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, September 3 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, September 4 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 email@example.com.) 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.
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Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were donated by Yvette Pfeiffer in gratitude for Jana Frieslander, Beverly Gonzales, Deb Henson, Phyllis Herrington, Deborah Hoke, Marian Rognlien, Betsy Wilco and Carole Zeiher for their assistance in covering the church office while Yvette was visiting family out of state. ❤
If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Readings and Psalms:
13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Comes the Revolution
Today’s lessons are a call to revolution. That’s hard for me, because I personally dread revolution. I like the comfort of old books, old friends, and old customs.
But not Jesus. “Hate your mother and father,” he says. Nice thought, right? It reminds me of the parent who took me aside one time and whispered, “Pastor, if I knew what Jesus actually taught, I would never have taken my kids to Sunday School.”
Really, I don’t think he wants us to hate them, in the emotional sense. I think he is asking us to do something even more difficult and foreign to the world of his people. I think he is asking to put him first, to make discipleship our top priority, the single most important thing in our life. More important that our country or our job or, yes, even our family.
These words are challenging enough today. But in the ancient world, many generations lived in the same house, few people ever left their home village, you worked at the same jobs your parents did and you married whoever your parents told you to marry. And usually, you had no choice. There were costs – social, emotional, even legal – for anybody who tried to escape this claustrophobic life.
So the separation Jesus talks about – rejecting the ancient ways, choosing this shocking new faith, becoming a new person – was unheard of. It was revolutionary.
You see that revolutionary attitude in our second reading. St Paul is writing to a friend, Philemon, about a man named Onesimus, whom Paul loves and values but whom Philemon has enslaved. This was perfectly normal in their world; indeed, 30 to 50% of all the people in the Empire were enslaved; society depended upon this unpaid, involuntary labor. But Paul is begging him to defy the norms of society, to set this captive free. He says, “I could command you, but I would rather see you make the right choice here. This is a moral duty, but I would like to see you do it out of love.” He wants to see his friend choose wisely, as it says in Deuteronomy: Choose life and goodness over death and evil.
Jesus was a revolutionary. His ministry challenged the most basic social norms of the world he lived in. He called for a radical, deep-down, fundamental change in how people saw each other.
Of course he got killed for it. So did Paul. Because there were people – lots of people – who didn’t like that message. There were people who liked the world the way it was, even some who gained something – money, prestige, or just emotional security – from keeping the world as it was. They were, as the prophet Amos says, “at ease in Zion.”
But here’s the thing: those people, the ones who wanted things to stay just as they were, could not stop the Church. In the face of their doubt, their disdain, even their death-dealing violence, the church of Christ grew and took root, faster and more widely than any institution in the history of the world. And why? Because while there were some who resisted change, there were many more who embraced it. Who needed change, like a drowning man needs fresh air. For those trapped in a society of caste and class, rich and poor, slave and free, the new values offered by the Gospel were hope itself. Despite the contempt of the kings and philosophers, the people ran to Jesus because he promised what they needed: a new life.
It was revolutionary. And as many of you know, I am sympathetic to those kings and philosophers. I have a conservative nature; I like the old ways best. Words like revolution make me wince, and words like tradition make me smile. Change is hard, and I like it less than anybody else I know.
But here’s the thing: Change happens anyway. As a philosopher said, no man steps in the same river twice. Because he is never the same man, and it is never the same river.
More than that: change is necessary. If the flood comes and – because walking has always been good enough — you do not learn to swim, what will happen? This is true of individuals and it is true of institutions. God knows it is happening in the church, here and all over the world. Shamed by our own scandals, stuck in a romantic vision of the past, we are entering a new and I think humbler age. I will be honest. I spent Thursday in a long, often painful conversation with pastors in our area. It is hard for those of us trying to lead in the midst of this rapid change, but I think – I hope, I believe – the new age will be one in which we can do better what Jesus called us to do, and offer new life to those who need it most.
Another example: This is Labor Day weekend. It honors people who work for a living, and it honors especially the movement to help them organize and negotiate with those who often held them in a state scarcely distinguishable from slavery. The birth of this movement was difficult, often violent. Miners and or railroad workers and seamstresses in sweat shops were arrested, shot, and beaten to death in their pursuit of fair pay and decent conditions. Why? Because they wanted change—they needed change – and change is hard. People like me, the lucky few who are already at ease in Zion, fight back for fear of losing what we already have.
But the movement, spread, and now we have things we value: weekends off, and safety inspections, and children in school rather than the factory. These are good things, and even I would never turn back their clock. But if this was a hard-fought battle, how much harder is the battle we each fight within ourselves, to make God our priority, to put love first.
Still: fight we must, if we want to see the Kingdom come; fight we must, if we believe the Word of God matters. Fight we must, if the Gospel is to spread not by perjured words but by the witness of our liberating deeds. Because revolution may not be easy, but sometimes it is the difference between life and death. So let us choose revolution. Choose Jesus. And choose life.
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