Homily from service on 12 December, 2021 – Third Sunday in Advent
Homily preached by The Rev. Liz Steinhauser
Sermon preached by The Rev. Liz Steinhauser
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 Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
The peace [and word] of God, surpasses all understanding.
PLEASE BE SEATED
Good morning, All Saints Brookline! I am the Rev. Liz Steinhauser from your sister church St Stephen’s in the South End of Boston. I am very excited to be with you here, in person and online. Amen?
As most of you know, among the ministries we run out of St. Stephen’s are the B-SAFE and B-READY Programs, summer and afterschool programs for youth and teens. All Saints Brookline has been a steady partner in this work for close to fifteen years, making nearly 100 meals for middle schoolers and teens during your B-SAFE partnership week, planning and carrying out fabulous field trips in the summer like the one to Houghton’s Pond, and collecting overflowing bags of groceries to help families facing food insecurity.
Before the pandemic, we began an effort to build more connections, with an Advent gathering of young people from both churches –almost exactly two years ago–sharing hot chocolate and hot-glue-gunning snow globes.
For all of these ministries – for this shared mission of caring about and LOVING young people – THANK YOU!
I am especially pleased to be with you to reflect on this morning’s simple, straight-forward readings. Am I right? [Thank you, Rev. Richard]
From Paul’s letter to the Jesus community in Philippi:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
From the writer of the Gospel of Luke, quoting John the Baptizer:
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Our scriptures today reflect our FAITH and reflect our WORLD.
Clear AND Contradictory.
Alone, each statement is familiar, memorable, coherent.
Together, these verses are confounding, seemingly incompatible.
The peace of God, surpasses all understanding. – really is the most true…Who can comprehend God? Amen?! The more I reflected and prayed on our texts for today, the more they seemed perfect for our time.
- We have a readily accessible and effective vaccine and yet COVID cases are rising again, at a nearly all time high here in the Commonwealth.
- Research shows that easy access to firearms results in more shootings and yet we cannot pass sensible restrictions on guns.
- We know what makes public education work– caring teachers, adequate resources, integrated classrooms – and yet we fail to invest in all our school districts equitably.
- Loneliness and isolation are at all time highs and yet Episcopal church attendance has dropped 30% in the past decade, matching trends in most mainline Protestant denominations.
If you are like me, when you hear these statements, when you listen to the news, you just shake your head. Mmm-mmm. It does not make any sense. Amen?
Unless…we become both-and Christians.
Unless we are people of faith who can hold suffering and salvation at the same time.
Unless we are Advent people who are both patiently waiting for baby Jesus to be born AND actively preparing the way of the Lord.
John the Baptizer is a BOTH – AND person of faith.
All sorts of people travel from the City of Jerusalem to the Wilderness to learn and be baptized by this Jewish prophet in the desert.
Crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”
Tax collectors asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?”
In each case, John says – Share what you have. Reject greed. Don’t remake the rules for your own benefit. Sounds a little bit like Paul: Be gentle. Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone.
It is not our position, it is not who our ancestors or relatives are.
God is near to ALL of us, and – if we believe the Gospels – God is most near those who are suffering the most, the poor, the marginalized, the lepers, those isolated because of their position or illness.
And this is GOOD NEWS if we are able to hear it, if we are able to believe it. Because this BOTH AND NEWS of suffering and salvation, of vipers and gentleness, is really what our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls the Way of Love.
The WAY of LOVE does not say love only those who are easy to love. It is not a path that says only love when it is convenient to do it. The WAY of LOVE sounds gentle but it is hard and rocky and winding and tiring.
And God, our faith, Paul, and John the Baptist say we are called to LOVE even when it is challenging. Even when there is a virus
Even when there are fewer of us
Even when the consumerist messages of the world seem to contradict the idea that Jesus is the reason for the season.
And here is some more Good News. I think we CAN do this. I think we MUST do this. And I think we are already doing this. We are not waiting, we are preparing the way of the Lord.
Some of this is happening in our partnership through B-SAFE and St. Stephen’s Youth Programs. And I think the Lord is calling us to more.
Because true partnership is not only charitable giving, even though we DO need this right now…we DO need to share our coats, SSYP families who are still facing a 30% un and underemployment rate DO need groceries.
But if we are ever to get to the Kingdom of God, we need to face all the ways that our country and our democratic policies are designed –largely along racial lines – to give some people MORE than is prescribed for them, more than we are entitled to.
We need to create new and improved, truly inclusive of all, understandings of what it means to limit our greed and to be satisfied with our wages and wealth. We are called by God and today’s Gospel to share the common good – public health, public education, decent housing – with EVERYONE in the common. Amen?
So…what does that really mean right now, during Advent in Boston and Brookline in 2021, in the middle of the middle of a pandemic.
How can we prepare the way of the Lord RIGHT NOW?
Acts of Mercy and Mutual Aid through bags of groceries that support families struggling with underemployment and food insecurity.
New understandings of the Common Good and racial equity through your Courageous Conversations..
Doing Justice by joining with the parents and students of SSYP on our upcoming education campaigns, including helping all students get access to the compensatory services they deserve.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. This is good news for the people.