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    Oct 23, 2016

    The Lord Be With You

    The Lord Be With You

    Speaker: The Rev. Becky Crites

    Category: Reconciliation

    Keywords: comfort, hope, love, peace, reconciliation

    We should hear “The Lord be with you” as a true statement. For God’s deep desire is to be with us. And in this harsh and unkind world, happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.

    “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” This call and response is so much a part of our Episcopal soul that we use it in meetings or fellowship simply to get the attention of a group. These familiar words just flow out of us so easily that we overlook the hope and promise contained therein. In early days of the Hebrew people, the Lord be with you was the “How are you” greeting of their day but with the response “May the Lord bless you” instead of “I’m fine.” Those who love liturgical worship don’t feel it as staid or lacking of the expression of the Holy Spirit. We find comfort in the well-crafted and deeply theological words that are a part of liturgical books, such as our Book of Common Prayer. Unfortunately, we even flee the church when these words are changed because in their ritual usage and familiarity they have become a part of who we are.

    Helen Logwood was a woman I visited in a nursing home when I was in Bedford. She wasn’t aware of her surroundings and didn’t know anyone who came to see her. So an ordinary conversation was not possible. But we could have a liturgical conversation. I could say “The Lord be with you” and she would respond and lower her head waiting for a prayer. The words of the 1928 BCP, beloved to her, flowed out of her. As a former member of a choir, I only had to begin a traditional hymn and she would be singing and smiling. Such were our visits, shaped by years of common words in common worship. God joining Helen and I together though she didn’t know me and wouldn’t remember my next visits, and I never knew the Helen her family and friends knew.

    Such is the hope of our worship. Not that our words and our structure is too fixed to allow room for the Holy Spirit, but that they are a gift of the Holy Spirit to be received to shape us to know deeply the Lord who loves us. But like our everyday greeting of “How are you” generating a response of “I’m fine” even though I just heard that my best friend is dying, sometimes rote responses are empty words. But even if we may not notice, the words the Spirit is given us are shaping us for the work ahead. Even if we are not slammed by the Spirit, the Spirit is here, in words and the actions of worship, helping to define us as the follower we are becoming.

    We should hear “The Lord be with you” not as an empty greeting to generate a prescribed response but as a deep desire from the one speaking them to you. We should hear “The Lord be with you” as a true statement. For God’s deep desire is to be with us. And so the Lord is with you. We should hear “The Lord be with you” as a hope of who we are becoming. In them we are being shaped, formed by the very words themselves. Hear them as words that define us being in God’s loving embrace.

    The reason that the Pharisee didn’t go home justified, or made right with God, is found in his words. Thank God I am not like other people. There is too much pride, too much self-centeredness. This man has earned God’s love and blessings because he follows the rules to the letter of the law. But we all know where pride leads. Words – “I am not like those….” sets us apart from the rest of God’s beloved. Such words are a log in our eye preventing us from seeing our true selves. For when we allow ourselves to see that we are as much fallen as everyone else, we are a step closer to setting down our defenses and allowing God to enter in. God can walk into even the smallest breach of our defenses, filling it with an overwhelming all powerful love that keeps us even in death. Defining who we are by whose we are is the better way than looking at another and seeing them as something less. Dishonest sacrifice is built on such. We cannot walk in love as Christ loves us with such a view of the world. We cannot say, “The Lord be with you” as anything other than words of judgement if we are defining the one to whom we are speaking as part of “those people.” We cannot offer the peace of God, if we are angry, mistrusting, hurt by another. We must offer the peace not as a nicety but as a hand extended in reconciliation and love.

    In worship and in life, there can be no defining of another as anything other than God’s beloved child, fallen and yet loved as we are as well. My friends, the world is harsh and unkind. We shouldn’t play along with the world but play in God’s garden. Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way, psalmist sings. Our souls should affirm Amen! Amen! So be it!  My friends, we are being shaped this morning for something better than we were yesterday, last week, last month. We are being known by the Holy One who knows us as no other can and accepts us as a beloved child. We are being fed by the living manna, the living bread of God’s body, a feeding which is the leaven for our soul to rise. In a world that wants the destination known before taking a step, we are being led to an unknown destination and can rejoice because of the one who walks with us. But if we believe that this is our doing, we are in danger of missing the shaping, the knowing, the feeding, the leading. But when we trust not in ourselves and what we can do to make things right – when we give ourselves, our souls and our bodies over to this who is God – sculptor, truth, source, beacon, then we become a participant in the way of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. And that is the way that the Lord is truly with us.

    Amen.