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It's happening all across the land.

At Labor Day picnic tables.
And under beach umbrellas.

In Living Rooms.
And Dining Rooms.

Facebook news feeds,
and on the telephone.

Fathers and mothers.
Spouses and children.
Sisters and brothers.
Every person we encounter.
In every aspect of life.

All across the land.

People are talking.
And their talking often turns to argument.
And their argument to disgust.

Some people agree not to talk about it any more.
Others no longer talk because
already they've talked about it too much.

Talked not about a tower, but about walls.
Email firewalls.
And walls across a border.

High walls built up between people.
And walls topped with razor wire preventing civil discourse.

If you've ever wondered what Jesus
means by families and friends at enmity with one another, we're experiencing it today.

Not as a proscription for what God intends.
But as a description of what God's people get themselves into,
—what we get ourselves into—
when we consider issues of consequence.

Consider the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom where, as Jesus defines it,
the least of these matters most.

For weeks now,
Jesus has been preaching and teaching about this kingdom.

And in each instance considers an issue of consequence.
Whether to heal on the sabbath.

Whether to give the poor and the needy
places of honor at a table.
Whether they are the most honorable among us at all.

Jesus own preaching and teaching
has been joined by others.
Saint Paul among them.
Who today urges his brother in Christ, Philemon
to treat Onesimus not as as slave,
but as a citizen of the kingdom where the least matters most,
to see him as a brother in Christ.

There's no getting around it.
If Philemon treats Onesimum as a brother in Christ,
and "Apphia, our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier"—
if Philemon's own father doesn't like it,
there will be enmity between them.

And so, Philemon faces a choice.
Follow the way of the kingdom.
And have enmity not simply with his friend and co-workers, but with his very own father.
Or follow his father.
And find himself at enmity with the kingdom,
its leaders,
and its honored citizens.

So too, if a mother sets her table
and welcomes as honored guest a person in need.
And her own daughter doesn't like it.
These two face the same situation as Philemon and his father.

Likewise, if a person heals on the sabbath.
Or if a righteous person embraces an outcast and sinner.

If undocumented immigrants
ought be treated as citizens in the making.
Or if the interests of banks
outweigh the interests of the general public.

Go down the line.
And wars.
And healthcare.
And women's rights.
And gay rights.
And human rights.
Fathers and mothers.
Spouses and children.
Sisters and brothers.
Those whose relationship
is both defined by and expresses love,
find that love strained as they
—as we-
consider the nature,
the shape and
the extent
of our love,
our regard,
for others.
Jesus sets before us
this kingdom where the least matters most.
And to live its life.
To love its love.
May, and often does,
put us in conflict with those we love most.

Jesus offers no easy answers.
And I don't have an easy answer, either.

Anybody who does,
is probably conveying
nothing other than their own bias
as all-too-simple truth.
For the kingdom of heaven is complex.
As is our nation.

But this we know.
Actually this we know above all else.

Life in the kingdom.
The life placed before the Israelites wandering in the desert.
Life placed before us today.

Is life with God.

How does the author of Deuteronomy put it?
Life with God is loving the Lord,
walking in the Lord's ways,
observing the Lord's commandments, decrees and ordinances.

Which means life with God
is also life with one another.

Perhaps even life with those we hate.

Life with our friends and
life with our adversaries.

Life with those we love easily.
And life with those we struggle to love.

Because in the kingdom of heaven.
Everyone is present.
The first and the last.
The last and the first.

In the kingdom of heaven,
God sets a table for us
in the presence of our allies and
in the presence of our enemies.

The church's witness.
Our witness.
In the midst of people rising up against one another.
Is that we cannot forsake one another.
Because to do so would be to forsake God.
And we are teetering awfully close on that.

The Table God sets before us reminds us that
before the election, after the election,
problems now and problems in the future—
we'll all be here.

Both sides of the aisle.
Every side of every issue.
And yes, even people
with the most heinous, most vile of convictions.
At Table with one another.

Which, admittedly, sounds quite bleak.

But this Table does not simply gather us,
or remind us of one another,
it feeds us with nourishment beyond our knowing,
life as yet to be perceived.

Feeds us with the very life
of the one who lays down his life for others.
For sinners.
and outcasts.
and those who, by love, are considered family.

Sitting at Table the night in which he is betrayed to death,
Christ Jesus gives his life.

And in giving his life.
binds us all together.

Binds us together so that
no matter how far apart we are,
the kingdom draws us close.
Because we are all in need of God.
And we are all in need of one another.

It is here at Table
we come to experience
what life in the kingdom of heaven,
life where the least matters most
is really all about.

This life is God's word of promise
never to give up on unity.
And equity.
And justice.

This life is God's word of promise that comes from
A piece of bread broken.
The cup of blessing shared.

A word of promise in this midst of our struggles,
and words that would exploit them.

Come, taste and see, dear sisters and brothers.
Taste and see this goodness of the Lord.
And the kingdom where love rules all in all.
Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York

16th Sunday after Pentecost
September 4, 2016 Morning Masses

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21
Saint Luke 14:25-33