St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Pentecost 4 2014 Sermon

One of the things that it is suggested we preachers do each week with our sermons is to make some kind of current life connection with the Readings—how are they relevant with what is happening in our lives today?  Let’s see if I can do this with these Readings.
First, let’s see, what has happened in my life the past three weeks or so?  (in no particular order!)

  • I preached at another church on Trinity Sunday about the Outside Church Walls group and activities I am part of.
  • I participated in a Diocesan Budget & Finance meeting, where I upset the planning for working with congregations who have prior years’ unpaid assessments by strongly disagreeing with their new policy just approved.
  • I worked on trying to get a meaningful contract type job with the Diocese, or maybe with Church Insurance inspecting Diocesan properties—still in work.
  • I have been working on my well overgrown yard day by day, trying to get back to even.
  • I published the bimonthly church newsletter, including a special supplement about deaconesses.
  • I exchanged 2013 annual finance reviews work – St. Mark’s, Montesano with St. Benedict’s, Lacey.
  • I marched in the first annual Aberdeen Founders Day parade, carrying sign offering protests against the Crude By Rail companies trying to move dangerous Black Hills, ND crude oil/highly flammable chemicals to the Grays Harbor by rail.
  • I attended a meeting where they showed a film about the Koch Brothers and how they are using their enormous finances to take over large parts of the world economy, American institutions like schools, and influencing government agencies at all levels to gain power over them.
  • On July 4th, I went down to Nemah to visit our daughter Anne, son in law Jeff, and grandsons Caleb and Aaron at their campsite right on the North Nemah River.
  • Attended a Tacoma Rainiers game with Bonnie and the Averys—Baseball with the Bishop.
  • Took the Safeguarding God’s People class with Bonnie, Lorraine, and Corby at St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen.
  • Worked on how to get started with selling life insurance—a real struggle!
  • Built a database for business prospects for Jefferson and Clallam counties for an Aflac agency.
  • Attended church each Sunday, and Bible studies each Wednesday.
  • Installed some new lights in the nave (yesterday!).
  • Bonnie and I signed up to start collecting Social Security—payments start this month.
  • Somehow managed to watch almost all of the World Cup matches and the Mariners on a daily basis, while keeping up with daily current events in our nation and the world.

Hmm!  What common themes are in this list that relate to these readings?  Maybe it just looks like a real scattered variety of things that make up my life right now.  My focus is really a mess, as I try to get things in order at home, continue to do what I like with church locally and in the Diocese, enjoy sports I like to watch and follow national and world events that might affect me, and also work at getting a long term job of my liking. 
Now let’s think about what else is going on, not things I’m doing, but what is happening with those close to me and people I know.

  • Daughter Anne continues to show how well she is doing with her new medical treatments, and how this affects her family in positive ways.
  • Son Jim III has gotten a real job with Allstate Insurance in Chicago, and now will be able to take care of himself and provide health and life insurance to son Oliver.
  • Just found out that a former Boeing work colleague has split up from her husband of the past twenty years or so.
  • Had a scare when one of Anne’s childhood and still good friends said something on Facebook that looked like she might want to do herself in.
  • Continue to see our church get older and our dear oldest ones struggle as they deal with what one does at advanced age—physical and mental health issues.
  • Looked on Facebook with joy that Jeff Varness got to go on a great trip with high school friends to Europe.

There is probably a lot more I should note here but ….
It seems to me that all of this is just life as we know it today—very complex, as much as we will let it be this way.  I think our readings from Romans and Matthew deal with this life we lead in two ways.
The Romans 7 reading, in its most simplistic summary, tells us that sin, or life not in connection with God, is very easy to fall into and cannot be overcome by our own choices and desires.  We will fail; it is impossible to succeed in every situation.  Many of those things I do might be in God’s will and plan for me, but maybe some are just busy work or choices made instead of doing what is best for me.  Lorraine pointed out in this week’s Bible study that this is exactly what the AA folks deal with, fighting the desire to drink and thinking they can just not drink and things will be great.  It is when they realize they cannot deal with it on their own and need that support group to help them day by day that they can succeed.  And, even if they do fall back, their support group is still there to help them.  That’s how it is with God, through Jesus Christ—Paul says that is who can rescue us from our bodies of death!
In our Matthew 11 Gospel reading, Jesus tells the crowd, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take your yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Those of us who grew up in the Episcopal church of 50 years ago used to hear the first part of this message on many communion Sundays just before the offering and the invitation to communion.  What I heard then as a kid acolyte, and still do now, is that life will not somehow become easy all of a sudden when you take this to heart, but it might make things look brighter, and may help you step back and sort out what is most important and what can be let go (or at least emphasized less!).
All of this mishmash of things I do and who I watch out for and keep track of, need to be thought about in new ways—with a Jesus’ eye view on them.  What did Jesus do, how did he keep his focus, and who did he pray to for comfort and clarity?
A closing prayer: “Lord, help me to try this starting today—to see if I can make better sense of my life and what is the best way to serve you, and those I care about—my family and friends, those here at St. Mark’s, in our community, in our Diocese, and in our world.  Help me be that example of Jesus in the world you want us all to be, for the good of all and for my own saving grace.  AMEN.”

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