Come Holy Spirit, Come,
Come as the wind and cleanse;
Come as the fire and burn;
Convert and consecrate our lives for our great good
And to your great glory. Amen

This is the eve of the Fourth, a day that has special meaning to us in Charlottesville, for of course it was our own Mr. Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of Independence. Tomorrow is a day we revel in, and give thanks for, our freedom. We Americans can speak, think, believe, and do pretty much what we please. The rest of the world, most of it anyway, envies us our liberty.

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus speaks of himself in a way that makes us uncomfortable. Jesus the sword, dividing families, is not our favorite image, and it’s one we rarely speak of. Jesus who demands we take up our cross and demands we lose our lives for his sake, is a difficult Jesus.

Something is very wrong with the Christian Church today. It’s not what you think. It’s not the old struggle between those who want the 1928 Prayer Book back and those who are happy with the one we have now, nor between those who welcomed the ordination of women and those who are still fighting it, nor even between those who support the ministry of gays and those who don’t. It’s true that the Episcopal Church has lost parishes in all those struggles. Here in Charlottesville we already have two congregations of dissident Episcopalians—All Saints and Saint David’s. There will be others, as unhappy Episcopalians figure out how they can leave our Church while taking their buildings and endowments with them. But these defections are little more than footnotes in the recent history of our denomination. What’s really wrong with the Church today is that the very term “Christian” has come to have some pretty negative connotations.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the one and only time that Matthew uses the word “apostle” in his entire account of the good news of Jesus Christ.

In the name of God, who gives us the gift of the seasons of the year. Amen.

Some years ago I taught at a rather tradition-bound school. Introducing a new course into the curriculum there required a vote of the whole faculty, not an easy vote to win. “We never taught that in Darcy’s day,” was a phrase that sank many creative proposals. Of course, Darcy had died forty years before, when the New Criticism was still new and the atomic bomb only a matter of speculation. But we in the religion department discovered a secret weapon. If we put the two words “Ethics and” in front of any new course title, it would gain instant approval. “Ethics and the Environment,” “Ethics and Technology,” “Ethics and Personal Action,” they were all easy sells. No one on the faculty dared oppose ethics, for everyone agreed we needed more of them.

To those of you who today will graduate from the University of Virginia—congratulations! Your past four years have been full to brimming with examinations, testing, truth, knowledge, some successes and some failures.

Several weeks ago, at the passing of the Peace, we experimented by extending the time. People were asked to introduce themselves to someone they did not know or didn’t know well. From up here it was quite a sight to behold: the moving about and the noise level created what seemed like a crowded public space, perhaps an indoor market-place, maybe even the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Worship Schedule

8:00 a.m. Holy Communion
10:00 a.m. Holy Communion
5:30 p.m. Holy Communion
9:00 p.m. Compline
12:15 p.m.
Holy Communion
5:30 p.m.
Evening Prayer

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