August 5 2018
READINGS: Psalm: 51: 1-12 ~ Ephesians 4:1-16 ~ John 6:24-35
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit Amen.
As we gather this morning in the dog days of summer I am certain you are wondering why on God’s green earth would we meditate on a petitionary psalm, used every Ash Wednesday, used on Ash Wednesday- a psalm directed to God, acknowledging our need for Him, our need to be reoriented along the pathways he would have us follow.
This psalm is seen as arising from the mouth of the great King David, following the unmasking of his part in the taking the life of Uriah the Hittites beloved Bathsheba for himself and indeed the life of Uriah, in order that David might have her all to himself. One imagines Bathsheba to be quite the vixen, a temptation that even David could not ignore. She causes him to engage in duplicitous behaviour and sin against God, because he used to taking any thing and anyone he wants. He is used to being King. That is what kings do. Kings are entitled.
It is safe to say in his despicable acts of violence, David finds himself separated in the most severe way, from the God who gave him every thing and more than he deserved. Even though God has already given David a great deal, David feels he must take even more than God provides.
This Psalm is a liturgical guide as to how we must approach God at those times when we have failed to live up to the demands and expectations which are placed in front of those who must acknowledge their downfalls and learn how to approach God. It is an expression of a desire for the restoration of our relationship with God.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit
The point I wish to make is that this Psalm presents a powerful and sustained confession of guilt that evolves into a plea for divine deliverance. A plea we all need more often than we care to admit.
We all know that evil is not something that is easily fixed. Sin is what happens as part of living on this earth. It is the dirt and the dust and the grime which ultimately falls upon us every single day.
It is God’s work to wash, cleanse, and purge us in order for it to blotted out. It is part of God’s steadfast love for all of us to see that we are made clean again.
Whatever one might say about the Great King David, he like everyone else accumulated his fair share of dirt dust and grime and was in constant need of being washed and cleansed by the God who loved him and so are all of us here today.
I think it was CS Lewis who said that churches are nothing more than schools for sinners. Personally I am happy to part of that motely crew of God’s household who stands in need of a good scrub down every once in a while.
There’s nothing more purifying than a long hot bath to make things right again, don’t you think. There’s nothing more purifying than being here in this place, focusing on God, and reminding yourself of what has happened and what needs to be changed in your life.
There is nothing more purifying to me, than reading from the scriptures, learning and being reminded about God’s love for his people, even as they sin. There is nothing more purifying than remembering what God has done for us in giving us Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who is the propitiation for our sins. Love and forgiveness are found each week as we celebrate the Great Thanksgiving which commemorates what God has done for us in sending us Jesus the Christ. God’s unconditional love for us sinners is found in the person of Jesus.
The household of God of which we are all a part finds its place here in the reality of this town, along the river banks of the Mississippi River, in a building constructed by our ancestors. It has long been a place of regular worship, prayer and drawing near to God, a place where we find cleansing and renewal, a place where God draws near to his people. By being here today we are acknowledging we are part of the household of God.
But even God’s household needs renewal from time to time. This morning, we find ourselves amidst the turmoil of renewal and regeneration of the physical space. I think we will be better for it once it has been accomplished. But for now we are here and we must be patiently waiting.
Next week we will be engaging in a process of discernment and consensus building around the work that needs to be done to prevent the rectory from falling down around our ears.
The work that must be done to maintain the structures, if we ever hope to have someone else call this place their spiritual home. It has always meant to be a place where we can come to realign our thoughts with God’s and be redeemed from those things which separate us from God.
If this is not the sacred, holy place where this sort of thing happens, then one might conclude they are historic Gothic structures sitting beside the Mississippi River, a nod to our long past Christian heritage that no longer exists.
A useless tool if you will. Not what we want for our buildings, I don’t think. I think our rectory is not a useless tool, but a resource for Christian mission in this town.
As we head into the vestry next Sunday we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that the purpose of our buildings is for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, its purpose, is for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God… to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Buildings are the form which helps the household of God performs that function.
Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head. Even with respect to our buildings, we are to always be thinking about being Christ Centred and because the community of the Church is the body of Christ, we must think about what is best for the body over all, even when it may not be necessarily all that great for certain members.
Ephesians points out that there are a diversity of individual gifts but they can only be true gifts if they are used for the good of the whole and to equip the ministry of the whole. The word equip comes from its Greek understanding, meaning to restore, to create and to prepare. To grow in one’s ministry is to align oneself with God’s intentions, individually and as a group.
I remind you what Paul would like us to keep in mind for our special vestry next week,” There is One Spirit, one Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all.
Our buildings, the infrastructure which God has given to us is the means by which the community of faith are schooled in the ways and means by which these sentiments can be made known in all believers. These buildings are the classrooms by which we come to know God in the person of Jesus Christ. Amen.