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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32 It is God who is at work in you... This coming Wednesday, October fourth, is the festival day in the church calendar of the great Saint Francis of Assisi, who died on this date in 1226, so very nearly eight-hundred years ago. Saint Francis lived during what are sometimes called the high Middle Ages, a period, as many seem to believe, of stagnation and perhaps even backwardness as well. Yet the epoch was in fact a time of great change and social upheaval across Europe; as people, long desperately poor, began leaving the poverty of the feudal farm and estate, seeking their fortunes in the burgeoning towns and cities springing up most everywhere across the continent. Needless to say, few of them found the riches or good life they sought; and most ended up living in worse conditions than those they left behind in the countryside. In many ways, Francis and his followers ended up helping to bridge the gap between that old world ending and the new one approaching, between rich and poor, greedy and generous, secular and devout. The early Franciscans or Greyfriars, as they were often called from the colour of their religious vestiture, ministered to the needs of the newly poor wherever they found them. And the fame of those early Franciscans spread across Europe as they established their homes, or monasteries, not far from the urban hubbub of the time, as the earlier monks had done, but smack-dab in the middle of it all. That is why our very own Franciscan church on Ferenciek tere is where it is. That was where the people were. And Francis cherished the people he encountered in all their messiness and contradictions. He found God dwelling among them, in their midst. In fact, he found God dwelling, well, very nearly everywhere and in everything, as his few surviving writings so often attest. Speaking of his writings: the famous Peace Prayer of Saint Francis...? He did not write that. And as lovely a prayer as it is in its own way, it has really nothing to do with Francis or even his spirituality. On the other hand, Francis did write what is still considered a masterpiece of early Italian literature, the Canticle of Brother Sun, as it is called, a psalm or prayer in which he lauds all the good things of this world as they reflect the majesty and loving-kindness of their creator. So, not for Francis the accepted asceticism of his age which rejected anything material as leading away from God. A few verses from his Canticle make the point: “Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,” writes Francis, “All praise is Yours, all

glory, all honour, and all blessings. Praised be You... especially for Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light.” Francis goes on to praise God as well for the moon, the stars, the wind and the air, water and fire; mother earth and the fruits she brings forth. He praises God in those who forgive wrongs and in those who bear suffering and trial. Finally and perhaps most profoundly, he praises God for death itself. It is a prayer we are wise to consider as we enter this autumn season noted not only for its harvests and bounties, but also for the dark and chill it presages; a season which reminds us of human life itself; a season which reminds us to praise God as did Francis for all his gifts, including our own passing; but a season which also calls upon us to protect and preserve those precious gifts. It is after all a Season of Creation. And Francis extols the harmony which must exist between creator and created; and between creation and us. But if it is a season of creation, it is also a season of redemption, as Paul explains to us so eloquently in our Reading today from his Letter to the Philippians. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” writes Paul, “but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The Cross of Christ remains for us both a sign of contradiction and a sign of hope in a world too often filled with self-aggrandizement on the one side and despair on the other. The Cross brings together the plane of this life with the plumb-line of divine life we share in Christ. No wonder than, that Francis ends his Canticle with praise of death itself; for death is part of life, part of God’s redemptive work in Christ, part of creation itself. “Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Death,” Francis writes, “from whom no- one living can escape.” A sobering reminder and admonition surely for all of us, again in Francis’ words, to “praise and bless [the] Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.” Or as Paul would have it, “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It is God who is at work in you. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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