03 December 2008

St. Matthew's Feast - Sermon

St. Matthew’s Feast

Proverbs 3: 13-18

Preached 21 September 2008

St. Luke's, Burlington

By Stuart Pike

Our lives are full of noise and busy-ness. Sometimes our lives become so packed with noise and bother that we forget to be human.

One of my Aunts is a jovial, fun-loving person who generally gets along with everyone. She is hospitable, generous to a fault and very competent in anything she wants to do, especially when it comes to making people comfortable and welcome in her home. She is a people person. She loves to laugh and to make her guests laugh too.

But there’s another aspect to her personality. She’s a pilot. In fact she has been a pilot for the last 60 years or so, getting her private pilot’s license as a girl before she even got her driving license. This detail of her life perhaps displays a precision and quickness that one might not immediately perceive for all her good humour and friendliness. She knows the right way to do things and does them. This makes her an excellent pilot and also an excellent driver.

Perhaps it is this precise and competent part of her mind which leads to her greatest vexation when it comes to people. She cannot stand poor or discourteous drivers. They drive her nuts. She finds that the drivers get worse the closer you get to a big city, like, ...say, Toronto.

This reminds me of the story of a woman listening, with alarm, to the radio reporting a very dangerous driver on highway 400 approaching the 401. She was alarmed because she knew that her husband would, just at this moment, be traveling in that area, and he never listened to the radio. So she calls him on the cell phone and says, “Be very careful, the radio says there’s an idiot driving the wrong way on the 400.”

“One idiot”, he says, “there’s hundreds of them.”

In any case getting back to my aunt, she was relating to us how she was once so annoyed with one careless driver and she wanted to let him know that she was really ticked off. She knew that there was a rude sign which younger people used these days, but being such an affable and fun loving and respectable person, she didn’t know which finger to use, so she simply glared at him and gave him the thumb! Which, when you think about it, is really quite a demented image.

The main point is that all of us, no matter how kind and personable we are, find ourselves in situations when other people become annoyances. When they just become noise and bother. At these times, other people seem to lose their human quality in our eyes. And, sadly, we lose our human nature as well.

Some people’s lives are filled with desperate moments like this. Sometimes it has to do with their work, which doesn’t fulfill them, or, worse yet, is dehumanizing in itself. Sometimes it is because our lives get so busy that we forget to be present to the holy miracle which is in the present at every moment: the miracle of life in all its fullness which is always being contained in God’s creative force. We can forget that so easily and simply live on the surface of life, feeling rushed and bothered and annoyed, and lacking any depth.

I can imagine that Matthew, the tax collector, probably lived much of his life like that. He was a publican. These were locals which the Roman Empire hired to be bureaucrats for their governmental system. His job as tax collector meant almost certainly that he was profiting greatly from his own people. He would have been absolutely hated by his fellow Jews. His job was dehumanizing him, and probably, after living this desperate life for some time, people had simply become objects to him as well. Perhaps he saw them only as sources of greater riches to him. So Matthew was probably very wealthy and also, at the deepest level of his soul, very miserable.

What was it about Jesus which cut through all the surface realities and brought people out of shallowness to depth and grace in a single moment? Was it a sense of authority that he carried? What was the tone of his voice? What was the clarity of his gaze? We don’t know.

But what we do know is that Jesus speaks the words, “Follow me” to Matthew and he just drops everything, not even stopping to close the till or shut down the computer. It is almost the same reaction which he earlier received from the brothers who were fishing at the lake.

Jesus completely changed their lives and returned them to depth and meaning. Not only did their lives have meaning, but other people became meaningful to them once again.

Now it seems like such a short time ago, in early July: there I was, minding my own business and living my busy life at. St. Andrew’s in Grimsby, when I had a call confirmed by St. Luke’s parochial committee and a whole new whirlwind of busy-ness started up for me and my family.

If I thought it was busy in Grimsby, which is just a little town with perhaps 15 traffic lights in it, I didn’t know what was soon going to hit me. Now we live in a City full of people - with seemingly thirty thousand traffic lights and people in fast motion rushing by, living their busy lives.

It can sometimes seem overwhelming to experience the sheer quantity of people and their noise and yes, sometimes their driving habits. But then I remember that each person is created and loved by God. God has a purpose for their life, just like for our life. God has a call for us, and there are moments when the noise and busy-ness and bother stops and we can hear Jesus calling: “follow me.”, and our lives change. I stop and marvel at the promise which is contained in each person I see.

Today, my first Sunday in this new parish, I want to take the time to give thanks to Jesus who calls each of us, and to be aware of the great promise that is here in this moment as you, the people of St. Luke’s and I begin in ministry together.

And do stop and listen for Jesus’ words even at the busiest moments of your day. I don’t know what Jesus will sound like or look like, but you’ll recognize his call.

I’d like to close by quoting the marvelous words written by an unknown author and put to music by Marc SIrrett of Kingston, Ontario.

Thou shalt know him when he comes,
Not by any din of drums,
Nor his manners, nor his airs,
Nor by any thing he wears.

Thou shalt know him when he comes,
Not by a crown nor by a gown,
But his coming known shall be,
By the holy harmony
Which his coming makes in thee.
Thou shalt know him when he comes. Amen. Amen 

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