Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
Fling wide your gates, O Zion; your Savior’s rule embrace.
His tidings of salvation proclaim in every place.
All lands will bow before him, their voices will adore him.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name.
– Stanza 3 from “Prepare the way, O Zion” by Frans Mikael Franén, 1812
To follow Christ requires unconditionally turning your life over to serving in God’s name. This is a difficult thing to do! In our modern society, it is easy to idolize possessions and be distracted with our own desires and lives. To truly follow Christ, it is important to regularly return to God’s word and meditate on what serving God and following Christ means to you. It is not one size fits all. Every person is different. Think about how you might best serve Christ in your life. How can you embrace Christ’s rule in your life?
Christ brings God’s rule, O Zion; he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.
Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name.
– Stanza 2 from “Prepare the way, O Zion” by Frans Mikael Franén, 1812
Many people feel animosity toward the Church (the institution) because so many churches (congregations of people) are hypocritical in their actions. Some may preach the Gospel of peace and love, and talk about helping the poor and needy, yet they may they may not practice what they preach. It is so easy to judge other people for their lack of ability to exemplify exactly what they believe. But following Christ is a journey, and we humans will never be able to perfectly live up to the life Christ calls us to. It is with faith, diligence, meditation, and in a community of supporters and believers that we may more fully become what Christ calls us to be. This Advent, think about how you might be a more faithful follower of Christ. Let the hope of the coming of Emmanuel (God is with us) bring a new vigor for your faith and commitment to God’s word!
Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby. I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle, but I can no longer justify a society that allows concealed handguns in schools and on the streets or that allows people other than military and police to buy assault weapons or that lets people get around existing gun laws by selling weapons to people without background checks at gun shows. As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. The cross is the sign and the seal of that obligation. And we know both from faith and experience that the cross is mightier than the gun. The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.
–Excerpt from a sermon (in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut) from Sunday, December 16, 2012 by the Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral. Inspired by the Lectionary reading from Luke 3:7-18.
the italicized stanzas below are not sung in this version
The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love He sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and O what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house for ever.
Words: Henry William Baker (1868), paraphrase of Psalm 23
Music: Clark Kimberling
–This version was recorded on the eighth Sunday after Pentecost (July 22, 2012) during the 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Louisville, KY. Sung by Michael Purintun (tenor) and Michael Seewer (baritone).