I recently visited Bruton Parish – an Episcopal church that has been continuously operating in Williamsburg, VA since 1674. Walking into her doors was like stepping in the footsteps of the saints who have gone before us. Every pew, every window, every detail of that church’s sanctuary and even the entire building are a testament to the body of Christ’s love for their savior and for those living in out His call in community with one another.
But this sanctuary was a living and vibrant sanctuary – not just one filled with plaques to yesteryear. The Word of God was proclaimed loudly and triumphantly. As was a call to live a life we are proud to live. We heard four passages of scripture during the service before the sermon was delivered.
In the first scripture (Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18), through the reader’s strong voice, we travel to the time of King Belshazzar of Babylon and hear of Daniel’s visions which terrified him. His spirit was so troubled that he sought the meaning of the visions and received hope from the Lord.
The second scripture (Psalm 149) was song to us by a choir whose voices were stunningly beautiful as they harmonized on praising the Lord. We are encouraged, as the faithful, to sing in triumph because the Lord himself takes joy in us.
The third scripture (Ephesians 1:11-23),we are reminded of the omnipotence of our God and His loving mercy which has caused us to be marked with His seal. We can seek the Lord and receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation to help us in our time here.
In the fourth scripture (Luke 6:20-31), we are transported to Jesus’ declaration of the Beatitudes. Within these verses is the often repeated scripture: “Do unto others are you would have them do unto you.” Less repeated is also found Jesus’ instruction to be joyful and helpful even when we are hated, excluded, reviled and defamed on account of the Gospel.
Hope. Joy. Hope. Joy. Hope.
These words connect these four scriptures. The Reverend Tyler L. Montgomery helped illuminate these scriptures with an emphasis on the passage from Luke. He reminds us that the Beatitudes were not a passage of scripture to glorify poverty or to say the only way we ought to live as Christians is in a downtrodden state. But rather, it is to say that in a state of vulnerability is where we experience grace and God’s peace.
Vulnerability, instability, pain, sorrow – these things typified the life of Luke and Paul and many other Christians. However, they were living lives they were proud of. They wouldn’t trade them for other lives because they knew that they were intentionally (even if imperfectly) living Christ-centered lives.
Not every vulnerability is defined in monetary terms – there is emotional vulnerability, vocational vulnerability, geographical vulnerability, and the list could go on. But whatever your vulnerability, whatever your troubles are right now, know that being vulnerable and open to Christ and being in right inter dependent relationships with those the Lord has placed in our lives trumps security and independence in this Christian life.
Yes – we each have our struggles. And we can come up with so many reason why that is. We can list so many ways others have wronged us. But as Rev. Montgomery reminded us, this finger-pointing is often a way to obscure and avoid our anger that we feel toward our own selves.
Anger because deep inside we are not living the life we think we are meant to have. Before we come up with “current” and “modern” definitions of the life we want to have, we need to look to those who have gone before us in faith for examples of the life we are meant to have as Christians.
The apostle Paul calls to us from his epistle in Ephesians about the life we are supposed to have so that we can “know the hope to which He has called” us.
As we look at the example of this vibrant church that is entering its fourth century of Christian service or the example of the apostle Paul or of Christ Himself, one thing is for sure – in Christ is an enduring Hope and Joy. In Him is a life, once tasted, where you wouldn’t trade it for any other life.