Sermon for the 21st Sunday in Year B
My friend and parishioner James Brady has a nice coffee shop down on Brick St., right across the street from First Presbyterian Church. It's a place for great coffee. James has a chair especially for his pastor when I get there. It's his chair for holy people, specially made for priests, and snake oil merchants. It's small, gaudily painted and rickety. On the back of the chair is printed "Reserved for sinners.". Great coffee! But even greater theology!
Simon Peter, the leader of the Apostles, a man whose grasp of things is often a bit hazy, nevertheless gets it in this Gospel. "To whom shall we go? you are the Holy One of God".
Peter gets the very heart of the reality of God. We rarely get so clear an insight into the inside of God, into the very essence of the Divine Godhead. We get it in the First letter of St. John; "God is love." Here in our gospel today, Peter catches a momentary flash of revelation, a brief glance of divinity laid bare. "You are the Holy One of God."
The very inside of God, let's call it his DNA, is HOLY.
When I speak to you, when I write to you as your pastor, how do I always, invariably address you? "To God's holy people who sojourn in St. Mary Magdalene in Flint"
I call you what you are, the Church that is camped out at the bottom of God's holy mountain waiting for God, just like the Israelites of old, waiting for the holy One to appear, eating his manna as we wait.
In the Old Testament, God gathered his people by the blowing of the shofar, the ram's horn. "Blow the horn on the new moon, summon the people." The Israelites obeyed the trumpet blast that called them to worship. Then they came, men, women, children, and babes at the breast, God's holy people set free from Pharaoh by the waters of the Red Sea. Israel is holy because she is God's chosen bride.
God the Father took Israel to be his wife, married her and loved her as his Spouse. When she was unfaithful with neighbors, sleeping with strangers, running off with some new fling, he always called her back and forgave her. He put his arms around her, put a robe on her shoulders, and a ring on her finger, a kiss on her cheek. He dressed her in gold of Ophir and set a golden diadem on her head, honored her above all women. She, Israel became holy by sitting with God, by lying with God, by giving birth to God's children. Israel is holy, set apart by God to be his Holy people.
Here we are, a people called together by God, waiting for Christ Jesus, our tents pitched in Flint. We are not tied to Flint, or to Tyler or even to the 21st century. We are holy people set free from sin by Baptism. The waters of the Red Blood have set us free, that sea of water and blood that gushed forth from the side of the body of Jesus as he hung dead on the Cross. God is Holy. His Only begotten Son Jesus the Christ is holy. Jesus is holy because he is "Light from Light, True God from True God."
Now, in our age, Christ has taken the Church to be his wife, his partner, his beloved, his queen, standing at his right hand, dressed in cloth of gold with a crown of virtue on her head. That's you and me standing there, radiant and beaming with joy, eating the Bread of Life as wait. We have become a holy people just by being part of his Church, by sharing a pew with each other, by being Catholic Christians.
W.B. Yeats once wrote about the "Golden apples of the sun, the silver apples of the moon."For the gold of the sun is what gives color and richness to the moon. She has no light of her own. She depends on the sun for life and beauty. Her apples are beautiful, not quite Golden, like her greater sister, but silver all the same. We are never going to be God and holy by essence. But by being his beloved church, we are made holy. We are God's holy people.
I am a sinner and I suspect that you are all sinners like your pastor. My throne of Glory down at Brady' Coffee Shop is a rickety perch for sinners. But I am holy. I am Holy because God is holy, and I'm a member of the body of Christ. I am one of God's holy people and my tent is pitched in St. Mary Magdalene in Flint.
Architect’s renderings of the final plans for the new church at Saint Mary Magdalene
To learn more about our new building campaign, CLICK HERE