Sermon Archives

Sunday, January 27, 2019
The 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
A Blessing and Challenge

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Did you hear it?  Did you hear, really hear, the remarkable word spoken to you by Saint Paul just a few minutes ago?!

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You, yes, you!  You, quirky and odd as you are; irritable and imperfect as you can be; unattractive and unworthy as you may feel; you are the very body of Christ.

For God so loved the world we read in the Gospel of John, but Paul reminds us that the love of God is not merely for the world, it is for you, you personally, you individually!  

For God so loved you, he might say . . .  For God so loved you that he dwells in you.  Consider for a moment the remarkable love this passage reveals.

God has chosen you for his dwelling.  What once demanded a glorious ark and immense temple to has taken rest in you.  

But not only as a dwelling; for God so loves you that he created you to be his dwelling, but his very image.  What once was too glorious to behold, has chosen you for his image, to be his face in the world, with the hope, the prayer that when you draw near others will see and know the very presence of Love eternal.

Consider for just a moment the love that Paul proclaims to you.

You are Christ’s body.  He knit you in the womb, blessed you at your birth, and has chosen you as his holy tabernacle.

Friends, this is the first, and perhaps most important, message we proclaim, not only here at Christ Church but within the Christian community and to the world – that you, each of you is beloved.  

I’m sure some of you get tired of, but given the amount of self-loathing and despair that we see, the amount of anger and hostility that we witness, we cannot say it enough to you, to one another, or to the world – you are beloved, you are holy.

Imagine, just image, your world – not the whole world, but your little part of it – imagine, just imagine, what it would be like if, everyone in your world – your sons and daughters, you spouses and partners, your closes friends and odd neighbor, your co-workers and the person in the car beside you and the store clerk before you – imagine what it would be like if they all knew, knew in the depth of their heart that such love was theirs?  

How might your day be different if you knew, you alone knew, that no matter what happens . . . you were beloved?  Toast was burnt, coffee bitter and the kids late to school?  Beloved.  Deal fell through, presentation was mediocre, sales numbers low?  Beloved.  Chubby where you want to be lean, unkind where you’d like to be kinder, weak where you wish you were strong?  Beloved.

Imagine how you’re life might be if you walked each day in the wonder of God’s love?

That’s part and parcel to Paul’s message – it’s not all that he’s saying, of course – but it’s the first and most important thing; it’s the thing upon which all else is built.

So important is this message that wise ones here at Christ Church placed it at the heart of our mission – “bringing God and people together to know the Good News of Jesus Christ” . . . . everything builds from there.  

Do you know the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Do you know that you are beloved by God?  Do you know that you are redeemed by God?  Do you know that what is broken within you God is seeking to heal and restore?  Do you know that God so loves you that he gives his life for you?  Do you know that God so trusts you that he was made his dwelling within you?  For you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Do you know God’s love for you?

If you here nothing else this morning, nothing else this year, nothing else ever at Christ Church, here this:  God loves you.  God cherishes you.  God is with you.

Stop for a moment, and let that sink in.  Close your eyes if that helps you; set your gaze on the cross above you or the window before you if that helps you; but stop for a moment, settle your mind and your heart, and know God’s love for you; let God’s love wash over you; dwell in his love.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

With these words Saint Paul lays out the simple truth of Christ for you; yet he does more as well.

As much as these words proclaim God’s blessing for you, they present an immense challenge to you.

You are the Body of Christ.  Yours is the face of Christ that others will see.  Yours are the eyes of Christ that will behold beauty in the world.  Yours is the tongue of Christ that will proclaim his love and bear witness to the human suffering of the world that tears at the very heart of Christ.  Yours are the hands of Christ that will reach out in love and compassion and strength to tend to the suffering, to build up the down trodden, and to break down the walls of division and fear that divide us.  Yours are the feet that will carry the blessing and presences of God wherever you go.  Yours, of course, is the heart of Christ that will bear the very love of God that fills you to the world.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Let me assure you, not one person in this room feels up to the task; not one person in this room feels equipped for the job; not one person in this room feels prepared for the high calling which even angels cannot share.

And yet this is our task, too.  As much as we are called to dwell in God’s love, we who have the privilege of knowing the fullness of God’s grace and love are called also to embody it, to incarnate it as we once would have said, in the world.  And so those same wise hearts that reminded us here at Christ Church to “know the Good news of Jesus Christ” also challenged us to “live the Good News of Jesus Christ”

Bringing God and people together to know and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This is our purpose – to know and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Our purpose is not beautiful music, though we are blessed by it.  Our purpose is not a gorgeous and well-kept building, though we grateful for it.  Our purpose is not to throw a great party, though we celebrate the friendships we share and the life we live together.  

No, our singular purpose is to bring God and people together to know and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And that’s what we do in all things – we gather on Sunday morning, to hear God’s Word spoken, to receive God’s love broken and out-poured, and to share God’s love through the warmth of our love for one another . . .and so we to proclaim in word and deed the Good News of God’s love and grace for the you and for the world.

We gather, too, on Wednesdays around a more intimate table to share a simple meal with friends old and new, and to explore God’s love as it was revealed in Christ so long ago, so that we might see it more readily, and proclaim it more steadily in our lives, be it at home or at work or at dinner with our friends.

We gather, as well, at Crossroads of Michigan, at Mariners Inn and with buckets even in the rain, to extend our hands in love the world, practicing the love we proclaim with friends and strangers, so that the love we know may more easily become the love we live.

Finally, we gather at the bedside of old friends whose bodies have tired, and the graves of those who have died, to assure them of God’s holy presence even in the face of death.

Bringing God and people together to know and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This is our purpose.  And it is rooted in Paul’s remarkable proclamation:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Friends, know the love of God for you, the well of compassion that surrounds you, and the fullness of grace that awaits you.  For you are beloved.  Recall it, dwell in it, rest in it daily.

Then, go; go work, go play with your friends or your kids, go out on a date with your spouse, but never forget to live with the very same love that has filled you; for you are the very Body of Christ.