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Mutual Responsibility & Interdependence – Br. David Allen

Rom. 14:7-1; Mt. 15:1-10

The themes set for us in today’s first reading and in today’s Gospel are both very familiar to many of us. If we analyze them I think we can find an inner connectedness in the two Scripture passages.

Those of us who were active in the Episcopal Church or in any part of the Anglican Communion in the 1960s, as I was in Japan, might recognize the theme that came out of the first verse of the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. 

“Mutual Responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ” was the theme of the 1964 Anglican Congress.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord, so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom. 14:7-8) In other words we are interconnected one with another to endeavor to find ways to help one another at home and in other parts of the Church and the world.

The two parables that were read from the 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel just now are part of a series of three parables.  Many years ago I learned that they could be called, “the three lost things;” the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  We are not so much concerned today with the third parable, sometimes called “the parable of the father’s love”.  In these first two the emphasis is on the rescuing of that which had been lost.

First we should consider the fact that Jesus chose things as examples for his parables that were well known to his hearers.  Many of those who heard Jesus tell those parables either kept sheep, or were familiar with the sheep kept by neighbors or friends.  All of them would be familiar with the dark, windowless interior of a Palestinian house, and with the way in which someone; in this case an older woman could go into a panic if she thought even one of her carefully guarded coins was missing.  It should also be remembered that the context of these parables was just after some Pharisees and scribes had been heard grumbling about the way in which Jesus welcomed tax collectors and those whom they considered sinners, and ate with them.  By telling these parables Jesus was trying to demonstrate how everyone was equally precious in the sight of God.  This can also be seen this week in the Church Calendar by the fact that All Saints’ Day is followed by the feast of All Souls to honor those we have loved who have departed this earthly life.

The parables that were read from today’s Gospel were focused on the joy in heaven over one sinner who repented.  The first parable ended with joy over finding the lost sheep contrasted with “ninety-nine righteous persons who needed no repentance.” We can make the assumption from this that when the one lost sheep was found both the shepherd and the flock were equally joyous that the lost sheep had been returned.  It is only a short jump from there to Paul’s theme that we do not live only to ourselves, or as he wrote in the last verse, “each of us will be accountable to God.” (Rom. 14:12)

That theme of accountability to God and mutual responsibility towards one another became very familiar to those active in the Church in the 1960s.  But we can also find it in the writings of the 17th Century poet and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, John Donne.  In a devotion inspired by the custom of tolling the church bell whenever someone had died John Donne wrote, “No man is and island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontories were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.  Any [one’s] death diminishes me, because I am involved in [humankind].  And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”  (From “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”, by John Donne, London, 1624 p. 419)

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4 Comments

  1. Ruth West on August 19, 2014 at 13:06

    Thank you, Br. David, for this inspiring sermon.
    Reminding us of our accountability to God and our mutual responsibility to one another is truly important and delivers to my mind a balance of Christian living. May God grant to me the ability to respond as I should.

  2. margo on August 19, 2014 at 09:05

    Dear Fr. David Thank you for getting us out of the USA for a few blessed minutes. Margo

  3. suzanne robinson on August 19, 2014 at 06:10

    Good morning Brother David. Thank you for helping
    me see the inner connectedness of these two
    passages.

    As I read the truth of the words, “Any [one’s ] death diminishes me because I am involved [in human-kind],” my heart leapt. Each time I experience the addition of the newly baptized into Christ, my heart swells with joy,
    almost to the bursting point, for in that one action,
    the entire and wholly whole Body of Christ is changing,
    made utterly new, expanding from the Body’s deepest
    center – both within and without -no “been there, done that” instance. This instance is the “biggie”.. the “wait a minute,” “rein in the horse,” polish your glasses, turn up
    your earphones, become interiorly still and Behold the Glory of God at work in this cataract in time.

    This one soul, both choosing and being chosen
    by God, is offering to receive and enter in
    to Christ, not knowing what that may mean,
    but lifted by those present through prayer, into a life marked and empowered through the Water, the Body, the Blood, the Seal, the Cross and the light of Christ.

    And as a result of that choosing and being chosen,
    the Body of Christ in its entirety is vivified, made
    newly new, inspiriting service.

    Thank you Brother David. Your words have once again made my heart sing!

    Ever in gratitude, -suzanne

    • Lisa on August 19, 2014 at 09:20

      Thank you Suzanne for your beautifully written expression of joy and gratitude upon receiving new members into the Body of Christ. It inspired and uplifted me this morning, as did the words of Br. David and John Donne. Thanks be to God!

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