Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon 29 October 2017




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon
29 October 2017

Listen to the audio track HERE

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


Cut to the chase
At the end of the day
The bottom line is
The final score

I hear that there are people who like to read the final page of a book before they begin the book.  They want to know what happened, and want no surprises along the way.  They want to know “who-done-it” before the mystery begins and likely are the kind of folks who might ask you to “cut to the chase” when you speak with them.

I don’t think I have ever picked up a book and read the last page first, I would rather enjoy the book, and I am one who is interested in the process, interested in the narrative, character development and the descriptions so carefully presented by the author along the way.

However much I enjoy the story and the developing narrative or argument of a writer or speaker, there are times, when I appreciate having a clear “takeaway” from a talk, lecture, book or essay.  What about you, are you more of a “enjoy the narrative process” sort of person, or are you someone who want a message you can memorize or put on a notecard?  I think, no matter how much we love the story, at times, we are looking for a “lunchpail message” which we can reflect upon over our peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

Pour into us, increase in us, fill us with gifts.  There is a deep recognition that we are gifted with our very lives, with all that we are, and all that we have.  Here we ask God to build us up with faith, hope and love.  Where we may falter in faith, God will provide faith.  When we may falter and enter fearfulness and have hopelessness, God will increase our hope.  Where we may falter and fear, God will increase our love and charity - caritas.  Just as we have these gifts increased in us, we also steward and care for all the blessings that God has given us, and we offer these gifts to others.  We offer our time, our treasure and our talent back to God.  “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”


“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Blessed.  Set aside.  Having a holy purpose - not unlike the frontal, the chalice, the paten.  You shall be holy.  Not merely here as crude matter, not merely as automotons, not merely as random beings in the world.  We are called, and empowered to be holy, to be set aside as blessed beings for God’s mission in the world.  We are empowered to be disciples, to follow God, to enter the Way of Jesus.


“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Cut to the chase.  Here, the lawyers, pharisees, sadducees are finally trying to trick Jesus again, but here the question is not unlike our own.  Fine, Jesus, many parables later, many healings, exorcisms, miracles and all that.  But, really, Jesus, what are we to do, what is the one most important commandment?  Here, Jesus breaks it down.  Here, Jesus cuts to the chase.  Here, Jesus gives us all the bottom line.  “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all our soul, and with all your mind - (and) You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So get to it.  Go do it. Every single bit.  That’s it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Be still

7Be still before the LORD *
and wait patiently for him.
8Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Psalm 37


Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon ~ 22 October 2017 ~ “Give it back to God”



The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon - 22 October 2017
“Give it back to God” ~ “Of thine own have we given thee”

Listen to the audio HERE

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, which we heard just a few weeks ago, when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, Jewish officials questioned his authority to do “these things”.  Jesus declined to answer the question, for the answer could only be understood by those with faith.  Just before our gospel today, we find the parable of the Wedding Feast, which the Pharisees saw as an attack on them.

Now followers of the “Pharisees” and “Herodians”– who all wanted to get Jesus arrested  – speak to him. They appear to respect him, but speak with irony. And then the question, the subject of great debate in Jewish circles: should we pay the annual poll tax to Rome?

As with any good question, the possible responses varied:

If Jesus says yes, Zealots and other Jews hostile to Rome will turn against him; if he says no, he will risk arrest for inciting rebellion against Rome. We know his answer, as translated, but “Give” can be give back or repay.   

So he says, “Give back to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God, give back the things that are God’s.”

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”
2 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 14

Pharisees try to entrap Jesus, and he uses some rhetorical brilliance to get out of a jam.
But is there more than that?
Is there more to say here.
Of course.
Look at the end.
Look to the very end, the part that Jesus adds to his answer to the Pharisees.
“And to God, render the things that is God’s”
And so, we should consider what is God’s, after all.
After all, you have made the time to be here in this glorious place.
God’s
Everything is God’s






The emperor - that’s fine...give him a bit…

Fees
Taxes
DMV
Electricity

But, to God, give to God what is God’s.  Jesus was not playing around with these petty entrapment kind of questions.  He knew the truth of God’s gift.  He knew what Thomas Merton later wrote:

If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all.

And, what have we received from God, that we might give back to show our gratitude, our Thankfulness?  What might we “give back” to God?

Time
Love
God’s People
Money to the church
Time to the church
Effort
Good will
Intelligence
Good-nature
Loving-kindness
Shrewdness
Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Intelligence
Creativity


But to God, render what is God’s.

