DATE: 24 August 2014
TO: South Church
TITLE: All are known, some are called…
Hebrew Scripture: Exodus 1:8-22 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Gospel Reading: Romans 12: 1-8 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b]do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Leader: This is the Word of God for the people of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
All are known, some are called…
Blessings to you! I bring you greetings on behalf of my home church, Manantial de Gracia in New Britain, CT and our Pastora, the Rev. Dr. Maritza de Gonzalez. I bring you greetings on behalf of my school, Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, MA and definitely I greet you on behalf of The Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC where I am finally beginning to understand what it means to harvest God’s bounty.
So I greet you and thank you for welcoming all of who I am, and all of who I have been.
If you are a person who keeps track of social media or more traditional news sources the image that I present to you will evoke some thoughts. It is not my intention to start a political debate at this time.
But for those of you who might NOT know, there have been some major turmoils and unrest taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. There are rumors and justifications being made on all sides. What we know for sure is that a man was shot multiple times by an officer of the law and has subsequently died. Images have surfaced of the man who died, depicting him in less than stellar lights. This prompted criminal defense lawyer CJ Lawrence to set up the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which encourages users to post side-by-side pictures of themselves that show the duality of images that represent our lives. For example, if I was gunned down today…would the media show me in my clerical garb or would they use the pictures of things I did in my youth?
Something to think about as we think about today’s sermon. Today I want to start by talking with you about snakes and serpents.
When we talk about snakes many of us associate them with the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. Where a snake confused, confounded, manipulated, and convinced Eve, and through her Adam, to do what was against the will of God.
Or maybe we think of the staff of Moses being transformed into a snake and back into a staff?
Still others may associate snakes with the Matthean rhetoric spoken by both Jesus and John when they condemn the hypocrisy of the Pharisees calling them a brood of vipers and snakes.
But, in literature, the snake is associated with change. See, snakes are carnivorous, legless, elongated reptiles that have neither eyelids nor external ears. Snakes are also called serpents. From the Indo-European *serp- (to creep), which also gave Ancient Greek hérpō (ἕρπω) or “I crawl”.
The serpent is in a constant state of evolution. Evolving and becoming something new as it repeatedly sheds it’s skin. Snakes shed their entire outer layer in a process called ecdysis, whereby they loose their scales as a complete outer layer during each molt, similar to a sock being turned inside out.
Some might say that we who are human are also in constant state of becoming. We are not humans being but rather humans evolving. And in the process of evolving, though we are already known, we are called new names.
Before I continue, let us pray:…
My home church knows that I enjoy telling stories, and today I would like to tell you a couple of stories you probably already know about a man called Peter who was also known as Simon.
This week’s sermon is titled: All are known, some are called…
Simon named Peter (Cephas)
One day Jesus asked the people traveling with him… “who do people say that I am?” And his fellow travellers, his disciples, his gang, his companions, his homies, his “click” responded by saying, “some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets…”
Jesus asked them to think a bit more and tell him, who THEY WHO KNEW HIM THOUGHT HIM TO BE.
And the man known as Simon responded, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus said, “flesh and blood (man) did not tell you that, but rather my father in heaven (God).”
Then Jesus called Simon by a new name, Peter or Cephas, which means ROCK (pillar). And Jesus told Peter, “on this rock I will build my church…”
All are known, some are called!
Who he WAS
Some of us who hear this story want to remember other parts of Peter, Simon who was nothing more than a fisherman who descended from fishermen! I imagine he would have smelled funky and looked different compared to some of the other more refined disciples…but yet he was called!
This is the same Peter who FELL IN the water when he tried to walk on it! But he did walk on water. And all because he trusted that if Jesus called him, he could do whatever he was called to do.
This is the same Peter who when Jesus was being arrested, attacked an officer and cut his ear off.
This is the same Peter who denied Jesus three times. But Jesus knew he would do that…
See, when we are called by God the ways in which people know us are not enough. If we were to look at the images of the life of Peter we would catch glimpses of his not so stellar moments. But did those moments alter his calling? See, the clothing that we wear is not enough to change our calling. The color of our skin or kink of our hair does not change our calling.
The Bible says that God knew us before…before we sinned against Him. Before we denied knowing Her. Before we stepped out on faith and then waivered in our walk.
So I invite you to remember that regardless of the things you have done in your life. Regardless of the images that keep you up at night with a remembrance of your less than stellar moments. Much like Peter, you can be forgiven and will receive God’s justice. God’s justice is a simple four letter word called LOVE.
Called by Love: John 21: 1-25
Jesus appeared to his disciples along the Sea of Galilee for the third time after being raised from the dead. After breakfast, he singled Simon Peter out asking: “do you love me?”
Jesus did not ask, why did you cut that mans ear off… “DO YOU LOVE ME?” asked Jesus, and Simon Peter responded, “you know I do!” “THEN, FEED MY LAMBS.”
Again, Jesus turned to Simon Peter and asked, “do you love me?”
Jesus did not ask, if you love me so much, then why did you fall in the water that time?… “DO YOU LOVE ME?” asked Jesus, and Simon Peter responded, “Master, you know I love you!” “THEN, SHEPHERD MY SHEEP.”
The third time Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question Peter was uncomfortable. And I would have been too, remember that this is that Simon Peter that lied and said he did not know Jesus…and so he responded, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve gotta know that I love you.” “FEED MY SHEEP.”
Love is all that it takes to combat the dirt of our past. LOVE and a desire to follow the Jesus that overflows with LOVE.
Prayers of the Church
Today I ask that those who are able stand with me, and raise your hands as I shed a layer. In Manantial de Gracia, it is part of our tradition that at times we raise our hands in prayer. It is in surrender to God that we give up the last of our strength. I invite you to join me by raising your hands as we pray:
God, of grace and holiness, send upon us today your Holy Spirit as you sent the Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, so that our prayers and our deeds may bear witness to this desire which possesses us: We wish to be one, Lord, so that the world may know that we belong to you. Lord we ask that you forgive us when we don’t do enough. Lord, that you open our eyes to the injustices on our doorsteps. God, that you use us to show your love in this day and age. Fill us once more with your love [en sobre abundancia. Amen.]
May God’s peace shine upon you. May God’s love illuminate you. May we be conductors of that abundant love in this reality and the next. And all God’s people say: AMEN!