Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39; Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
Vocation is a tricky thing. As a college professor, I am an advisor for a handful of first-year students. It is rewarding for me to gently steer my students toward careers that will be fulfilling. Generally, we want to help them think critically and self-reflectively about their intended major, and their future careers. Most of the time this requires a willingness on their part to explore, to be open minded, to be up for new experiences. So often students choose the major they do because someone in their life – ahem, parents – have told them which career path will be the most marketable, have the most earning potential, the surest bet for a comfortable and stable career.
But sometimes, I’ll get a student who has a calling, who feels pulled toward something bigger than themselves, their family, or even the expectations that have been placed on them by whomever. And, as many of you know, the kind of vocation that this student will pursue does not have a high earning potential, or even a clear career path. The one called to this vocation follows this calling not for any material comfort or reward that it will bring them. Rather, they follow their calling, much as I have and I’m sure many of you have, because of the intrinsic satisfaction it brings, or at least it should bring. Typically, these students see a need, and they know that attending to that need will be far more gratifying than anything else that they could do.
In Wes Anderson’s 2001 film, the Royal Tenenbaum’s, the title character, Royal Tenenbaum, played by Gene Hackman, is a quick witted, narcissistic, and failed lawyer. Broke and recently ejected from the hotel in which he had lived for decades, Royal cons his estranged family into believing that he is dying of cancer, in the hopes that they’ll let him move back in to the family house. When they discover the fraud, they kick him out again. Standing next to the cab, he exclaims to his son, “I feel like a different person, I really do.” Confused and a little exasperated, his son replies, “Dad, you were never dying.” Royal enthusiastically exclaims, “but I’m gonna live!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a textbook case of a false gospel. Royal deceives his family, and once they are on to him, he tries to deceive them a second time with good news.
Proper 29, Christ the King Sunday
Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
This Sunday is the last of the Church year. In some Church calendars it is called Christ the King Sunday. Next Sunday we begin the new church year with Advent, a season that for a long time now the Church has recognized as a time of preparation.
For what are we preparing, you may ask? I spoke with my kids about this briefly yesterday. After we joked about preparing for gifts, for Santa, for good food, for time off school, one of them eventually asked, why do we need to prepare for Jesus’ birth. It happened already. Aren’t we just remembering?
Aren’t we just remembering?
Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
Why do we worship the things that we worship? Why do we develop the attachments that we do?
This week, as I thought about today’s Gospel reading, I found myself wondering “why does Jesus invoke the name of God and the name of Caesar in the same breath?”
The Pharisees inquire: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
As we just heard, Jesus answers their question by asking for a coin. Now the coin that they handed Jesus was a denarius, a roman coin made of silver, about the size of a dime. The denarius was the most common coin of the Roman Empire’s currency. As Jesus indicates, the denarius has the face of Caesar Augustus on it, and is imprinted with words that declare Caesar’s divinity. The coin probably said, “Tiberius Caesar, the son of the divine Augustus, the Augustus.” Tiberius was the Caesar, the emperor at the time, and was the stepson of Octavian, the first to be called Augustus, a name that itself conferred divinity. On the back, the coin declares Caesar “pontifex maximus,” the greatest High Priest, the one who connects us to the Gods.
We hear this morning in the lessons from Genesis and Matthew that children hold a remarkable place in God’s vision for the world. Through one child, God will fulfill the promise of the covenant to Abraham, and yet that promise seems jeopardized. In the gospel we hear Jesus, once a child himself, telling his disciples that ministering to any little one is as important as both receiving a prophet and welcoming a righteous person. We may be asking ourselves, what is it about children that make them so important?
The Trinity by Andrei Rublev
The one thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other ideologies and religions is our profession of the Trinity. We believe in one God, but we also believe that that one God is three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Trinity is also the starting place of Christian action. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we read that Christ gives his disciples the Great Commission: go baptize and make disciples in the name of the Trinity. Much in the same way that an emissary of a king or queen comes in the name of their monarch, Christians are instructed to act in the name of the Triune God. We act in the name of the Trinity when we baptize, bless, consecrate, and pray in general.
It’s strange however that so many preachers dread giving sermons on Trinity Sunday. As I prepared this sermon, I noticed that the prevailing sentiment amongst priests and religious educators is to avoid making any kind of definitive statement about the Trinity. “It’s a mystery,” as it seems nearly everyone agrees.