Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:13-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Scholars tell us there was a custom in the ancient land of Israel that the firstborn so was sacrificed to a god, god with a small “g”.  They speculate that Abraham was listening to the voice of that local custom when he took Isaac to Mt. Moriah with the wood on Isaac’s back, with fire in his hand, and with a knife in his belt.  As he prepared to sacrifice his son, he heard another voice, the one of our Lord God.  ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.”  WOW.  Abraham was that close to murdering his son.  Thank God Abraham was listening for the voice of our God. 

In his day, as in ours, listening for the voice of the God we know through Jesus Christ is essential.  There are so many fake gods broadcasting fake truths, fake news, into our ears through T.V., radio, internet, and even through family and friends.  Fake gods declare life-threatening news rather than life-giving news. 

So how do we develop our ear – the ear of the heart – to discern the voice of the Lord God we know through Jesus, the Christ?  In Colonial America in the front of Episcopal Churches were placed in wood or granite the Ten Commandments (BCP, p. 350).

  1. You shall have no other gods but me. 
  2. You shall not make for yourself any idol. 
  3. You shall not invoke with malice the Name of the Lord your God. 
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. 
  5. Honor your father and your mother. 
  6. You shall not commit murder. 
  7. You shall not commit adultery. 
  8. You shall not steal. 
  9. You shall not be a false witness. 
  10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.                                                         

They are a good place to start but I find more helpful the Prayer of St. Francis (BCP, 833). 

Lord, make us instruments of peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

In July we will use this as our post-communion prayer.  I recommend it to you as a memory prayer that you may recite at any time.  Let’s review some of its keywords.  First, we are to be “instruments of peace”, not all trumpets, not all violins, not all clarinets, not all timpani.  We are to play together like an orchestra of peace, of wholeness, of shalom.  Second, we are to “sow”, to sow seeds of love, of pardon, of union, of faith, of hope, of light, of joy.  Sowing seed in ancient times was difficult work.  A sling of seed was hung on one shoulder, the other arm threw the seed, one handful at a time while walking the field.  As Jesus’ parable of the sower reminds us, not all fall on the right soil.  Some seeds fall on rocks, some fall where weeds choke them out, some fall where they are trodden underfoot, and some fall on good soil and produce a remarkable harvest.  The next sentence is easily overlooked.  We are to seek to console, not to be consoled; we are to understand others rather than to be understood ourselves; we are to love others rather than to seek out love for ourselves.  We are to be “other” focused, focused away from our own wants, desires, or even needs.  It is in the giving of ourselves that we receive; it is in forgiving others that we receive forgiveness; and it is in spending ourselves into exhaustion and death that we gain life with God, eternal life.  What a powerful prayer that tunes our ear to hear God’s voice speaking in our hearts. 

Now let’s turn to today’s collect – “Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you…”

Perhaps a little too simplistic, but here goes a description of the building, the “holy temple” as I see it.  The foundation is what came before us, the apostles, prophets, martyrs, the large “S” saints, and the small “s” saints.  The cornerstone is Jesus Christ.  From the cornerstone all else is aligned, all else is leveled, all else is measured.  Next comes us – that together we may be the “holy temple”- not individually, but together as a community of faith.  I think the walls are like the Prayer of St. Francis.  These are our boundaries, separating us from the rest of the world.  The floor is the financial stability, our generosity coupled with the Deckard and Cranford Trusts.  The roof protects our floor, our walls, our core beliefs from damage by stormy weather and social distress.  The windows remind us that what we do is observable to others; there are to be no secrets among the people of God.  Windows are so people can see our goodness and give thanks to God.  The doorways are the entry points for people to join with us and enter into the good news as partners.  Greeters are essential for holding doors wide open to all.  The steeple, and in our case, the tower, always serves to raise our sights to the heavens, to the great beyond, to remind us that God is God, and we are the servants of God. 

Perhaps a bit simple, perhaps, yet Abraham could have benefited from a community like ours, a “holy temple” of God.  The fake god that whispered in his ear to murder his son would have been overwhelmed by the God of love who invites us all to be “instruments of peace”. 

One final thought, not all are invited to be flooring, not all are invited to be windows or walls or steeple, but there is a place for each of us in this holy temple of God. From time to time we all need to reexamine our role, our part.  It may be different from what it was five years ago, or ten years ago, or fifty years ago.  Perhaps we are now being invited to play a different instrument in the glorious orchestra of God. 

Be alert; listen for the voice of God; and be among the people of God who sow seeds of goodness as we walk through this life and into the next.

Rejoice and be safe.   

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