Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“Happy Are They”
Year B, Easter 7, John 17:6-19; Psalm 1
All Saints Parish, Brookline MA
May 16, 2021
The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Happy are they whose delight is in the law of the Lord. Amen.
I am taking today’s Psalm at face value. In the vernacular of biblical interpretation, I am adopting a plain-language approach to the text. And this is what I hear in the plain language of the Psalm: Today is a happy day. Today is a happy day. This feels appropriate, since today we celebrate this church school year. As a friend said earlier this week: “I think the Spirit pays attention to our lectionary.” And today, the Spirit does seem to be at work. There is an alignment across our readings, and our celebration, and our sense of hope and opportunity. Today is a happy day.
This is not to say that there is only lightheartedness and pleasure in the world right now. That is clearly not the case, nor is it ever the case. Some of you, in fact, may be in the midst of grief or struggle, and it may be hard to see your way through. If that’s the case for you, please know that Richard, Anoma, and I, and the pastoral care team at All Saints, we are here for you and we’re here to help you access resources you may need. If this is the case for you, please do be in touch.
Today’s Psalm, though, reminds us that we who choose God’s way are rooted in a source of joy that runs deeper than the turbulence of the world around us. We are here today, all of us, because we have chosen the way of God. The way of Truth and Justice. The way of Love. We all have our different paths, and we all walk those paths in different ways. But we are here today, right now, because we have chosen the way of God. And so for today, let’s embrace happiness. God knows we need it.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 individual songs to God. They were gathered together for a purpose; they are seen as a source of formation for a life grounded in Torah – the way of God. For millenia, for both Jews and Christians, daily praying through the Psalms has been a means of aligning our lives with God’s purpose. We see this practice in monasteries to this day. We see it as we pray the daily office individually and in community. One commentator, Ismael Garcia, affirms that the psalter provides a “firm foundation.” It serves as a way of “shap[ing]” our lives “by the source of all life,” of “becom[ing] individuals and communities of character and conviction.” And this Psalm, the first Psalm, is the gateway into that source of formation.
1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2 Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
In stark language, this opening of the psalter poses a choice for us: will we choose the way of God, or will we not. Will we be blessed, like trees that bear fruit, “becom[ing] individuals and communities of character and conviction” or will we be blown away like chaff in the wind? Will we grow deep roots? By choosing the way of God, we grow in the ability to “resist all the vicissitudes of life and the wickedness thrown at [us],” as Garcia puts it. Happy are they.
How appropriate that this reading is appointed for today, the day on which we celebrate a year of formation for our children and young people. The Spirit is paying attention to our lectionary!
Weather cooperating, later today All Saints young people will gather in the park for their final church school classes of the year. And then all are welcome to gather outside in the garden to celebrate Eucharist together – as of this morning a few slots were still available. All are welcome. Together we’ll take this time to remember the year that is past and to delight in the coming of spring and the chance to be together in person. And we’ll look forward with hope to the start of a new year together in the fall. Happy are they whose delight is in the law of the Lord.
As we look back on the year, a word for you parents: you who have managed to hold things together through this year, who have continued to show up, and to help your children show up. You who have juggled competing needs for bandwidth and devices so everyone can be at school, at work, at church, at the same time. You who have faced economic hardship, or emotional hardship, or have helped your children muddle through this time of isolation. Your roots run deep.
Today is a happy day not only for children and families with school-aged children. It’s a happy day for all of us. I am grateful to so many of you who have built bridges across the age groups to ensure that we continue to worship and serve together, as one community through this year.
- To the Daughters of the King, who joined hands with middle school and upper elementary students to create a multimedia Holy Week prayer experience for the whole community;
- To members of the Outreach Committee, who adapted their approach to serving the wider community so that everyone, including families with children, could continue to serve;
- To members of the Vestry, who offered their advice and guidance, and who showed up in support of children’s events;
- To members of our worship ministries who worked in the background to prepare the elements and adorn the sanctuary, making our worship possible;
- And to all of those among you who, aside from any formalized program, simply reached out to participate. You joined in the Spooky Saints Spectacular. You built Stations of the Cross for Holy Week. You showed up to worship with younger members of the community, and to walk with them in the woods, and to contribute to their warm clothing drive for the Feast of St. Nicholas. And in so many other ways.
Today is a happy day, because we are here. We have chosen the way of God, and happy are they whose delight is in the law of the Lord. They are like trees planted by streams, bearing fruit, with leaves that don’t wither, with roots that hold firm even when the winds of turmoil blow.
And as this season comes to a close and we look forward with hope to the church year in the fall, may our roots run deep, may the winds blow more gently, and may we continue to delight in the law of the Lord together.