Sermon Second Sunday after Epiphany 2020

By Deacon Virginia Jenkins Whatley
Sunday, January 17, 2021
John 1:43-51
You always hear people say I remember the first time I found
Jesus and it changed my life. It’s actually the other way around,
He found you and your life changed.
The truth of our Christian story is not that you and I found
Christ but Christ has found us. We do not decide for God. God
decided for us.
At the beginning of our gospel, Jesus found Philip not the other
way around. This is important because the knowledge that God
has sought us out rather than vice versa is crucial in keeping us
humble before God.
When Jesus found Philip he issued a single command, “Follow
me”. Putting Jesus first in your lives is demanded of us
Christians. Sacrifices have to be made in our thinking and way
of life. When he calls us to follow him we have to remember
that He is Lord of all or not at all. You should not be a some
time or part time follower though we get it wrong from time to
time and fall short of the ideal.
We must remember that we are disciples of Jesus. The first rule
of being a disciple is to tell others about Jesus. The first thing
Philip did was find his brother, Nathaniel and tell him whom he

found. Philip and his brother were both found by Jesus but
according to Philip, “they found him whom Moses in the law
wrote about.”
Though you may be happy, enthusiastic and passionate about
sharing the good news about Jesus this can be met with
resistance. You should not lose confidence when your message
is not always welcomed.
Nathaniel like many was cynical and perhaps rude . We are not
to be discouraged by the response we may get from others but
trust that an encounter with God will be life changing for them
too. When it comes to evangelism a simple response of “Come
and see” should be sufficient and let God do the rest. Just keep
saying it.
Will they experience a sense of excitement that sometimes
happens or have an experience of worship that gives them
access to God.
In the passage it states that when Jesus saw Nathaniel coming
toward him, he said of him, “He is truly an Israelite in whom
there is no deceit; Nathaniel asked him, “Where did you come
to know me? Jesus answered, “ I saw you under the fig tree
before Philip called you.”
Friends, we are talking about Jesus. He can perceive your heart
and recognize you for who you really are..Spiritually he knows

the real Nathaniel and all of us. Spiritually He has his hand on
our lives well before our being.
As Christians, we know that peace and blessings can only come
from our relationship with Jesus. The more we allow Jesus to be
the center of our lives, the more we know peace in our hearts
We are called into a life of peace and blessings with God. Jesus
sees us, he knows everything about us and knows our deepest
needs. If we follow him as he says to Nathaniel, we will see
heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and
descending upon the Son of Man.
As his disciples we are found by Him, we are to share our love
and tell others about Him, not lose faith when others are not
receptive and remember that following Jesus means receiving
peace and blessing from God.


Christmas II Sermon 2021

By Deacon Virginia Jenkins-Whatley

Sermon: Sunday, January 3, 2021
Sermon: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Most of us can think of times when we wished that a
warning of some kind might have been very beneficial.
Just a hint of what is about to happen that might cause
us to stop and think, pause or do something different to
avoid something unpleasant from happening. Just a
whisper telling us to turn left instead of right.
That is not life as we live it. We live by our faith, act on
instinct and make our own choices. Our decisions,
though guided by God, we make on our own which at
times are not the right ones.
There are people that rely very heavily on their dreams
and one would say that they are delusional. Some may
have judged Joseph in that way.
The past two weeks we have rejoiced in preparation of
and the birth of Christ filled with the glory and the
wonder. In the reading of today’s gospel, leads us from
celebration to a not so pretty picture.

The reading is based on first, the call on the Holy Family
to go to Egypt, second what happens back home while
they are in Egypt and third, their return to Israel.
The story of Jesus’s birth has spread across the land and
now that the child has received symbolic and important
gifts received from the Wise Men, the family must run
for their lives. A warning in a dream from an Angel of
God hastened Joseph to move his family in fear that
harm would come to the young Messiah and his family
ordered by King Herod.
As we focus on this aspect of Jesus life, we are reminded
that Jesus himself was a refugee and that he understands
the plight of refugees in our time and he has compassion
on them.
In comparision to Jesus, refugees today especially those
coming to America , displaced from their homeland as
well as having their children taken away by politics, war
and poverty, we need to remember that this is integral to
the story of the God whom we worship and remember
our own responsibility towards the refugees in our midst.

