07/17/2022 ~ Sixth Sunday after Pentecost ~ Proper 11 ~ Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Genesis 18:1-10a; Psalm 15 ; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42 VIDEO OF FULL SERVICE: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7960701/video/731072570
“It was only recently that you heard of this hope when it was announced in the message of truth, in the word of truth, in the Gospel, in the Good News that has come to you, which has reached you and is bearing fruit, growing, spreading over the whole world.” — Colossians 1:5-6.
I am sure some of us at some point in time have been saddled with a nick-name, perhaps one we did not really want. I recently came across a picture of myself in which I was about ten years old. It reminded me that very early in life I was a towhead.
In fact, my hair was so white— not blond but white— I was often referred to as “Whitey.” The only thing I am not sure about is if the nick-name was a reference to Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher “Whitey” Ford, who was prominent then, or was a reference to my hair. But I suspect it was my hair since I rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Los Angeles Dodgers do not count. Only the Brooklyn Dodgers count. I’m old enough to have been to games at Ebbets Field; I’m sorry.
Of course, except for my beard, given my lack of hair today I don’t think whitey fits as a moniker any longer; perhaps baldy would work. On the other hand, I do have pictures of myself just after I was discharged from the Army and yes, my hairline was not great then either. Back then baldy might have also been the right nick-name.
I managed to pick up a different nick-name in my early 20s. It happened when I was working in the computer department of a major corporation. My boss and I had been trying to fix a problem for a couple of weeks when I finally figured out the solution.
Excited by this good news, I went dashing into his office. He was on the phone. I kept gesticulating and pointing to a sheaf of papers in my hand. He tried to ignore me. He turned to the wall. Rudely, I came to his side.
At that point he looked up and said, “Keep your shirt on Schwartz-ie.” Immediately I started to laugh. I laughed so hard had to walk out of the office. When he got off the phone, he waved me back in asked: “O.K. What was so important you had to interrupt me and why were you laughing so hard?”
First— and this was the good news I wanted to share— I explained I had solved the problem on which we had been working. Then, because I knew he had a sense of humor as warped as mine, I said I had a question before I explained why I was laughing. Had he just pulled the name Schwartz-ie out of thin air? He said, “Yes.”
“Well,” I said, “I laughed that hard because while my name is Connolly you could not have possibly known my Mother’s maiden name is Schwartz. And despite the fact that maiden name is Schwartz, she is more Irish than my Dad because his Mom is a Scott.”
Well, you know what happened then. Given his aforementioned warped sense of humor, he nick-named me Schwartz-ie and used it every chance he could. So I got that second nick-name and had it for years just because I was trying to share good news.
Good news— there is no doubt about this: we like to give good news; we like to spread good news, share good news. We also like to get good news; we are anxious to hear good news. (Slight pause.)
These words are in Colossians: “It was only recently that you heard of this hope when it was announced in the message of truth, in the word of truth, in the Gospel, in the Good News that has come to you, which has reached you and is bearing fruit, growing, spreading over the whole world.” (Slight pause.)
When this reading was introduced, it was said the blessing we hear is a run on sentence. The sentence goes on and on and on, even beyond where today’s reading ends.
I think this is simply Paul being effusive. But that does raise a deeper question. What is this “Good News” about which Paul is so effusive? There is a second question hiding in plain sight. Could it be that this Good News about which Paul is effusive is more complex than we commonly think? (Slight pause.)
I need to start by stating the obvious. Why? We who live in the early 21st Century, nearly 2,000 years after the New Testament was compiled, sometimes do not get or simply forget this simple concept. Paul was a Jew.
So, when Paul says there is (quote): “Good News” the Apostle to the Gentiles is not just or only referring to Jesus, isolating Jesus. When Paul says this is “Good News,” there is a connection being made. The connection is that this Good News is also a reference to Yahweh, God, the God of the Jewish people.
Indeed, that is part of why the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah is “Good News.” Jesus is the Messiah sent by God, this God of Israel. Or as we Christians proclaim, Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.
Now, that— the Trinity— three Persons, One God, is where this becomes a complex concept. So for a moment let’s think about it in a specific way. The Jewish faith is a monotheistic faith. Judaism says there is one God. The Moslem faith is a monotheistic faith. Islam says there is one God.
Christianity a monotheistic faith also. Christianity says there is One God. And yes, this sounds very technical but Christianity is different than the Jewish faith and the Islamic faith in this way: Christianity says there are three persons, One God.
The Christian proclamation, thereby, insists we are Trinitarian monotheists or monotheistic Trinitarians. The Trinity is central to the Christian proclamation.
And therefore, the Good News proclaimed by Paul, the Good News proclaimed the early Christians, the Good News proclaimed the Gospels, the Good News proclaimed by the Church says this: the reality of Jesus affirms the covenant made by this God who we claim as One God. And God, through the current reality of the presence of Jesus, God stands with us now and God stands with us throughout eternity.
And Jesus, this Second Person of the Trinity, is a reality and affirms the reality of this sign that God is with us. And that, my friends is the Good News about which we Christians can be excited. Perhaps can be even as excited as Paul— make a run on sentence occasionally.
That Jesus, this Second Person of the Trinity, is a sign to us that God is with us should strengthen our faith. It should increase an understanding that God loves us deeply and God wants us to love one another— yet something else about which be can be excited. Perhaps we can even be excited enough to, like Paul, share the Good News.
Why? This Good News proclaims, tells us the presence and the reality of Jesus means God is with us always. And yes, that God is with us always we are called to love all God’s people.
And I think this is Paul’s take on the Good News. Why do I think that? Why else would this Jewish man, Paul, who lived two millennia ago, be this excited? This was and this is Good News. Amen.
Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell, Maine
ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Benediction. This, then, is a précis of what the pastor said before the blessing: “Earlier I suggest we might even be excited enough by the Good News to, ourselves, share the Good News. I know— even if I did not say it I implied it— that is the frightening e-word— evangelism. But the real work of evangelism is simply to be friendly and invite other people into our midst and and welcome other people. The point is to share this community of faith. Guess what? Being friendly— that’s what evangelism really is and I’ll bet we can all be friendly.”
BENEDICTION: May the face of God shine upon us; may the peace of Christ be among us; may the fire of the Spirit burn within us as we scatter into the world. And may we love God so much, that we love nothing else too much. May we be so in awe of God, that we are in awe of no one else and nothing else. Amen.