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

And so, if we were thinking that this was merely a debate about a coin, whose head was on a coin...let’s remember that Jesus knew his Bible.  And his Bible was the Jewish Scriptures.  And he knew his prayer book.  And his prayer book were the Psalms.






In today’s psalms...ALL creation sings to the Lord.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.

Of course it does.
Every instant
Every moment
Every love
Every pain
Every pleasure
Every suffering
Every fellowship
Every loneliness
Every cup of coffee
Every slice of bread
Every sip of wine
God is in it
It is God’s

And so, this is the state of mind of Jesus when he is asked about giving money to the Emperor, giving back the money which was minted by the Roman Empire.  Jesus says fine - give back to the Emperor.  BUT, give BACK to God the things which are God’s - which is all.  Jesus’s life was unified, and he was deep in Holy Week when he answers their question with this great truth.  


“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”



Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ Sermon ~ 15 October 2017 ~ Matthew 22: 1-14



The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon
15 October 2017
Matthew 22: 1-14

Listen to the audio HERE

"The parables of Christ, even the innocent, pastoral, tender, innocuous-seeming ones, conceal just below the surface a whiplash, a shock, a charge of dynamite. The stories set conventional expectations, whether concerning God, religion, politics, vocation, status and class, utterly off kilter."   ~ Daniel Berrigan

My interpretive lens, “The Wedding Banquet”

Chorus:
I cannot come to the banquet, I cannot come to the banquet,
don't trouble me now.
I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.

A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table and wore a wedding gown.
He sent invitations to his neighbours far and wide
but when the meal was ready, each of them replied:

The master rose up in anger, called his servant by name,
said: "Go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame,
fetch the peasant and the pauper, for this I have willed,
my banquet seem so crowded, and my table must be filled.

When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,
so the master demanded: "Go search every where,
to the highways and the byways and force them to come in.
My table must be filled before the banquet can begin.

Now God has written a lesson for the rest of the mankind;
If we're slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say: I cannot come.


In today’s gospel, we are introduced to two different challenging parables which are more or less conflated together by Matthew.  The setting and context for these parables are the city of Jerusalem.  As I mentioned just a few weeks ago, Jesus is only a few days away from his crucifixion.  He is teaching amidst a great diversity of people in the melting pot stew of the religious, political, and social setting of Jerusalem.  In this context, Jesus is comparing the kingdom of heaven to a king who gives a wedding feast.  

Before we take a look at what IS going on here, I want to give a bit of a sense of what IS NOT going on in this gospel.

First, this is NOT about what we are literally required to wear to a party, not what we require people to wear at church.  This is not about Carol Palmer or Earl James or Steve Zartarian or Steve Snyder throwing anyone out of church for not wearing their Sunday best.

Second, this isn't just any banquet. It's not a backyard barbecue.  It’s not even just “any” wedding.   

Third, these parables were probably not taught by Jesus right after each other, and so it is helpful to separate the messages.

Fourth, not every part of these parables might have a direct referent.  What I mean by that, is that Jesus is painting a picture, or two pictures of what the Kingdom of God is like, and we can certainly get caught up in the details and forget the message.

Now, what IS going on here?

First, to begin with the second parable about the seemingly irrational and grouchy king who throws out a guest for not wearing a wedding robe.  The kingdom of God is like an irrational and grouchy king?  No.  This episode would be understood in the context of conversion, and of entering a new way of life.  The wedding robe in this story symbolizes a “new way of life,” which is required of those who would enter the Kingdom of God.  This “new way” is centered on love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.  This approach, this “garment” of love is what is required of those entering the Kingdom of God.  Those who can’t live out this life of compassion, caring, and abundant love are already in the outer darkness, already weeping and gnashing their teeth.

Second, let’s talk about the wedding feast.  As I mentioned, this is no mere party, no backyard barbeque, no tailgate at an Eagles game.  This is not even *just* any old wedding.  It's the royal wedding of the king's son.  The best we can imagine is Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. By one count, 750 million people watched it live on television.  Or, perhaps the wedding of Prince William and Kate more recently.  Jesus is making the point that you just really wouldn’t refuse this invitation Who in their right mind would refuse such an imperial invitation?
There once was a king who prepared a royal banquet for his son's wedding. After the elaborate preparations were made, he sent out the invitations.  Then comes the first shock. Some people rejected the king's invitation. Jesus says that some people "refused to come." Others "paid no attention." Another group even killed the king's messengers. Such responses, said Jesus, showed that these people "did not deserve to come" (22:8).

