A congregation gathers on a Sunday morning. There has been a lot of preparation. The altar has been set, bulletins have been printed, the heat turned up. The choir has practiced. Worship begins with The Word: Scripture and sermon, hymns and prayers have challenged and inspired. At God's Table, all come to to be reconciled to God and one another through Christ's body and blood. Renewed and strengthened we are Sent to live into our calling as apostles in the world. But first... the fellowship of coffee hour awaits. The Church, St. Paul said, is the body of Christ and each a member. It's true! Never perfect, filled with all sorts and characters and yet, a beautiful living organism of God's grace.
We’ve just lived through a month of Jesus as the bread of life discovering what it means to live forever in Him. Now… comes the hard part. Living faith in Christ is demanding faith. Proclaiming faith without actually doing anything in response to God’s grace is dead faith. The first Sunday in September we are brought up short by James, the brother of Jesus in his epistle. Partiality in his view holds no esteem. He charges, “Can faith save you?” (2:14b) Perhaps he’s seen too many hypocritical followers who think that belief is enough. No! “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (2:17)
Read more: Rector's Message
Live Forever Now
Flesh and blood. Jesus was flesh and blood. He died on the cross, crucified. But then an amazing thing happened, he rose from the dead. After his resurrection he ascended to heaven. He lives eternally. And He wants us to live forever too. The question is, do we want to live forever? And if so, what does that mean?
We remind ourselves of His story nearly each time we recite the Nicene Creed during the first half of the Holy Eucharistic service, in the liturgy of the Word. In both our Baptismal Covenant and Apostles’ Creeds we confess belief “in the Resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting.” But since the time of forming these earliest words of Christian belief, a shift has occurred in how eternal life is viewed. Questions are raised… What happens to the body? What is the relationship between body and soul? Theologian Donald Musser asks, “What survives death? What is the nature of the afterlife? Is belief in an afterlife necessary? Where is heaven?” (Handbook of Christian Theology, 2003)
Some within the St. John’s community may remember that our beloved Rev. Nancy Dubois had a keen interest in this subject. I’ve been pawing through one of the many Morton Kelsey books that I inherited from her. In particular, Afterlife-The Other Side of Dying (1979) invites the reader into wrestling with one’s own beliefs about death and beyond. It urges us to break the taboo of talking about death which always carries with it hope in the Christian tradition. In this volume I’ve also gleaned knowledge about the similarities and differences between faith traditions.
Questions about immortality are not restricted to the Christian faith. And philosophies that build the case against religious belief, in my opinion are accurate, particularly Karl Marx’ understanding that “religion is the opiate of the masses” would be true IF we escaped our responsibilities to care for this world for the sake of a world to come. But that’s not what Jesus showed us, did he.
Read more: This Week's Sermon
"We are the Episcopal Church, welcoming all and practicing our faith through worship, discipleship, fellowship and service."
Transcripts of earlier sermons