6 Pentecost

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your Word, O Lord, is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path.  In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today is an unusual Sunday.  Unusual in that this Sunday falls on an important national and secular holiday – the celebration of American Independence Day.  Our church, The Episcopal Church has a peculiar history in relation to the fight for America’s independence from England; for our church, up until 1782, was the Church of England in the American Colonies.  Church of England priests, at their ordination, make a vow of loyalty to the king and most of the large churches in the American Colonies were established with land and money given by the King of England.  In 5 of the original 13 Colonies everyone paid a tax to support their local Church of England parish, whether they attended that church or not.  During the Revolutionary War the Church of England was the church of the enemy; some of the priests broke their oath of loyalty to the King and supported the fight for independence, but the vast majority did not. 

It was a frightening and confusing time in the life of our country and in the life of our church.  When all the fighting was over and peace was declared in 1782, a new country, The United States of America was born, but the Church of England in the American Colonies was dead.  After the war, most of the clergy fled to England or Canada, including most notably, the Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street.  In Pennsylvania all of the clergy except one left for England.  There was no bishop in the new country to ordain more priests and there was deep dissention among the congregations that were left as to what course of action to take.  We may think that our church is in some confusion and division today with issues of homosexuality and ordination, immigration, prayerbook reform and the like, but these problem and issues are small compared to what our church faced at the end of the Revolutionary War.  We almost ceased to exist as a church.

In early 1782 a group of 10 clergymen gathered in South Carolina and proposed a new name for the Church of England in the America; The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.  A small group of clergy also met in the same year in Connecticut and proposed sending one of their number to Scotland to be consecrated a bishop by the Scottish bishops, and so Samuel Seabury became the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.  New priests were ordained, the prayers for the King of England taken out of the Prayerbook and a new chapter in the churches life was begun.  The desire to keep spreading the gospel message of Jesus Christ was great in the newly named church, and the wish to keep worshipping God in the beauty and power of the Book of Common Prayer was strong.  They found a way through the difficulties and divisions they faced and held onto those things they felt were most important to the true worship of God.

Today’s gospel lesson shows Jesus empowering 70 of his followers to go out and preach the good news that “the Kingdom of God has come near to you”.  These followers are to travel simply – no shoes, no pack, no staff.  Completely dependant on God for their protection and sustenance; as helpless lambs in the midst of hungry wolves.  Their message was simple, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  In other words, “wake up! God is with you and knows all that you do, good and bad.  Choose the good and repent of the bad that you do.  The time of decision is near, get ready.” 

It must have been frightening for those 70 people. Yes, Jesus gave them powers over evil spirits and sickness, but still it took a lot of courage and faith to begin walking on that journey.  They were to seek out people, not of power or wealth, but of peace.  As the scripture in its original language says, “children of peace”.  The good news of the Kingdom of God is to be spread through people of peace. 

What an amazing notion; it is peace, not the sword, not conquest, not force, that will usher in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdoms of the Earth work very differently; political will and physical force are the tools to conquer and force another to our will and way of thinking.  God does not use force to bend us to his will, but gently, peacefully leads us toward him.  In a world where people have been harmed and killed supposedly in God’s name, it is good to remember that God works through people of peace, bringing about the Kingdom of God through children of peace.

My prayer for you this day is to be peaceful, filled with God’s peace.  At peace within yourselves and at peace in your families and your neighbors.  Pray for peace in our world, in our nation and in our church.  Be the “children of peace” who help to bring in the Kingdom of God.