The Perpetual Struggle

Sermon

The Rev. Noah Van Niel

St. John the Evangelist

September 3rd, 2017

13 Pentecost (Proper 17 A): Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

The world turns and the world changes,

But one thing does not change.

In all of my years, one thing does not change.

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

–TS Eliot (Choruses from “The Rock”)

That’s TS Eliot. He’s right you know. No matter how you “disguise it,” the struggle between Good and Evil is “perpetual,” and as people of faith we are caught up in that struggle whether we like it or not. Any one of you (and I hope it’s all of you) who seek to be a good person, live a good life Good-vs-Eviland inspire goodness in othersis a soldier in that fight.

If you were looking for some direction about how to go about doing those things—how to be a good person; live a good life—you couldn’t do much better than following Paul’s instructions to the Romans from our reading this morning. Love, compassion, humility, respect and a lack of vindictiveness; it’s like a recipe for goodness. Seriously, I recommend taking this bulletin home, cutting out that passage, framing it and reading it every morning, because if you spent your entire life trying to live like that, I think that when you walked up to the pearly gates, St. Peter would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Would that it were that easy, though. Continue reading

“The Salutation,” by Thomas Traherne

Having a child is it’s own kind of spiritual education, but it is, more than anything an experience in awe at the simple fact of creation. Soon after the birth of my second son this past summer, I found this poem. I share it with you all in the hopes that you share it as well, for it captures, beautifully, just how amazing being a parent is.

The Salutation

These little limbs,
    These eyes and hands which here I find,
These rosy cheeks wherewith my life begins,
    Where have ye been? behind
What curtain were ye from me hid so long?
Where was, in what abyss, my speaking tongue?
         When silent I
    So many thousand, thousand years
Beneath the dust did in a chaos lie,
    How could I smiles or tears,
Or lips or hands or eyes or ears perceive?
Welcome ye treasures which I now receive.
         I that so long
    Was nothing from eternity,
Did little think such joys as ear or tongue
    To celebrate or see:
Such sounds to hear, such hands to feel, such feet,
Beneath the skies on such a ground to meet.
         New burnished joys,
    Which yellow gold and pearls excel!
Such sacred treasures are the limbs in boys,
    In which a soul doth dwell;
Their organizèd joints and azure veins
More wealth include than all the world contains.
         From dust I rise,
    And out of nothing now awake;
These brighter regions which salute mine eyes,
    A gift from God I take.
The earth, the seas, the light, the day, the skies,
The sun and stars are mine if those I prize.
         Long time before
    I in my mother’s womb was born,
A God, preparing, did this glorious store,
    The world, for me adorn.
Into this Eden so divine and fair,
So wide and bright, I come His son and heir.
         A stranger here
    Strange things doth meet, strange glories see;
Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,
    Strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be, who nothing was,
That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass.

Open the Doors–A Sermon

The Rev. Noah Van Niel

August 20th, 2017

St. John the Evangelist

11 Pentecost (Proper 15 A): Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Good morning! I’m glad to be back in this pulpit, and I’m glad you’re her19-boston-counter-protester-march.w710.h473e today. Church feels like the right place to be this week as we pray and pray and pray for this country that “our divisions may cease and all may be one as you, Jesus, and the Father are one” (Prayers of the People Form V).

Given the events of the last week which put on full display the threat which newly emboldened hate groups present to our citizens and our country, I think it would be good for us to spend a few minutes being reminded of how God goes about organizing groups of people so that we might do likewise. Continue reading