Text of Sermon, Proper 15, Year A, Reverend Liz Hendrick

Several people have requested a copy of this sermon, so it has been made available here.

Sermon Text, Proper 15, Year A
August 20, 2017
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Note: A recording of this sermon can be found here. (Scroll down to Sermon Audio on that page).

Last week, I was away at a conference for chaplains. The group was made up of several Christian denominations, as well as one Imam. For the first two days, folks in the group wanted to be able to pray in the style they were used to, but were afraid of offending the Imam. Sentences would start, with all due respect to our Muslim brother, I think Jesus would want us to…”

Finally, after one afternoon break, we returned to the room to find the Imam standing next to the moderator. He told us how much he appreciated our trying to be sensitive. Then he said this, “Let me share with you a little about Islam. You honor God, we do too. You honor Jesus, we do too. You honor Mary his mother, we do too. You believe Jesus was born of a virgin by the power of God’s spirit; we do too. You believe that Jesus will return at the end of time, we do too. You believe in heaven, we do too. You believe in hell, we do too. Between Christianity and Islam, there are many more areas where we are alike than where we are different. Please pray in the way to which you are accustomed”. It was a generous speech from a man whose faith group has been targeted, along with Jews, by various hate groups.

We have a long history in this country of marginalizing those we see as other – not just today, and not just during WWII or the civil rights era, but dating back to at least the 1700’s.

• In 1785, to Catholics proposing to build St. Peter’s church in the heart of Manhattan, there was such an outcry that city officials, fearing the papacy, forced the Catholics to relocate outside the city. Twenty years later, on Christmas Eve, protesters gathered outside the church, outraged, and scared by the mysterious services than went on inside, rioted, injuring many and killing one police officer. The mysterious services? What we would call today the High Mass of Christmas Eve.
• In 1845, Americans were fearful of all the Catholic Irish arriving in the US, refugees from the Great Hunger due to destruction of their potato crop. These Irish were desperate for food and so would take any job. The prejudice became so strong that job ads on signs and in the newspaper stated, No Irish need apply.
• By the end of the 19th century, suspicion had moved to the Italians, with their persecution being seen by President Teddy Roosevelt as “rather a good thing”.

We can go further back in history – all the way to the bible. In the time of Jesus, Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen; everyone else were pagans. Without converting to Judaism, the pagans were outside of God’s grace. You could not associate with them; could not eat with them; could not cross the threshold into their homes. Given the time in which Jesus lived, his ignoring the pleas of the Canaanite woman would have been appropriate and his initial response to her persistence, harsh as it was, would have been acceptable by those around him. Remember, his disciples wanted Jesus to tell her to shut up and go away.

This is a hard story. Hard for a woman, brought up in a region known today as Lebanon, to approach and ask anything of a Jew – a race she was brought up to despise. Hard for Jesus to even see this person – a woman and a foreigner. And hard for us to see Jesus acting in a way that is, frankly, uncharacteristic of Jesus. But the woman is desperate to receive healing for her child – what parent here does not know of her anxiety? She does not take Jesus’ initial silence as a final answer – she continues to call out. And when he rudely dismisses her, she counters with a show of faith that commands his attention, broadens his understanding of his mission, and moves him to action. It is a life changing moment – for Jesus, for the woman and her daughter, and for us. It is possible that in this encounter, Jesus understands his mission to be more than he realized. He came not just for the house of Israel, but for us all.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, as the faith of Christianity moved out of Jerusalem and spread across the known world, Gentiles new to the faith would start to see themselves as “chosen” and would look with contempt on the Jewish members of their communities. It is to address the treatment of their Jewish members by Gentile Christians that Paul is writing in his letter to the church in Rome. And contrary to the hold many have on God’s plan of salvation being uniquely for Christians, Paul states that God has not rejected the people of Israel, for, in the words of Paul, the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Paul is not talking about a remnant but the gathering by God of all Israel.

In the irony and mystery of God, Jews believing they are uniquely chosen find God’s mercy goes beyond them to include those they would consider as “other”. Gentile Christians in Rome, believing they are now the inheritors of God’s favor, hear Paul say that in God’s plan, all Israel shall be saved. And if you go all the way back to the writing of Isaiah in the 6th century before Christ, God’s plan to draw the circle wider began long before Jesus. Listen to the words of Isaiah: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants…these I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”.

