The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: November 11, 2018
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
On the surface, Jesus’ talk of tithing in the temple seems like an intentional nudge by our stewardship committee to turn in your pledge (if you didn’t already!).
But I think there’s more to this gospel teaching than money. Jesus calls his disciples to go deeper – to look beneath the surface of things.
Like the disciples, we might be tempted to judge things at face value. Our culture teaches us to see more as the greater value. More money, more power, more success, more possessions…
But Jesus invites us to go deeper beneath the surface, and see that less can sometimes be the greater gift.
If we have the courage to go deeper, deeper within ourselves, deeper with others, deeper into God, we encounter the deeper currents that flow through each of us. Some of the currents flow to shallow places of pride, hatred, fear, or violence. Other currents flow deeper into God and lead to a place of blessing, healing, wholeness, and connection.
Going deeper, we learn to note and navigate these various currents and encounter the life we were born to live. This is what it means to live into and practice the Christian faith.
Today, we have the joy of welcoming new members into the Christian family through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. As we renew our own baptismal vows, we hear again Jesus’ call to go deeper into new life, deeper into letting go, deeper into God “to recover the humanity that God first intended (and always desires for us!).”
In Jesus’ own time, baptisms often happened in a river. The life of a river begins as a tiny trickle on a mountaintop and ends as a mighty roaring current flowing to the depths of the sea. Wherever water flows, it brings life and moves to the deeper places. These bodies of water connect to all life calling together and refreshing the beloved community of Creation. A river’s journey is not always the most direct; its path slowly carved through rock not by force, but by persistence and perseverance.
Like the river, our own spiritual journeys bring life and move us to reflect on the deeper places. They connect us to community and refresh us in periods of dryness and desolation. The spiritual life is not always the most direct, but with persistence and perseverance, one encounters deeper joy, peace, and resilience.
Have any of you ever picked up a rock from a river? Unlike other rocks, river rocks are smooth and polished — there are no sharp edges because they have been immersed in the constant flow of the river. A rock becomes a river rock not by water alone…but from the rough jagged pieces of other rocks that break away and flow over it. A river rock isn’t born a river rock; it is polished and made smooth by being in community.
The same is true for us.
Baptism calls us deeper into the flow of God’s grace, to immerse our whole selves in beloved community – even the difficult, painful edges – so that together we may become living waters of blessing, transformation, renewal.
All of us have rough, jagged, painful edges that sorely need to feel safe, to be loved, to find a home. Baptism reminds us to bring our edgy, painful parts to God in community…as much if not more than our smooth polished faces.
What hard, jagged, painful edges do you bring to the water today? What needs hollowing out, or holying out by God’s grace in our world? Where do we need to go deeper beneath the surface?
The divisions in our country that breed hate speech and violence. Anti-semitism and racism. Sexual abuse of men, women, and children. Fear and ignorance that block compassion and blind us to honoring the image of God in every person.
Take a moment to bring those hard, jagged, painful edges to the living waters of God in this community. Offer them up silently or aloud…
Bringing the depths of who we are carves pathways of guilt into pathways of growth and amendment of life. Bringing the depths of who we are makes pathways of suffering pathways of healing and empowerment.
In letting go of our painful, jagged edges, we wear away each other’s edginess. In letting go we are free to be the beloved community of smooth, polished stones that God intends. Amen.
 Being Christian by Rowan Williams.