Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

    Jun 14, 2020

    Passage:Matthew 9:35-10:8

    Preacher: The Venerable Chris Wrampelmeier

    Series: Season After Pentecost

    Keywords: listen, sheep, respect, disciples


    As the successors to Jesus and to his disciples, each of us is called to go out of our way to form relationships with those different from us.


    Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

    St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Amarillo, Texas

    June 14, 2020

    Click here to watch!


    A line of police in riot gear walked by an African-American family on its way to a protest. The daughter, who is maybe five or six, asked her father, “Are they going to shoot us?” One police officer overhead her, stopped, crouched down to look at the child face-to-face, and explained that they were not there to do that. The officer talked about his family and his children. As he did, the officer not only calmed the fears of the girl, but he transformed her parents. The girl’s father later related how his attitude toward the police changed radically in that moment of an officer taking that time to talk to his child as a parent would and did.

    A white mother took her two children to the White House to witness history. They went to the new security fence that has become a shrine for Americans to place signs expressing words of anger and of hope. Her twelve-year old boy brought his own sign, on which he wrote a poem about Americans sticking together in the fight. After hanging it up, he read it out loud. A young African-American woman happened to overhear him and was so moved, she began to cry. She said, “I don’t know how I expected to feel when I came down here, but it’s just things just have to change. This is making a difference.”

    An African-American Southwest Airlines flight attendant noticed a white passenger board her plane with the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” She asked the passenger about the book. The passenger discussed how Caucasians like himself need to be the ones to start the conversation about racism, how that is the only way things are going to change. The flight attendant was astonished and then started crying. She felt understood. She felt gratitude. She then learned the white passenger is the CEO of American Airlines. (I know, I am still trying to understand why he was flying Southwest.) The conversation had a profound impact on him as well. He stated, “I didn’t think I was a person who shied from these conversations, but if you don’t start ‘em, if you don’t have the courage to start ‘em, they stay in the background. But if you do start ‘em, it makes a huge difference.” For the flight attendant, notions that she might have held about someone of the CEO’s stature were all dismissed because of her five or ten-minute relationship with him. Even with that brief of a relationship, she realized how people are much more alike than they are different.

    On June 6th, the local chapter of the NAACP held a rally at Bones Hooks Park in north Amarillo. What distinguished the gathering was not just its size—there were hundreds present—but its diversity. There were many, many whites present listening to powerful black speakers. You looked around and saw people from all different races, backgrounds, and ages. Many of those speakers, like many in the audience, were young. Our mayor and our new police chief spoke. Both were honored, and both honored the organizers and the people who gathered that day.

    One of my friends posed the question of what can we can do in this time of social upheaval and discussions of racism and policing. I thought about the answer to that question in light of these and similar stories and my experience at the rally. I thought about the answer in light of what God has called you and me to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.

    “[A]sk the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Jesus does just that. In Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus has the authority and power not only to heal, but to send disciples with the ability to cure the sick and injured.

    The crowds are like sheep without a shepherd. That line harkens backs to the Book of Numbers, when Moses was looking for his successor:

    Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them back in, so that the congregation of the LORD, may not be like a sheep without a shepherd.

    That reference to sheep without a shepherd reinforces the inference that with his sending out his disciples two-by-two, Jesus is preparing his successors to care for his flock. Like Jesus, the disciples, as shepherds of the people, are to love and protect the people, qualities that the religious leaders in Jerusalem and the Roman overlords either cannot or will not display. Unlike the chief priests and scribes who must toe the line with Rome or risk the destruction of their authority and the Temple and unlike the Roman government that cares for the people only to the extent it can tax them and keep them docile, the shepherd has compassion for his people. The God of creation wants to heal the people, both in mind and in body, first through Jesus and then through Jesus’ disciples.

    Matthew’s gospel is a signpost, pointing me to the answer to my question: how do I live out my faith in this time? That sign directs me to our baptismal covenant. In the national conversation about racism, each of the five action questions of the baptismal covenant cries out. Each takes on a new importance. The familiar words in each become startingly relevant to the events since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 and to the events since the first slaves were brought to the Point Comfort, Virginia, near Jamestown, in 1619, almost 401 years ago:

    Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?

