Sunday, 7 August 2016

Waiting for the knock on the door
and for the Kingdom of God

The Hospitality of Abraham … a modern interpretation of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 7 August 2016,

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity,

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin,

6 a.m., Said Eucharist

Readings:
Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20; Psalm 50: 1-8, 23-24; Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40.

In the name of + the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I know it is not traditional to have a sermon at this early morning Eucharist, but once again I thought it might be useful to share some of the thoughts I have in preparation for my sermon later this morning at the Sung Eucharist at 11 a.m.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, Christ tells the multitude – the multitude who are gathered just like the 5,000 who were gathered earlier on the hillside and fed with the multiplication of five loaves and two fish (Luke 9: 10-17) – Christ tells them that the kingdom is already given.

My favoured translation of the Bible, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), says “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12: 32), present tense. But the original Greek says “your Father was well pleased with you (or, took pleasure) to freely give the Kingdom to you” … ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖντὴν βασιλείαν.

God wanted to do something good for the “little flock” (verse 32), and so freely gave them the kingdom – the reign of God – in which tables are open, status is upended, and all people are treated with dignity. In God’s Kingdom – on earth as it is in heaven – there is no scarcity, there are no class or gender barriers, there are no ‘insiders’ and no ‘outsiders’.

Christ compares that Kingdom of God with a wedding banquet.

When we go to a wedding, we have no control over what happens. In the first case, we have, thankfully, no control over who is getting married to whom. But, secondly, weddings break down all our petty snobberies and all our status-seeking.

Whatever we think of the choice of bride or groom, we have no say at all in who is going to be a new brother-in-law, a new mother-in-law, and even into the future, who is going to be a new cousin to our children’s children.

God’s promise of the Kingdom multiplies beyond all our expectations, even beyond the expectations of modern Bible translators.

We cannot control this. Those who come into the banquet may appear to us like thieves and burglars, brazenly breaking into our own family home, into our own family.

But we may find that the thief is actually Christ trying to break into our hearts to let us know that the kingdom is already here.

The Lord who arrives for the banquet and stands knocking at the door (Luke 12: 36) in this morning’s Gospel reading is the same Christ who says: “Behold, I am standing at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3: 20).

He comes in ways we do not expect, and at “the unexpected hour,” the time we “think nothing of” (ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε, he hora ou dokeite, Luke 12: 40) – “an hour that seems like nothing.” He does not bother trying to tear down our puny defences. He sneaks around them instead.

Welcome to the banquet.

Welcome to the kingdom.

Allow the stranger among you, and the stranger within you, to open that door and discover that Christ is not a thief trying to steal what you have, but is the Lord who is trying to batter our hearts and tear down our old barriers so that we can all feast together at the new banquet.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Luke 12: 32-40

32 Μὴ φοβοῦ, τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον, ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖν τὴν βασιλείαν. 33 Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην: ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα, θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει: 34 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν ἔσται.

35 Ἔστωσαν ὑμῶν αἱ ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι καὶ οἱ λύχνοι καιόμενοι, 36 καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅμοιοι ἀνθρώποις προσδεχομένοις τὸν κύριον ἑαυτῶν πότε ἀναλύσῃ ἐκ τῶν γάμων, ἵνα ἐλθόντος καὶ κρούσαντος εὐθέως ἀνοίξωσιν αὐτῷ. 37 μακάριοι οἱ δοῦλοι ἐκεῖνοι, οὓς ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος εὑρήσει γρηγοροῦντας: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι περιζώσεται καὶ ἀνακλινεῖ αὐτοὺς καὶ παρελθὼν διακονήσει αὐτοῖς. 38 κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ ἔλθῃ καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως, μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι.

39 τοῦτο δὲ γινώσκετε ὅτι εἰ ᾔδει ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης ποίᾳ ὥρᾳ ὁ κλέπτης ἔρχεται, οὐκ ἂν ἀφῆκεν διορυχθῆναι τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ. 40 καὶ ὑμεῖς γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, ὅτι ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται.

32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he* would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Collect:

O God,
you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated
the memorial of that single sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace.
By our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the Gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This sermon was preached in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin, at the Said Eucharist on Sunday 7 August 2016.

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