Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2013
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us Pray:
O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end.
Amen.

Some things are obvious to us; they are so clear that we understand them instantly. We need no prompting; the obvious is, after all, obvious. But perhaps such things weren't always so clear after all. That formula that once seemed so complex, that abstract idea that was so impenetrable, that work of art or poetry that defied our ability to understand. Or, that miracle that seemed so, well, miraculous.

On the way home from the funeral yesterday, I had such a realization. I knew that I had very little time to prepare a sermon for this week. Yes, I could easily have pulled one from my files and, in a pinch, I have done just that. But I do not like to do that; the preaching moment should be immediate; it should speak to the present moment as fully and completely as it can. I realized that I could also deliver an extemporaneous sermon and, at times, I have done just that. But something compelled me to write down the words for this week. Something drew me to the computer. Knowing I had barely an hour to put something down, I asked God for just a little miracle. And that is when it occurred to me: Jesus never had to write a sermon .

Jesus didn't have to write a sermon because He lived perfectly in the moment. He also knew the gospel. He was the gospel. He was the Logos, the word made flesh; the Word made flesh dwelling among us. Jesus did not have to write a sermon because his life was the sermon always. His miracles were demonstrations of God's purpose in the world. They are only miracles to those who do not know and love God. They are not miraculous to God; they are simply things of God. God doing the work of God. Where in the gospel do we find Jesus congratulating Himself for some great miracle? Where do we find Him showing off for the crowd as if He were some magician demonstrating some great conjuring trick. God uses no tricks; the miracles as we call them are designed for one purpose: to draw us to Him so that we may see the love that is given to us.

Did I get my miracle? In a way, I did. Because it allowed me to see yet again how close God is to us. And also, how close the gospel is to all who take it in. The sermon comes not only from our imaginations, we preachers, but from the word of the gospel expressed in this precise time and place.

There are two ways in which God works the miraculous in today's gospel reading. In the first, we learn of a woman who was diseased and had an issue of blood for twelve years. The scholars will immediately point out the number twelve as indicating the connection to the Jewish people. Jesus had come to heal them, to call them to a true understanding of the Law and the Prophets. They would be right, of course, but there is also much, much more to this miracle. The woman had a burden and she hid from the society because of this burden. But something caused her to draw near to Jesus, to touch the hem of His garment. Only that. And we learn she was made whole in that very moment. She was made whole; she became complete. Jesus Himself recognized this and He told her so. She knew she needed Jesus. Whatever her burdens, she knew that by drawing close to Jesus she would become fully and completely herself.

It is like that with us. When we draw close to Jesus, when we seek Him out, to touch Him, to be with Him, we, too, become fully and completely ourselves. It is only in Jesus that we fully live. It is a curious thing; once we know Jesus and the gifts He brings – the Good News of the gospel – it becomes so obvious to us. How did we ever not get it; how did we ever live with out Him?

The second miracle is even more difficult for us to imagine. It has to do with the raising to life of a young child who has apparently died. The child is twelve years old. As I drove back home from Upstate New York, the thoughts of another child were very present with me. Elijah Dibble was killed on Monday afternoon. Eli was thirteen years old. He had been in my thoughts and my prayers all week long. I remember him very well. I know how he looked, how he spoke and how he moved about in the world. I can see him clearly. His presence is as unique as any other person I have known. Where is Eli?

Yesterday, as Bishop Langberg read the office for the Burial of a Child, he spoke these words: “I am the resurrection and the life...” They are the same words recited at the burial office; every burial office in the Book of Common Prayer. They are God's words. And they are true. When Jesus took the young woman by the hand and she arose, it seemed impossible; how could it be. It was a miracle. But it was God doing God's work. God showing us that there is a fulness to life that we may not know.

We read of it in the gospel; we hear about it from the mouth of Jesus; we understand it from having studied it. But do we yet know it.

One touched the hem of His garment; the other was taken by His hand and raised up. Both were in the presence of God. They received life at His hands. So, too, Eli Dibble has received the fulness of life at the hands of God.

And what about us? Do we know what it is we hear with our outward ears? Perhaps it is not yet obvious to us. But someday it will be.

 

Let us pray:
O Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.