Getting to Egypt did not stop the executions back home
as Herod tried to find and kill the holy child.
He learned that the Wise Men did not tell him the truth
therefore he ordered the killing of innocent boys under
the age of 2 in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas .
Here again in our history there are records of human
trafficking and other evil acts in which children are
brutally abused and killed due to inhumane acts of
cruelty based on religious or political reasoning.
For a third time, Joseph is once again visited in a dream
by an Angel of God informing him of Herod’s passing and
told to return to Israel. Learning that Archelaus, son of
Herod was now in charge who reigned in proximity to his
father, the family would not go to Israel but instead
traveled to Nazareth where they would be safe, so that
what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,
“He would be called a Nazorean”.

A life lesson for all of us is that though we may
experience joy, amazement, wonders and peace, there
are those experiencing pain, fear,loss and suffering.
We must remember that God does not cause evil but is
present in times of distress in that voice guiding us, in
sending us to safety, in healing our pain and easing our
suffering and always in the presence of our lives.
As we enter this new year, may we continue to pray,
open our hearts and minds and listen for God’s voice for
guidance and comfort.


Christmas I Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Christmas I • December 27, 2020
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 • Psalm 147 • Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7 • John 1:1-18

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“In the beginning was the Word.” So begins the Gospel of John—very similar to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a reflection of the beginning of the Book of Genesis which says, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

So both opening verses are about creation, the beginning of all things, the Big Bang, if you will. But how does the act of creation work? What is the mechanism, so to speak, by which something gets created?

In both Genesis and John, it is speaking that generates creation. It is through speaking, through the Word, that something comes into being. It is a word—the Word—that creates.

You can see this in real life. For the most part, we are in the middle of things. As a small child, around the ages of one or two, we begin to notice that we are a somebody, someone different from Mommy and Daddy. And we notice that all that surrounds us was there before we were. In a world of “beginning, middle, and end,” we show up in the middle of things.

Later, we notice that things really do end. A birthday party that was such fun ends, and we are aware of loss—losing the fun, and the birthday, and the party. We were in the middle, and then it was over and we were at the end.

How about the beginning? Well, someone spoke. They said, “We should have a birthday party. Let’s do it!” Someone speaks the Word. Before any real thing exists, the thought, the idea, the possibility has to be born. And that requires the Word. It is speaking that generates being, and out of the being that has been generated, action turns the possibility into reality.

Certainly this is true of this parish church of ours. 150 years ago, this church did not exist. The town was just a country retreat for people living in New York. Eventually a minister from the City who summered here thought to himself, “We should have services in Fort Lee.” So he invited a few people into his living room on a Sunday morning, and the church became a reality. But first, it started with his word, with the possibility spoken to others—just an idea at first, but then made concrete by inviting people to his living room services.

John continues, “… and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He is indicating that words become independent of their speaker. Our word issues forth from our mouths, and once spoken, they seem to have an independent life, separate from the speaker. We all know the experience of having said something unfortunate—once spoken, we cannot call the words back. And we know the independent power of speaking something that empowers or comforts another—it seems to accomplish its work all by itself, once we speak it.

So it is with God. The Word, John says, was “with God,” that is, separate and independent of God. And yet that word was God’s expression and in a real sense “the Word was God.”

All this is interesting—our words create possibilities and God’s Word does the same. Both for God and for us, we are able to create through language, by speaking a possibility, by bringing something into being that was not there before we spoke.

What is amazing to me is what John says next: “…the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This Word that God spoke in creating everything that exists, this Word came into flesh and blood, Jesus. And he lived in our midst—the Greek word at its root means “he set up his tent among us.”

So what? This is always a great question. So what difference does this make? So what does it mean for you and me?

Since we have been adopted into God’s household and made heirs of him; since we have put on Christ and become his successors in doing powerful things; since we no longer have to labor as victims of our circumstances—since all this, we are powerful beyond any of our expectations.

Thanks be to God who has made us his children and endowed us with the power of the Word.


Christmas Eve Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Christmas Eve • December 24, 2020
Isaiah 9:2-7 • Psalm 96 • Titus 2:11-14 • Luke 2:1-20

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” says Isaiah this morning, and he goes on, “those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”

It seems that an instance of this phenomenon of light shining in the midst of darkness has come upon us during our Covid-19 pandemic. In the middle of the pandemic, with the winter surge killing thousands upon thousands, sequestered in our homes and restricted from much movement, it has been looking pretty dark indeed.

