Friday, October 26, 2007

Keeping the Rumour of God Alive

Sermon for Proper 29, Year C, 2007
Sunday, October 21st, 2007
Preached at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 18:1-8

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.”
-- Luke 18:1

This past week, Canon Greg and I were at a clergy conference, and our speaker, Bishop Joe Fricker, talked about one of the important roles of the parish priest, namely to keep the rumour of God alive. To keep the rumour of God alive – in a world that has increasingly turned its back on religious practice and yet seeks and longs for an experience of the divine, it is the role of the parish priest to keep the rumour of God alive. In a world in which we are now experiencing our third generation of people who may be completely un-churched, we are called to continue, to persevere, to labour to keep the rumour of God alive. And as I reflected on this phrase over the past few days, I became convinced while this is certainly something that both priests and deacons are called to do, in fact, it is also the call and ministry of all baptized Christians. Indeed, it is embedded in our baptismal covenant, and persistence is a virtue found in our very Scriptures.

Persist and never lose heart. This is the message of today’s gospel. Never lose heart. Persevere in faith, persevere in prayer, persevere in the Christian way of life. Always remember that God is faithful. Indeed, the example of today’s gospel is that even this marginalized widow, a woman with no power of her own in those ancient days, was granted justice from an unjust judge, a man of great power and influence, simply through her perseverance. The message of the gospel is simply this: if this is what an unjust judge might do, imagine what a loving and just master will do for those who he loves. Herein lies the heart of our call to persist in our faith, to never lose hope, to continue to live it out amidst the slings and arrows of the world, to live into our call, for the one who called us first is always faithful – we are marked as Christ’s own forever, and he will never leave us.

In our baptism we make a covenant with God, a covenant to persevere, to persist, to continue in our Christian life. On page 159 of the Book of Alternative Services we find five promises, each of which begin with the question “will you …” “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching;” “will you persevere in resisting evil,” “ will you proclaim by word and example;” “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons;” and “will you strive for justice and peace.” Essentially, “will you keep the rumour of God alive?” These are heavy responsibilities that we share as Christian people as part of our baptismal covenant.

When I am doing baptismal preparation, one of the ways that I get candidates, sponsors and parents to think about these promises is to change the vows slightly by putting the word, “how” in front of it so that it reads, “how will you…” In this way we begin to think about practical ways in which we might live out our Christian call. What does our baptism look like in practical terms? How is it that we participate as new creations in the new kingdom of peace and love? Of course, we have many answers to these questions, as many answers as there are Christians. Most importantly, though, there is one answer that makes all others possible – and that answer is found in the prayer itself. “How will you …” “I will, with God’s help.” For it is not under our own power that we live out our baptismal call, but under the guidance and care of the Holy Spirit of God that we receive in baptism, who upholds us and supports us in our weakness, encourages us in our successes, and corrects and comforts us in our failures. In our baptism we commit to perseverance and persistence in the faith, and we do so knowing full-well that it is only God’s grace and help that enables us to carry on.

As we take up and live out these promises, we are, in fact, keeping the rumour of God alive. As we continue to come here every week, amidst not so much the sneers as the bewilderment of the world around us, and break bread, continue in fellowship and in the prayers, we keep the rumour of God alive. As we say no to the powers of evil out there in the world, in our institutions, and even in our own sinful urges -- as we confess our faults one to another and to God, in this show of vulnerability in a world which knows only brutal force, we keep the rumour of God alive. As we proclaim in deeds of kindness and words of hope the Good News of God in Christ to those around us who know only brokenness and hurt, we keep the rumour of God alive. As we love not only our neighbours, those who love us, but also those who hate us, and demonstrate a different way to live in this world of litigation and punishment, we keep the rumour of God alive. And finally, as week seek to break the powers of domination not with swords but with ploughshares, not with hate, but with love, not with condemnation, but with dignity and respect, we keep the rumour of God alive. And as we kneel before our Lord and recognize our inability to do any of this under our own power, we keep the rumour of God alive.

Today, as a Church, we are baptizing six new Christians into the body of Christ. Five sets of parents bring their children forward, and also one young man – each of whom are here, because in some way, shape, or form, they have heard a rumour – a rumour that God is not dead, a rumour that love triumphs over hate, that forgiveness triumphs over sin, that life triumphs over death. They have heard a rumour that in Jesus Christ there is a new creation, a new kingdom, and that it is not some far off pipe dream, but a new kingdom breaking forth today, of which we can all be a part. They have heard a rumour and they have come, in faith, to see, and to be a part of it. It is a privilege then for us to journey together, with them and with each other, to keep this rumour of God alive. May God help and sustain them, and each of us in our call, with the gift of perseverance, persistence and hope, never losing heart, to continue to spread the rumour, and that in the fullness of time, through His grace, the whole world may come to reflect his glory.

Text copyright The Rev. Daniel F. Graves, 2007. This post is not to be reproduced or redistributed either in whole or part without express written permssion of the author.

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