The Big Picture


The sermon is a bit short today - we had to keep things moving at St. Paul's because we had a concert this afternoon.  It was the inaugural event of the St. Paul's Music Education Program.  One aspect of the program is a world music concert series - a way of reaching out to and celebrating our richly diverse neighborhood!

Today we had a concert of West African drumming, singing, and dancing.  It was a spectacular event!

For pictures and video clips CLICK HERE 

Epiphany 6A
Matthew 5:21-37

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Perhaps we can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes we’re so lost in all the details that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

One of the roles that faith plays in our lives - and not just for Christians, I think, but for all people of faith - is that it helps us to see a bigger picture than we would otherwise be seeing. It takes us beyond our singular expressions and experiences of ourselves and points us to something bigger - God, community, love, relationships…

But even in the face of this prevailing lure, sometimes our humanity takes over. Sometimes our propensity for getting lost in the details wins out over the lure of God to help us to see more.

I hear this in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. Paul planted. Apollos watered. And while both of those are admirable tasks, they’re both mere details in comparison to the growth - growth which could only come from God.

The gospel lesson for today can be one of those that clergy nowadays might have a bit of trouble preaching.

The most glaring problem is certainly the condemnation of divorce. While nearly everyone would agree that the death of a marriage is something to be mourned, many of us also recognize that there are times when even that sadness is the healthiest thing for everyone involved. Though we know that marriage is a sacred covenant between two people and God, and that it should be protected from assaults, most of us also know that sometimes reality gets in the way of the ideal. Sometimes the dissolution of the covenant is necessary.

But even beyond that - for those of us who aren’t married or divorced - the Gospel lesson today gives words to challenge all of us. While most of us can handle the commandment not to murder, Jesus tells us we shouldn’t even become angry with anyone. It’s not enough not to cheat on your spouse, you shouldn’t even allow the idea to enter your head! And it’s not just that we are not to swear falsely, but that we aren’t even to swear the truth!

This is the kind of biblical passage through which we often find ourselves becoming lost in the details. It can be easy to see these words as a kind of checklist - this is what it takes to be the people of Christ.

But the message is bigger than a mere checklist could convey. We must be careful not to miss the forest for the trees.

Jesus is telling us that whatever we thought it meant to be faithful, we should assume that it’s more. Think about when you think you’re giving enough. Then give more.

That’s what it takes to be a part of the body of Christ. That’s what it takes to be in community.

For the past few weeks we’ve thinking about what it means to be a part of this community. We’ve talked about the emerging mission of the parish - and the ways we’d like to focus our ministry in this community. We’ve talked about the light that lives within each of us, and our calling to put it out there for everyone to see.

But throughout all of that - as we grow into the people that God is calling us to be - I pray that we never lose sight of the bigger picture. I pray that we never get lost in tasks and projects - the planting and the watering (as noble as they are) - at the expense of living our lives in joyous gratitude to God: the source of our growth.

So much of our life as a church can feel like it’s wrapped up in checklists. But our faith is bigger. Our God is bigger. And while we all give a lot - of our time and talents and treasures - God is calling us to more. Just when we think we’ve done enough, or given enough, of spent enough time and energy - that’s when it’s time to really see what we’re made of. That’s when it’s time to let our light shine.

That’s when the planting and the watering will start to show growth. And not just in the church, but in our lives as people of faith. Amen.


Point well made and well taken, Jon. A wise pastoral message.