Homily of the Rev. Dr. David A. Killian
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 7, 2008
All Saints Parish
It is wonderful to welcome you to All Saints Parish this Sunday. Whether you have been coming to our parish for 20, 30, or 40 years, or whether today is your first day, welcome! I am happy that you are part of our faith community and I want this to be a place where you are nourished on your faith journey. You are created in the image of God and you have an eternal value in God's eyes, as we pray in today's Eucharistic Prayer: "Holy and gracious Father, in your infinite love you made us for yourself." This is what we believe and this is the mission of All Saints Parish: "to be a community searching to know and accept God's purpose for us, uplifted by worship together, sustained by a sense of Christ being in our midst, and inspired by the Holy Spirit to become more than we are, here and in the world."
Today's Gospel tells us, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." When we come together to receive Holy Communion, we receive the very person of Christ. As St. Augustine said, "Receive who you are, become who you receive." We become the Body of Christ and accept responsibility to be Christ's hands and heart in the world. That's pretty awesome, isn't it? To be a follower of Christ and a member of Christ's body.
Yet, we may not feel so holy on most days. We are aware of our weaknesses and our failings, of the times when we not loving, respectful or considerate of our neighbor, when we are indifferent to the needs of others. And so, during our worship, we confess that we have sinned against God and our neighbor "in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone." We then hear the words of forgiveness and healing.
Today's Gospel describes a situation where one member in the Church has offended another. It reminds us that when we cannot solve a problem one-on-one that we should seek a mediator to hear both sides to help us resolve the problem. As a modern example, I think of the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. People who had been wounded by violence faced their accusers, who admitted their crimes and asked for forgiveness. Forgiveness was granted and people were reconciled and able to move on with their lives.
I think also of Bishop Gene Robinson, who has spoken quietly to many people, one-on-one, about the discrimination and hurt inflicted on gay and lesbian people in the church. This summer, Bishop Robinson was not invited to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in England, but he decided to go anyway as a witness. He explained, I am here to remind the bishops that they have thousands of gay and lesbian members in their pews. He was, I think, following the injunction of today's Gospel of "telling it to the Church."
Our worship is intended to transform us and make us new, to change our hearts so we become a more loving community. Wouldn't it be great if there was a easy way to bring about this transformation – like installing a new software program?
A Customer calls the Customer Service Rep, and say he wants to install a new program called LOVE, L-O-V-E. The Customer Service Rep asks if he is ready.
Customer: I'm not very technical, but I think I am ready to install now. What do I do first?
CS Rep: The first step is to open your HEART. Have you located your HEART, sir?
Customer: Yes I have, but there are several programs running right now. Is it okay to install while they are running?
CS Rep: What programs are running, sir?
Customer: Let me see.... I have PASTHURT.EXE, LOWESTEEM.EXE, GRUDGE.EXE, and RESENTMENT.COM running right now.
CS Rep: No problem. LOVE will automatically erase PASTHURT.EXE from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory, but it will no longer disrupt other programs. LOVE will eventually overwrite LOWESTEEM.EXE with a module of its own called HIGHESTEEM.EXE. However, you have to completely turn off GRUDGE.EXE and RESENTMENT.COM. Those programs prevent LOVE from being properly installed. Can you turn those off sir?
Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
CS Rep: My pleasure. Go to your Start menu and invoke FORGIVENESS.EXE. Do this as many times as necessary until GRUDGE.EXE and RESENTMENT.COM have been completely erased.
Customer: Okay, I'm done. LOVE has started installing itself automatically. Is that normal?
CS Rep: Yes it is. You should receive a message that says it will reinstall for the life of your HEART. Do you see that message?
Customer: Yes I do. Is it completely installed?
CS Rep: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other HEARTS in order to get the upgrades.
Well, if only it were that simple. Changing attitudes and learning to love is not as easy as installing software on a computer, but it does involve transformation – transformation of our mind into to the mind of Christ. As St. Paul tells us in today's reading from Romans: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law ... Love your neighbor as yourself." The purpose of our worship today is to transform us into the Body of Christ so that we can love one another in the spirit of Jesus. This is a life-long journey and task and the good news is that we don't do it alone. Christ is with us every step of the way, guiding, teaching, and inspiring us to love as he has loved us. Amen.