The Sunday Sermon: October 26, 2014 – The Cross shaped life.
Note: The audio is based on the text below, but the sermon recorded was given extemporaneously.
+In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our lives must reflect the Cross, in both shape and meaning.
A cross shaped live is a life is life which like the arms of the cross points not inward toward ourselves, but outward: First upward, to God, the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier of the world. And secondly, to the world – to our neighbors – for whom, in the same way he did for us, the savior of the world hung upon the cross.
The meaning of a cross shaped life, is a life lived intentionally as Christians, redeemed by the savior. It means following his example of self-sacrifice, pouring out ourselves in love and service to God and to others.
In this morning’s gospel, Jesus is ask by those pesky Pharisees, a question which was much discussed by the Teachers of Scripture in his day. If you remember last week, he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar. Well, today’s gospel passage takes place about the same time, shortly after that question.
As I said, it wasn’t an uncommon question. But it was a question with a purpose. The purpose was to try to catch our Lord in false teaching, and by proving that his teaching was unorthodox, to discredit him in the eyes of the people who saw him with such high esteem.
The question was, you recall, “Which is the greatest commandment?” In practical terms, they were asking Jesus to Summarize the Law – to give an overarching principle by which all the rest of the commandants could be understood, interpreted, and taught.
And this is precisely what Jesus did. He doesn’t say that the regulations regarding food, or regulations regarding worship, or the shape of the sanctuary, but rather, he tells them, and us, that above all else, to love God and to Love Neighbor. This principle must guide our understanding of our Faith.
But more than just answering them, Our Lord turns the tables, and asks them a question of his own. Asking them about the Messiah – He asks, “Whose Son is the Messiah?”
Now, I don’t want to go into a deep exegesis of this question, which has its own Ramifications within the Gospel of Matthew, but what I do want to point out is this: Immediately after telling us that central to living out our faith is the Love of God and the Love of neighbor, he immediately turns our attention to the Messiah – to himself.
By doing so, our Lord is speaking to us, telling us that if we want to understand what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must look to him – to the example he set in serving the sick and the poor, and indeed, we look to the source of our salvation, his cross.
In order to live out our lives under in his grace, that is to say, to live out our lives Loving God and Loving neighbor, rightly, we must always keep our eyes on the cross.
Now, each of us are called to this witness individually. But you and I, we, us, we’re all called to do this as a group a well.
I want to focus on four words this morning which help us to understanding this Godward and Neighbor-ward Love, as we are called to do it both as individuals and as a church.
Those four words are: Worship, Justice, Devotion, and Mercy.
As a group, we offer our worship to God, and we treat one another with justly, that is treating one another as we ought to treat one another.
As individuals, we offer our devotion to God, and we treat one another with mercy, forgiving others when they have acted unjustly toward us.
Now, we Episcopalians, indeed, we Christians, are good at the Worship thing. But as an individual, how are you with your private devotion? Do you set time aside each day to pray, in your own words, to God.
As a group, we put a lot of energy towards becoming a more just society. We have many laws, but if we look to how often we make recourse to the courts to settle our disputes and disagreements, we have a long way to go in learning the meaning of mercy and forgiveness.
Worship, Devotion, Mercy, Justice; these four words have great meaning for us as we seek to be obedient to the will of God for our lives, as we seek to live out that great commandment from our Lord himself: To love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, all our minds, and with all our strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.
They are so important, I might suggest, that the Church brings them forward to our minds each and every time we gather for Worship. Indeed, these are the very words with which we began our worship together this morning.
May God plant these words in our hearts so deeply, and so richly, that cross itself becomes not only the beginning of our worship on Sunday, but the beginning of each and every day, and lived out at every moment of every day, for all the days of our lives. Amen.