Sermon Archives

Sunday, December 6, 2015
The 2nd Sunday of Advent (Advent 2, Year C)
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
When You Pray Move Your Feet

May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of all our hearts
be always acceptable to you O Lord,
our strength and our redeemer.

Early last week, one of my Facebook friends posted this African proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.” Repeat: When you pray, move your feet. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  

As I thought about this relationship between praying and “moving my feet”, Wednesday’s violence happened, and Thursday’s NY Daily News front page read, “God isn’t fixing this.”  God isn’t fixing this?

This headline was in response to both the violence in San Bernardino and the reply by some politicians, who had reported that their prayers were with the victims and families.  Naming the politicians’ words as just “meaningless platitudes,” the article flew through the twitterverse under the hashtag #thoughtsandprayers. In so doing, paparazzi prayer-shaming began.  Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrators but toward those who offered prayers. *sigh* See, when we pray, we also move our feet.

One contemporary theologian  remarked about four implications of this “insensitive and ridiculous” God isn’t fixing this headline. He said that either:
1)    God doesn’t care. or
2)    God isn’t willing to act. or
3)    Prayer is useless. or
4)    The politicians are insincere.  
Let’s consider each of these implications

First, God DOES care.  God cares more than we can imagine, for God is love and God weeps when we weep because of God’s incarnation in Jesus. Over and over in the gospels, when Jesus encounters suffering in others, he has compassion (suffers with) them. He knows and feels suffering in his guts.  *God cares

Second, God does act and is willing to act, through us, and the movement of our feet… as 15th century mystic Teresa of Avila offered:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he sees
compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks
to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses
all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
The deep and speechless disgust that we feel about this violence is God’s deep and speechless disgust – and God’s anger and sadness. God moves through our hearts and in our prayers to move our feet. *God does act

Third, prayer is not useless. Prayer changes things. Prayer softens our souls as we cry out to God in pain.  God hears our prayers not only with comfort to us but with movement of our feet to action.  God’s prayer moves us toward peace. *Prayer matters.

Fourth, it is not for us to judge sincerity of politicians.  Too many people have already judged them.  Our role – our position, as Christians, is to offer grace and to have empathy that the politicians, too, are praying.  Whether we support someone’s political stance or not, we can understand human grief over the deaths from this violence.  So as politicians offer their #thoughtsandprayers, God’s prayer may also be moving them, to act – to move feet.
Moving their feet at last summer’s Episcopal General Convention, a group of Episcopal Bishops identified themselves as “Bishops Against Gun Violence.” One of these Bishops wrote a prayer litany for next Sunday’s (Dec. 13th) Sabbath Day from Gun Violence .

One of the stanzas prays, “God of Justice, help us, your church find our voice.  *Empower us* to change this broken world AND to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence.  Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change…Loving God, make us instruments of your peace.”

In other words, when you pray, move your feet.

Today, we heard the haunting phrase, “…to guide our feet into the way of peace,” at the end of Canticle 16.  This song-prayer is Zechariah’s response to the birth and naming of John, his newborn son.   

Some believe that this canticle was first included in the daily offices around the 5th century by St. Benedict .  This canticle of praise, included in our prayer book (p. 92) forms a portion of Morning Prayer that we say daily at Christ Church, weekday mornings at 8:30 in the chapel. (won’t you join us?)

In this canticle, Zechariah found his voice (and moved his feet) after being made speechless by the Angel Gabriel, some nine months prior.  You may remember that earlier In Luke’s gospel, Zechariah (then an elderly priest) had been offering incense in the holy of holies when Angel Gabriel appeared.  The angel told Zechariah how his yet to be conceived son would be great, filled with the Holy Spirit power like Elijah and would soften hearts to prepare the way for the soon-to-arrive Lord. Ol’ Zechariah was stunned speechless, until the day when this prophesy would be fulfilled.  

After Elizabeth gave birth to her son, she and mute Zechariah brought the boy on the eighth day to be circumcised and named. The priests wanted to name the infant Zechariah, after his father, but both parents insisted his name be John.  Once named John, the angel’s prophesy was fulfilled. Zechariah spoke this eloquent prayer-song, surprising everyone present.  

As he spoke, Zechariah heightened the anticipation of his son’s important role for the people of Israel.  As he prayed, Zechariah announced that God’s mercy would break upon the nation like dawn and would give light enough to guide all their feet into the way of peace.  

The delicate, poetic words of Zechariah echo the Hebrew Scriptures of the Israelite people, who ached and longed for violence to end. The Israelite people were filled with disgust and anger and sadness about the violence.  

They craved for God’s mercy to break into their lives.  

In this prayer, Zechariah finds his voice – he connects his son John (and the Lord Jesus) to the previous promises that God had made to both David and Abraham.  The haunting song concludes with a proclamation that by the mercy of God, light would …guide their feet into the way of peace.

John prepared his people for the way of peace. Peace was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.  Some may say that Jesus’ way of peace was part of what provoked hostility enough to lead to his death.  And when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death, his words of greetings echoed his ultimate purpose, “Peace be with you.”  

Zechariah reminds us today that the mercy of God is breaking into our lives. God is empowering us to change this broken world and to protest needless deaths caused by violence.  

Through the mercy of God, may we prepare our #heartsandprayers for that coming light of the Christ child, who accompanies us and guides our feet into the way of peace.