Would you have refused an invitation to St. Paul's Cathedral in London for the royal wedding of Charles and Diana? Not a chance. But that's what happened in this parable. The people on the king's A-list refused his extravagant generosity. They spurned an invitation to the most prestigious party in town.
To those who refused his invitation, the king "sent his army and burned their city." The king then goes out and finds people who are willing to put on the garment of God’s love, to enter into the free gift of God’s banquet.  To the highways and byways God sends out his messengers!  

Everyone without exception has received a free invitation to the Kingdom of God. It's a banquet of abundance. But some people refuse God's generosity. It's hard to believe, but experience tells us it's true.  Some others may think they can enter this banquet without putting on the “garment of God’s love” and forget that God requires us to “love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves.”  Sneaking in the side door will not work.  Life doesn't work that way, not in the world and not in the kingdom of God.

Paradoxically, God's generosity is free for all and it doesn't come cheap. It requires us to be “all in,” and requires us to adopt an ethic of love, but the reward is beyond our imagination.  

God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind;
If we're slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say:

I cannot come to the banquet.

Photos from the Celebration of New Ministry and Installation of the Rev. Peter M. Carey as rector of St. Mary's, Cathedral Road









Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon on the “Love Song of Isaiah 5” ~ 8 October 2017


The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon on the “Love Song of Isaiah 5”
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia
8 October 2017

Listen to the audio HERE

The poem begins as a pleasant “love-song” but builds in a crescendo of intensity,  finally leaving the listener with a message of divine justice and divine judgment.  

The prophet Isaiah describes the situation of God, the farmer, who is cultivating and planting a vineyard as his righteous people in the world.  However, the people had strayed, and become wild, stinking, worthless grapes, not the cultivated grapes that a vineyard owner would expect. In the 8th Century B.C.E, the reign of King Uzziah had brought wealth and prosperity to the wealthy and powerful in Judah.   In its historical context, this song is aimed at those oppressive leaders who benefited from this time of prosperity on the backs of the poor.  However, this poem has resonance for us as well, as we contemplate the ways that God has provided gifts for us, that we are called upon to care for, cultivate, and produce “good grapes” that God expects.
The audience of Judah is told of the beloved farmer who had a vineyard  on a fertile hill that is prepared by the beloved farmer, the work of digging, of clearing, of planting, of building, and hewing.   This intense work with the “fertile” ground would lead any good farmer to think that the vineyard would yield good fruit, and the farmer expects this result.

John Calvin, in his commentary on Isaiah stated, “The incessant care and watchfulness of God in dressing his vine are asserted by the Prophet, as if he had said, that God has neglected nothing that could be expected from the best and most careful householder.”  He expects it to yield good fruit.

The ground was fertile, and the farmer did excellent work.  No mention of animals that have attacked the crop.  They just don’t grow.

Why did these excellent, choice vines yield stinking, worthless grapes?  The audience and the reader is left wondering why, indeed did such a loving, careful, and diligent farmer have a vineyard with such stinking, worthless, and wild grapes.

Verses five and six switch to the words spoken by God; by the farmer - the judge(!).  This language of the removal of protection, which will bring about destruction of the vineyard by the hands of outsiders would be understood in the 8th century Jerusalem context as referring to the military invasions and destruction that would soon befall Judah, but also has a universal message.  How well have we cared for our vineyards?

Here the vineyard will be made a waste by neglect.  Just in case the audience and reader had not understood the point, verse seven makes explicit the referents in this allegory:  “the judgment is upon you!” -- the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the people of Judah. Where the Lord expected holy justice, what grew was bloodshed; where the Lord expected righteousness, what grew was oppression and exploitation.  

Isaiah takes his audience through a journey of seven verses from a “love song,” to a description of loving planting, to a judicial defense for growing worthless crops, and finally to the message of judgment for Judah and Jerusalem for their stinking and worthless grapes/behavior.  

In musical terms, the prophecy is made in a crescendo, beginning softly and calmly and gradually grows in volume, precision, and violence until the audience and reader are left with the awesome and frightening message of judgment.
A main take-away for us, is the same message that is made for the people of Israel.  We are asked to to see that we are the vineyard, and have some responsibility for the type of fruit that comes to life.  Here, we are led to repentance and also to greater action in order to care for the cultivated grapes, to secure the boundaries, and to offer our work in order to care for and steward God’s garden.

