Sermon by Fr. Chris Golding on May 10, 2020. AUDIO AVAILABLE HERE >>
Come, my way, my truth, my life: Such a way as gives us breath; Such a truth as ends all strife, Such a life as killeth death.
Words from poet George Herbert, first published in 1633 were later set to the beautiful music of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
What a prayer for us right now, friends.
We need a way that gives breath to those who struggle to breathe.
We need truth that ends all strife and conflict.
We need life such as killeth sin and death.
Thankfully, today’s readings bring us into such prayer.
Just like the global pandemic we experience, the Scripture readings we’ve just heard put the contrast between death and life, truth and lies squarely in our face.
And so, together, we find ourselves in prayer. In music and liturgy. In the word proclaimed and preached. Together we are experiencing communication with God and in God right now.
So, wherever you are, I invite you into a prayerful posture. Whether standing, or sitting, or kneeling, I invite you to set aside all that distracts you. Light a candle. Close the other tabs on your web browser. Turn off the ringer on your phone. Put down the coffee. Turn off the TV in the other room.
Let us worship and pray together as we dive into these Scriptures. For every time we open God’s Holy Texts, we make ourselves ready and alive for God’s Eternal Word, present with us.
Death and life together. Perhaps it is in this time, more than any other time in our lifetime, that we faced the reality of human fragility. Yet, perhaps, in this time, we can also experience the beauty of God’s created life in a new way.
The First Letter of Peter invites us into this death/life mystery as a holy nation together. We are invited, as God’s own people, to live into our calling as a royal priesthood.
Just like the ordained clergy bury the dead and baptize the new human life of infants into God’s new and eternal life, so now, we all – clergy and people together – are invited to be priests together. That is to say, in these times of the Coronavirus, we are invited to see death and life as entry points to grace.
They always have been of course, even if we don’t see it. Because of God’s creation at the beginning of time, and because of God’s re-creation in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, death and life have become the means to see the very face of God. And in seeing God, we find a way to truth and life, as George Herbert put it.
And so, we find ourselves gathering together online, not receiving bread and wine, but we find ourselves in prayer together through the Holy Scriptures. We are equals together. Priests together. God has called us all out of darkness into his marvelous light. We are God’s people together. So, let us shine as lights of the world, to the Glory of God the Father.
This is our calling as priests together. This is a calling to corporate responsibility for our fellow human beings. We are not done with the fight against sin, the flesh, and the devil.
In this pandemic, much to our dismay, perhaps, we may realize a sobering fact: the world still harbors the resentment-filled, violent anger which manifests itself in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Yet, we surely know as well that in the Lord we find a way to redemption. Just like Saul in his transformation into the Apostle Paul, we can, together, find a path away from envy, and rivalry. In the Lord, we find a straight highway from hate-filled bigotry and lynching and violence.
I know that we realize deep within ourselves, that sin and death is not the real version of humanity that God has set before us. We know that God created human beings to live and love as wholly good. We know that God has endowed us with creative power to live alongside God’s good Creation of plants and animals in kindness and humility. We know that God has given us all that we need to live into a life of holiness and self-giving service.
So, let us foster the fresh air of love and reject the virus of hate. This is our calling as priests together in the great community of hope we call the church. And now, more than ever, it is time for us together to discern what this Way of Love will mean as church together.
What does “church” mean to us when we can’t physically gather. In our Creed we profess to believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This means that we believe and declare the trust in a universal church, not a local church.
We believe in a church worldwide which rejects the temptation to become a local club and refuses to become just another activity in our lives.
Yes, the belief in a universal church means that as clergy and people together we have committed to something bigger than ourselves, bigger than St. Luke’s or the Diocese, or The Episcopal Church.
Yes, the Universal Church is God’s church, not ours, always striving to change and evolve, despite the chains us humans may put on it. For God’s incarnate Christ is always the Church, and the Church is always the body of this same Jesus, our Lord.
And so, as we are built into spiritual houses together, we carry the church in us and through us, and we are and continually become more and more Christ-like, church-like, Jesus-body like.
This means, God forbid, that even if we were never to receive the Eucharist again, even if we were never to gather in church as we did before, nothing of this world can take away what is already become alive in us.
So, let us continue to love deeply by washing our hands, by staying home, by wearing our mask, by socially distancing, and by living into a new call to be church in a new way. By God’s grace, with Fr. Bryan and the guidance of our Bishop Morris Thompson, we are in safe and steady hands. During this past week, Fr. Bryan outlined for us our steps for staying safe and remaining in-place for worship during the month of May. This means that St. Luke’s will stay the course with online worship for the remainder of the Easter Season.
While this may seem like a loss, we are returning in many ways, to the domestic worship of the early church which would meet in house units to break open God’s word and to offer petitions and thanksgivings on behalf of the world and the new sectarian movement called, “the Way.” St. John’s Gospel, heard this morning, puts this language into the mouth of Jesus, who calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life.” And so, with poet George Herbert, and with composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and with all the Saints,
We pray together to the Lord of life who invites us into a new way that gives breath to the sick and dying and respite to those who care for them.
We pray together to the truth incarnate, Jesus Christ, who showed abundant mercy to the humble, and who called the violent, boastful, and arrogant leaders to account.
We pray together to the Lord of life, who calls us brother and friend, and who gives us permission to fail and get frustrated, to be anxious and afraid, yet also calls us to live up and beyond all of this beautiful brokenness together.
The Lord be with you.