And then comes the news of a vaccine—two or more, in fact—and the possibility of ending the pandemic in six months or so. It is as though a light has been shined upon us. So we lighten-up, get a bit less serious, a little better able to cope with our increasingly complex and worrisome world.

This is the heart of the Christmas message—that when it is darkest, a light can shine. A metaphorical light, of course, which applies to all sorts of conditions of humankind.

In the darkness—in he depths of alcoholism or a failed marriage; the death of a person most loved or a bankrupt business; a burned-down home or betrayal by a friend—into the darkness a light will come.

This is a promise, not just a hope or a “maybe.” It is a solid and unambiguous promise by God and his prophets.

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us … he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace … and there shall be endless peace … The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

On this night, a couple of thousand years ago, in a tiny backwater country in the Roman Empire, in a stable with livestock crowding around, an infant child was born.

 who was to become the light of the world.


Advent IV Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Advent IV • December 20, 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 • Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 • Romans 16:25-27 • Luke 1:26-38

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Where does God live? If we were to look around for God where
would we find him (or “her,” or “it”—pick your favorite
pronoun). We would like to know God, to encounter God, to
enter his presence. But where?
We can see in the Bible that the established place of God’s
presence has moved around. In Genesis, God creates the world
from some place outside the world—in heaven, presumably. From
Adam and Eve onward, until Moses, God is a presence, but not
one located in any particular place.
With Moses, we find God in a burning bush, a shrub that burns
but is not consumed, and it is a holy place. For where God is to be
found, that place must be holy.
When Moses leads the Chosen People—slaves in Egypt—out of
their bondage, God orders that a tabernacle be made for his
presence to inhabit. The travelling Israelites lived in tents, so the
Tabernacle was also a tent that could be dismantled and moved.
The tent stayed with the people of Israel until the kingdom was
established under David. As we heard in this morning’s First
Lesson, God says to David in a dream, “I have not lived in a house
since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this
day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.”
David desired to build a house for God, a temple. But in this
dream, God tells him that a son of his will build a temple, and that
he will have to be satisfied with having a great name for himself
and an established throne that will far outlive him.

David’s son, Solomon, did indeed build the first Temple, and the
presence of God lived there, his throne on earth in the Holy of
Holies, the innermost room of the temple.
The Temple in Jerusalem remained God’s location into Jesus’ time,
but then a change began to occur. The Temple had been destroyed
and rebuilt two times, and about 40 years after Jesus death the
Romans destroyed the Third Temple and its place on Temple
Mount has remained vacant ever since.
The prophets had said that when Messiah comes, his name will be
Emmanuel. As you probably know, Emmanuel means “God with
us.” The first disciples discerned God’s presence in a human being,
in Jesus, so the location of God’s home shifted from a physical
place of “brick and mortar” to a human being.
Luke, in today’s Gospel reading, tells the story of how this
happened, this coming of God into human form, through Mary,
Jesus’ mother. It is an elaborate story, but the central point is
simple—God became incarnate in a human being.
And then, another shift took place as Jesus’ teachings took hold in
the Christian community of the First Century. St Paul says, “…do
you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within
you, whom you have from God?”
Each of us is the Temple now, and to look for God in a place is to
miss the point. For God lives in us, and we, each of us, are
But what about our churches, sanctuaries, cathedrals, and shrines?
Are they not God’s houses? What about our lovely Good

Shepherd, which most of us are attached to and come to for the
experience of God’s presence?
I think such buildings do provide the opportunity to connect with
the Divine Presence. While the Temple is no longer one made of
stone and wood, but rather we are temples of flesh and blood,
most of us find the sanctuary a physical place where the encounter
with God takes place.
So. the residence of God has moved from outside creation to a
burning bush, and then to a Tabernacle tent, and then to the
Jerusalem Temple, and then to the person of Jesus, and finally to
the body of each of us, and the community of the faithful who
gather in the promise that Christ would be with us—whenever two
or three are gathered together.
God has, over the vast experience of generations of his people,
moved from the remoteness of being outside the Universe to the
most intimate places of human existence—into the lives of each of
Thanks be to God for giving us his Spirit so that we can be Christs
for our generation.

