As I begin this blog, I attempt to make no assumptions about who might or might not read these posts. I’ve learned how easy it is to fall into the thought patterns of “I’m leading worship in an Episcopal church and these wonderful folks are sitting in Episcopal pews, singing songs from the Episcopal hymnal, and worshiping God using the forms in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, surely they know all the Episcopal lingo and the way we do things around here.” And, I’ve learned that people who’ve been members of the Episcopal Church their whole lives do not always know the “method to our madness.”
So, let me briefly (I’m not really good at ‘brief,’ just ask my husband) explain some things before I get into the heart of this post.
The scriptures that we read each Sunday are provided by the Revised Common Lectionary* , a published schedule of lections (aka scripture passages or lessons) used in many mainline Protestant churches*. The lessons follow the Church seasons and rotate on a three year cycle. On any given Sunday, in most every Episcopal Church (and all others who use the RCL), you will hear the same lessons read and preached on.
I always say the RCL is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it keeps me as a priest from bringing my agenda to the worship service – I don’t get to pick scripture for my own message or benefit. And, I am regularly awed at how the living nature of scripture brings the right words from God necessary to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is a curse because, honestly, there are weeks when I just can’t hear what God wants me to say through the given passage and I struggle to prepare and I’m fairly certain that this is my own stuffed up ears rather than God’s silence and since this has tremendous growth potential for me, I guess it really is a blessing rather than a curse. (Sorry, got side-tracked for a bit. Let’s move on. We can talk about stuffed up ears another time.)
So, back to the blessing part. As I continue in the recovery journey of being told “stop turning everything into a Sunday School lesson” and “leave God out of this” (which yes, includes looking at my own behaviors to ask what could I have done differently), I looked at today’s RCL lessons and – voila!
We hear Paul saying** ,
“For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
And we hear Jesus saying*** ,
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Humbling words. Grounding words. Comforting words. Orienting words. Motivating words.
As we continually seek to live what we profess in our worship, we must always remember that it is God’s message we are to live, not our own. Jesus gives each of us the invitation “Follow Me” because he wants us to know God’s love for us so that we can learn to love better. When we stand confidently in this Good News, we will share it by the way we live, and sometimes even with our words.
In my ordination to the priesthood, I was asked by the Bishop (among many other things. See the BCP beginning on page 525), “Will you do your best to pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?” And I answered, “I will.”
In the Baptismal service we are all asked (among many other things, see the BCP beginning on page 299), “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” And “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And we all answer, “I will with God’s help.”
Sometimes doing our best with God’s help to live what Jesus teaches makes us the least popular person in the room. Sometimes living Sunday School isn’t always the most convenient choice. We pay a price whether we choose to stand with what Jesus teaches or not; every choice we make has consequences, good or bad, direct or indirect, immediate or delayed. And, we know that when we get sidetracked or distracted, that Jesus will always welcome us back with grace-filled compassion, teaching us to love as God loves.
I’m so grateful you are on this Living Sunday School journey with me.
*If you’d like to know more about the RCL, here’s a good resource: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/faq2.php
**Verses 3&4 from the reading 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
***Verses 37-40 from the reading Matthew 22:34-46