Sermon Archives

Sunday, August 15, 2021
The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15 (Year B)
The Reverend Canon Ronald Spann
Got the Name, Get the Game

So, church. I love you. Because I love you, I want to speak the truth to you. I am aware that there are probably a whole lot of us present this morning, who, if handed a copy of the holy scriptures, might have to head for the table of contents if I asked you to look up a particular letter or a particular verse, or a particular passage of scripture, because you just don’t know the scriptures. We listen to them. We’re glad that we know some things. We have an idea of some of the phrases, and some of the words that mean so much to us, but do we know it? We are Episcopalians. We live a very corporatized version of life together. For us, membership in a church is hard to distinguish from the memberships that people take out in social clubs, and to which they pay dues.

You are members of the body of Christ in the sense that you are part and parcel. You are the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears, the heart, the stomach acid, the lungs of a body. We all are incorporated into it. We are all made to fit. There’s no odd member. There’s no un-useful attendance in the body of Christ. We all have purpose and meaning, and it is important that we are plugged in at the point of our abilities and of our gifts, to offer our service. But also to be engrafted, like a branch into a pine, into the source of life by which we are meant to live and exist in this world. Jesus looks at us and says, “You’re the light of the world. You’re the salt of the earth.” What makes you salty?

Is there anything in how we live and relate to each other that would make somebody else thirsty for what we have, and they don’t? Is there any light that we’re offering into relationships, in the places where we work and the neighborhoods where we live, that shows the darkness and the confusion of this world, and attracts people to what is seen for the light of God? Are we feeding ourselves on a steady diet of all that is offered from a marketplace that only understands you and me, not as preachers with an eternal destination, but as a consumer to be manipulated? Do you feed on a steady diet of what comes streaming over your devices? Do you feed on what is cheap and trashy? Do you indulge in what is demonizing and disrespectful of others?

“We are disciples of Jesus. We are called to walk in this world.” Those are Paul’s words in the letter from Ephesians today. It says, “Be careful, then, how you live.” Well, the Greek word live is actually the Greek word for walk, as when we say at the offertory, “Walk in love.” Paul uses the exact same word. It’s from the exact same letter. You and I together as the body of Christ are the ongoing expression of the incarnation of the divine life of the son of God.

The world does not define you or me in that way. We, through our faith, have to lay claim and hold faithful to it. To trust it, to believe in it, to abandon ourselves. To understand that we have a dignity of a far different order, and to live from that, and to call the world to awaken out of the kind of zombie existence that seems to haunt our culture. I think that’s what our culture, our popular culture, is telling us. All these zombie stories, because we’re haunted by the fact that we’re not much more than living dead. There’s not a very real life that we’re living.

I hope that we recognize that our longing for marriages that are fruitful, for partnerships that are life-giving, for the capacity to heal, and to mend, to give hope, it’s all doable in our flesh. That’s what Jesus demonstrated. Such things can be done and lived out. He did it in his flesh, in our flesh. But to do it, then we have to nurture ourselves on the right things. Look at each other, you don’t have to do it right now, but look at us. Let’s look at ourselves. How many of us know each other in a way that we have dared in an intimacy to say, “You know what something was really hurting me today. I wonder if you’d be willing to step aside so we could...”

Why am I so unhappy? What is the tension in me? Why didn’t I simply offer prayer, and directly reach out and minister to the person I just visited? And in the agony of that contradiction, it occurred to me, “Stan, you’ve got the name, go on and enjoy the game.” Church, you’ve got the name. Enjoy the game. Why be ashamed of the gospel? It is God’s power to save. It is God’s power to introduce people into our authentic real life, beginning with us.

And so Paul goes on to say, “Be careful how you walk. Don’t be unwise, but wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. To seek the Lord’s will every day. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” Let’s not debauch ourselves. Let’s not hang around people who are doing something that’s debauching and makes us uncomfortable, and yet we let them debauch us, and we take part, therefore, in their self debauchery.

“No,” Paul says, “be filled with the spirit. As you sing Psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.” You can’t get all that time on a Sunday morning. We have to gather on the Lord’s day. This is who we are. This is the moment when we most live out and express who we are and what we are in Christ. But Sunday morning cannot carry the freight of all that we need. We need to come and be fed at this time, but we also need other times. We need other points of connections. You can’t bite off all of Christ Church Grosse Pointe by yourself. You need it chunked down to bite-size into the twos and threes that when you get together, when you connect, Christ is in your midst.

I’m thrilled every time I discover and become aware of a new friendship among people in this congregation, among sisters and brothers. Men, who are other men in your life that you know love you? How are you, as a male in this American culture of ours, living out your maleness? Who have you told? What brother, what friend, has heard you and understands clearly that you love them? I’m sure they knew it intuitively from how you relate. But how often do we dare say that thing? We’re free to do that in Christ, we are free to do that. We’ve got the name, let’s have the game.

And so, the bread of life. We’re coming to this table to receive the sacrament of that. But as Saint Augustine reminds us, that’s the sacrament. You are the body of Christ. The sacrament is something that’s going to be consumed. So if the sacrament is all that is meant to be the body of Christ, we got a problem, because as soon as we consume it, it’s gone. Saint Augustine says, no, we are, who are here, we are the life. And so we dwell, as Christ invites us to do, that, “Those who eat my flesh will dwell in me, and I in them.” And he’ll repeat this again in chapter 15 of John, when he talks of the vine and the branches, and abiding in him.

And Saint Augustine says that’s what’s going on. He says, “In the Eucharist, we have wine and bread. Bread is a quantity of grain that has been ground up and made something together. Wine is a quantity of grapes that have been crushed together to make a beverage, to make drink. And so that shows the reality of many becoming one. We who are many share the one body of the one God.” And Augustine loved that image, and he offered it to his people. And I offer it to you again today, to lay claim to that and to remind yourself, and to remind each other, the importance of our soul’s nutrition. That we can feed on the life of Christ. Amen.