A Reading from the Book of Exodus (12:1-14)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people *
and adorns the poor with victory.
5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
let them be joyful on their beds.
6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;
9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (13:8-14)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew (18:15-20)
Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
It’s wonderful to be with you today as we begin the 77th year in the life of St. Mark’s Church. This is the 17th time that we have made this new beginning with our Praise and Picnic in the Park. It’s a fun way to start each new program year. And it’s a good reminder that the real St. Mark’s Church is not made up of the buildings at 456 Woodman Drive, but of the people who continue to commit themselves to our shared life and ministry, serving the community and world around us in God’s name.
In today’s first reading, we hear about another annual observance: the great feast of Passover. The author of this passage traces that celebration back to the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And, at the end, he or she portrays God as instructing the Israelites: “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”
“A day of remembrance”: isn’t that what today is for us? In fact, isn’t that what every weekly celebration of the Eucharist is for us: a day of remembrance?
As the word is commonly used, “remembrance” seems like a fairly obvious thing: we recall what happened in the past. But remembrance in a biblical sense, remembrance as we apply that term to our gathering week after week, is a far broader term that we usually recognize. Instead, it embraces a three-fold way of remembering, every one of which is critical for our life as members of the church.
First, we do remember the past. Who we are and what we do are always rooted in the life and the stories both of our own past and in the life and stories of those who have gone before us. Ongoing research in such fields as genetics and anthropology and human psychology continue to reveal more and more ways that the experiences in our own lives and the experiences of our ancestors affect what we do, how we act, and even how we think today. We are not nearly as autonomous as we sometimes like to think we are.
As Christians, we are rooted in the long Jewish and Christian tradition, going back thousands of years. It is in remembering the stories of our heritage, in particular those found in the bible, and in remembering our more recent history, including the history of those who have gone before us in St. Mark’s Church, that we rediscover our roots and ensure that we remain rooted in the rich soil in which we were planted by God the Master Gardener.
But remembering is not only about the past, it is also about the present. Our weekly gathering, our weekly sharing by Word and Sacrament in the life of God, reminds us who we are. It helps keep our focus on the realization that we are a people who have been raised to new life in Christ, that we are a people who have called to proclaim to others the love of God and their own infinite worth as fellow children of God, and that we are a people who have been sent to serve the world around us in God’s name. The Eucharist helps us, not only to remember the past, but also to remember the present.
But our regular, weekly celebration in the name of Jesus does even more than just enabling us to remember the past and the present. It enables us also to remember the future. Now, I’ll grant that that’s a strange concept. It seems to go against the nature of the flow of time. But remembering the future is not something that requires the invention of a time machine; because, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the future has already broken into the world in which we live. The future has already begun: and not just the short-term future promised by the inventors of the latest electronic gadget, but the ultimate future, the future that Jesus called “the kingdom of God.”
Over and over again in the gospels, Jesus uses image after image to help his followers envision that future: “the kingdom of God is like…” The kingdom of God, as Jesus describes it is not another world, but this world transformed: transformed to be what God has intended it to be from the beginning.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has called that intention “God’s dream.” He describes it this way: “I have a dream, God says. Please help Me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and its harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts, when there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing. I have a dream that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, that My children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, My family.”
When we gather week by week to celebrate the Eucharist, we remember that dream, we remember that future. We remember that that future has already broken into the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember that, through our baptism into that death and resurrection, God has enabled us and called us to live even now in that future.
As St. Mark’s church, and as part of the much greater church that includes all those of every denomination who have been baptized into Christ, we have been charged to model that future, that kingdom of God, that dream of God, here and now. We have been charged by God to welcome and love and serve all people: young and old, rich and poor, gay or straight, liberal and conservative, people of every race and culture and ability, to welcome and embrace them all. And it is only by sincerely trying to do so that we can truly and honestly say to the world: “Let us show you what the kingdom of God is like. Let us show you what God’s dream is like. Let us show you what the future is like. For in our gatherings and in our life, we remember: we remember the past, we remember the present (who we are by the grace of God), and we remember the future. Come, remember with us; and join us in living God’s dream.”