The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

 


These are days of uncertainty and upheavel.
Yet we are able to gather today in a manner
That has been unavailable to us for some months.
(I believe the last time we gathered on a Sunday in here, it was the middle of March.)
So before we go any further, let’s take a moment, please, to just be together in silence, before God,
And take a breath or two together,

In order to record our sermons on Wednesday afternoons, I need to have a good idea
Of what I am going to preach on by at least Tuesday afternoon.
Then, that sermon needs to stay fresh for the next four-and-a-half days.
That is, it needs to feel relevant and helpful on Sunday morning.
Maybe you see where this is going.

In the case of Jesus arguing with the Pharisees and elders as we just heard about,
You can go on our web site, or to our YouTube Channel, or to our Facebook page,
And you can hear a sermon that if I do say so myself is well-prepared, sound, and logically tight,
And … in light of how quickly things are moving right now … is just. Kind of irrelevant .
Yesterday, I thought, I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I didn’t at least try
To take another run at this.
So that’s what I did: sit down and cobble together a few thoughts.
It will be a bit ragged around the edges;
The theology may get a little hairy at times;
But I think if you want to communicate that you care about people, you have to try ….

As a nation and perhaps even as a planet, when I think of where we are,
A few words come to mind: sick, scared, tired, and split.
I must tell you that in all honesty, this past week almost broke me.

Of course, foremost for many:
We have had the specter of COVID upon us for the past several months, and we’re exhausted.
When I heard this week that President Trump had tested positive for COVID,
I knew I would stand in this pulpit and beg your prayers for him, as I do now .
Regardless of where you stand, I hope you will agree that praying for him is the right thing;
And, that the last thing we need is the looming shadow of a constitutional crisis.

Please please please: pray for President Trump and for all involved in government;
Pray for every person who has to make a decision that will impact million of lives downstream.
Pray, too, that in the process they remember our most vulnerable citizens.

So yes, we’re tired, and yes, resigned to a kind of half-life:
We’re well past the novelty of masks and Zoom and keeping distance.
None of it is what we would choose; it all seems second-best;
But here we are; and we are called to do the best we can with what we have.
We don’t know how long this is for – maybe a good while –
But we do know that it’s what we need to do to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In and among that exhaustion, we still have more than 200,000 deaths – 1,000,000+ worldwide –
That we are going to have to reckon with.
I wonder when, or if, the magnitude of those numbers will ever really settle in,
Or if it will just be easier to go on looking for normalcy amidst the rubble.
When the dust clears, we will have a litany of remembrances to attend to:
All those deaths – lives precious to God.
It will be our solemn Christian duty to attend to those matters and not let those names be forgotten.

It will also be our responsibility to remember
The countless other life-passages that will have gone largely unnoticed due to COVID.
Some of those passages will have been moments of pure celebration and joy:
Birthdays, marriages, wedding anniversaries, sobriety anniversaries, retirements, graduations,
The births of children and grandchildren.
Others will be personal tales of trouble and heartache:
When someone relapsed or was let go from a job,
Or died and had to be quietly buried because that’s all that could be safely done at the time.

Added to these troubles,
We live in a world that, for the moment at least, appears hopelessly divided over everything.
It seems that even the very concept of “the truth” is subject to that polarity.

We are in the midst of an election cycle that threatens to devolve into chaos,
Testing parts of ourselves that we have never really tried and perhaps only have vague plans for.

Conversation and dialogue are marked out with hideous incivility at the moment.
Yet Christians are called to do something different.
We are called to be kind, compassionate, and caring.
And that has to be leavened with those “swallow hard” moments –
Times when we have to dig in and say what the truth is,
Not because we like the feeling of knowing we’re right (how useless is that?),
But because it is what love demands;
Because it’s what Jesus did.

We are coming out of one of the most exhausting weeks in recent memory,
Praying we don’t see its like again – and eager to get this year in the rear-view mirror ASAP.
And who knows what even the next seven days will bring.

I just know that we are meant to follow and emulate Jesus Christ as our example for how to live.
That each day brings its share of challenges,
Or as Jesus put it, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

He also said something that I have probably thought about almost every day of my life
Since the day I found it in Matthew’s gospel, sitting on my bed as a teenager, with my Bible in my lap.
He said,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I think we would all agree this morning that we are weary,
And carrying heavy burdens that, despite holding on to them as our own,
We know good and well we can’t do anything about.
Nor can we seem to let go of them.

I’d like you to imagine just placing them on the high altar behind me.
All of our insurmountable, incalculable, unweighable burdens,
Piled high on God’s altar.
Imagine the stack: ten, twenty, thirty feet high, cresting the ceiling, filling the room. Out of our hands.
It probably seems absurd at first to imagine.
But I’m telling you:
In ways too deep be fathomed with the human mind, God is strong to save.
And God loves us, more than we can ever know.

May the Good Lord deliver us and bring us strength to meet the days ahead.