Sermon Archives

Sunday, April 22, 2018
The 4th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
You Are Worthy

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For many of us, sin and forgiveness stand at the forefront of our mind when we think of salvation.  Of course, there is great precedent for this thinking.  For one, the Church has done a bang-up job of speaking of our forgiveness by God’s mercy as the pathway to our salvation.  Scripture is so replete with this image, as well, that I suspect we can all think of a story or two that reflects Jesus’ merciful response to sin around him.

And we are wise to speak of sin and forgiveness still today.  It is a simple fact of each of our lives, and the state of the world around us, that we sin, in thought, word, and deed.  We do things, daily even, that hurt us or others around us; we deny the truth of our goodness, we deny the goodness of others, we secure our needs at the expense of others.  And daily we leave undone things that would bring life to others – we continue to allow poverty and hunger to persist in our world, we leave unasked the question why there remains such a disparity in education and opportunity in our world, not just globally, but locally.  We close our eyes to the reality of despair that exists all around us, even as we enjoy the comforts – I mean truly great comforts! – of life in Grosse Pointe.  When men and women and families are teetering on the edge of homelessness and hunger, we still say, “we don’t have enough.”

Yes, we still sin and must be called to repentance of life.  I hope, as well, that we are grateful each day that God responds to the sin of our doing with the mercy of his making.

But we are remiss if we think that sin and forgiveness is the only frame through which to understand either salvation in general, or Easter in particular.  In fact, as we look back of over the Gospel lessons of these now four weeks of Easter, we might find it odd that sin and forgiveness are yet to be mentioned.  Last week, and the week before that, “peace” stood at the center of Jesus’ message.  Of all the things he could say to his disciples, that ragged band of followers who had done their best to not follow him during his final days and hours, “Peace” is the word he offers.

Beyond the resurrection accounts, however, the Gospels offer us other metaphors for both our need and God’s response, images and metaphors that move us well beyond the singular image of sin and forgiveness.  The great prologue to John’s Gospel reminds us that our world, at times, is horribly dark.  For reasons that we each will harbor, there are times when our worlds seem hopelessly void of light.  Into our darkness, we are reminded, thankfully, that God’s light still shines.

There are times as well when we seem blind, not literally, of course, but metaphorically blind.  Blind to the goodness around us or within us.  Blind to the opportunities and life that beckons us.  Blind to the love and compassion that enfold us.  And so Jesus reminds us that God seeks to remove the scales from our eyes, so that we may see ourselves and those about us as clearly as God sees.

There are times, too when we feel stuck or bound, chained up as it were in our life, perhaps by circumstances we have chosen, perhaps by choices and obligations or limitations that others place up us.  When we are so bound, we may be grateful to hear that Jesus comes to our side and calls us out.  But he doesn’t stop there – as clearly as he spoke to those at Lazarus tomb, he commands those that surround us to act as well, “unbind him” he still says.

And when we hunger God brings food, real food to our hungry bodies not only through the working hands of labors the world over, but also through the compassionate hands of volunteers how strive each day to alleviate the real hunger of the world. 

No doubt, sin and forgiveness are essential in our journey of faith, but they are not the only message.

Today, the lectionary turns our attention yet another of these images, the image of the Good Shepherd.  Though it’s an image a bit removed for the parks of Grosse Pointe – I don’t suspect that many of us have any direct, or even “nearly direct,” connection to shepherding today – the image still speaks to a spiritual yearning that, I dare say, we all harbor within ourselves.  Somewhere in our childhood we begin to wonder, am I good enough?  Am I worthy to be loved?   This is part of the beauty of marriage, and even more, remarriage after a divorce, when one heart reaches out to another and says, you are worthy of my love, today and all days.

This human yearning is a profoundly spiritual yearning as well – as we become aware of the Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the giver of life and savior of the world, our heart and mind naturally begin to yearn to know, am I worthy?

And this is where the message of sin and forgiveness have the potential to become dangerous.  If left alone, as the only message of our relationship to God, then a natural conclusion is no.  No, we are not, for we have sinned, again and again and again.

But today Jesus reminds us that, in fact, we are worthy.  We are as worthy as a lamb that has been lost – worthy not because of what we have done or not done.  Worthy, instead, simply because the Good Shepherd cares for you.  And how worthy are we?  Worthy enough, beloved enough, for the Shepherd to stand between death and you, to stand between whatever threatens to overtake or consume or destroy you, to stand in that place for you, in order to give you life.  How beloved are you?  Beloved enough for the Great Shepherd of the Flock to lay down his life for you.

There are any myriad of things that draw us to Church on any given Sunday.  We come at times to hear again that our sins are forgiven.  We come at other times to see – ourselves and the world about us -- with a renewed clarity of sight.  We come, too, to be freed, freed from the bonds that entangle us. 

I pray that we come, too, to hear again the beautiful message of our great worth.

And to give thanks, again, to God who proclaims you worth of his life, worthy of his great love.