Friday, July 21

Sermon 6 Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-15
Mark 6:14-29

You may have noticed all the Icons around the chapel this evening. In some sense they are the sermon. Icons are not simply something pretty to be looked at but are to provide us with a way of seeing. In various ways our texts are about ways of seeing and the consequences of such a vision or lack of sight. Amos and John the Baptist are prophets, in some sense the first and the last of the prophets. It is a strange thing about the Hebrew prophets when they write down their prophesies they tend to say: “The word of the Lord came to me and I saw…” then a description of a vision follows. Amos does not use the formula but in our passage the prophesies are visual, “This is what is what the Lord showed me…” The word of God is not just abstract and invisible; the word of God is visible. The word of God became flesh and became visible. John the Baptist was the first witness to God who has become human flesh. The Icon is possible because the word of God is visible and not merely abstraction and invisible spirituality. Paul in Ephesians gives us a vision of the Church. The mystery, the plan, is the Word made visible, made human: God joined to humanity and creation

Hear more of the first chapter of Ephesians beyond what was read a little while ago:
Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings come from the heavenly world. They belong to us because we belong to Christ.
4 God chose us to belong to Christ before the world was created. He chose us to be holy and without blame in his eyes. He loved us. 5 So he decided long ago to adopt us as his children. He did it because of what Jesus Christ has done. It pleased God to do it. 6 All those things bring praise to his glorious grace. God freely gave us his grace because of the One he loves.
7 We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Through his blood our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God's grace is so rich. 8 He poured his grace on us by giving us great wisdom and understanding.
9 He showed us the mystery of his plan. It was in keeping with what he wanted to do. It was what he had planned through Christ. 10 It will all come about when history has been completed. God will then bring together all things in heaven and on earth under one ruler. The ruler is Christ.
11 We were also chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plan and purpose. 12 We were the first to put our hope in Christ. We were chosen to bring praise to his glory.
13 You also became believers in Christ. That happened when you heard the message of truth. It was the good news about how you could be saved. When you believed, he marked you with a seal. The seal is the Holy Spirit that he promised.
14 The Spirit marks us as God's own. We can now be sure that someday we will receive all that God has promised. That will happen after God sets all of his people completely free. All of those things will bring praise to his glory.
15 I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus. I have also heard about your love for all of God's people. That is why 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers.
17 I pray to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the glorious Father. I keep asking him to give you the wisdom and understanding that come from the Holy Spirit. I want you to know God better.
18 I also pray that your mind might see more clearly. Then you will know the hope God has chosen you to receive. You will know that the things God's people will receive are rich and glorious. 19 And you will know his great power. It can't be compared with anything else. It is at work for us who believe. It is like the mighty strength 20 God showed when he raised Christ from the dead.
He seated him at his right hand in his heavenly kingdom. 21 There Christ sits far above all who rule and have authority. He also sits far above all powers and kings. He is above every title that can be given in this world and in the world to come.
22 God placed all things under Christ's rule. He appointed him to be ruler over everything for the church. 23 The church is Christ's body. It is filled by Christ. He fills everything in every way.
Can you see this? Can you see yourself the church seated next to Christ? It can be difficult how do we see something so transcendent?

What is an Icon what are we to see in them, what sort of sight do they provide? First they show us the incarnation: If God is not joined with matter the icon is not possible for it sees matter that is transfigured with the divine. It sees the union of the divine and the human: the divine and the created: Thus the icon of Christ. But the Icon also shows draws us into a broader vision that is the consequence of this first vision. The icon envisions and shows a world infused with the divine light with divine grace. In this the first icon after the face of Christ, not made with Hands is the icon of the transfiguration where the disciples are given a glimpse of the divine and uncreated light. Icons make visible the Kingdom of God, There sits Christ. The presence of Christ and the saints and the angels are made visible through the Icon. Christ enthroned Reconciler is not just a nice picture it is to give us a vision of our heavenly place of the Kingdom of the reality of the incarnation of the mystery and plan of God. That mystery and plan that is visible and which is a way of seeing.

This way of seeing the world is given to us in Ephesians as he speaks of the mysterious economy of God, of our being raised up to heaven with Christ, of being in the very presence of God. Thus there are icons of angels and saints to remind us that we are in the presence of God already. That although the world is being transformed and at some point will be fully transfigured into the new reality of a material world radiates the divine presence, yet also the world remains opaque to the divine light and the infusion of God’s grace. We need to be able to see through this opacity.

The icon like a good sermon gives us a way of seeing the world of seeing ourselves in the world. The Icon proclaims the reality that is in the first Chapter of Ephesians.
We have lost the ability to see we think we reflect we can define and attempt to describe but do we see do we see the word of God!

Icons are supposed to give us the means to see the reality that remains hidden, because the Word of God became visible and is present to us in many ways including his image.
The Word of God has come to us, and we saw and we see.

Do you see, do you visualize the Kingdom? If this is difficult look upon these Icons and let the reality of the Kingdom of God, of being in the very presence of God in the Heavens infuse your very being that you may see the world as a place transfigured by the Light of Christ. God’s word came to us in Jesus of Nazareth and we saw God. We are invited to see a new reality ourselves our bodies our world transformed and transfigured. It is this way of seeing that gave boldness to Amos and John the Baptist and the prophets of old. This vision of the world allowed Paul to face all the difficulties and not loose heart and faith. We can have this heavenly vision of matter transfigured and joined with the divine, the vision of the coming Kingdom of God, of a time when we will see face to face. Until that time the icon can help us see. Enter into the vision of the icon and see the word of God, see the vision Paul offers in Ephesians, and prophesy of this new humanity and new reality transformed by God joined with humanity, and be encouraged and find the strength to face a world that is also opaque to God and full of violence injustice, and darkness.