So, what’s going on here? It seems like God may have a plan for salvation for humanity that is – well – in a word – inclusive. Jesus’ view was changed by the deep faith of a woman who refused to be silent; who refused to be relegated to the shadows. The church in Rome realized that God did not choose Gentile over Jew, but used Israel to open salvation to the Gentiles so that all the world could be drawn into his love. It seems that the common denominator is not being Jewish, nor being Christian, nor being Muslim. The common denominator is FAITH.
It is people who draw lines of separation: Irish, or Catholics, or Italians, or blacks, Latinos, or Syrians or any one of several groups today. And it is God – consistently – over the ages – suggesting that our view is too narrow – that the wideness of God’s embrace can take us all in. As the Imam said, there are many more areas where we are alike than different.

I hope we can find room in our hearts to believe this. But it is not enough to believe – we need to speak. Note that Jesus was silent to the woman’s first plea. But she did not remain silent – the stakes were too high. They are for us as well. If we do not stand up for the right of all people to worship God in their own way in peace, we risk someday finding our own practices at risk for persecution. Remember, it was only a little over 230 years ago that the Catholic faith was under attack in this country.

Think of it this way – the eclipse is tomorrow – how many are planning to try and watch – either from here or by making the journey to go north? And you will be wearing special glasses, right – to protect your eyes, because you can sustain serious eye damage if you try and look directly at the sun without them. Think of our mission as requiring spiritual glasses, tinted with the grace of God’s love, with which we are to see the world. Without them, we risk judging those who are different from us. But with these glasses, we see in each person the spirit of grace common to us all. AMEN.



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2017 Youth Sunday!

Youth Sunday was April 23, 2017.  The Youth led all parts of the service, including helping to give the sermon, which was on Doubt from the story of Doubting Thomas.  Youth used personal stories to illustrate times when doubt served to strengthen their faith.

Read the text of the sermon here. If you’d like to listen to the sermon, click here and scroll down to Sermons.

Thanks be to God for all our wonderfully vibrant young leaders!

 

Youth (and soon-to-be Youth) on Youth Sunday 2017

 



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Walking the Path — Musings by Mother Liz

Musing from Mother Liz

If you take a walk towards the pine trees that line Oak Road, you will notice some recent changes.  There is a path through the trees, lined by wood planks.  On a sunny day, one end of the path will be in the sun; the other in shadow.  Depending on your spiritual mood, you can choose to enter in sunshine and finish in shadow, or enter in shadow and move into the light.  Slight breezes cause a murmur in the pines above, and oddly, you don’t notice the traffic that passes on Oak Road. Bible verses on plaques that line the path invite you to slow down; to read affirmations of God’s love, and faithfulness and never-ending support.  You find that you want to take your time as you walk.   The verses speak words of encouragement and the pace allows you to notice your surroundings.  Benches scattered along the path tempt you to slow down even more; to sit and rest, or maybe just breathe.  You are in sacred space, and somehow, your spirit knows that.  It is a gift, offered in hopes that its use would connect us more deeply to God.

Holy Week is also a path – a path that starts in celebration and moves to darkness; from sunshine to shadow.  Holy Week is a time that asks each of us to walk the path with Jesus, from Palm Sunday, through Good Friday, and on to the promise of Easter.  I invite you this week to walk with us, through the various services we will have: Tuesday’s service of Reconciliation and Healing, Wednesday’s Healing Eucharist; Maundy Thursday, with washing of hands and feet and stripping of the altar, the Thursday Night Watch, Good Friday services, the Vigil of Easter on Saturday, and Easter services on Sunday.  I also encourage you to take time to walk this Meditation Path, and allow it to give quiet space for reflection and prayer.

The Meditation Path is a creation of Josh Hurst, done as part of the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program in America.  I read that only 4% of boy scouts are granted this rank, and the process is a long one.  I am thankful that Josh thought of St. Matthew’s when he defined his project.  He has given us a profound space in which to reconnect with God, not only during this most holy week, but for always.  Thank you, Josh Hurst.

In Peace, Mother Liz+



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St. Matthew’s Gears Up for the Easter Eggstravaganza April 15

St Matthews’ Annual Easter Eggstravaganza

Saturday April 15th  – 10 am to noon

The eggcitement will include:

 Balloon clowns, bounce house, games, egg coloring and tattoos.

 Easter Egg hunts for the children, divided into three age groups. So bring your children, their basket, your camera and join in a morning of fun for children up to age 10.

 Easter Eggstravaganza Help Needed

Youth & Adult Volunteers Needed To Help With This Morning of Fun For The Children.

Just to name a few….

Set Up  * Decorating  *  Hunt  *  Snacks  *  Egg Coloring 

Bounce House/Games   *  Clean Up

You will find the signup sheet on the bulletin board in front of the office or you can contact Cheryl Wheeler @ cherly756@yahoo.com

Ministry Opportunity–We are also looking for someone hearing the call to chair this event next year. If that is you please contact Cheryl so you can shadow her this year to be ready for next year.

