Saturday, October 01, 2011

Homily for Proper 22 A - All Saints BCP & Evensong

Who do you think you are?

That's a question that I found myself asking with some anxiety yesterday afternoon, as I attended the induction of a new pastor at Ebley Chapel...
You see, the Christians of that denomination have very clear ideas about the role of women and those ideas do not include any element of leadership.
Having been invited to attend as the leader of their neighbouring place of worship, I duly turned up in my dog collar – and realised that they had probably been praying quietly that I wouldn't come.
I felt that it mattered that I was there...but nonetheless as the service progressed it was hard not to at least ask the question
Who do you think you are?”

It's a question that both epistle and gospel might bring to mind.
Paul, of course, starts off by declaring his credentials – and they are impeccable.
It sounds for a few moments as if he's committing that unforgivable social sin of blowing his own trumpet – but then, in verse 7, everything changes.
We are suddenly brought up short – just as he himself was once brought up short on the road to Damascus.
A line is drawn under all those proud accolades of birth and education
It may have sounded good but, says Paul – it is without value, rubbish
whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ

It's that heart-stopping moment that we may experience, perhaps, when we first fall in love...The moment when the whole landscape of our world changes and we realise that what looked like hills are now valley, while the dips and troughs are transformed into lofty peaks....when we realise that nothing we knew before really mattered.


Who do you think you are?

It's a question worth considering.

Is your first answer something to do with those bits of yourself that others see....the successful businessman, the loving parent, the community servant?
Of course those identities matter – for they are part of the way in which you serve God in the world
But there's a danger in them too...if they divert you from your primary calling, to be a child of God and disciple of Christ, knowing and known by your Saviour.
The problem with the tenants of the vineyard in Matthew's parable is not that they weren't working well in the vineyard but that they'd lost sight of their identity as tenants.
They wanted to believe that the vineyard, and all its harvest, belonged to them.
They had forgotten who they were and abandoned their relationship with the Landlord so thoroughly that they thought nothing of beating up and killing his emissaries...even his Son.
That way, they thought, they could be independent forever.

We all like's a cardinal virtue in today's world...but it is only ever an illusion.
Like all those other things that Paul lists, the sources of pride that he might have clung to, it has no eternal value at all.

Nothing does, nothing, beyond that amazing love affair that God has with us, and that we can have with Him.

Who do you think you are?
You are the one whom God calls to share in the death of his Son, so that you might also share his resurrection.

Who do you think you are?
You are a tenant in God's vineyard, called to bear fruit for Him, and Him alone.

Who do you think you are?
You are God's beloved – and as such, you have infinite value, value beyond anything you could ever hope to achieve by your own efforts or your wildest dreams.

So, together, let us  press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

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