Sermon Sunday, July 19, 2020
Christ Church, Hudson, NY
Genesis 28: 10-19a
Psalm 139: 1-11, 23-24
Romans 8: 12-25
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Sermon: The Rev. Fr. Robert L. Hart
+In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s good to be with you again. I believe this is my third or fourth time to preach and celebrate at Christ Church. And it’s especially good to be with you during this time of transition.
We’ve all experienced this as a strange year when you couldn’t meet together as congregation. Now, you’ve said farewell to Mother Eileen as she begins her retirement after her years of faithful service at Christ Church.
Mother Eileen’s retirement must make the transition seem real as the Vestry’s search process gets underway and, of course, very real for the vestry members.
Last Sunday Mother Eileen made reference to seeds and good soil. Christ scatters everywhere prodigiously. Here at Christ Church, as Mother Eileen said, is good soil.
Today’s Gospel uses the analogy of seeds and growth again to drive home the point.
This morning I would like to explore the experience of God as the main theme. Another way to reflect on the place of Christ Church and our experience of God is through today’s story from Genesis, the story of Jacob’s ladder, the dream Jacob had.
Jacob is in transition himself, alienated from brother, Esau, whose birthright he stole. Jacob is sent off for his own good by his family to find a suitable wife. On the journey he camps out in an unoccupied space. Jacob puts his head down on a stone, which serves as his pillow. He dreams. Jacob experiences the divine. God comes to him in a vision of heaven and earth joined by angels ascending and descending.
Jacob in his current state of in-between experiences God. God comes to him to renew the Covenant.
When Jacob awakes he realizes he has known the presence of God. He raises the stone his head rested on. He anoints it, consecrates it as a sign of a holy place. Jacob calls it BethEl—House of God, the Gate of Heaven.
Christ Church was erected as a sign of God’s presence. For this too is BethEl, the house of God. Christ Church, one of the loveliest churches where I have experienced God, is BethEl.
But this place, this church, was not erected as a tribute to stone, brick, wood, paint, and glass. It was not built as a tribute to our artistry or wealth. The beauty that is this church was created to acknowledge the beauty of God in Christ. This place is a sign of the experience of the Holy. This is the Gate of Heaven.
Most importantly, we are here today and every Sunday because we have met God in Jesus Christ. Our experience of the divine has brought forth Christ Church. God seeking us comes first. Only when we know God’s presence do we mark it with an altar.
Christ Church’s foundation is not stone and brick but Jesus Christ. The beauty of this place is the beauty of God. The beauty calls forth the truth and goodness of God. It summons us to walk the way of beauty in truth and goodness.
During this time of transition I know you and the Vestry will put this first:
• The experience of our Holy God.
• To know Christ and to make Christ known.
• To bring all things to unity with God in Christ.
The wonder of the structure, the buildings known as Christ Church, are the sacred, dedicated stone, Jacob’s pillow. The beauty of the building is a testimony to the awesomeness of God, and of our experience of the divine.
Your faith, consecrated labor, and the beauty of holiness will call the next priest and rector to Christ Church.
“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”