Donations Needed To Fill Eggs

Donations of individually wrapped candy, stickers or small toys needed by Sunday April 9th to fill over 1200 eggs to be used for the hunt.

Look for a basket in the narthex for your donations.



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Holy Week and Easter Services Schedule

SUNDAY, APRIL 9TH – PALM SUNDAY 8:00 A.M. AND 10:30 A.M. blessing of the palms and outdoor procession led by the youth, and enactment of the Passion Story.  Incense at both services.
SERVICE OF RECONCILIATION & HEALING – Tuesday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m.
A quiet service of meditation and Taize music with prayers at the altar for reconciliation and healing.

HEALING EUCHARIST – Wednesday, April 12, at 10:00 a.m.

MAUNDY THURSDAY – April 13, at 7:30 p.m. – Hand & Foot Washing and Stripping of the Altar followed by the Vigil at the Altar of Repose. The congregation is invited to sign up for one or more time slots on the Vigil poster in the narthex, to watch with Christ as the disciples did in the garden. Please note you do not have to be signed up to come and watch. All are invited to visit the Altar of Repose in the Coil Chapel as they are able.

GOOD FRIDAY – April 14th
Stations of the Cross at 11:30 a.m.
Good Friday Service with music at 12 noon
Stations of the Cross at 6:45 p.m.
Good Friday Service 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, APRIL 15TH – EASTER VIGIL AT 7:30 P.M. (with incense)
First Eucharist of Easter (with baptism). The congregation is invited to bring bells (small to medium sized) to ring at the Gloria as we celebrate the Resurrection at the first Eucharist of Easter.

SUNDAY, APRIL 16TH – EASTER DAY 8:00 A.M. AND 10:30 A.M. (with incense both services)
The Sunday of the Resurrection.  Bring flowers from home or use those provided to flower the Cross during each service.



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Ash Wednesday Services

Come begin a holy Lent.

7:00 a.m. — 12:15 p.m. — 7:00 p.m.

Holy Eucharist and Imposition of Ashes.

 

For other Lenten programs at St. Matthew’s, please click here.



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Christmas Eve/ Christmas Day Services

Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve:

5:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist Rite II – Family Service with the Cherub Choir

(No nursery available on this day so that all families may worship together)

7:30 p.m. Holy Eucharist Rite II

10:30 p.m. Carol Sing

11:00 p.m. Festive Holy Eucharist Rite II (with incense) with the Sanctuary Choir

Sunday, December 25, Christmas Day

10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist Rite II

(No nursery available on this day)

Sunday, January 1, New Year’s Day

10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist

(No nursery available on this day)



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Sanctuary Open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Election Day

 

Prayers for the Election –  November 8, 7am – 7pm

Prayer for an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States  in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This year’s election campaign process has been especially divisive.  And yet, we are called to participate in our form of government and we are blessed with the privilege of being allowed to vote in this country.  We also acknowledge that as important as our President is, our allegiance as Christians is to God as we know him in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, St. Matthew’s will make the sanctuary available for prayer and reflection on election day, Tuesday, November 8, from the time the polls open at 7am, until they close at 7pm.  We will offer prayer cards to guide your prayers and meditations on that day.

A service of Holy Eucharist will follow at 7:30 p.m.

 



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Evening of Remembrance Photo Gallery

During the Evening of Remembrance, our parish experienced a very meaningful time of meditation, reflection and fond memories.  Around 60 folks, young and old, came out on a beautiful evening to place flowers on the cross, add stones to the cairn, walk the Labyrinth, and find peaceful quiet in the Sanctuary. Music supplied a stirring background throughout the event.

 

Paying respect to those who have gone on before us, over 180 names were spoken aloud during the Memorial Service, each receiving a resonate toll from the bell. 

 



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Evening of Remembrance on All Saints’ Sunday, November 6

6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

St. Matthew’s will celebrate the lives of our family and friends who have gone on before us with a special evening service incorporating some of the traditions used by cultures around the world. At 7:30, a brief memorial service will be held in the sanctuary during which the names of those we have lost will be read.

If you have friends and family you would like commemorated during this service, PLEASE USE THE RED SIGN-UP BOOK IN THE PASS-THROUGH BETWEEN THE MAIN HALLWAY AND THE NARTHEX. All names should be submitted by Wednesday, November 2nd.

There will be quiet time beginning at 6:30 for various kinds of contemplation. The sanctuary and the Coil Chapel will be reserved for silent prayer. The labyrinth will be set up in the parish hall for prayer walks. Mother Liz and Sally Ulrey will be available for those who just want to talk to someone. We hope that you will join us to light a candle, place a flower on the cross, place a stone on the cairn, or simply say a prayer as you search for your own peace and understanding of that most mystifying aspect of life: death.

 



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