Proper 16C’22
21 August 2022
Luke 13.10-17
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Almighty God, you have built your church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Christ our Lord. Amen. – Collect for the Sunday of Proper 8, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 230

There is at least one class my daughter has this fall semester that I think she is really going to enjoy, and not just her but the whole family. She will be studying Latin, and we had a lot of fun last night working with her using flash cards. It is amazing just how many English words there are that have a Latin root: For example, words like Labor, in Latin it’s “labora”, Mother is “mater” and is the root for maternal and matriarch. Father is pater, the root for paternal and patriarch and so on. It’s fascinating how Latin can help with figuring out what an English, Spanish, or French word means.

There is a one Latin word that I find particularly meaningful, and that is the word “Religare.” The first four letters are R-E-L-I, like to venture a guess on what English word is derived from it? If you thought of “religion” you’d be right. And what does religare mean? “To bind together, or to bind back the human with the Divine.” True Religion, or religion at its best , does just that, it reconnects us within ourselves, with God, and with the human family.

In the catechism, called an “Outline of the Faith” in the back of our prayer book, (p. 855) we find the following question and answer: Q: “What is the mission of the Church?” A: “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” To “restore all people to unity with God” sounds a lot like religare/religion, to bind together, to bind back the human with the divine.

A little further down the page we find the question: “What is the ministry of the laity?” one of the phrases we find in the answer is as follows: “to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world…” Reconciliation is yet another word for reconnection, which relates back to religare, to bind back together; in short, our job as Christians is to build bridges between other people and God, and between one another.

Somehow this primary mission of the Church throughout history has periodically gotten lost. There have been periods where the Church knew exactly what they were about and flourished in her mission. But just as surely, through trails and temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and the selfishness, and greed of human hearts, the path of mission would become obscured.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit prophetic voices would be sent to the Church to call her back to her mission. With repentance would come a renewed mission and sense of purpose. After almost 2.5 years of pandemic, where would you say the Church (and by that, I mean both the universal Church and our local churches) where would you say the Church is with our mission?

It seems to me that we have entered a period of disorientation, many people have become confused about what the Church is or isn’t for them. Others have been disappointed both in the church’s leaders and followers. While others are simply bewildered, and feeling lost about the whole thing.

Wt would you do if you were out in the woods and got lost? How would you ever get your bearings again and find your way home? There is an ancient tool that existed long before Google maps and GPS devices, and has helped many lost travelers find their way back home. That tool – is a compass. The remarkable thing about a compass is that it can tell us the truth about where we are, and which direction we should head, and if we can find true North we can figure out where home is.

If the Church has become disoriented, confused, weary, or lost what are the compass points that can lead us back home to the place where the Holy Spirit can bring us back to life again? Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has written a book that I believe has rediscovered the compass of the Church. The title of his book is: “Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer” Author, Lilian Daniel who highly recommends the book had this to say about Williams’ book:

“Speaking to those inside and outside the church – and the growing number of people who don’t know where to locate themselves anymore – Williams entices us all to go deeper by reviewing the basics.”

When we become lost, we need to find a compass, and what better compass points than: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, and Prayer. These are the four guideposts that Christians of many denominations all find direction for the practice of our faith and common ground that gives us a place to stand.

I intend to give four sermons in the weeks ahead, one for each of the four compass points.

It’s not coincidental that the first piece of furniture one encounters upon entering an Episcopal Church is a baptismal font. In fact, you can’t even sit down until you have passed by the font. The object lesson here is that baptism is our entry into the Church, the family of God. Here at the Baptismal font when the blessed waters of baptism flow over us and wash us clean from the old life and lays claim to us by proclaiming our truest identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters. Here we too can claim the words spoken by God: “This is my son/this is my daughter, the Beloved in who I am well pleased!” This is where our perceived separation from God is obliterated and we find our truest identity in being reconnected with the God that humankind was separated from in the Garden of Eden. With one sacramental act we take the first step on our thousands of miles journey of faith where we will grow ever more surely into who we already are – God’s beloved sons and daughters.

(At the 8am service) we will be reminded of the starting point of our spiritual journey by saying together the baptismal covenant. Where we remember our reconnection to God, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in mission to those all around us who are broken, hurting, and thirsting for God’s unconditional love.

(At the 10:30 service) Today we will have the joy of welcoming God’s newest Christian into the family of God – David Martin Carson. As we observe his baptism may we remember our own, and as we say the baptismal covenant together, may remember our call to a broken and hurting world who are hungering and thirsting for God’s unconditional love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Baptism is the Christian’s true north the starting point where it all began and where we must continually return and remember who we are and most importantly, whose we are and our call to reach out to all those in need who come across our path. Amen.