Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, January 29 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, January 30 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
Although Virginia’s mitigation measures ended (read more here), Our Saviour will keep a “safer zone” in the back section of the nave that will remain marked for masks.
Saturday 4:00 pm — High School Youth Group
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages (including adults)
Readings and Psalms:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
4th Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
Sermon on Lectionary 4 C 2022
Lk 4:21-30; I Cor 13:1-3; Jer 1:4-10
OSLC 30 Jan 22
Pr Michael Church
What’s Your Sermon?
If you were to be asked about the Christian faith, what would you say? Would you talk about Adam and Eve and the Serpent, the Fall of Man? About David and Goliath, and power made perfect in weakness? About Heaven and Hell, or feeding the multitudes? What part of the faith would you choose to hold up, if you were asked to preach a sermon?
Because you may be asked, someday. [I need a vacation.] And if you are asked, you can do it. You may not think so – Oh, Pastor, I don’t really do public speaking, people tell me, sometimes. But I believe everybody has one sermon in them.
There was a newspaper reporter in Lewiston, Maine, David Johnson, who was looking for things to write about. One day, he just opened the local phone book at random, jabbed his finger at a name and called that person up to ask them for their story. His editor thought he was crazy, but he called a random stranger up and asked them for their story. And it was a good one. So the next week, he did the same thing. And he got another story.
Well, David Johnson kept making these calls every Wednesday for thirty years. It was such a good idea that other journalists copied it, even a fellow on CBS News. Every Wednesday, Johnson called a stranger, and every Wednesday he reported something new and interesting. Because, as he said, “Everybody has a story.”
And in the same way, I believe that every Christian has a sermon. Something to say about God, a testimony to God’s works in the world and in their own life.
That’s what our lessons are about today. A boy named Jeremiah hears the voice of God, telling him to go and preach. He is reluctant; after all, he is just a kid, he isn’t good with words – I don’t really do public speaking, he says – so, like Moses before him, Jeremiah tries to wiggle out of it.
But God insists – you shall go, says God. You don’t need to be good with words, because I will place my own words in your mouth. Because you see, that’s the difference between telling your story and preaching your sermon. Your story is about you; a sermon – by definition — is about God. It is, in fact, God’s own story. And each one of us can tell it, each of us in a different way.
So what’s your sermon?
Before you answer that, let me add a word of warning. Telling God’s story isn’t always fun. Sometimes, it can get you in trouble.
Look at Jesus. Last week, we heard about his sermon in the hometown synagogue: he reads a passage from Isaiah about being anointed by the Spirit to proclaim liberty to the captives, then announces that this prophecy had been fulfilled among them. It was a pretty audacious sermon – look at me, he almost says, I am God’s chosen, the Messiah.
Bold stuff, there. But as we see this week, the people loved it. They spoke well of him, they were amazed at his gracious words. He got away with it.
But then he kept going. He reminds them of two old stories – one about the prophet Elijah, feeding a Lebanese widow, and one about the prophet Elisha, healing a Syrian general. Those are great stories, and we can talk about them another time, but Jesus linked them to make one clear point: the widow and the general were pagans. They weren’t good God-fearing Jews; they were outsiders, antagonists. But still God cared for them.
Nice message, right? God loves everybody, even your enemies.
So nice they tried to murder him. Seriously, they tried to push him off a cliff, because they didn’t like his sermon.
See, anybody can talk about God, tell a story about God. That doesn’t mean the story they tell is true. The people of Nazareth told a story in which they were the ones God loved best, and their neighbors in Lebanon or Syria, God didn’t love them so much.
A lot of us tell that story, consciously or not: about how God loves everyone, in principle, but when you come right down to it, a wise and benevolent deity must surely love our nation, our class, our party, team, work ethic or eye color just a little bit more than … theirs. Whomever they are.
And you can hear versions of that same story every day, in pulpits all over the world. You can hear preachers talk about how much God loves the people in this room, but how God really has some hellfire and damnation stored up for people in other rooms – for Muslims, or illegal immigrants, or uppity women; for politicians who vote the wrong way or even for the other preacher in the other church across town, because we all know that guy’s a heretic. That’s the story they tell, and claim it as God’s own.
Or perhaps “sermon” isn’t the right word. Their form is a sermon, but their content is something else entirely. It’s as if they offer their listeners a beautiful crystal goblet, but instead of filing it with champagne they filled it with poison.
Which is why our second lesson matters so much, that reading from First Corinthians. It is about the content of Christian teaching – the precious wine that belongs in our finely-crafted goblet.
Writing to a church riven by deep disagreements, St Paul reminds them of what really matters, of what lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It is not who your childhood pastor was or what great gifts the Spirit has given you; it is rather love, the very specific kind of love that Christians talk about, a love that is not defined by race or nation, by family of friendship, not even by shared values – a love without borders, without conditions, without limits. Love for the widow of Lebanon and the general of Syria. For the outcast and the weirdo and the screw-up and even the criminal.
If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, he says, but do not have this kind of love, then all my beautiful words are like the clanging of empty tin cans. He goes on, beautifully, to sing the praises of this unusual kind of love: it is patient and kind, it bears all burdens, hopes and believes, endures even to the end of time. Love, this kind of love, is characteristic of God – St John says that God is, in essence, such a love.
And so if we are to tell God’s story, the real story, it is not about a God who cares for good people and despises bad ones, much less cares for our people and despises their people. No; a true story, about the true God, can never be about hatred or exclusion, about us versus them. It may take any form at all, but it will be recognized by its consistent, enduring content.
So I ask again: What is your sermon? And I pray that the answer may be, My sermon is about love.
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