SERVICES & SERMONS

 

Sunday Worship

Currently we offer online worship every Sunday at 9:30 am and in-person outdoors worship on the Church grounds at 11:00 am.  Outdoor worship will be suspended on Sunday, November 22nd.  We hope to resume indoor worship when conditions allow.

5:30 pm Celtic Service

Our Sunday evening service draws on our Celtic Christian roots, with an emphasis on God's presence in all of creation, especially in the natural world and in humanity.  Our evening band blends keyboards, woodwinds and guitar to provide meditative music for contemplation and reflection throughout the service.  Beginning Sunday, November 29th, we will offer an online Celtic Service at 5:30 pm.  Watch for more details in upcoming issues of the weekly Epistle.

Family Service 

Our Wednesday Family Prayer Service will end this Wednesday, October 28th, and will resume on Sunday, November 8th at 10:00 am.  

Young Child Friendly Service Service

at 8:30 am

THIS SERVICE IS SUSPENDED UNTIL

WE CAN SAFELY MEET IN PERSON

 

We gather for a Rite II Eucharist where all are always welcome.  Children join in the worship and will find activity boxes with art supplies and work sheets having to do with the day's themes.  Everyone gathers around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer and Children of all ages take part in the final hymn by joining in with shakers and rhythm instruments.  At all of our services, dress tends to be pretty casual and we observe what some of our people call a relaxed reverence.  

 
Sermons

 

Sermon for 21 Pentecost 

Matthew 24:34-46

October 25, 2020

Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales, Interim Rector

The Leaven of Love

 

This would be their final debate. The opponents eyed each other across a sea of disagreements, each convinced that he had the right stuff to win favor and sway the hearts of the people. They had been at this argument for so long, it was almost a relief for both sides to near the conclusion.

 

But it was no mere election victory for which Jesus and the Pharisees competed in today’s gospel. In the end, victory meant leading the people to a particular path of righteousness, in relationship with the only Judge that really matters, the Lord God.

 

For weeks now, we’ve been treated to a front-row seat at the disputes between Jesus and his religious opponents, in the courtyard of the Jerusalem temple. We heard the chief priests and elders demand Jesus tell them where his authority came from, then heard a series of parables that could only be interpreted as judgments against the priests and scribes – the son who said he’d do his father’s will, but didn’t; the wicked tenants who rejected the landowner’s servants, and killed his son; the obstinate wedding guests who refused the feast.

 

The objects of these critiques had slunk away muttering, plotting to set a trap for Jesus, and last week you heard them spring it. They’d thought they had him with the puzzle about paying taxes to the emperor -- either way he answered, he’d be in a bind. But then Jesus outwitted them with his “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

 

That silenced some of them, but today a team of Pharisees continue to campaign. While we often think of Pharisees only as foes of Jesus, they actually were the most observant of Jews, steeped in the law of Moses and eager to prove their purity. They had to keep not only the 10 original commandments but also six hundred thirteen additional rules. So why not put this upstart “rabbi” to their test?

 

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” It sounds like an attack ad. When Matthew tells us that this lawyer “asked him a question to test him,” he uses the same word for “test” that he used early in his gospel, when Jesus was in the desert and the questioner was the devil.

 

You and I know what Jesus is going to say. We have heard it all our lives, or at least all of our church-going, Christian life. But the Pharisees are waiting for Jesus to say something they can pick apart – whichever command he chooses, they will pounce on his neglect of the other 612.

 

So, they must be taken aback when, instead of taking their bait, Jesus offers his closing argument.

 

To satisfy these scriptural experts, Jesus quotes scripture.

From Deuteronomy, he reminds them of the passage recited daily by faithful Jews, the Shema: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

And from Leviticus, with its long list of rituals and rules, he plucks this gem: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Jesus is not dismissing the law, which after all, he came not to abolish but to fulfill[1].

Rather, he is placing the law in its proper context: “On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets.” His final argument sums up, not only the point of all his speeches, but also everything he had done in his ministry, all the healing, the feeding, the giving and forgiving: all flow from the overarching reality of LOVE.

 

Jesus has lots more to say in the gospel of Matthew, but from this point on, he is talking NOT to his adversaries but to his disciples and the crowds who follow him. He is talking to US.

 

And what are we to do with these love commandments? Because as compelling as the words are, they must not remain only words.

    Love is not a feeling of affection, but an orientation – to place the glory of God and the needs of others above my own.

    Love demands an act of will – that I not start my day with my Facebook posts, but that I say my morning prayers; that I not answer my political opposite with a clever retort, but that I seek to understand what makes her back that candidate.

    These things take an act of will.

    But willing ourselves to love is not enough.

 

Says Tim Sedgwick, a lay theologian, and my ethics professor:

Love, like faith, is a gift from God.[2]

And so perhaps the best we can do is ask God’s help to love as Jesus would have us love.

 

And so we do, here, week by week. Listen anew to the words at the very heart of our prayer of confession. “We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.” There it is, the summary of all the commandments that I, for one, have broken again and again. “We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.”

 

To repent, as you know, is to turn around, to face the right direction, to try again. And love – the kind of love Jesus teaches today – must be tried again, and again.

 

Ursula LeGuin, one of my favorite fantasy writers, gives us a beautiful image for this truth.

She says: “Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone. It has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” 

When I think of love as bread, made new, made fresh, I think of fragrant dough rising on my countertop, leavened from within by a mysterious living force. When I think of love as bread, I think of Jesus, who comes to us as spiritual food, giving us his own self.

 

Love, self-giving love, is not a one-time achievement that sits there like a stone, like winning a debate or even an election.

Love is choosing, minute by minute, the good of the other.

With God’s help, may we make our love fresh every day,

May we become leaven that lightens the burden of our neighbors

and glorifies the One who made us all.

 

Amen.

 

[1] Matthew 5:17

[2] Timothy F. Sedgwick, The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), p. 138.

 

 

ADDRESS

703-360-4220

8531 Riverside Rd.

Alexandria, Virginia, 22308

staidansalexandria@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE FOR EMAILS
  • Grey Facebook Icon

© 2023 by HARMONY. Proudly created with Wix.com