“The Way of Love — Turn” was the theme of a sermon delivered by the Very Rev. Katie Hargis, dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral, at the first installment of the 47th annual Sermons a la Carte Lenten series hosted by St. Mark’s Wednesday over the noon hour.
The interdenominational series features sermons delivered around a central theme each Wednesday through Lent by area ministers. This year’s theme is “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life.” Lunch following the sermon was served by Women of St. Mark’s in the undercroft.
Hargis’ sermon was based on Luke 3:15, 21-22, which finds the people waiting expectantly for a Messiah, wondering if John the Baptist may be the chosen one. Jesus is baptized by John and is promptly heralded as the son of God by the voice of God the Father and physical appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
Referring to the topic of love contained in the sermon delivered by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, on the occasion of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, Hargis shared a favorite saying of Curry’s that she felt set the tone for this year’s Sermons series.
“You might remember that Bishop Curry spoke a lot about love,” she said. “In fact, one of Bishop Curry’s favorite sayings is, ‘If it’s not about love, its not about Jesus.’
“What better theme could we have for Sermons a la Carte than to be reminded about Jesus’ unconditional love for everyone and being reminded of how we can center our own lives after that love. The idea is that following The Way of Love is a return to the ancient pathways and Rules of Life that followers of Jesus have observed for centuries. They knew the power commitment to a core set of practices — turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go and rest — and over the next five weeks we’ll hear sermons involving these seven core practices.”
She called on those in attendance to view Lent as “a prime time to look at the practices of the Way of Love” as a means to seeing “Jesus more clearly both in our own lives and the lives of all of those whose we encounter and that we will grow more and more in the unselfish, hope-filled Way of Love that Jesus embodied in the world.”
We should never become so busy as to not acknowledge the calling of our name by a friend, neighbor, or relative, she said. In doing so, we may miss out on something even more important than what we were doing.
In some ways, John the Baptizer was a disrupter, she said, calling attention to Jesus through the ritual bath or cleansing of baptism. His call to repentance disrupted plenty of people to the point where they came out in droves to be baptized by him. His message called for change, a turning of one’s whole heart and mind and life.
Jesus’ baptism marked a turning point in his life and the beginning of his earthly ministry. From that point on, people began to turn and follow Him, seeking to learn more about His teaching and example as demonstrated in the way He treated those on the margins of society, she said.
“What Jesus offered was different and way , way better, than what the world had to offer,” she said. “There were people for whom the message of Jesus was just too much to bear and they walked away. Bur for others, it was so compelling that they made a choice to follow Jesus...and to model their lives after him.
“Remember the phrase, ‘If it’s not about love, it’s not about Jesus?’ This is exactly what the people were modeling when they turned and began to follow Jesus and this is exactly what we are called to do as well.”
Followers of Jesus in the early days after his resurrection had something in common: They chose to turn and follow Him wholeheartedly. As John called people to an authentic repentance, Jesus calls each person to an intentional way of living that seeks the welfare of all as the highest priority.
“We cannot love our neighbor if we don’t love God, and we cannot love God if we don’t love our neighbor,” she said. “Part of being a follower of Jesus means that we make the choice on a daily and weekly basis to keep on following him and that we live our lives in a way that people will know who we are and whose we are and want to follow with us.”
The sermon series continues at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday with a sermon by Pastor Kent Rogers of Grace United Methodist Church. Lunch following the sermon will be served by Grace United Methodist Women.