Sermon for Proper 7, Year A (Track 2) June 25, 2017

“What I say to you in the dark,” Jesus says, “tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

When I read this verse in today’s Gospel I remembered a book I had read many, many years ago by a psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, titled, People of the Lie.  As I remember it, it was a book about evil, and in it he talked about how evil does not like the light of day.  That is why, he suggested, that people tend to sin after dark, when others cannot see what they are doing.  I’ve heard people in law enforcement, say that nothing good happens after midnight.

I do know that in my past, the things I have done that I have regretted, the things that I don’t want others to know about – are the sins that I wish to kept hidden in the shadows of my life.  If I do share them with others, I certainly don’t want to do it from here, the pulpit, where everyone will know what I have done.

What Jesus is suggesting is, I believe, is for us to live our lives in such a way that we don’t mind if what we do is proclaimed from the housetops.  Jesus may have been able to do so, but I have not.  In addition to feeling ashamed of some of what I done in my life, I struggle at various times with people who make my life difficult by saying things about me that are not true.  I have certainly made enough mistakes on my own that I don’t need anyone adding to my personal list of sins.

Peck suggests that some of the people who spread rumors are evil.  Everyone says things they should not, but some people do so to purposely disrupt the lives of others.  This is evil. The most effective way to combat evil in others, he says, is to confront it.  By confronting it, we shine a light on it and that light drives out the darkness.

We can do this, Peck tells us, by saying to the person, “I heard you said that I [whatever].”  People who have been whispering falsehoods tend not only to deny it, they do tend to stop doing so when their lies are exposed.  We may not like confrontations, but confrontations need not be hostile interactions.  We do not have to state what we heard in anger, we can simply tell them what we heard, then offer clarification.

Too often, we wait until we are angry to confront someone. People tend to respond to anger with anger.  So, Peck says that we need to confront, confront, confront.  Knowing they will be challenged, causes people who spread rumors to stop doing so – at least about those who confront them.

After reading what Peck suggested, I tried it and I found that it works.  Peck did not, however, talk about the need we have to do confront ourselves over and over again.  This is where, for me, I have found that regular confession – in our worship –  has changed me.   It not only helps me to accept that I, too, am sinful, it helps me to confront others without being so judgmental.

And, when I acknowledge my own sinfulness, it enables me to proclaim even louder the good news that God loves us and God forgives us.  We need not be ashamed of our past when we have repented and turned back to God.  Having done so, is not a once and done activity, however.  We do, unfortunately, tend to repeat our mistakes and need to ask for forgiveness and repent again and again.  We are not, after all Jesus.

Still, as we seek to serve God, loving and helping others, we do find that we can be the body of Christ to others in need.  That is what the church is about.  Here, we seek to help one another through the struggles we all face.  We seek to become better people.

This past week there were two events in which I witnessed our members demonstrating this.  The first, much to my surprise and pleasure, was Pub Theology.  Not only did we have a tremendous response to my invitation to come to our first offering of Pub Theology, I was very pleased that our waitress said we tipped well.

The wait staff at restaurants are paid less than $3.00 an hour, closer to $2.00 an hour.   They live off of tips – and I was proud to hear that, although we were disruptive, with nearly twice as many people showing up as I had prepared them for – they were left with the impression that Episcopalians are generous.  Generosity is, I believe, a reflection of the love of God we have received.

The second event, in which I witness the love of God displayed by our members, was the Shrimp Dinner.  Not only did we bring in a tremendous number of people and serve them a wonderful meal – the proceeds went to support the backpack program.  It was a wonderful experience for me to see you in action.  I meet so many people from St. Paul’s and our community – and what happened in that evening can and should be shouted from the housetops.

What a wonderful example of how we can live our lives enjoying the gifts we have received while giving a portion of it back to serve God by ensuring the children of God are feed.  Fellowship and mission – what a wonderful combination!

I am so pleased and proud of St. Paul’s and its ministries.  There are people here, who are faithful in their prayers and there are so many who have a heart for doing what St. Francis taught, “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.”  Which is to say, share the gospel through our generosity, hospitality, fellowship, and through our acts of kindness.  Actions do speak louder than words.

Let us pray.

Loving and gracious God, you are the source of light, shine your love upon us that our lives might drive out the darkness of despair and we might be the body of Christ in this community. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.