King of Glory (The Rev. Dr. Richard P.


5 Easter Year C 2013 RCL Acts 11:1-18 Psalm 148 Laudate Dominum Revelation 21:1-6 John 13:31-35 “King of glory, King of peace, I will love thee ... Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee ... “ [Hymn 382]. Those words, which we all sang before the Gospel are from George Herbert’s famous hymn General Seminary. Which, of course, is the signature hymn of The General Seminary of the Episcopal Church. General, as we who are its alumni call it, has two signature hymns, the other one is hymn 521— the tune is “Chelsea Square” and the words begin “Put forth, O God, thy Spirit’s might and bid thy church increase.” And thus armed with those two tear-jerking hymns, a knowledge of scripture, and the love of God have legions of priests been sent forth into the Episcopal Church from New York’s Chelsea neighborhood since its founding in 1817. (Historians among you will note that I took chronological liberty here—those hymns are 20th century compositions—but remember, for God a thousand years are but an instant.) It is of no little consequence that the seminary rests on land given by Clement Moore who wrote “The Night Before Christmas” back when that land was his apple orchard. It is also of importance that all postulants for holy orders on arriving at General, take part in a service of commitment on their first Michaelmas and sign a book that every priest has signed since 1817. It is a terrifying moment. And yet it is a holy moment to walk down that aisle all eyes on you and sign that book. As though you somehow have signed your own name in God’s own book of revelation. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” [Revelation 21:1]. Once you have signed that book, it is as though your life before has vanished in an instant. The life you now have is new and different and that is only the beginning. Because life with God is a life of constant renewal and challenge and change. God says “See, I am making all things new.” And God means it! it is the truth in every moment, that God always is making everything new. Why would a king of glory, make change the only constant? Well, because, glory is the accumulation of all energy that lets us mortals know that God is present. God is present. And constant change is how we know it. You see, the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ— the Gospel-- is salvation for all through equality and justice for all of God’s creation. And those two things, equality and justice, in order to be constant, require constant human growth and change. People, as you know, do not really like equality much. We mostly prefer to think of ourselves as better. Better than what is of no consequence, we never get that far in our thinking. We just know, each of us individually, that we are better. I suppose some of it comes from our upbringing, Mommy always tells you that you are special. And if you believe that then you grow up to think that you are special. Special means, you are better. So, that means you can go first, you never have to wait, you get all of the attention you never have to share, you get all of the best things, why not? You, after all, are special. When you go to church you then learn that you are made in God’s image. That’s got to be pretty special. Well, you catch my drift. This story we heard from the Acts of the Apostles is a bit of the New Testament that

probably is really historical. The wording is wonderful. For instance, the first clause refers to “the apostles and the believers.” I was so suspicious that there should be a difference between apostles and believers that I got out my old Greek New Testament. What do you know, that is not what Luke wrote at all .... Luke wrote “apostles and brothers”— adelphoi— now, there is a rich word. It means they were believers, but more than that it means that they were siblings in believing. So it means that by believing they were people who had become also and together children of God. Like you and me. Not different from the apostles, but distinctive enough to have their own word in Greek. Then there is this telling of Peter’s vision of a big sheet. Well, that makes no sense to our ears. Turns out it was something like a bandanna. You know recently my watch battery quit working. I went over to 8th street to try to find the watch shop where I last got a battery. I found the wrong place, apparently. While I was waiting a scruffy sort of fellow came in and threw two wadded up bandannas on the counter. They were full of jewelry, of a sort. He wanted cash for his ... umm, discoveries. He unwadded the bandannas, and in the center of each were earrings and rings and one gold watch and a bracelet and a necklace ... The keen woman running the place offered him $30. He wanted $50 after a couple of rounds he left with his “found” goods. Well, that’s Philadelphia for you. But those wadded up bandannas, that is what Peter’s vision looked like. And when the corners were opened, on the bandannas Peter could see all of creation. I quote: “four footed beasts ofthe earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and fowl of the air.” But then the clincher comes. And this story is told twice in the Acts of the Apostles: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Three times. Suddenly the bandannas vanish—poof! In their place three men arrive with their six brothers. They say they were just regular guys hanging out when an angel told them to go to Joppa to find Peter. So, here they all are, three regular guys and Peter the apostle. (You know, if you’re a reader of the synoptic Gospels you will know that Peter was just a regular guy, with a leaky boat and a sick mother-in-law.) Peter starts his stump speech, a sermon really, about how for all who believe in Jesus there is eternal life. And suddenly Peter sees the three men’s heads on fire, just like on the day of Pentecost. And the little voice in Peter’s head says “Dude, this is the Holy Spirit!” Indeed, John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit. Peter announces to the crowd words you might have heard some time in your life, along the lines of what God has put together let no human tear asunder. Equality. Justice. Righteousness. Jesus, gave us the only commandment, he called it the new commandment. “Love one another.” That’s it. No other judgment is available. Nobody is more special than this. The only commandment that matters is that you should love one another. What God has made clean you must not call profane. Love one another. That is the way to justice equality, righteousness, glory and peace. You know it is not in scripture, but it is said that John, who was the only apostle who was not martyred but lived a long life on Patmos, said until his last day “just love one another.” So my adelphoi— my brothers and sisters in Christ— change is our constant. In our hearts and souls and minds the love of God requires us to give constant attention to equality and justice. And that means that we must constantly be making all things new. Because God’s glory, God’s presence among us, requires it. God’s glory—which is that joy that overwhelms you when your child laughs with glee; which is that warmth that

heals you when you grasp the hand of the one you love—God’s glory requires constant renewal. And that requires you to love one another. Amen.

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