Sermon Archives

Sunday, September 12, 2021
Homecoming Sunday
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
On Christian Hope

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

One of the most remarkable and enduring qualities of the human spirit is our capacity to hope and to dream.  From religious observances such as Rosh Hashanah and the first Sunday of Advent, to secular events such as New Year’s Day or the Chinese New Year, we humans have enshrined in our lives the opportunity to start afresh with new hopes and new dreams on the horizon.  So profound is this inward desire to look toward a new horizon that brings new life and the possibility for something more and better than what we experience today, that we have incorporated hope not only into the changing seasons of the year, but quite often into any change we experience.

Just as the experience of hope is a universal, human experience – so are many of the hopes themselves:  for rest and peace for both our bodies and our hearts, for simple happiness and love to fill our lives, to experience beauty and to do something good and meaningful, for something better for our children and grandchildren.

Like all things profoundly human, we may not be surprised to see that the capacity to hope is not only human, but divine.  In today’s brief passage taken from the introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we are reminded that God, too, harbors hopes and dreams within God’s self. 

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation …,
so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

What Paul is getting at here, what he is pointing us to today, is not simply the reality of hope itself, or to any of the common hopes that we share as humans, but specifically the concrete, tangible hope of God – that “hope to which God has called us.”  Paul wants the Christian community then, and us today, to realize that, to borrow from Bishop Tutu – God has a dream for all people, a dream glimpsed through the eyes of our hearts.

Jesus, of course, speaks to this hope in John’s Gospel as he proclaims that he “has come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Life, fullness of life, this is at the heart of God’s being and the substance of God’s hope for all of humanity.  So full of life is God that it simply emerges from God – there is no doing or molding or building in God – for God creation is less an act than it is a simple thought emerging from God’s heart. And the life that emerges from God is not an impotent, feeble life; but rather an endless life, that expands into more life.  Whether it is the cosmos in their courses, hurtling ever further out into new life and space, or the human desire to create a family and new life in our most human way – the life that emerges from God is potent, expansive … eternal.

What Jesus reveals, however, is that this fullness of life, the abundant human life in particular, isn’t found simply in the expanse of our power and might try as we will.  Rather, the abundant human life that Jesus reveals is found in the expanse of our connection and relationship with one another.  Speaking into a world divided across national, religious, and economic lines (Jews and Romans;  pharisees and Sadducees and ordinary, everyday Jewish women and men; rich and poor, clean and unclean) – speaking into a world as divided then as we are divided today, Jesus proclaims that the life and peace we yearn for and that God yearns for us, that peace which surpasses all human understanding, isn’t found in nationhood and prosperity, but in brotherhood and generosity.

Which brings us to this day – Home Coming Sunday at Christ Church …. And to Christ Church in general – we are community rooted brotherhood and generosity.  We practice it every week – we come together around this holy table to break down the inevitable walls that divide us, literal walls of our various homes or the figurative walls of our hearts and minds … we gather around this table as one holy people, to remember both our hope and our reality – that we are one holy family. 

And this holy family that we are is bound together not by a common wealth and status or our shared politics and thoughts, but by the a simple and profound generosity.  The generosity of heart.  In Jesus, and in the Eucharist we share, we encounter the generosity of God’s heart to open and extend itself, to pour itself out so to speak, to and for us not simply when we are kind and faithful, but even when we are absent and obstinate and unkind and ungenerous … even then, this table generously beckons home and offers us bread.  In one another, of course, we experience this same generosity – not simply when we agree and see eye-to-eye, but even more when we disagree or have been wounded by another, and yet we return, sit down and to sing, and to dine together… as all families do.

Jesus has come that we may have life and have it more abundantly.  This is God’s hope and God’s gift.  May we receive it together – that, in fact, is the only way.