Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sermon: Servant to the Servants of God; Meditation on Gregory The Great

 Image of Pope Saint Gregory the Great
Sermon for March 12, 2015 ~ 11:00 HE 1
Feast Day of Gregory the Great,
Bishop of Rome, 604
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
For online access to the readings click here
I speak to you in the name of One God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Today is the Feast Day of Gregory The Great, Bishop of Rome (aka Pope), who died in 604.
He assumed this title for his office, “servant of the servants of God.” 

What do you know about him?

Biographical information includes:

·        Born into a ruling class family 540
·        Became appointee of Roman emperor 573,
o   During time of plague (1/3 died)
·        When father died, retired to monastic life
·        Appointed by Pope Pelagius II to be “ambassador to Constantinople 579
·        Pelagius died 590, elected successor
·        Organized defense of Rome at Lombard invasion and arranged food from papal granaries in Sicily to be used to feed people
·        Gift of administration and smarts: educated in grammar, rhetoric, literature, sciences, law
·        “Unremarkable” in theology, but prolific in writing and documenting (“Pastoral care”)
·        Ordered church liturgy
o   Revised Mass to move the Our Father to the end of the mass and before the fraction
o   Created divine liturgy of the “presanctified gifts” (which we use for LEMs or Deacon mass)
o   Established “plainchant” which took the name of “Gregorian chant”
·        Organized Almsgiving and offerings (pre-systematic accounting methods) to the church, making it well-funded (to feed the poor)
·        Influenced several key missionaries/evangelists
o   Appointed Augustine, first Arch Bishop of Canterbury and evangelist to the Anglo-Saxons
o   Arranged for baptism of King Ethelbert in UK, ~601 (first Christian king)
o   Wrote of Benedict’s “Life” in his “Dialogues” and used this style of monasticism as an instrument of evangelization for Augustine
o   Appointed Remigius as Bishop of Rheims, influencing the Franks to cooperate
·        Encouraged “unity in diversity” with the English Church by adopting customs that are “acceptable to God” and by learning from that – this was early ecumenical work.
Clearly, Gregory the Great was a gifted administrator and yet, can you see a thread through all his life? 

Serving others. 
Accepting ambiguity.
Exercising gifts.
But especially, serving others.

Gregory adopted the moniker,
“a servant to the servants of God.”

I think that is why the lectionary authors selected the Gospel reading today about “whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all…not to be served but to serve.”

So, I wonder how this is relevant to us today? 
We all have gifts from God,
some for hospitality,
some for administration,
some for manual labor…

Can you think of a time
when you have offered your gifts to someone
so that they could serve others? 
Imagine how the chain of service happened… what stories might you think of?

I believe the good news today is in
God’s serving others, through us. 

God’s gracious loving-kindness is manifest in the gifts that we have been given and then give to others.

The very first gift that God gives us is love.  Think about the first time you found yourself in love – from where did that love arise?  In your heart, but originally from God.

God loves – so we love.
God gives – so we give.
Jesus served – so we serve.

May this day when we commemorate Gregory the Great arise as a beacon of hope and example how God is still working in our lives,
Every day and in every way.


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