Advent III Sermon 2020

By Deacon Virginia Jenkins-Whatley

Sermon December 13, 2020

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
In the Webster’s dictionary, “patience” is described
as able to accept or tolerate delays, problems or
suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
“Be patient, your time will come.”
COVID is one of the most deadliest if not the
deadliest disease that has struck our country and
the world. We have been confined to our homes
and life as we have lived it has changed
tremendously. Despite the immediate change in
life, family, work and play we have been forced to
learn about patience.
Today is the third Sunday of the Advent season. We
have learned these past two Sundays about being
prepared, holding vigil, waiting and watching for the
coming of our Lord Jesus. He is to come at first for
his birth and then again for his second coming. We

may be surprised how taking a moment, waiting,
and being patient may help in our preparation.
The thought of Jesus’ coming at Christmas brings
joy and excitement with thoughts of family and
celebration . And we cannot wait! The thought of
Jesus’ coming to judge us, on the other hand, can
bring a fair amount of anxiety. For that we could
wait many life times.
Preparation for Christmas offers honest delight.
However due to COVID changes, we rely on
memories from before. Hope for the good times to
come again. Preparation for the second coming
offers a whole different preparation. It is about
living our lives as faithful covenant people,
following God’s commandments, loving one
another, praying and being penitent. Sometimes
patience and waiting seem to have no place in
In the gospel reading this morning we learn who
knows. There was a man sent from God whose

name was John. He came as a witness to testify to
the light, so that all might believe through him. He
himself was not the light, but he came to testify to
the light.
Our excitement for this season of Advent is
building, but we are not being asked to return to an
old life, we are being called to an alternative life, a
new one, to a new place, a place of hope and
expectation. “Something’s coming,”
Last Sunday, John was identified for us in Mark’s
gospel as a baptizer. This Sunday, in John’s gospel,
his role has changed. Here John is to be a witness to
Jesus. Through John’s witness, the world will come
to know the presence of God in Jesus. Through
John’s witness, the world will come to know the
presence of the light to the world. The light in the
ancient world was a symbol for recognizing God and
life everlasting. In the New Testament, the light is
Christ, the light of the world who calls us out of
darkness into his marvelous light.

The good news this Christmas season is this
marvelous light has already entered into many of
us. Here, in our heart and soul, we have received
the light of Christ. Our entry point to this truth is
our baptism.
Baptizing babies, all dressed in white, doesn’t
appear to be so life changing on the surface.
Without it, however, we are lost to a world of
darkness. John warns us, “I am the voice of one
crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way
of the Lord.” Here is a clear and powerful critic of
our lost world of darkness and sin. John’s voice is
crying out to tell where he is and where we are also.
It is from our wilderness of sin that we are to make
straight the way of the Lord. Our baptism becomes
our entry way to making our life straight, making an
alternative lifestyle.
Our conversion to this new life will only be
successful through the steady, patient, intentional,
prayerful, and worship filled new life that we

Christians testify will draw us closer to Jesus and
indeed make us safe and joyous. That alternative
life is one grounded by scripture and enacted
through the tradition of the church. We have both
at hand here with us this morning.
The preparation we face today is one of living and
practicing this new life by remembering the
baptismal light that is alive in our very soul, then
living as if this truth makes a difference. Every step
we take in our preparation for the coming of the
Lord is a step toward a life dedicated to our new life
as an apostle, as a disciple, as one who loves Jesus
more than life itself. Every step we take in our
preparation, in our ministry, as beloved followers of
Jesus Christ, is a step to improve our baptism by
living with increasing hope, faith, purpose and
commitment to honor our calling as children of
God’s Spirit will work where it will and accomplish
its purposes. But often what stands in our way is

our own impatience and our belief that the Spirit in
us cannot be stirred and that we cannot be opened
to new possibilities. When we hide our disbeliefs
and deny our impatience, we find ourselves
committed to the wilderness without the grace to
rethink our position.
It is vital and necessary that we have this Advent
season. It is our time to prepare ourselves for a life
with Christ. Isaiah 61:9 states that, “We are truly
the people whom the Lord has blessed. We are
blessed by God’s presence, by God’s intervention in
our lives, by God’s grace and love given to a people
who often fail to recognize it.”
John tells us that the One for whom we wait often
stands unrecognized. He often appears in
unexpected places and acts in surprising,
mysterious unexpected ways. What then are the
things that prevent us from recognizing this
miracle? If it is our hectic, busy lifestyles perhaps
then we may need to slow down. Being patient

should be enough to make us open our eyes to see
the miracle before us.
Indeed, something great is coming, something
beyond our wildest expectation is coming. These
days, we pray that it doesn’t get any worse.
The message of John is “maybe today!” And this is a
message worth waiting patiently for; this is a
message worth our preparation. Someone great is
coming, his name is Jesus.

