Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy.
- from this Sunday's opening collect
The first Sunday after Labor Day always feels like a new beginning. Perhaps it is because the school year is such a large part of our culture, it feels like the church year also begins in the fall, even though our new church year really won't begin until Advent in December. But we're back from our summer vacations, the weather is beginning to turn, Labor Day has marked the cultural end of summer, and something new always seems about to happen.
And so it does. Even though we are still in the church season of Ordinary Time - the weeks after Pentecost - our liturgy changes in the fall. We go back to our schedule of having two services at 8 and 10, and the liturgy becomes more formal as we get back into the swing of our work-a-day lives.
What doesn't change, however are the Ordinary Time readings, which continue to call on us to examine how we are responding to God's great acts of mercy and love toward us, and how we choose to practice as disciples of Christ. The readings in the fall are often very challenging, actually, and this fall is no exception. They make us question our level of commitment to God and to the church. They ask us to delve more deeply into what it means to be a faithful person. And they remind us that apart from God, we can do nothing. The readings of Ordinary Time continue to 'right size' us, reminding us that God is God and we are not God. The collect this Sunday, for example, reminds us not to feel proud of our own strength, but rather to put our trust and our confidence in God's strength, for God's strength is far stronger than any power of our own - even than any of the powers of this world.
The collect this Sunday asks us to consider where we put our trust and confidence day to day. Do we really put our trust in God? Or do we put our trust in governments, corporations, guns, facts and reason, family ties, money, or any of the many powerful things in our world? Jesus knew that living a faithful life requires learning how to navigate world's powers without offering them more trust and confidence than we do to God. That's why most of Jesus' teachings deal with possessions and money and politics. We will hear many of Jesus' challenging teachings in the fall, giving us a great opportunity to really work on practicing our faith in the real world.
If you've been out and about all summer, I invite you to take this Sunday as an opportunity to return to a weekly practice of worship among your friends and fellow seekers at St. James. Together we can learn navigate this tricky world with one anothers' support, and by practicing putting our trust and confidence in God's love and mercy before all things.
Our Sunday readings are HERE. Note that during Ordinary Time, we are using "Track 2"