St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-11-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-11-2017

Trinity Sunday

Our Only Hope

Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I’ve told you before that I like the fact that we follow the Lectionary here at St. Matthew’s. For one reason I feel it challenges me to address all of God’s word in my sermons; not just the things that are easy to preach but also the harder topics to speak on. On the other side of that coin, following the lectionary challenges you to hear not only the light, joyful, uplifting words of God but also those that call us into serious, thoughtful self reflection.

This week, however, I was feeling that too many of my recent sermons were heavy; I so wanted to preach on something pleasant; to focus more on the feel-good side of our faith; maybe even try to bring some laughter into my message; or, perhaps, return to the themes of peace, hope, love, and joy as we do in Advent!

But then life happened.

It didn’t all happen this week, it’s been building up for a while. Perhaps the straw that overloaded my back was when news reports came out about a political candidate in Montana physically assaulting a reporter. And if the news itself wasn’t disturbing enough, some of the words shared by the general public in the comment section (which I should know better than to read) supported the politician; comments like “My kind of politician”! and “It’s about time someone stands up to the fake news reporters”!

A few days after that I heard of three men coming to the defense of a Muslim woman who was being harassed by a self-confessed white supremacist on a bus in Oregon. All three were stabbed, two fatally.

Somewhere in this mix of awful news was the account of a man mocking another man with cerebral palsy outside a convenience store in West Chester; then slugging him for no apparent reason.

Still more; Just a few days ago another video comes out showing a group of youngsters in Philadelphia harassing a mentally challenged man and punching him in the face.

By this point I was literally moved to tears.

And notice, each of these, incidents happened here in our own nation! The latter two right here in our corner of Pennsylvania; I’m not even going into foreign lands or third-world countries.

What is going on here?! I asked myself. The whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket; and we’re leading the march! And there’s not a d-dang thing I can do about it. I felt so helpless, so hopeless. Yes, even your faith-filled, trusting in and leaning on the Lord, Pastor can be brought to his knees. And this time, it wasn’t over yet.

If all this wasn’t enough to crush me, there came yet one more disheartening experience. This one right in my back yard, literally, and only seen by me and my wife…

I noticed a dove in our yard, not quite acting like a dove, just sitting motionless on the edge of the bird bath. Well, it is dove mating season so I didn’t think much of it at first, but later I noticed her sitting in the middle of the pile of spilled seed under one of our feeders, just sitting there, still motionless. So I slowly moved closer to see what might be the matter and discovered that her upper beak was injured, nearly torn off.

Dread filled my soul as I realized that, with her injury, she could neither eat nor drink. There she was, sitting in a pile of food… starving to death. Now I was devastated. Tears flowed again.

It wasn’t, of course, the condition of this one little dove that tore me apart; it was the whole series of events, compounding into an unbearable pain. The dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, in her brokenness became a symbol, to me, of a broken Holy Spirit; thirsty, hungry, and suffering in a broken world, and in my broken heart.

Now I felt, not only helpless and hopeless, but useless as well. I’m a minister for Christ’s sake! (And I mean that respectfully, I am a minister; for Christ’s sake) and I can’t do a thing. I couldn’t even decide if giving her mercy in the form of a quick end was the right thing to do or not. My faith was failing: failing the world, failing the dove, and failing me. With all my belief, the only thing I could muster strength for was to pray. And so I did: I prayed over the dove; I prayed for the lives of the mentally and physically challenged here in Pennsylvania; I prayed for the souls of the dead and healing for the wounded in Oregon: and I prayed for the spirit of the Montana politician, the supremacist assailant, and the insulting and assaulting adult and children.


I really did want to bring you Good News today; something uplifting and joyful. But how can I do that with honesty while in my own spiritual low. I just couldn’t find a way to lift you up when I, myself, was in the wallowing in the mud? How could I preach good news to you, much less to “all nations”, when I didn’t even have the strength to lift myself?

But then I read the Gospel text again and noticed one little word in Matthew’s narrative that made a difference. Matthew writes, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted”. That’s how it reads in the NRSV that we use. I looked hard at that and found another translation that reads “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but they doubted”. (The New American Bible). And, one more possibility would read “… but there was some doubt within them.” (my translation)

My epiphany: Here they are, the eleven, the best of the best, second only to Christ himself; and they are wavering between celebration of the resurrection and disbelief. Face to face with Christ yet not quite being able to fully grasp what has happened; what is happening. Still, even with their imperfection, Christ is giving them authority to carry on his work and giving them the promise of his presence saying “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus recognizes that, even though they were handpicked, they are only human; they will waver, there will be times of doubt, they will have both successes and failures, victories and defeats; still he commissions, authorizes, and encourages them to act and speak on behalf of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hope is restored in them! And through them hope is restored in “all nations”! Hope was restored in me; Hope for peace, love, and joy!

Even in our hardest times of pain, and struggle, and weakness of faith, this is our hope to hold onto; the hope that rises from knowing the love and grace; the understanding and forgiveness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Hold tight to that hope; and peace, love, and joy will also be yours!

In Paul’s words; “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you”.



Genesis 1:1-2:4a
1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.
1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
1:6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
1:7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.
1:8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
1:9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.
1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.
1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,
1:15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.
1:16 God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.
1:17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,
1:18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
1:20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”
1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
1:22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.
1:25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
1:27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
1:28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
1:29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.
2:2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.
2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
2:4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Psalm 8
8:1 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
8:5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
8:6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
8:7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8:8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
8:9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

2 Corinthians 13:11-13
13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Matthew 28:16-20
28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”