In Christ.

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and dedication to, the Lord.

Today we celebrate a very special Solemnity. If we look up the definition of liturgical solemnity, we will see the following: A solemnity is a feast day of the highest rank celebrating a mystery of faith.

From the practical side of things, we know that this Solemnity was instituted in the Church at a time when we faced persecution for our beliefs. No, this wasn’t in the first centuries, the time of the martyrs, but rather in the early 1900’s. We decided as Church, the Body of Christ, His new creation, to emphasize Christ’s teaching on love, whether it be toward one another or toward those who hated us.

It remains sad, even to this day, that those who wish to come into our Church face castigation and persecution. So, we must remain steadfast in our love of these enemies. As St. Paul tells us, our love of them will heap burning coals on their heads. In Biblical language that means that our goodness will embarrass those who hate, and who knows, may convert them to ways of love.

The scholar of the Law knew the answer when he approached Jesus. To him, there was no mystery of faith. The scholar knew he was to love his fellow Israelites. Those were his neighbors, no one else.

Now the scholar wished to justify himself. That meant that he wanted to proclaim a legal verdict (as in a courtroom) of his righteousness and faithfulness, his innocence in the way he treated his fellow countrymen. The scholar wanted to be judge and jury over himself.

Jesus was having none of that and goes on, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, to open the mystery of faith to this scholar and those around him, and in turn to us. Our love is to be unlimited in relation to God and others, and that ‘others’ includes both friend and enemy.

Our love is to be such that it makes those closest to us and enemies uncomfortable. We are to bear an overwhelming love – a love I know we practice here so beautifully – which points to the fact that we are Christ’s new creation. We are fully in Christ.

We are indeed Christ’s new creation. Our lives have been taken out of this world and have been placed in the Kingdom. We have been severed from the ways of sin and death to eternal life in the love of Christ, the Kingdom of love.

While there are many ways to shine forth in the Kingdom – through prayer, worship, and fellowship – the premier way is to shine forth love. All those others – prayer, worship, and fellowship exist in support of the building up of the love of Christ in, and out of, us. So, as people in Christ, His new creation, let us be the Kingdom’s brightness of love always and everywhere.

What?
Who?

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.

Today we hear a wonderful testament to what God’s love does when, through the Holy Spirit, He opens Himself to us and calls us into fellowship with Him.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion – Centurion, like century, meaning one hundred. He had command of at least one hundred soldiers. That means that his commanders held him in some esteem. He was promotable. Acts attests that Cornelius was also a God fearing and generous man: a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. He didn’t just do these things on his own, he led others to God, his family and friends. An angel tells him to send for Simon Peter, so he sends messengers to get him.

In the mean time… Peter was praying at home, and was hungry too. God sent him a vision of a cloth full of food – all kinds of foods considered unclean and impure by the Jewish people. God tells him to slaughter and eat. Peter, of course, objects: “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” This happens three times and God clearly states: “What I have cleansed, you must not call common.”

Peter, perplexed by all this, is then visited by a delegation from a Centurion. Uh oh… The Romans were here to get him. God reassures Peter, and Peter sets off for Cornelius’ house. We heard the rest today.

The call to Christian love is to love like God, surpassing boundaries, growing fellowship, participating in the communal life of the Body.

This is a testament to the powerful work of God who accepts us and brings us into His Church. He takes what is unclean and common and makes it beautiful and acceptable before Him. He sends forth His Spirit, not as man expects or wills, but as He deems fit and proper. He sees what we do; even small acts of faithfulness and charity, and pours out His graces on us all the more. He sets the ultimate example of love – and if we listen to Jesus, we love one another exactly as He loves us.

Love to
completion.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mr Jinks is an orange tuxedo cat. Mr. Jinks was always outfoxed by Pixie and Dixie, the mice. Mr. Jinks trademark line was, “I hates those meeces to pieces!”

Reading today’s Epistle, we could easily imagine all sorts of Christians saying the same thing about other Christians. “I hate those _________ to pieces!” What we fail to recognize is that saying things like that ends up as I want Jesus in pieces.

We have a centuries long legacy of that which Paul warned against, people choosing Church leaders over the Lord. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Paul words show a hint of weariness and frustration. The Church, just a few decades old, was descending into factionalism. Yet Paul’s love and devotion to this quarrelsome community would not let him stand by. He understood that the sinful side of human nature eventually reveals itself. The brokenness of our human condition causes all manner of brokenness in the flock.

Church leaders can behave unethically and inappropriately. Parishioners can turn into a pack of church-going coyotes attacking the weak and vulnerable in their midst. Pastors burn out and leave ministry. Parish Committee members become disillusioned by the dark underbelly of the church world or by grabs for power and control. Children of church workers see this and decide that organized religion is hypocritical and vile. We’ve all seen the fallout from trying to follow the call of Christ in a wounded and difficult world.

“Follow me,” Jesus says to the fisherman by the Sea, “and I will make you fish for people.” Those fishermen knew that fishing is dangerous business and hard work. Did they think fishing for people would be any less? And yet they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.

We have been called to follow and disciple for Jesus. He believes each of us is worthy. We all have our story of how Jesus called us into discipleship. Whatever expression our call takes it is not going to be an easy journey but will be one of great reward. Yes, we are called. We are called into discipleship that does not hate or divide into pieces. We are called to make the Holy Name of Jesus known; to magnify Him above all else. We are called to live in real agreement with all who proclaim Jesus – loving all in Jesus to completeness.