Sunday, September 1, 2013

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Sermon 17C

This is the last of the sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer.  All that we have left is the doxology, the ending words of praise: “for thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen.”  We have other doxologies in other places in the liturgy also, especially prominent in the one we sing at the Offertory every week.

In every sermon, we also address the Gospel reading for the week - What is Jesus up to this week?  As I pondered that part, it seems to me that Jesus is letting us know who belongs - who is specifically invited - to the table.The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind – All are children of God, all are beloved of God, and all have a place at the table.

Last week, I challenged you to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with new ears.  Now Jesus said "everyone" - but each generation has had to work to make the table a bit bigger - each generation is called to include Everyone - until everyone is there and has a seat.  Dr. King pointed out to us that not all were welcome yet - he inspires and challenges us, even to this day, to make sure everyone, no matter the skin tone they have, is included.

Even in this generation, the Episcopal Church continues to widen the circle and enlarge the table.  Last summer, we voted as a national church to include everyone, this time specifically saying that no matter your sexual orientation, you are welcome at this table to share your God-goven gifts and live out your ministry.  We believe that when Jesus said everyone, there are no exceptions.  That premise is central to who we are as Christians – especially Episcopalians.  We believe that God loves everyone without exceptions.  We believe that God calls males and females of all races and political stripes.  We believe that everyone here – and out there – has God-given gifts and God-given ministries, and we are here to support everyone in living out those gifts and ministries.  The church is the place where people can learn to live out their calling in the world.

The last thing that we need to talk about in the sermon today is the Texas Supreme Court ruling from Friday.  Conflict is not new to the Christian experience.  If you listened to the first reading today you heard that loud and clear.  Conflict is one of the things that can get in the way of living out our God-given calls.  We know this well – we have been living in a major conflict zone for many years now, but officially since 2008 – five long years.  This last Friday, we had an opinion from the Texas Supreme Court.  I will now read you the letter that Bp High has asked us to read in every service this weekend. 
            Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
            On August 30, 2013 the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion that sent our case back to the lower court for reconsideration. While it is a disappointment not to have a definitive decision, as followers of Jesus Christ, we live in hope.
            Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joins me in acknowledging our disappointment and urging all of us to be gentle with one another during this trying time, with the important goal of continuing our worship of God and our ministries in this community in as uninterrupted a manner as possible.
            Now I, other diocesan leaders, and our legal team, including representatives of the Church and its legal team, have to make decisions about our next steps.  For now, we all must don the mantle of patience and forbearance. I ask for your prayers and urge us all to stay focused on the saving gospel of Jesus Christ in the days ahead.
            I remain convinced that we are right in our affirmation that we are the    continuing Diocese of Fort Worth and that I am its bishop.  But in the wake of this opinion, as always, we remain committed to preaching that gospel as we celebrate the sacraments, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace. When we began this litigation in 2009, we did so as heir and steward of the legacy of generations of faithful Episcopalians.
            Let us move forward together with grace and love, guided by the Holy Spirit.
            The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

Part of this conflict involves who is welcome at the table – who has God-given gifts and ministries to share.  I hope you heard the part Bp High wrote about donning the mantle of patience and forbearance – this is still undone.  We still do not know what the outcome will be.  We are still wandering in the legal wilderness for a bit longer.  But as we wander, Bp High is calling us to keep preaching the Gospel, keep celebrating the Sacraments, keep inviting everyone to the table, and keep being the church.

As we wander, I find great comfort in “For it is God's Kingdom and God's power and God's glory forever and ever.” As Anglicans, we have been saying this since at least 1662 and it has not changed.  It is God’s Kingdom, God’s Power and God’s Glory – it is God’s Table.  We all have a place at it – we are all beloved - we are all welcome.  Amen.

Audio of this sermon is on the PodBean Player on the right sidebar.

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