We are Christ’s body

Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 29, BAS) for the Parish of St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s, Hatchet Lake and Terrence Bay, Nova Scotia

21 October 2018

Job 38:1-7; Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Audio: https://douglasabeck.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/oct-21-jj-sermon.m4a

I speak to you in the name of the undivided One, the Holy Trinity: + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In today’s readings we hear answers to three questions: Who is Jesus? What is God’s kingdom like? How is it that we are to be like Christ? 

But, haven’t we already heard each of these questions asked and answered in recent weeks? 

Yes.

Why, then, have they returned again? They are not back with us again to bore us, as was apparently the case on the Sunday where the meeting of the board was announced…on that Sunday in church it was announced that there would be a meeting of the board following the service. 

Everyone stayed.

The recurring themes in scripture the we hear today more closely draw our attention to something that is so important that it continues to require our attention. And, when we pay attention we learn and grow; we are changed. It’s like picking up on a conversation from where it left off the last time you shared a cup of tea with a close friend. At the end of your time together, you know one another differently. You leave each conversation different from when the conversation began.

So, how will what we hear today assist us in our life’s learning and growing; our changing to be more and more formed in Christ’s image?

A few weeks ago we heard Jesus ask his followers this question. Who do you say that I am? (Mark 8:29-30). The disciples responded that they knew Jesus to be the Messiah, the long expected one sent from God. Though it quickly became evident that what they thought this meant — and what he told them it would mean — were two very different things. They still thought it meant he would be their earthly ruler, that he would be up there on a pedestal to rule over all. They didn’t want to hear about his sacrifice of suffering, death and resurrection.

And, today, we hear that they are still struggling to understand. James and John want to be right up there with Jesus in the hierarchy with one at his left and the other at his right. Jesus reminds them, under no uncertain terms, that he is the one that has come to turn the world-as-we-know-it upside down. The greatest will be those who put themselves aside for others as servant and slave to all. This is why he came, to become the ransom for the many that will come to God through him. He made the way so we could be here today. God’s kingdom continues.

God’s kingdom is not like any other kingdom of this world! God’s kingdom welcomes the least of all. This least, the most vulnerable — they are the greatest. A few weeks ago we heard that Jesus welcomed the children into his presence. He did this while his disciples were trying to keep them away. Further, he went on to say that any who leave to follow him and be in his presence for the sake of this good news…well, the kingdom of God will receive them all (Mark 10).

Jesus continues the conversation about God’s kingdom today. What is God’s kingdom like? When it comes to the world and the people in it (he says “gentiles”), its rulers lord over others. But, it ought not be so for the disciples. It ought not be so for us. “Whoever wishes to be great” will not lord over others, but will serve others (10:43-44).

Today’s reading from Hebrews takes this further. Hebrews talks about what life in God’s kingdom look like. For the writer of Hebrews, God’s kingdom is already present in the world, right here, right now — here among us. 

God’s kingdom is led by Jesus, who is our high priest, right here, right now — here among us. 

Jesus is Lord over all, yet he does not lord over us. He is the one who did not come to glorify himself. But, he humbled himself in order that all — even the most vulnerable — can give glory to God as heirs — as equal citizens in God’s kingdom. 

And, Christ makes it possible for us to be like him, right here, right now — here among us — not lording over others, but reflecting the good news message that all may live in relationship with God just as Christ is.  

How, then, is it that we are to be like him? Last week, we heard Jesus say that “with God all things are possible” (10:27).  And, today: “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism I am baptized with, you will be baptized” (10:39). Through the cup and baptism we are made into the very living body of Christ alive in the world today. 

[On the Sundays when we receive Holy Eucharist — blessed bread and wine — we drink the cup with hearts of thanksgiving (that’s what Eucharist means — thanksgiving). And so we thankfully receive the bread and the wine. We are taking in Christ’s very presence and carrying it out into the world.]

Further, on the Sunday’s when we affirm our faith in the words of the Apostles Creed we recommit ourselves to the vows that we make at baptism. (It just so happens that we will do this today as we celebrate the baptisms of Jackson and Parker at 11:15 AM). This is what we all commit to in every moment of our lives following our baptisms. We commit to: Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Resist evil and, whenever, we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. Proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ. Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbours as ourselves. Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth (BAS, 158-159).

So, today if the invitation were made for the board (bored) to remain following the service, I hope that the Spirit’s movement would compel us to action. Get out there and fully live the life that God calls each of us to — living as the citizens of God’s kingdom that we are — right here, right now — here. 

Carry forward the life in God that we celebrate together. This is the life we’ve already committed to in our commitment to Christ and to one another. 

Know that you’ve come home and that you’re surrounded by a community of everyday people saved by grace and made new in Christ. This is something Jesus makes available to all.

This past Monday was the commemoration of Teresa of Avila. Teresa is an example of someone who gave her life over to the service of Christ and others. When it comes to what Christ asks of us, she says:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

My sisters and brothers, be encouraged today to do the work that God is calling you to do. Christ has no body now but yours. This is how we are like him. We are his body.

Amen.