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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

September 8th Pentecost 13, 2019                      John Marsh


Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33


The gospel isn’t really about hating family, forever embodying an oppositional adolescent rage…


Nor is it about stoically enduring the foibles of existence, putting up with the trying times of life…


It’s about living ‘the way’ with passion, persistence and courage…


It’s about discerning how to live the way of Jesus in a variety of circumstances…


It’s about the height, depth and breadth of living fully alive where you live…


It’s about the practical choices of compassion and non-violence and the necessary resistance to what John

Dominic Crossan calls ‘the normalcy of civilization’…


To see the way of Jesus as a process at work, let’s turn to Paul’s letter to Philemon…


To reiterate, the way of Jesus is a way of life yet not the following of absolute rules; it concerns the manner in which we relate to the world, inclusive of our families, despite, in spite of the risk of living fully alive…


Paul’s letter to Philemon is an expression of ‘living the way’, of character formation in process, in real time…


Here, in this personal letter, Paul outlines that the way of Jesus matters – it changes how we view each other in real terms, it changes how Philemon views the runaway slave Onesimus…


To contextualize, in the ancient world slavery was ubiquitous, understood as being as natural as breathing and most people were about as conscious of it as they were of their breathing…  


Slavery was not just the way things were, it was how life was ordered by the powers that be…


Paul invites Philemon on a journey of self-discovery about his faith and its implications for Onesimus as well as the community: Onesimus, once a non-entity as a slave, is now a brother in the faith, a human being deserving of freedom¹…


Paul’s letter points to the process of living the way when that way may not be clear or when it leads in unexpected and shocking directions…


The letter points to the way of cross in which we die to our blind spots and the cherished and unexamined bigotries of our culture…


The letter represents the beginning of a process in the church, a process which took years, centuries, to complete, in which all life came to be seen as sacred and deserving of respect which means, of course, that no life can be enslaved (of course one should ask, is this process of ending slavery truly complete or has slavery merely adapted, obscuring itself?) …


Towards the end of this process, in the struggle in the American South to dismantle segregation (slavery’s offspring) we can find further examples of what it means to shoulder the way of the cross and to embrace the passion of the way…


To illustrate, let me return to a story of which I spoke a couple of weeks ago

Martin Luther King Jr., well known for his leadership in the campaign of non-violent resistance to segregation in the American south during the 1950s and 60s was not, when the campaign began, the mature leader that history remembers; he was skeptical about the power of love; he had great deal to learn about non-violence…


As was mentioned a couple of weeks ago, without the teaching and example of the activist Bayard Rustin and the Methodist pastor Glenn Smiley, King may not have grown in his understanding of the way that lay before him…


Without their teaching and example, he may not have come to understand that, despite the threats to himself and his family, having weapons in his house and armed guards protecting his home was antithetical to the movement we so readily identify with him…


I have no awareness of the decision making process that King and his wife Coretta went through with regard to the power of love, but I suspect that it was neither easy nor quick. I have no doubt that it involved many conversations between themselves and others, many disagreements, many times of silent reflection as they came to embrace, perhaps despite reservations, deeper understandings of the path which lay before them, of the risks and dangers that they were asking of themselves, their family and others in their quest for freedom and justice…


As they followed the way of non-violent resistance and opened to the refusal to demonize the enemy (the power of love), they shouldered the cross - they took the risk of death, the risk of challenging and resisting ‘the normalcy of segregation’ in order to follow the way of the Christ…


In order to challenge the hate and inhumanity of a system, they were willing to follow the way of Jesus and to raise their children as human beings fully alive in a very real, risky and difficult context…


To my mind, this is an example of the hyperbole of ‘hating’ your family, of ‘taking up one’s cross’, an example of ‘cracking open’ blinding assumptions, a dismantling or deconstructing of limiting worldviews regardless of the risk...


Our life decisions may not always be dramatic, but they are always important; we need to remember, as was also said two weeks ago, there is no action so small or mundane that it may not be the harbinger of change...


In many ways it comes down to the choices and decisions we make daily, the conversations we have, who we pay attention to, our actions, our responses in the variety of situations we find ourselves…


So...


Do we own our feelings?


Do we admit our mistakes?


Do we commit to learning in a variety of life situations?


Do we embrace respect?


Do we serve the dignity of others, even our enemies?


Do we seek justice in our midst and beyond?


Do we follow the way of Jesus, shouldering the cross of the Christ?


Do we bear the mark of the disciple?


The mark of character within the blessing:


As you have been fed - go fed the hungry. As you have been set free - go to free the imprisoned. As you have received – give. As you have heard – proclaim. And the blessing which you have received from the Creator, Son, and Spirit go with you.



 ¹ To be frank, it took awhile, quite a while, to understand that regardless of faith, the ‘slave’ is a human being as are women, persons of colour, children, refugees and persons of differing orientations.