The Sunday Sermon: August 10, 2014
A Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 14-A – August 10, 2014
The Rev’d Thomas J. Pettigrew
The Church of the Holy Cross – Warrensburg, NY
“Jesus Calls us out of the Nave”
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
There’s a wonderful name for the place we are in right now. This part of the church is called the “nave”. The word nave is a reference to the shape of the building. The word nave refrences the fact that the shape of the building looks like the hull of a boat flipped upside down. The perhaps more significant reason we call this largest part of the building the nave is to remind ourselves that the Church (with a capital C) is the Ark of Salvation.
We get the image of the Ark of Salvation from the Book of Genesis, from the story of the flood. IN that story, you will recall, God instructed Noah to build a boat, called an Ark, (Noah’s Ark). Into the flood went all those animals and also 8 men and women who were saved from the destruction of the waters.
Noah’s Ark prefigured the Ark of Salvation build by Christ, which is his Church. And we can all take great comfort, and even rejoice in knowing that we are on that New Ark of Salvation, safe and protected from the troubled waters of the world that come upon us.
But this morning’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus does something Phenomenal to those of us safe in the boat. Even, perhaps, something unexpected. He calls us out of the Ark – not out of the protection of salvation that he has freely given us, but out of the nave, into the trouble waters and stormy weather.
Too often, we Christians get too comfortable in our naves. We come in and worship and go to coffee hour. And you may laugh say Father, this pew is not all that comfortable! And to that I say “GOOD!” It’s not supposed to be!
Yes, Jesus calls us to the Church. He calls us to the Ark of Salvation. Like the disciples, he tells us to get in the boat. And his voice also commands us to get out of the boat and come over the water to him.
And you might be asking, from where is that voice calling us out of the boat today?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 “For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… Truly I say to you as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
The voice of Jesus calls out to us, calls us to serve. And he calls us through the voices of those who are sick, lonely, oppressed, imprisoned, homeless.
Now I’m not one for buying into the Gospel of Social Justice. I fear that the mainline churches these days have fallen into the trap of equating the Gospel with Social Justice.
But what I do firmly believe is that the Gospel calls us to service. Our Lord calls us out of this building to live out our faith in the service of others.
Now, a lot of big churches are able to big projects. Big things. But it seems to me that the service of God’s people starts with the little things.
We can miss the little things. We can miss the small voice of God crying out to us. In our Old Testament lesson this morning we read about Elijah on Mount Horeb, the mount of God. And Elijah hears the sound of a great wind, and the sound of an earthquake, and then a fire. But God was not in all of those. But there followed the sound of sheer silence. And another translation of that text translates it “A Still, small voice.”
And it was when Elijah heard that small voice that he came forward and God spoke to him, telling him what to do.
I want to suggest you that we need to listen and respond not to the loud noises of the world, but rather, to the voice of God, which can be small and quiet. The kind of voice that sees someone in need and says just so quietly, “you can help them.”
Last week I saw this wonderful video online. The video starts with a homeless man sitting in a public square with a little dish in front of him, asking for a handout. He was a poor looking figure. Sad. Lonely. Unloved. And perhaps saddest of all, nobody noticed him. Then a young man sits down next to him, and asks to borrow the 5 gallon bucket he carried all his worldly possessions in. And the young man takes off his hat, places it in front of the homeless man and starts playing on the bucket like a drum. And then two others sit down, one with a guitar, and they start to sing a song. It wasn’t long before a crowd gathered around and began to drop money in the hat. When the song ends, the young man stands up, hands him his hat with the money in it, and says “Well, thanks for the bucket.”
As it turns out, the video was staged. It was not a real homeless man. It was an actor. But the people who put up the video tell that they have been doing this sort of thing without a camera and didn’t want to embarrass a real homeless person by having their face broadcast all around the world. The acts of love and kindness the three young student filmmakers was real and it was tangible.
I really believe that God calls to us over and over again, calling us out of the boat, into the stormy waters of life, calling on us to heed his voice, that small voice that comes from the sick, the lonely, the unlovable. And calls us to share his grace and his love with them. And that love and that grace have to be shared in real, tangible ways. Not just in sentiments and good thoughts.
There’s no worldly recognition for doing these little things. There’s no worldly prize. But there is an eternal one. For when we answer that command to get out of the boat, and we trust in our Lord to keep us safe, we will hear that wonderful voice in eternity: Come, ye blessed of my Father, and receive the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.