Advent II Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Advent II • December 1, 2020
Isaiah 40:1-11 • Psalm 85:1-2. 8-13 • 2 Peter 3:8-15a • Mark 1:1-8

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel according to Mark was the first Gospel to be written,
moving from the oral tradition—stories told within the Christian
community about Jesus and his teachings—to the black-and-white
page. Interestingly, it was not written on scrolls, but in a new form
with a new technology: the “codex,” or ordinary book that we are
used to nowadays.
Mark apparently was not one of the Twelve Apostles, but a
younger disciple associated perhaps with Paul and certainly with
Peter. Some scholars speculate that Mark’s Gospel was narrated to
him by Peter himself before his martyrdom in Rome. Maybe so. In
any case, Mark’s Gospel was the basis for two other Gospels,
Matthew and Luke and was written roughly thirty years after Jesus’
death and resurrection in about the year 62 CE. There is general
agreement that it was written in the city of Rome and reflects the
stories and memories current in that community.
Mark is not, strictly speaking, a biography of Jesus. Indeed, a First
Century church official commented, “Mark indeed, who became
the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, as far as he remembered
them, the things said or done by the Lord, but not however in
Instead of being an orderly historical biography, Mark’s Gospel is
intended to support Christians in their chosen life together. It is
intended to show the church—Gentiles, or non-Jews,
mostly—how the power of the Good News that Jesus proclaimed

can help them in their daily life. As he says in his first sentence, it
is a telling of “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Mark’s Gospel is written in simple “street” language, not the
elegant, educated Greek of Luke and John. His approach is
straightforward and direct. Mark probably was not a Jew, insofar as
he misunderstands some Jewish customs that no Jew would
mistake. He is a Gentile Christian writing for other Gentile
Christians, encouraging his fellow Christians who are just emerging
from Nero’s persecutions but whose lives are uncertain.
Even though not a Jew, Mark and his early Christian community
knew the Hebrew scriptures, and he saw the prophecy in Isaiah
being fulfilled. John the baptizer was the “one crying in the
wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
Straightening things out was a matter of confessing one’s sins and
repenting, of turning around.
Alcoholics Anonymous holds eight meetings each week at Good
Shepherd. The essence of their method for achieving a spiritual
awakening is in the Twelve Steps, twelve simple practices that lead
to wholeness. The Fourth and Fifth Steps are to “Make a searching
and fearless inventory of ourselves” and then to “Admit to God,
ourselves, and another person the exact nature of our wrongs.”
I asked a friend about his “spiritual awakening.” He is a long-time
member of AA, and he said his spiritual awakening began with this
searching moral inventory—a catalog of all the wrongs he had
done to others. He avoided this as long as he could, and then was
appalled at the number and severity of the wrongs he had done to
others. As with John the baptizer, his transformation began with
confessing his sins. He woke up. And then his life began to
straighten out.

When our lives are straightened out, then Messiah can enter in
with power—a power much greater than any of us has on our
In this Advent season of preparation for the coming of Messiah,
we have the opportunity to look again at our lives, to take a
“searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” to heed
John’s call to confess our sins. What is at stake is the presence of
the Lord, the entrance of Messiah into the lives of the people
around us.

Advent I Sermon 2020

By Rev. Robert Shearer
Advent I • November 29, 2020
Isaiah 64:1-9 • Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18 • 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 • Mark 13:24-37

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen. A person who is listening to another person propound upon
weighty matters, might ask, “Who has influenced this person’s
thinking? What are the sources, what is the background that
influenced this person’s approach to the world?”
For myself, if we are talking about my home, it is my mother who
has set the tone and background structure for me. If we are talking
about being a pastor, it was my first mentor, Reverend Donald
Smith who taught me most of what I know about being a pastor.
If we are talking about liturgy, it would be Canon Edward West of
St John’s Cathedral in New York and Fr Rick Fabian of St
Gregory’s in San Francisco.
But how about Jesus? What were his influences? The first person
was probably his mother Mary—she was an outlier, an unmarried
young woman who was pregnant and who showed Jesus how to be
a non-conformist, an outlier. Then Isaiah, the greatest of the
prophets in the Hebrew Bible, seems to have been Jesus’ major
traditional influence. And then John the Baptist, who was Jesus’
mentor and teacher, and whose rallying cry Jesus
adopted—“Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand.” At least, this
is what I see when I read the stories of Jesus in the Gospels.
Isaiah’s lesson this morning speaks of the intense personal
relationship between the prophet and his Maker. It is an appeal for
God to come down in all his terrifying power, surrounded by
earthquakes and fire—a God who is both loving and also terrible
in his anger at human sin—a God who hides himself and lets us

