Homily for Proper 16, Year C, 2010
Sunday, July 18th, 2010
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Colossians 2:15-28
“…and in him, all things hold together.”
During times of transition and change, we may be apt to feel that things can so easily spin out of control. As we move from a well-established reality into a place of uncertainty, we may feel a certain anxiety about the future. We may at once ask questions like, will all we hold dear be respected by those who follow? At the same time, we might wonder if those who follow will have the courage to chart a new and necessary course for the future? Will I be able to be a part of that future? These and many other uncertainties fill our heads and our hearts and we wonder, wonder, wonder.
To feel anxiety about the unknown is, of course, to be human. Thus, through a time of transition we need to be gentle with each other, as anxiety is known to fuel tension, and tension to fuel conflict. We need to bear each other with love and patience as we journey through the uncertain waters of change.
Each of us will find ourselves at different places on this vast sea of transition. There will be some who will stand before the waters and say, I’m not very good at swimming and I’m not sure that I trust that boat – I think I’ll drive around the lake. There will be others that will not have even noticed the boat and have jumped in and started their marathon swim to the other side. There will be still others who climb aboard the sailing vessel on the sea of change and as the wind fills the sails, revel in the breeze that blows in their face. And perhaps as storms brew on that lake there will be some who take charge and steer it through tempestuous waters. Likewise, there will be others that prefer to take refuge in the safety of the hold. On the sea of transition there will be many and various ways of making the voyage, and I remind you all, to be gentle with each other and honour the way each person makes the journey.
In the diversity of ways in which we make that journey across an uncertain sea, it may seem to us that the community slips apart, loses its focus and cohesion, as each person takes up that journey in their own way. This may produce a further anxiety - that the whole world is falling apart. Let us remember that our community will not be the first to make such a journey; countless are the numbers that have gone before us.
Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt to a promised land. The journey was not easy, and there was much anxiety, and much struggle. Centuries later the same people sojourned many years in exile before they returned home, and there was much anxiety, and much struggle. And through the ages people have journied and people have struggled with the anxiety that the journey of change brings. One hundred and eighty years ago some faithful Christians built a little white church on a hill, and God only knows the struggles and anxieties they had that are now forgotten to us. Sixty years ago, descendents of those faithful people picked up their church, board by board, in the midst of much struggle and anxiety, and replanted their holy place here on this soil.
So yes, we are part of a long line of sojourners who have journeyed through anxiety and fear. We look about us today, and see very few young people in our midst. We look about our community and see some very dramatic demographic shifts that have occurred in the last twenty years. We wonder and ponder if the next priest who comes will be able to lead us into the Promised Land where anxiety and fear and struggle will be no more. But if we are to learn anything from our ancestors, it is that anxiety and struggle are but a part of our earthly journey, and that the sea of transition, while we may have moments of rest on the shore, is part of the world in which we inhabit. So then, if anxiety, struggle, transition and change are all part and parcel of this life, what hope do we have?
There is another journey that has been made.
It is a journey that was filled with more anxiety and struggle than any journey of any people in any time or age. It is the journey that begins in a stable in Bethlehem, that reaches its dramatic intensity in the halls of a Roman governor and an unjust trial, that climaxes in a brutal execution on hill far away, and finds its dramatic resolution in a empty garden tomb, a risen man, an ascended and glorified Lord.
That journey gives shape to all the journeys we take in this earthly pilgrimage. As the people of God may seem to be going off in every direction, we are reminded by Paul, that “Christ is the head of the church; he is the beginning, the first born from the dead.” He is our captain on the journey and “he holds all things together.” Thus, we need not fear the anxiety and struggle of the journey, for our captain is in control. He rules the waves and the winds, and he shall bear his people across stormy waters whether they swim, whether they sail, or whether they drive around the sea; he shall bear them up.
He has journeyed with us through our deepest uncertainty and in our deepest anxiety, namely the grave and beyond, shall the earthly journeys that lie ahead be too much for him to captain? I think not. Therefore, I say to you this day, let him lead you. The one who has led you this far will not abandon or forsake you on your way. As he led a people long ago to a promised land, and as he has led countless Christians, and in particular, the ancestors of this place, so he leads us again. Do you see him at the helm? He is there, and in him the fullness of God dwells in our midst. Under his banner we go forward and he will ensure that we shall indeed continue, “securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that we have heard.”
c. the Rev. Daniel F. Graves, 2010