“All Sundays of the year are feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to the dated days listed above, only the following feasts, appointed on fixed days, take precedence of a Sunday:
- The Holy Name [Jan 1]
- The Presentation [Feb 2]
- The Transfiguration [Aug 6]”
(BCP, pg. 16)
It is with those words that Episcopal Priests around the globe (we are an international church, you’ll recall, just look at the location of the House of Bishop’s meetings), went on a two week scramble. More than one of my clerical Facebook friends commented last week that after nearing the end of an Epiphany 4A sermon on the Beatitudes, they realized that the Major Feast of The Presentation was actually their assigned lectionary texts for Sunday. While they ended up with the difficult task of writing two sermons in a week, the rest of us will have our trouble this week as we jump back into the season of Epiphany and find ourselves already in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
We get to deal with “You are the salt of the earth…” without having first heard Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” or “Blessed are those who mourn” or even “Blessed are the meek.” It isn’t a huge deal to miss out on the beatitudes, but to me, there is already a problem in having to deal with the Sermon on the Mount in sound bytes. The whole reinterpretation of the Law of Moses is important, and to cut it up into bite sized morsels takes a big chunk of its shock value away. Add to that missing the first 12 verses, and, at least in my opinion, we have a problem.
So, my advice this week, at least for preachers in The Episcopal Church, is to do your homework. See the bigger picture. Maybe read Matthew 5:1-20 this Sunday. In someway, help your congregation become a member of the crowd sitting on the mountainside. Help them enter the scene because the quirkyness of the church calendar has plopped them down midstream.