Sunday, June 19, 2011

3 strangers

Three strangers came to the tent. Abraham and Sarah had journeyed far – from northern Iraq, across Syria and down through Canaan and on into Egypt (where they had many adventures) and then back to Canaan.

Here they were: their flocks and herds around them. They pitched their tent under the oak trees. Strangers came – and were welcomed.

Stay with us Lord and rest your feet. Sit in the shade under this tree. Let me bring you something to drink. Quick! Prepare a meal, a fine feast

The guests, receiving hospitality, now offer their hosts a gift: a promise of a future with hope. You will have a son.

Sarah cannot believe it – she laughs to herself behind the flap of the tent – and she is afraid when they catch her out: “O but you did laugh.”

When the promise comes true, how does she feel?

It was a happy meeting. They name the child Isaac (Laughter).

Remembering and celebrating a promise fulfilled, the beginning of a hopeful future – with descendants that would outnumber the stars – all God’s doing – but God can raise up sons to Abraham from these stones.

It was faith that singled Abraham out. In faith he received the promise – and his true legacy is faith.

His true descendants and heirs are those who are heirs through hope – of the promise of God – and that hope is found in Jesus Christ.

It is through him, through Christ, that the basis of faith, of hope, and of love is revealed.

The gospel from Matthew today is the conclusion of his last chapter, a chapter that began with women going to the tomb of Jesus about the break of day.

“He has been raised,” they were told, “from the dead and is going on before you into Galilee; there you will see him.” They got the message and spread the news.

And the disciples did go to Galilee – they made their way to a mountain and Jesus met them there. They greet him, believers and doubters alike, shoulder to shoulder; they greet him as the holy one of God: they worship him. And now in a few quick words the risen Lord Jesus say so much.

“All authority has been given me on heaven and on earth.” He is the only Son of the Father, the one true living God who created all things. There is no other.

And this Jesus, now risen Lord, has a message for his disciples. A big task lies ahead. His earthly mission has ended.

The mission of the church now begins. So – he commissions them, and he empowers them.

He sends them forth to build his church, to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, and to bring its reality into the midst of the earth and all its peoples.

“Make all people my disciples; baptize them everywhere in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; teach them to do all I have commanded you to do.”

As you have learned from me so go and teach. As I have made you disciples, disciple them. From here on the legacy now passes from one to another, from generation to generation. What I have given you – all that you have received, you must now pass on.

You will not be alone. For Emmanuel, God-with-us, says: I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Past, present, and future come together in this moment at the foundation of the Church.

On this mountain Jesus brings forth something beyond what Moses received on Sinai. He brings forth the living presence of God to accompany his messengers throughout the earth.

Worship, go, evangelize – and remember. Remember the promise given to Abraham and Sarah. Remember that their true descendants are the people of faith.

And remember Alban’s testimony to the one true living God who created all things.

Alban was living in a Roman town north of London when he found faith – or it found him. It came to his door in the person of a priest, fugitive in a time of persecution.

He sheltered the priest, welcomed him, gave him hospitality and safety, learned from him about ‘the one true living God who made all things’, and came to believe – so that he stood in the place of the priest and gave his life.

Hospitality, courage, and faith.

For his witness, for his faithfulness, he was executed, and won a crown in glory.

His faith we count as righteousness. It was his steadfast trust and witness that brought home to the people of the town the truth of the faith of the one true God.

What Alban did, living in his place in his time, was create a legacy of lasting witness.

People go there still, to the place where he was martyred, on pilgrimage, to the place so many now have gone before, where Alban simply stood the test of faith.

We may not be called to die by the sword but we may be called to simple witness to the truth of Christ, the promise of God, the faithful future, as heirs of hope that we like sons of Abraham may be raised up, may growth as heirs of hope and forebears of faith.

Courage, compassion, generosity, and hospitality – these gifts of faith are Alban’s legacy.

Fearless in the face of danger, Alban would not give up his faith. He testified to God’s truth.

Courage, compassion, and generosity; hospitality, bold truth telling, and unswerving faith, Alban in simple words led the way, a way so many pilgrims follow.

He followed the way of Christ through the Cross to Resurrection, through acceptance of Jesus’ gift on their behalf – and yes, its necessity – to a new life, a new way of living.

His allegiance was no longer to the gods of Rome, the gods of empire, the gods of greed, wealth, envy, instant gratification, the flash beauty of surface appearance, power, or hate.

Jesus calls all people to himself through all his people

All authority on earth and in heaven has been given to me; go – spread the good news.

Spread it to all nations and all generations – let this be your legacy, the living truth of the living God. He is Lord indeed.

O God, our Father, who gave to your servant Alban the gifts of faith, hospitality, compassion, generosity and courage, and sent people forth across the world to carry the word of your gospel to every creature, grant, we pray, a like spirit to your church, even at this present time. Further in all things the purpose of our community, that hidden things may be revealed to us, and new ways found to touch the hearts of all. May we preserve with each other sincere charity and peace, and, if it be your holy will, grant that this church, a place of your abiding, continue still to be a sanctuary and a light. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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