Saturday, July 21, 2012

that all your people may be gathered

In the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” Arthur King of the Britons goes around on his mock horse, clip-clop, clip-clop, announcing “I am Arthur King of the Britons” –  it’s blatant self-heralding.

What a way to build a kingdom. What a way to gather a people.

It doesn’t work of course. Most people respond something like

[jeering] “Oh yeah?”

And one group goes so far as to respond to his announcement in an even more subversive manner…

“I am Arthur, King of the Britons.”

“I don’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.”

Jesus was not a self-heralding king. In fact, by some accounts, he shushed up all business about himself as much as he could.

But the word got out.

The kingdom, that is, the reign, of God, is at hand. It’s time to get ready.

That kingdom is shalom, the peace of God.

What would it be like to live in peace, God’s peace? How would you get there? What would it look like?

To reach God’s shalom,
         justice and righteousness must be established.
To live in safety,
         the fear of death must be removed.

As a shepherd,
         beholding lost sheep, scattered over distant hills, 
Jesus regards with compassion
         the people who have come out to seek him
         in a deserted place
Powered by faith alone.

Send them away, the disciples said,
         so they can buy for themselves
         something to eat.
No, you feed them.

How shall we feed so many?

He had them group themselves for the meal
         organized like Moses’ flock into hundreds and fifties
         into impromptu households
                  like the people fleeing Pharaoh on that first Passover
Giving thanks
         he broke the bread
         telling them
                  this is my own body

Giving thanks – but who has seen him?

When you fed me, gave me drink, clothed me, visited me,
         then you saw me

And so John can testify
         we proclaim to you
         what we have heard,
         what we have seen with our eyes,
         what we have looked at
         and touched with our hands,
(1 John 1:1)

So Jesus host of the sacred meal
         gives thanks
         as Israel always had
                  Blessed be thou O Lord our God,
                  king of the universe,
                  who brings forth bread from the earth
From the earth
         he feeds God’s people
Taking up the resources of creation
         what they had
         what they brought
         blessing it
         revealing its transformative power

When shared
         no longer victims
         they are God’s people once again set free

Like the first Passover
Like the bread in the wilderness, bread from heaven,
once again God feeds them
         with the food he provides
once again
         as with the binding of Isaac
         God himself provides the offering

         like a shepherd
         feeds his people
         calms their fears
and goes on
         moving among the people

Our shepherd
         gathers us in
         transforms us with his word
                  and his self-gift of the meal
         sends us out again
                  as his messengers
                  his disciples
         to bear Jesus
                  his word
         into the world.

Jeremiah assures the people of Israel that their true shepherds are coming, sent by the Lord. The word to the unfaithful shepherds, leaders who have failed to look after the people and be their guides: you will be called to account.

To the people God’s assurance:
         I will gather, I will bring back, my people
         They will be well and increase
         I will give them shepherds
                  true leaders
         they shall be safe
                  and not afraid

The letter to the Ephesians proclaims that
         we will all become one flock under one shepherd.
         Hostility between peoples is broken down.
         All are gathered around God’s table.
         Nobody is left out, any more.

We are reconciled in Christ
         and through his cross
we are made one people
         in him.

We are all members of his household.
There is a banquet
         not like the dinner party Herod threw for his own birthday
         a heaven-sent banquet
                  not just for the prominent or the select
         all are at the table
                  this time
         the table that is the kingdom feast of God.

But can we do enough?
Are the resources we have enough for God to work with?
And who will come,
         if we extend the invitation? God knows!
When you open the doors,
         who knows who will come in,
         who God will send.

We find out, a bit, simply enough:
         God keeps sending us people,
         like the people of Edmonds,
                  Mountlake Terrace, North Seattle, …
God keeps sending us the
         familiar stranger
as well as the
         heroically Other.

Whoever God sends us,
         God calls us to be faithful
         in serving
                  as his messengers, his disciples, his friends.
We are no longer strangers – but remember (God says),
         you were a stranger once;
         know you who are a member of the household,
         a citizen numbered with the saints,
know to be prepared
         to become one great people of glory
         to be built into a dwelling place
         for – not ourselves –
         for God.

Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.

Closing prayer from Common Worship (
Notes for a sermon to be given Sunday 22 July 2012 at Saint Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash. (
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, Mark 6:53-56, BProper11, Shepherd, Shepherd King, JRL+

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