suffer the consequences of our bad behavior. “Yet, O Lord, you
are our Father,” Isaiah says, “we are the clay, and you are our
potter, we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly
angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now
consider, we are all your people.”
This sounds very much like Jesus’ intense relation to his Father in
heaven. There is nothing casual or off-hand about the God whom
Jesus considered his Father. This God is both strict, demanding
that we love one another in word and deed, but also always
forgiving when we fail. The standard that God puts before us is
impossibly high, and yet he is gentle and forgiving when we fail as
we learn how to get through life under his rule. After all, as Isaiah
appeals to the Father, “… we are the work of your hand … we are
all your people.”
Advent, as you know, is the time of anticipation, a time of waiting
for what is to come, a time of “what-is-not-yet,” a time of “what
is-yet-to-come.” So, of course, Advent is the four weeks in
advance of the yearly remembrance of Christmas, the birth of
Jesus. But more importantly, it is a call to be awake to what is
possible, what could be, but what is yet to come.
This is a pretty good attitude to take toward all of our lives, all the
time. To live in anticipation of what is to come, whether terrifying
or comforting, is to be truly alive. With this Corvid-19 crisis, for
example, you and I can stay in fear and anxiety, dreading the
present condition in which we find ourselves. Or we can just take
measures to avoid risks and then anticipate what is to come—the
days when masks are no more, the days when we have the
opportunity to get a vaccination shot, the days when we can hug
each other and eat together.

Even better, we can be open to the remarkable opportunities that
present themselves every day, chances to be of service if we are
awake to what we are presented with. And what Jesus says to us is
“Stay awake!” Keep your eyes open, he says, the eyes of your
mind, so that you see God as he appears in the form of a little
child, or an old lady, or a grocery clerk.
“Stay awake!” You cannot know when God will appear, or how he
will show himself. After all, the promise is that God will not stay
hidden forever. So, Jesus says, “Stay awake!”

Christ the King Sermon 2020

Sermon by Rev. Shearer
Christ the King • November 22, 2020
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 • Psalm 100 • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Matthew 25:31-46

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their
scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep.” God speaks this to
Ezekiel, the Prophet, and Ezekiel passes the Word on to us. This is
the work of a prophet—not so much to tell the future as to listen
for God to speak, and then to tell us what God has said.
So we are like sheep scattered on the hillside! This is not very
complementary description of us humans. But Ezekiel knew sheep
and he watched human behavior, and the similarity was
I once had a parishioner who had a flock of sheep. She said they
were scatter-brained critters, subject to easy panic attacks, who
when frightened would run off in all directions. When they ran,
they might easily run off a cliff, or run so long that they contracted
pneumonia. They couldn’t even find water or pasture by
themselves, needing a shepherd and perhaps a sheepdog to lead
them to it.
Doesn’t this sound like a divided and confused America? We are
easily subject to panic and to division; we easily believe the
misinformation spread upon the Internet; we have trouble
following the leader, yet we yearn for a savior. We don’t do a very
good job of extending America’s extraordinary prosperity to all our
citizens, much less the rest of God’s world. We are like sheep
scattered on a hillside.

But the promise is what is important. “I will set over them one
shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them and be their
shepherd.” David, by the time of Ezekiel, was a synonym for king,
similar to Caesar becoming a synonym for emperor—a personal
name becoming a general word for a leader. This is a promise of a
David, of a Messiah, a Christ, one who will reign over the people
with justice and who would bring prosperity and peace.
In today’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus says, “When the Son of Man
comes in his glory….” Son of Man? Who is this? Jesus never calls
himself the Messiah, the new David. Rather he calls himself son of
man which, in his native tongue, Aramaic, is the equivalent of
human being. It could equally be daughter of woman. He did not object
when Peter called him Messiah, but he did not call himself by that
It seems to me that I’ve given you too many titles and names to
cope with—too complex for any use. I apologize for confusing
things. It really is much simpler than I have made it.
The savior of the world has many names and titles in the Bible, but
they all point to one person. David the king, Messiah the savior,
Christ the anointed one—they all refer to the same person, and
that person is the one that Jesus called the Son of Man, the human
I think Jesus meant something special by this term, son of man.
He meant the whole and complete human being, the authentic
human who is without fault or blemish. He meant the righteous
human who completely and fully loves and cares for his fellow
Who can measure up to this standard? Jesus, of course, who was
without sin. But who else in the fraught history of human beings,