We will all be judged, and we are given the opportunity by God to judge ourselves before the hedge is removed.    Just as the vineyard was the people of Judah, the vineyard is us as well.  We are called to respond with justice to the bloodshed that we see in this vineyard, so that God will respond with compassionate action..  We are called to hear the cries of distress and respond with righteousness, so that God will hear and respond to our own outcries with God’s righteousness.  Isaiah 5:1-7 was a prophecy and a call to action in the 8th century B.C.E. to Judah, and it is a prophecy and a call to action for us today.  

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon on the “Love Song of Isaiah 5” ~ 8 October 2017


Sermon preached at St. Mary's Church, Cathedral Road, Philadelphia
The Rev. Peter M. Carey, Rector
8 October 2017




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon on the “Love Song of Isaiah 5”
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia
8 October 2017


The poem begins as a pleasant “love-song” but builds in a crescendo of intensity,  finally leaving the listener with a message of divine justice and divine judgment.  

The prophet Isaiah describes the situation of God, the farmer, who is cultivating and planting a vineyard as his righteous people in the world.  However, the people had strayed, and become wild, stinking, worthless grapes, not the cultivated grapes that a vineyard owner would expect. In the 8th Century B.C.E, the reign of King Uzziah had brought wealth and prosperity to the wealthy and powerful in Judah.   In its historical context, this song is aimed at those oppressive leaders who benefited from this time of prosperity on the backs of the poor.  However, this poem has resonance for us as well, as we contemplate the ways that God has provided gifts for us, that we are called upon to care for, cultivate, and produce “good grapes” that God expects.
The audience of Judah is told of the beloved farmer who had a vineyard  on a fertile hill that is prepared by the beloved farmer, the work of digging, of clearing, of planting, of building, and hewing.   This intense work with the “fertile” ground would lead any good farmer to think that the vineyard would yield good fruit, and the farmer expects this result.

John Calvin, in his commentary on Isaiah stated, “The incessant care and watchfulness of God in dressing his vine are asserted by the Prophet, as if he had said, that God has neglected nothing that could be expected from the best and most careful householder.”  He expects it to yield good fruit.

The ground was fertile, and the farmer did excellent work.  No mention of animals that have attacked the crop.  They just don’t grow.

Why did these excellent, choice vines yield stinking, worthless grapes?  The audience and the reader is left wondering why, indeed did such a loving, careful, and diligent farmer have a vineyard with such stinking, worthless, and wild grapes.

Verses five and six switch to the words spoken by God; by the farmer - the judge(!).  This language of the removal of protection, which will bring about destruction of the vineyard by the hands of outsiders would be understood in the 8th century Jerusalem context as referring to the military invasions and destruction that would soon befall Judah, but also has a universal message.  How well have we cared for our vineyards?

Here the vineyard will be made a waste by neglect.  Just in case the audience and reader had not understood the point, verse seven makes explicit the referents in this allegory:  “the judgment is upon you!” -- the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the people of Judah. Where the Lord expected holy justice, what grew was bloodshed; where the Lord expected righteousness, what grew was oppression and exploitation.  

Isaiah takes his audience through a journey of seven verses from a “love song,” to a description of loving planting, to a judicial defense for growing worthless crops, and finally to the message of judgment for Judah and Jerusalem for their stinking and worthless grapes/behavior.  

In musical terms, the prophecy is made in a crescendo, beginning softly and calmly and gradually grows in volume, precision, and violence until the audience and reader are left with the awesome and frightening message of judgment.
A main take-away for us, is the same message that is made for the people of Israel.  We are asked to to see that we are the vineyard, and have some responsibility for the type of fruit that comes to life.  Here, we are led to repentance and also to greater action in order to care for the cultivated grapes, to secure the boundaries, and to offer our work in order to care for and steward God’s garden.

We will all be judged, and we are given the opportunity by God to judge ourselves before the hedge is removed.    Just as the vineyard was the people of Judah, the vineyard is us as well.  We are called to respond with justice to the bloodshed that we see in this vineyard, so that God will respond with compassionate action..  We are called to hear the cries of distress and respond with righteousness, so that God will hear and respond to our own outcries with God’s righteousness.  Isaiah 5:1-7 was a prophecy and a call to action in the 8th century B.C.E. to Judah, and it is a prophecy and a call to action for us today.