14th Sunday after Pentecost- Fr. Chris- September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017

When asked to talk about love Dave, age 8, said “love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.”

Regina, age 10, said “I’m not rushing into being in love. I’m finding the fourth grade hard enough.”

Del, age 6, thinks that one surefire way to make someone fall in love is to “tell them that you own a whole bunch of candy stores.”

Greg, age 8, thinks that “love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”

Finally, six-year-old Chrissy said that “love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

And so what does love look like to you?

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Today we get a small glimpse into what community means. This section from our Gospel is part of a larger teaching by Jesus that is often called the “Community Discourse.” It is in this chapter of Matthew that we hear Jesus say that children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He also shares the parable of the 100 sheep and how the shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep. Today, we hear of the important role reconciliation plays in our relationships with one another. Jesus knew that life in community can be hard and so he spent time helping to shape what healthy community would look like.

At the heart of Jesus’ teachings about community is peace, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that comes from the love of God. Today we find specific instructions to a community on how to keep the peace. Go to one another in a spirit of love and forgiveness and work to get on the same page. Jesus says if an offender is not open to reconciliation “let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” By way of reminder, a Gentile was the general term for all outsiders to the Jewish people and a tax collector was a traitor who aligned themselves with the Romans. So is Jesus really saying to treat them as the ultimate other? To cast them out of the community? That might be what it would have sounded like to the original audience who heard this but of course we know that is not the case. Jesus repeatedly dined with the outsiders. He welcomed them with open arms. He went to their homes and worked to bring them into his community. The instruction here is not to throw away a person who is breaking community, but rather, to treat them as Christ treated the Gentiles and as Christ treated the tax collectors. Remember, the Apostle Matthew, the traditional author attributed to writing this Gospel, was indeed a tax collector. In other words, go to them with open arms… with an unyielding hope for reconciliation.

Paul also knew of the struggles that exist when living life as a follower of Christ. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he spends eleven chapters laying out his argument for God’s grace and our proper response of faith. The rest of Romans then explains the next step… living in faith. In this thirteenth chapter of Romans which we heard today, Paul explains that the one thing we owe unto one another is love. In the Greek, there are several words for love, and the one Paul uses here is “agape.” That is the ultimate self-sacrificial love. And so it is love that becomes the identity marker that defines our attitude and behavior. What does love look like to you?

As the old song goes, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And we pray that our unity will one day be restored and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” In other words, it is not our t-shirts, bumper stickers, or even church attendance… No, they will know that we are Christians by our love. Love is the identifying mark that defines our attitude and behavior. It is love that transforms us and when shared transforms the world around us.

Back in the spring of 2012, the Vestry of St. Paul’s came out to Austin to interview me. I remember being struck by two things:

  1. The authenticity of the people; and
  2. The desire to live out the mission statement… “Loving the Lord and our Neighbors.”

Well, the mission statement is actually much larger than that. It states, “The mission of St. Paul’s is to love the Lord and our neighbors together in Christ through worship, prayer, fellowship, service, and spiritual nourishment.” In short, “Loving the Lord and our Neighbors.” Quite frankly, the simplicity and profoundness of getting back to the basics of our calling to be transformed and to help transform others for the kingdom of God through love was a big part of what tugged at my heart and brought me to St. Paul’s. It helped give me the clarity to claim with all those that were already here, “I am St. Paul’s.”

Hopefully by now, you have seen in the August newsletter that I have given a challenge for this new program year. In the past, I have given challenges to the parish for a given year such as the “One in One” challenge. This was a challenge for each individual of the congregation to invite at least one other person to church at some point during the year. Then there was the “Commit to Come” challenge. This was for people to commit to coming to church more often than they miss. St. Paul’s is better when each person is active in the life of the parish and we as individuals are better when more fully connected to the Body of Christ, the Church.

This year’s challenge is to simply reflect on what it means to claim “I am St. Paul’s.” What does that phrase mean to you when you say it? When you live it? If this statement was fully realized in each member’s life, what effect could St. Paul’s have on your life? And on the flipside, what impact could you have on the life of St. Paul’s? I firmly believe that what we do here from our corner of Franz and Drexel radiates out into the world and helps transform all of creation for the sake of the kingdom of God.

And so, they will know we are Christians by our works of reconciliation, by our works as God’s peacemakers. Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love. Amen.

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist

Address

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785
Website:http://www.stpaulskaty.org
Email:info@stpaulskaty.org

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