Sermon: Proper 27 RCL C – Transformed by Love

The podcast is available here.

A young lady was soaking up the sun’s rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, “Do you believe in God?” She was surprised by the question but she replied, “Why, yes, I do.” Then he asked her: “Do you go to church every Sunday?” Again, her answer was “Yes!”

He then asked: “Do you read your Bible and pray everyday?” Again she said, “Yes!” By now her curiosity was very much aroused. The little lad sighed with relief and said, “Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?”

Apparently finding a person honest enough to hold your quarter is a difficult task.

According to a Gallup poll, a number of factors go into how we will perceive a person’s level of honesty, one of which is their profession. Who do we judge as the most honest profession? Nurses. The least honest? Well that one’s not hard—members of congress. Heck, even telemarketers did better than them. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much), clergy came in eighth place, just below funeral directors. (Source) All this talk on honesty to say: this morning, let’s be honest.

As we were saying/singing the Psalm, did you actually pay attention to the words? Listen to this bit again… it begins:

“Hear my plea of innocence, O Lord;
give heed to my cry…”

And then a verse on:

“Weigh my heart, summon me by night,
melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
I give no offense with my mouth as others do;
I have heeded the words of your lips.
My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;
in your paths my feet shall not stumble.”

Honestly… I know that I was lying when I said those words. Honestly, there are more than a few impurities in me, I do offend with my mouth, I don’t always heed the words of the Lord, and honestly, my footsteps take me down some less than holy paths. Yet, when we die, according to what Jesus said to the Sadducees who were quibbling with him this morning, when we die we “are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” Honestly, how that occurs is a miracle in itself, but I still have to wonder how it happens. In the end, it is a great mystery, but given the nature of God—God is Love—we may have a clue.

Franz Kafka, author of the novella that many have struggled through, The Metamorphosis, died at the age of forty-one from tuberculosis. A story about him began to circulate following his death that is reported to have taken place in the last year of his life.

It tells of Kafka walking through a park when he encounters a young girl who is distressed and crying, she has lost her doll. Kafka agrees to help her look and when they are unable to find it, volunteers to come back the following day and help her look some more. That evening, Kafka went home and wrote a letter. A letter from the doll to the little girl. In it, the doll says to the girl, “Please do not mourn me, I have gone on a trip to see the world. I will write you of my adventures.” Over the course of the next several weeks, Kafka delivers numerous letters to the little girl from her doll, all telling about her adventures. At their last meeting, Kafka presents the girl with a new doll. It looks nothing like her original, but she accepts it with gratitude.

Years later, the girl, now a woman, discovers a letter that she did not know existed, tucked away in the sleeve of the dolls dress. In the closing paragraph of that letter, the doll stated, “My travels have changed me. Everything that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.”

My impurities, my offensive mouth, my wandering footsteps—my travels… in me, these are the things that I love, but as I continue to travel, not alone, but with He who created me, I begin to… not necessarily lose, but set aside those things that I love, because a true Love has entered in. My travels with Jesus begin to change me. Not to the point that I can in good conscience declare the Psalm, fully vindicated, but I have begun. It is as St. Paul teaches us, “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) We “are being transformed into his image.” Not there yet, but getting there, so that on the last day, the day of the resurrection of the dead, we will truly be transformed into the children of God. You see, we are all Kafka’s doll, traveling this earth, being changed by Love. Changed by the One who is Love. Therefore, we may not be able to fully declare the words of the Psalmist, but we can declare with Job what we read:

“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Now, don’t tune me out here, because you’re going to think that I’m changing the subject on you, but I’m not: this sermon that I’m preaching to you, this is the big pledge sermon. The sermon where I ask you to financially support the church. You should receive your pledge card on Monday. When we think of the pledge drive, we most often think of paying bills and salaries. But I have to be honest with you, paying bills doesn’t do much for me. Does not motivate me. I even occasionally forget to do it, just ask my landlord. And if I were to ask you to give so that we could pay the bills… well, I wouldn’t expect you to be excited or motivated about it either. But the thing is, I’m not asking you to pledge simply so that we can pay bills. I’m asking you to pledge, because as I said a minute ago, we are all Kafka’s doll—not just those of us in this sanctuary, but all, everyone created in God’s image is Kafka’s doll, and we, through the work and ministry of this church, have the capacity to show the world true Love—not just so they can experience the outward expression of love through our works, but more importantly so that they can encounter Love in the person of Jesus Christ.

When I’m honest with myself, I know who I was and and I know who I am today after traveling with Jesus for awhile. I think if you are honest with yourself, you also know the same difference. Not yet perfected, but drawing ever closer with each step. I firmly believe that your pledge does the same for others. As one Kafka doll to another, who has been transformed by Love, I ask that you will prayerfully and faithfully participate in this journey with your pledge to St. Matthew’s.

Let us pray:
O my Divine Saviour,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.
Above all,
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will, and affection
May be the memory, will, and affections
Of Jesus.
I pray for You
To destroy in me
All that is not of You.
Grant that I may live,
But in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say,
With St. Paul,
“I live – now not I –
but Christ lives in me”.

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