who else? Not one that I could name, and certainly no one of my
acquaintance—including the man sitting in my chair.
Unless—unless by some miracle we could be made whole. Unless
we could be forgiven our faults and errors, our headstrong self-
centeredness. Unless we could be restored to our authentic
character as the children of God.
So it is a miracle that, whatever our fallen condition, we have been
made new beings, cleansed of the past and restored to full
membership in God’s family. Not once for all time, but again and
again as we stumble and are forgiven, as we fail and are restored.
And we then are allowed to reign with Jesus as fellow Messiahs,
brother and sister human beings who, when “I was hungry and
you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to
drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you
gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in
prison and you visited me.”
My brothers and sisters, I appeal to you to acknowledge your
brokenness and confess your sins. I invite you to accept the
forgiveness of God and your fellow human beings. And then you
can take your place with Christ the King as one who serves, saving
the world, one person at a time.

Sermon 24 Pentecost 2020 Rev. Robert Shearer

24 Pentecost • November 15, 2020
Judges 4:1-7 • Psalm 123 • Thessalonians 5:1-11 • Matthew 25:14-30

In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The stories and parables of Jesus in the Gospels only have value if
we can relate to them personally. This means some deep diving
into ourselves, looking for what the message for us might be. As
always, the stories of Jesus are illustrations of the nature of the
kingdom of God. Not Paradise or life-after-death, but God’s
kingdom in the here and now. The stories of Jesus are about how
we can approach living our own lives, in our own circumstances,
with our own gifts and with our own challenges.
Today’s story of the Talents begins with a recognition that we are
not all equal when it comes to what we have been given. We
certainly are all equal under the law in America. We certainly are all
equally loved by our Father in heaven. But that’s about as far as
equality goes.
Each of us has been born into different stations in life, different
qualities of upbringing, different kinds of families, different
interests, different abilities. And each of us has a
lifetime—however long or short that may be—in which to make
use of what have been given.
Remember that Jesus is not a moralist, telling us how to be good.
No, Jesus is a truth-teller. He is one who announces that we can
enter into the joy of the kingdom. Jesus “tells it like it is,” showing
us how life really works, and how we can enter into joy in the
midst of this difficult and fraught world in which God has placed

The first two successful slaves in the story took whatever they
were given and actively worked with it. They took risks with their
gifts, looking to make what they had been given even better. The
third slave, whom the master calls “wicked and lazy,” was afraid.
He was fearful of losing the one gift he had been given, fearful of
the anger of his master if he risked his gift and failed.
Fear of failure is a great lock on the gates to the kingdom of God.
Frequently in the Bible, whenever God shows up, or an angel
appears, the first words are “Fear not!” The wicked and lazy slave
was correct in knowing that he could fail. He was right in knowing
that failure carries punishments in the real world. His natural
reaction was fear; inherent in risk is the possibility of failure. But
his refusal to risk meant that his gifts were wasted. He buried
So the clear message is that we would do well to take whatever we
have been given and take the risk of producing good out of them.
What have we been given at this point in our lives? Well, some of
us have been given great age. Some of us have been given
precarious health. all of us have been given a pandemic in which
out human herd is passing the virus around at a great rate, resulting
in increasing deaths—almost 250,000 at this point—and millions
upon millions of infected people. And we’ve been given a fragile
economy in which many of us are in trouble.
Of course, these are not our only gifts. Most of us here have a
great deal of wisdom, hard-earned over many years but
nonetheless a gift. Most of us have managed to be economically
stable. By the world’s standards, in which two dollars a day means
being out of poverty, most of us are in the one percent. And we
have been given skills, how-to knowledge of immense value.

And we have been given other resources. We have Zoom these
days! We have email and messages and phones and TV. These are
profoundly valuable gifts for making a difference when in-person
contact is denied us.
The bottom line in Jesus story of the Talents is this: “To all those
who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance;
but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be
taken away.” The challenge before us, you and I, is to not bury our
gifts for fear of losing what we have. The challenge before us is to
see what needs to be done for others, and to step out, knowing the
risks, and act on behalf of our Master, our Father in heaven.