,  hope,  
encouragement,  if  we  are  to  share  life-in-Christ  with  the  world  around  us.       But  
now,  having  brought  us  together  as  a  unified  congregation,  Paul  begins  the  
spiritual  work,  telling  us  to  rejoice;  at  all  times,  in  all  things,  rejoice.              We  
don’t  know  where  our  congregation  will  be  in  6  months..  in  a  year,  who  our  
rector  will  be,  what  our  ministry  will  look  like.   We  do  not  know  who  will  be  
president,  whether  the  economy  will  hold  up,  or  if  we  will  be  living  through  a  
major  recession.   Doesn’t  matter,  Paul  says.  “Rejoice  in  the  Lord,  always;  again  I  
will  say,  Rejoice!”     We  rejoice  not  based  on  how  the  world  is  but  because  of  
who  we  are;  we  are  a  community  of  people  rooted  in  Jesus  Christ,  embraced  by  
God’s  mercy  and  care  through  Jesus.    We  rejoice  because  we  live  in  Jesus.  

Even  so,  rejoicing  at  all  times  and  in  all  situations  does  not  come  naturally  to  us.  
If  you’re  like  me,  it  is  more  natural  to  notice  what  is  wrong  in  most  situations  and  
then  complain  about  it.  But  Paul  is  calling  us  to  live  as  “church”  -  as  the  Body  of  
Christ.     We  are  not  people  who  simply  happen  to  show  up  here  on  Sunday  
mornings  at  8 and  10 o’clock.   We  are  a  ‘village;’   we  share  a  certain  relatedness  to
each  other  through  baptism.   Because  we  live  in  the  gracious,  plentiful  love  of  
God  in  Christ,  we  can  rejoice  every  day,  regardless  what  shape  the  world  is  in.    
We  are  able  to  do  this,  not  because  life  is  perfect,  and  not  because  our  
congregation  is  perfect,  but  because  we  know  Jesus  –  the  Lord  of  life,  the  one  
who  saves  –  we  have  Jesus  with  us,  and  Jesus  has  us  as  his  beloved  friends.

Yes,  we  have  questions  about  the  future,  and  yes,  the  world  is  in  turmoil.   But  
Paul  reminds  us:  “The  Lord  is  near.”  Turmoil?  Questions?  Upheaval?  --  we  will  
face  and  live  through  them  together,  as  a  faithful  community,  with  Jesus  at  our  
side.   With  great  confidence,  first  in  God  but  also  in  us,  Paul  says:  “Do  not  worry  
about  anything,”  simply  let  your  needs  be  known  to  God  in  prayer,  and  the  peace  
that  surpasses  understanding  will  guard  your  hearts  and  your  minds  in  Christ  
Jesus.      It  is  that  simple, really.  Though  the  world  looks  uncertain,  and  we  don’t  
just  what  Calvary’s  future  holds,  still  we  are  held  in  God’s  loving  care.  What   we  
need  will  be  provided  us  by  our  gracious  Lord.  And  we  will  be  sent  to  provide  
others  with  hope,  with  faith,  with  life  in  Jesus’  name.

We  are  one  body  in  Christ;  no  disagreements,  no  difficulties  with  one  another  can  
change  that.   None  of  us  can  live  as  a  follower  of  Jesus  alone,  but  only  in  our  
“village,”  amongst  our  “people,”  here  in  the  congregation,  where  we  are  known,  
where  we  both  give  and  receive.   Together  we  embody  our  Savior  - his  love,  his  
work,  and  his  caring  -  to  our  neighbors  and  to  the  world.     There  is  much  to  
worry  about  --  today  and  tomorrow --  and  yet  worries  are  no  match  for  the  peace  
we  have  from  God.  The  uncertainties  in  our  life  are  real,  but  more  real  still  is  
God’s  presence,  is  the  power  of  Jesus  Christ  to  save.    We  open  our  hearts  to  
God,  set  our  concerns  before  God  in  prayer,  and  God’s  all-consuming  peace  
settles  over  us,  guarding  our  hearts  and  our  minds.   This  is  how  we  face  the  
future  --  together,  sharing  one  mind  in  Christ,  entrusting  ourselves  to  God  and  to  
each  other  in  Jesus’  name.       amen.