Sermon: Proper 6 / Pentecost 3 RCL B – “Moments”

A preacher was completing a temperance sermon: with great expression he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

With even greater emphasis, he said, “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”

And then, finally, he said, “And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.” He sat down.

The song leader then stood very cautiously and announced with a pleasant smile, “For our closing song, let us sing Hymn #365: ‘Shall We Gather At the River.’”

Do you ever walk away from church and think that being a Christian is really about following a bunch of rules so that you can avoid hell and get into Heaven? Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cheat, etc. and good Ol’ St. Peter will let you through the Pearly Gates. Say your prayers, read your Bible, give ten percent, etc. and you won’t go to hell. Not all, but many understand that to be Christianity. One author wrote, “the Christian mode of life must be an intolerably dull and boring affair, a repressing of everything one wants to do, a forcing of oneself to comply with what nobody could wish or choose, a shivering with chattering teeth in the gloom of a chilly monastic twilight, out of the sunshine and free air that God made.” Oh, yes! Please sign me up!

Both of the short parables that Jesus taught in our Gospel this morning spoke of the small things that grow into maturity and produce good fruit, leading to the Kingdom of God. The grain of wheat that grows and is harvested and the mustard seed that produces a great sanctuary. How you and I relate to these parables is significant and worthy of our consideration, but every now and then I think that we can get so caught up in the destination – the Kingdom of God – that we miss out on the joy of the journey. We get wrapped up in legalistic discussions – do this, don’t do that – and you’ll reach the destination, yet in the process we forget there is this very glorious moment.

From The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song, and that drive with the people who you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”

Jesus often speaks of the Kingdom of God and we understand that to be in the future, but Jesus also says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” The Kingdom of God is not only a future event, but it is now. The Kingdom of God is this moment. And the Lord did not place you here for you to experience a constant grind in everyday living. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” That is not speaking about an abundance of things, but an abundance of joy and blessing in all things.

It is a story that you may have heard before and is also one that Brennan Manning retells in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: A young monk is walking a jungle path when a tiger suddenly jumps out in front of him. The monk raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a rope dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shimmying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger. Whew! Narrow escape. The monk then looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws. Just then, two mice began to nibble at the rope. What to do?

The monk saw a strawberry within arm’s reach, growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, “Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 54.)

The Kingdom of God that is now, the abundant life, is not necessarily found in great events, on a beach in the Bahamas, or really through any act of our own. The Kingdom of God, the abundant life is found in the strawberries and moments along the way.

A child’s question from the backseat: “Are we there yet?” The answer: Nope. We have thousands of miles to go, and isn’t it wonderful. What will we experience along the way? Perhaps a better question is: What won’t we? There are baseball games on warm summer nights, books to read that take us on thousands of journeys, the feel of a baby’s hand as she grips your finger, a kiss on the cheek from Aunt Marge. How many strawberries and moments there are if we will only see them for what they are. Stop chasing after what you don’t have and enjoy that which God has blessed you with in this most sacred moment.

What comes after our moments are done and that future Kingdom of God arrives? I don’t know this for certainty – no one does, but it’s not over. Life is changed not ended. I believe the moments with God continue. We will have reached our destination, but the journey is not over.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Both the books and movies are delightful. In the movies, one of the young Hobbits, Pippin, is afraid that he will soon be killed in battle. Turning to the great wizard, Gandalf, Pippin says:

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end up this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.

Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t.

And the moments continue.

In all this, there is one other important point. We are to take joy in the moments that God gives us, but do not forget, for someone in here or out there, you might be the instrument of God’s blessing. You might just be the strawberry on the side of the cliff that helps them to experience the Kingdom of God in this present life. Do not underestimate the power you have in a simple touch, a smile, a kind word. Don’t just be a consumer, but share what is within you.

Yes, we must practice our faith. We must strive for heaven. We must avoid sin and the occasions of sin. We must study, pray, worship, and give. We must work to become Saints of God, and that is no small task; however, God did not give us this life so that it would be some sort of drudge, day-to-day just waiting and – in some cases – praying for the end. God gave us life that we might have life and live it abundantly.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ”To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” I think he was onto something.

Throughout the Gospels we will read the statement, “The Kingdom of God is like….” The sentence is finished with imagery like what we heard today, a seed that grows and a mustard seed. In other places the Kingdom of God is described as a pearl of great worth, leaven, a treasure in a field, a net catching fish. Each is an attempt to describe some aspect of the infinite. We must study these statements and understand what it is Jesus is teaching us, but in the process, we should never forget that the Kingdom of God is also now, in this very moment.

Please turn to page 837 of The Book of Common Prayer and join with me in the Litany of Thanksgiving.

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

2 Replies to “Sermon: Proper 6 / Pentecost 3 RCL B – “Moments””

  1. I know you are told time and again how moving and on-point your sermons are. But, I am going to repeat that again. I suspect it becomes quite easy for us mortals to become stuck in the idea of movement. It is good to remember the connection of soul and body. As we each are filters of Divine data, you sound quite marvelous. There is something to that thought of being tempered by fire. Thank you for sharing this on Facebook.

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