This past Sunday, Leigh’s sermon was based on Lectionary readings for the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany: Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; and Matthew 4:12-23. The main idea was to explore the epiphany of how God has chosen us to be His emissaries/ambassadors and what that means for us as a community of faith.
It centers on the realization that the Church – God’s community – is truly a revelation that could only have come from Him. English writer Dorothy L. Sayers previously described how God went through “three great humiliations” in His pursuit of humanity:
- The first was the Incarnation, when Jesus took on human flesh and became like us.
- The second was the Cross, where He died a shameful and painful death.
- And the third, was the Church, “when God entrusted his reputation to ordinary — sometimes very ordinary — people.
That’s the “aha” moment, the epiphany – that Jesus would call out to us still, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19); in spite of who we are and what we are like, individually and collectively.
Hence, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT: WHEN YOU REALIZE JESUS CALLED YOU AND I (and meant it).
Leigh’s slides are here:
Or if you’d like to listen to the sermon accompanied by the slides, here it is (please forgive the audio quality):
And this is the poem Leigh read out at the end, which was inspired by a quote commonly attributed to, but unverified to be said by, St. Augustine of Hippo: “The church is a whore, but she is my mother”.
Over on the dirty side of town glimpsed between the red flashes of “don’t walk”
And barely visible through the steam spewing off of street drains
Leaned up against the neon sign of a pawn shop is a prostitute
Whose mother was a prostitute
Whose grandmother was a prostitute
Whose great-grandmother was a prostitute back
As far as they can recall
And she’s wearing the hand-me down wedding dress that fits her a little too well
And if you go down the right alleyways
You’ll find her prayers stenciled onto liquor shops like brick wall communiqués
Up to the ears of a still-listening God go her graffiti apologies
Confessions so painful they can’t be pretend
They get more vulgar until you reach the alley’s end
Where they run out of room and start climbing up the wall,
Climbing up and up and up until they turn into steeples
The spray paint colors into stained glass windows
Forming a sanctuary whose doors don’t close
She strides inside and waits at the altar in white clothes
And who should reverse the customary process and approach as her groom?
None, but a ruler whose purple train fills the entire room
How backward to see this promiscuous harlot married to a king
But as she mouths her vows
They resound as forgiveness hymns she sings
In the pews made of cigarette butts and beer cans
Every hard-backed row built by her own hands
Sits a throng of witnesses
And all of them can see she doesn’t deserve His graces
Their sense of justice so violated
It can’t be controlled,
That their arms are crossed like origami waiting to unfold
In objection to this unholy marriage
As they ask themselves who gave her the privilege
At this alter she doesn’t have a right to be
“But,” she says, “He proposed to me.”
And wedding wine never tasted so good
Full forgiveness flavored finer than it should
He leans down with a kiss on her brow
She tilts her weary head down
And feels the weight of a holy crown
Etchings along the inside
Read: “Child and Bride, In You I Abide”
And with whisper in her ear He is repeating over and over
I love you I love you I love you I love you
I love you…
The congregation cheers and rises,
But from the street outside the open doors of the shabby-made cathedral
A shout across the crowd breaks the joyous celebration
A man cursing as he swore
“You can’t hear the gospel from a whore!”
But in walked two daughters and then in walked a son
They placed their hands on the man with a smile and said,
“I and my mother one.”
As performed by the artist:
As performed by the artist’s dad!