Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2010
St. George, Easthampton, MA; St. Luke, Amherst, NH

Let us pray: O God, our refuge and our strength, who art the author of all godliness; Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant that those things we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What is it like to come home? Especially after a long trip away. What do you suppose it might be like for Jesus to come home? Especially after a long time away. These questions were very much on my mind when I looked over the gospel reading for today. Just a week ago, I returned home from nine days “on the road.” It had been a very busy time. First, there was our fine synod. Then there was a two-day episcopal visit to a parish near Boston. During this time, there were preaching assignments and many meetings. Finally, there was a three day trip to St. Louis for our House of Bishops and Executive Council meetings. After all that, it was very good to be home once again. But, even after only a few days away, certain things looked a bit different around the house. Maybe it was because of something I read.

While on one of the plane flights, I read an interesting article about homecoming. It was called: “Home is Where your Stuff is.” The article was all about, you guess it, coming home after a long absence. A writer left his home for a year. He had accepted a teaching assignment in Europe. He packed everything he thought he might need, locked the door to his apartment and took a cab to the airport. The apartment was left behind. Like a time capsule, that apartment would not be entered by a single living soul until he returned from his teaching job. A whole year without anybody there. When he returned, things looked a little strange. He found so many things in his New York apartment that were kind of unnecessary. Items that he had thought so important suddenly seemed completely unnecessary. Why, he wondered, had he preserved all this “stuff.” What, he thought, was important in all the clutter?

There were, of course, those things that were important. Very important. He looked at the pictures of his family and made many phone calls. “Let's get together,” he said in so many words. “We need to see each other.”

“Jesus entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.” This is the beginning of today's gospel message. Like last week's gospel, this one is drawn from the gospel according to St. Matthew. Matthew, as we know, is the most Jewish of the gospel writers. He knows and understands the Pharisees. He is, after all, one of them. He understands the people, the very people Jesus knew. They were all related. Pharisees all, they knew each other well. They knew how each other thought, how each other acted. Within the customs of that time, there were things that were done – the appropriate and acceptable customs of the time. And then, there were the things that were inappropriate – things that were simply not done.

To this very particular community, Jesus came home. He said and did things that on that particular day that surprised everybody who heard him speak or saw him heal a man with the palsy. Jesus upset the customs of that particular place. Jesus came home to Nazareth – and the place would never be the same again.

When Jesus arrived at Nazareth, we are told that a man sick with the palsy was carried out to him. We know that Jesus performed many miracles during his earthly ministry and we might think that He would immediately heal the man physically. Certainly, God has the power to do just that. We have seen such miracles before. But first, Jesus says: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Thy sins be forgiven thee. Maybe this seems like a strange thing to say to someone who is suffering. Thy sins be forgiven thee.

Certainly the Scribes thought so. They thought to themselves that Jesus spoke blasphemy. They know that only God could forgive sins. They didn't recognize Jesus. Jesus had come home to Nazareth, but they didn't recognize Him. Oh, perhaps they recognized the son of a carpenter, but they could not see the God who forgave them their sins.

But some people did recognize Jesus. They reached out to Him; they brought someone who needed the care of Jesus.

It is sometimes easier for us to get involved with our “stuff” and to lose sight of what is truly important. The gospel for today points out those things that are necessary to us; necessary for our temporal and spiritual lives. It is necessary to provide a welcome to Jesus, to invite Him in to His home, which is in fact the world itself. It is important to recognize that our spiritual lives are necessary to our health as human beings. And that means understanding that God does forgive sins.

What is it that we find when we come home from a long journey away? Do we find our stuff, some of which is meaningful but most of which we can probably do without. Perhaps our own unique stuff comforts us and allows us to travel through the temporal world with a feeling of security. But our own cities are empty if they do not include the presence of Jesus.

 

Let us pray: Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.