Be Light…Know Life…Share Joy November 17, 2019

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Proper 28 – Year C

November 17, 2019

Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19

Be Light…Know Life…Share Joy

Be Light…Know Life…Share Joy[1]

         Well…that was an interesting Gospel reading to say the least.  Some of us may want to run from the room after hearing those words.  Some may be scratching their heads trying to make sense of what we just heard.  I know I’ve read and reread today’s Gospel in hopes to better understand it and to hear the message behind the words.  Having just spent several days at our Diocesan Convention, I can thankfully say I’ve gotten to hear a variety of people’s thoughts on this scripture.  And with that in mind, I’d like to share a bit from our Diocese’s Annual Convention.

         For those of you who may not know each diocese in the United States meets annually to discuss a variety of issues.  It’s similar to our Annual Meeting in January. What I like about it is that our gathering includes and actually requires a combination of laity and clergy.  Conversations take place among those representing all our church communities.  Decisions can only be made if both the laity, that is non-ordained folks, and clergy are present.  It’s democracy in action.

         Rebecca – our representative and I spent this past Thursday through yesterday with Bishop Susan, Bishop Bob, and our new Assistant Bishop, Bishop Jennifer.  Several hundred lay delegates and clergy from around Virginia joined us.  As representatives from All Souls, it is our job to return to our churches and share our bishop’s message and the news of the Diocese.

         If I were the apostle Paul…who is believed to have written many of the letters in the New Testament…I’d begin my address to you in this fashion: To the saints and faithful brothers, sisters, and siblings in Christ Jesus here at All Souls: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks to God for all of you and bring you news from our bishop and the people of The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

         Being at our Annual Convention was a wonderful reminder that we are not alone in this journey of discipleship.  Many, many people from around our diocese are walking this journey with us. They too are trying to pay attention to how God is working in their lives and in their communities.  They too are trying to understand and share the teachings of Jesus.  Through their life together and work, they, like us, are trying to love and care for one another and for the world around them.  And like our community, they are attempting to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  It was heartwarming to look around that room filled with hundreds of people and realize we were all working to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  

         There is a great deal of business that occurs at Annual Convention, and there are beautiful messages shared by a variety of people.  Bishop Susan began Friday morning with her address to us.  In her address, she mentioned today’s Gospel reading.

          It’s an interesting reading to say the least.  As I see it, we have a choice here – we can choose to focus on the “scary” aspect of it - the words describing hardship and suffering, or we can focus on joy and the abundance we find in a life with God.  Where is the joy in this Gospel passage?  It’s comes as a result of the promise Jesus gives us in his words.  “But not a hair on your head will perish.  By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”

         Jesus comes to us with his prophetic words.  He comes to us as a messenger of hope.  Time and time again Jesus reassures his followers by saying, do not be afraid…do not be terrified for God is with us.  Jesus is truthful with his words – though we may not always want it - Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  He acknowledges that life is hard.  He names the struggles and hardships that we all face.  No…we will probably not die for our faith as some of the early Christians did, but we all have or will face hard times in our lives.  We all have or will experience doubt in God from time to time, and to doubt God’s love…hurts…to feel separated from God…hurts. And so Jesus stands before us, reminding us of God’s love for us, reminding us of the hope in his message.

         In Bishop Susan’s address to those gathered at Convention, she also referenced the scripture of John 10:10 which says,  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  To live an abundant life, takes joy.  By embracing Jesus’ message of hope, we are free to create joy in our lives and in the lives of others.  Joy is the antidote to fear.  When we lean into God’s love and grace, we open ourselves up in transformative ways.  Hope does that – joy does that.  It transforms us from the inside out.  How we live our lives…the messages we tell ourselves…the internal conversations we have in our heads  

Begins to shift.  When we lean into God’s love and grace, Jesus’ message of hope begins to take root within us.  We begin to live life differently.  We begin to see things differently.  We begin to respond to others and to the world more gently.  

         From hope grows joy.  The beauty of God’s creation – our island home – begins to catch our attention when joy lives in our hearts.  We begin to notice the little things around us that are beautiful, simple, and life-giving.  We focus less on the stressors of this world and more on things that bring us joy.  And when we allow ourselves the gift of joy…we have more energy and gentleness for others.  By leaning into God’s grace and love…we open ourselves up in ways that are good and holy.  By doing that…we have more to share with those around us and with the world.  We begin to change – our perspective on life shifts, and we are able to live more abundantly.

         Brothers, sisters, and siblings of Christ - hear me when I say, fear will always be there, waiting for us to pick it back up, and Jesus will always be there too - standing beside us - encouraging us to choose love – choose hope - and celebrate life…and wanting us to share our joy with the world.  What will we each choose this day?  Amen+

[1] The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, Ecclesiastical Authority and Suffragan Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Bishop’s Address to The Diocese of Virginia’s Annual Convention 2019, November 2019.

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