    · Do we recognize that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, nor is there black and white, police officer and civilian, Republican and Democrat, for we are all one in Christ Jesus?

    Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

    · Will we admit that in the past we have and in the future we will discriminate based on stereotypes and other illegitimate factors, including race, but know that our admission is a first step to ending this sin and ending this sin’s transmission to future generations?

    Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

    · Will we show and tell others that that God is the God of new creation and that, in the words attributed to St. Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” and that God’s love, forgiveness, and grace breaks all barriers and extends even to those whom appear to be beyond being loved, even those who have murdered, even those who have looted and burned?

    Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

    · Will even the least likely among us become Good Samaritans, going out of our way to save those forsaken by others, acknowledging that God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them, and so each of us—black, white, red, brown, male, female—each of us is a child of God and fully worthy of love and respect?

    Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

    · Will we say out loud that injustice for one is injustice for all, but that to respect the dignity of every human being we must dare to form relationships with those unlike us, even those with whom we may passionately disagree, so we may understand them and learn to respect them?

    For me, the answer to how we conquer racism builds specifically off the last baptismal question: we conquer racism by forming relationships. Only through relationships, such as those created in the stories at the beginning of this sermon, can we learn to respect the dignity of every human being, to allow that dignity to overcome deep-seated prejudices centered on skin-color. The greatest moments of the last three weeks have occurred when people of all ages, occupations, and political camps have made themselves vulnerable—physically or figuratively giving a hug, extending a hand, or taking a knee—to reach across the borders that have divided them from their neighbor. In the midst of all the tragedy, we have seen these transformative moments, moments that changed not just the participants, but those who witnessed as well.

    It is not enough that people understand that black lives matter and that systemic racism be eliminated. It is not enough that governments pass needed reforms. For the sacrifices and losses of these days to have meaning and for any changes to be enduring, the conversation has to go both ways. For the survival of our nation, liberals need to look at the world through conservative eyes and conservatives need to understand the world as liberals see it. They don’t need to agree with each other, but they must try to understand each other.

    In the Kingdom of God, people listen. They pray, in the words of St. Francis, that God may grant that they not so much seek to be understood, as to understand. In the Kingdom of God, liberals and conservatives recognize that the other is not amoral but rather places a different emphasis on legitimate and healthy moral foundations. In the Kingdom of God, my conversation with someone who differs from me does not devolve into either of us calling the other amoral or evil or un-American or a snowflake or a racist or a socialist or a fascist. We call each other “citizen” and “child of God.” We respect the other’s right to disagree. We rebut the other’s arguments with logic and facts, not with name-calling. In the Kingdom of God, we accept that we will never agree on all issues, but we will always agree the other is my brother or sister in Christ, a member of my family, just as all who share Christ’s body and blood with me are my family.

    No one said life in the Kingdom of God is easy. In the Kingdom, we give respect and receive respect in turn. We go far deeper than cheap political slogans to understand why others believe what they do, to understand their lives and experiences. Our motivation is to understand, not to persuade. We seek to heal divisions, not create them.

    The Kingdom of God requires personal relationships, a reason why Jesus sent his disciples out into the crowds, out into the towns and villages. The Kingdom of God is hard. It is inefficient. It is far less fun that labeling your opponent on social media and closing your computer before reading the angry response. I will fall short many times, as may you, but we each get to try again and again to succeed.

    We at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church are ideally suited for these challenging times. We live in a community—even if today it is only virtual—that is both conservative and liberal. Our community not just survived but thrived through the greatest challenges of the last twenty-five years, fire in our parish and schism at the diocesan, state, and national levels, by being faithful to our baptismal covenants. We will thrive through this crisis too. As Episcopalians, we serve God as a bridge between denominations and religions, between people who sincerely differ on moral and political issues. (It is no accident that the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, known as “a house of prayer for all people,” is an Episcopal church.) As with the stories told at the beginning of this sermon, many times the greatest good we can do is to actively demonstrate we are listening to our neighbor. As the successors to Jesus and to his disciples, each of us is called to go out of our way to form relationships with those different from us and like those disciples, to heal God’s people.

    Let us pray in those words of St. Francis: Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.