[Sermon notes. 12 November 2017. Annual Parish Meeting.]
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
“even when we were dead in trespasses” – This refers to us in the Church, not those outside the Church! WE were dead in our sins. We parishioners have experienced both death in our sins and resurrection in our Christ. God’s love comes to us while we are still sinners (Romans 5:8). We wouldn’t need God’s love, favor, grace, forgiveness if we were sinless. We can only be raised with Christ if we are dead. There would be no need for a resurrection if we hadn’t died first.
“made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” – sitting together in church, we are in the heavenly place. The parish church is that heavenly place where we sit together in Christ Jesus
“we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” – that is another image of the parish. We are God’s craftmanship, built to do good works. That is why we need an active, functioning parish community so that we an work together for the good.
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Our parish – we give from our budget $1700/month to charity. This is above and beyond all the charity projects we take on each month. Because we are a true commuter parish, we don’t have a strong sense of a location identity. Very few of us live in the locality of the church, so our charity work is not so locally focused, but is outreach to other peoples, areas, projects.
We as parish must never cease to be the good neighbor, the good Samaritan to everyone whose path bring them to our community. Or whose paths we cross in our sojourning. Christ makes it clear that being the good neighbor is something He values in us and expects from us.
Christ does not use the parable to talk about how the government should have done more to protect the man walking down to Jericho. He doesn’t use the parable to say more police or a bigger army is needed, nor does Jesus advocate self defense, carrying weapons, pre-emptive strikes. His point in the parable is be neighborly, be charitable.
Ethics thought puzzle – what if the Good Samaritan had arrived just a little bit earlier on the scene, in time to prevent the crime from happening, would Christ have blessed his use of force (even lethal force) to prevent the crime? Or are Christians only to step in to offer comfort once the crime/suffering has been inflicted? Jesus doesn’t say. Whatever we might think in answer to those questions, we still must be neighborly.
Today, beause of the events of mass shootings in churches, many people feel unsafe, and feel the parish needs to consider safety and security for its members. The shepherds of old took action to protect their flocks, including attacking the attackers. Doesn’t the church have an obligation to protects its members and make the parish a safe and secure place for its members?
We are obliged to behave as neighbors, no matter what other security or safety measures we think are necessary.
Satan’s victory comes not in killing us but in converting us to his way of thinking and behaving. If we abandon our principles, our discipleship in order to follow the logic of he world, then we have lost the battle with evil. We are after all disciples of the Crucified One, who rose from the dead. Killing us does not cut us off from Christ and rather works to the contrary in keeping us united to the Son of God. Our being killed by others is not the greatest thing we have to fear. Jesus said:
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4 )
We Christians may be threatened by other people. Yet, our warfare is not against those who do us bodily harm. We may have to take steps too ensure the safety of our congregations, but we also have to remember that in Scripture we are told how to arm and defend ourselves. As St. Paul exhorts us:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints … (Ephesians 6:10)