Pentecost 6 Sermon Draft

This is 7 pages, needs to be 4, fact checked, refined. Always hesitate to post this rough. But it’s the process.

So a very rough draft. How one may refine it differently than we would, well that’s your opportunity … and work.

It’ll take me a few hours of rewriting, focusing, and cutting.

But for now: the rough:

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

The Gift of the Magi, O Henry:

In the radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a young couple has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that would put the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window they see an exquisite pair of tortoise shell and gem combs that match her hair perfectly. They are unimaginably expensive.

Unbeknownst to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the combs for her, and she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But the price for the each of the gifts is so high.

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

Martha’s and Mary’s One Thing

Martha

Martha invites Jesus into her home to stay as he preaches, teaches and heals people who’ve come to see and hear him.

Martha has one thing on her mind, fully occupying her: respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her guest.

Mary

Mary has one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with Martha’s busy concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.

Isn’t it true how as listeners (or Mary-s) we do not worry about the preoccupied doers’ tasks, the Martha-s’ obligations. And as doers or Martha-s we are offended by the lazy, unrealistic listeners or talkers (the Mary-s) who do not chip in to help with the many tasks and obligations that must be met!

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

OT: Abraham, Sarah, and the guests. God comes strolling up

In the OT lesson for today Abraham sits by the tree in the midday heat, recovering from his and the males in his household’s recent circumcisions.

Three strangers come walking down the road toward the tree, one of the terebinth (oaks to us) that belong to Mamre, one of three allies Ab has in this new land. Abraham and Sarah have amassed great wealth, many servants, herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, great respect from their allies, and a little fear from their enemies. Yet Abraham himself has no land. He is welcome to squat in his tents here by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece of land near the oaks from Ephron the Hittite. On it he hews out a cave, and he buries Sarah there. Isaac and Ishmael bury Ab there. Jacob and Esau bury Isaac there. Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph buries Jacob there.

God Comes

To the tents by the Oaks of Mamre God comes to Abraham and Sarah. They do not go to God to find him. God comes as three men, yet one.

Observant and Inviting

Abraham beseeches them to take a pause, to receive his hospitality as he is required by ancient custom to provide guests. They accept, which puts Abraham, his servants, Sarah and her servants all into a busy flurry of action getting things ready. They prepare an overabundance of food: three bushels of flour, a full fated calf, with curds and milk. A full feast!

Sitting attentive to

Abraham serves the strangers and stands listening attentively under the tree with them as they eat and drink.

Promise Again

Having enjoyed their hospitality, the stranger, the Lord, restates God’s promise of a child, an heir, to Abraham. The Stranger, knowing Sarah’s name, asks after her and includes her in the Promise. She shall bear Abraham a son when the Stranger returns again.

The one thing that Abraham and Sarah lack: an heir

They have so much and more of what they needed to establish themselves in this new land: wealth, reputation, herds and flocks, servants, a place they borrow to call home. But Abraham has no son with his wife, though he has many other children by concubines. What a shame to not take care of his wife first! What a great lack of blessing from the God he trusted to follow, leaving home for the challenges and risks of a new land. For an heir is the one thing that they lack to have fulfilled the purpose God has for them, to inhabit this new land.

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good? What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life by fulfilling all that God intended you to be?

A canoe

A canoe has one purpose, to traverse the waters without sinking. It may require a person handy with a paddle, and the ability to launch the canoe on to the water, and take it off to safely secure it on land between uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage, or be hidden under a tree, or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is made to traverse the water as early as the misty dawn of light that pushes back the fog, and as late as the last drop of sun light recedes below the horizon after sunset.

Do each of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the doing we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of us?

God Comes

It is clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to go to God to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us. As Abraham and Sarah, so we too can be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in our lives.

God knows our names

In both the OT and the Gospel God knows the people’s names to who God comes: God names Sarah without being told her name, and asks after her and assures Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son.

In the Gospel. When Jesus comes to Martha’s house he knows Martha’s name, he knows Mary’s name. Did someone tell him, likely so, but he remembers their names.

God knows each of our names as well!

God comes to build a relationship with us

In both the OT and the Gospel God comes to build or continue to build a relationship. God renews the promise of an heir to Abraham and Sarah. Jesus begins a relationship with Martha and Mary. Martha grows palpably, and as their brother Lazarus dies, her faith is made stronger. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

God comes to us and builds a relationship with us.

It is important to be significant enough on the face of the earth as it moves through time to be seen, recognized, and related to by others, to be more than just unnamed nobodies. We are each someone to God, someone significant!

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What can God do to give you a fulfilled life?

Maud Lewis, Painter, the one in the family who is happy?

You would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.

As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Her parents gone, her aunt takes her in and treats her as if she cannot care for herself, in any way. Her brother sells their parents’ home without consulting Maud. They treat Maud as a nobody, burden.

Maud strikes out on her own, and gets work as a live-in housemaid for a single man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two are married, though Everett always dominates Maud.

Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies or at most a few dollars.

In a TV documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she smiles, and paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and body.

Eventually people travel to buy her paintings. She is even commissioned by Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole life.

On her death bed her aunt astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you alone are the one who turns out to be happy?

When curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success and the traffic around his very humble house, he fears Maud will leave him for someone better. He forces her out. And then finally he comes to visit her, and asks her if she will go with someone better than himself.

God comes: We Respond

Maud responds

To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.

To Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better than him, she responds simply and completely:

I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.

Gift of the Magi Resolution: What is the one thing

So on Christmas, in the Gift of the Magi, when James and Della open their gifts and the cost of each is revealed, they set their gifts aside and sit down to their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.

For what is more precious than her hair or his watch, more precious than his silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all the world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifice made for the other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest people on earth.

Jesus: No Orders: but there is only one thing (not what)

Staying at Martha’s Jesus could have many things on his mind, and yet only two things are clear: 1) for Martha he will not tell Mary to help with the work. And 2), at least for Martha to hear Jesus says Mary has chosen the better portion.

What is not clear is: what is the one thing that is required that Jesus speaks about?

In Life: Happy are they who know the One Thing

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life?

How can it be anything other than knowing that God knows our names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us, gives us work that has great meaning, and gives us people who need our love and who love us.

The Church; the boat

The ancient symbol of the Church is a boat. A boat to traverse the waters of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for knowing our names, giving us challenging and meaningful labours, and giving us people (even or especially curmudgeons and other difficult people) who love us, and whom we can love.

And neighbours, even enemies, who we can love.

No matter our circumstances we can say, “I have everything with you, Lord, that I have ever wanted.” Amen

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