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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16


Saint Margaret’s Anglican Episcopal Church Budapest, Hungary The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost 22 August 2021 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69 “When a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place.” It was apparently common in early medieval Europe for saints and scholars to occasionally write manuals of instruction for the edification of young princes and other royal personages. Often called mirrors for princes, many works of this genre have survived the ages and can be found nowadays in libraries and museums from Madrid to Moscow. One can only assume that the primary purpose behind such how-to guides was to ensure that the next generation of royalty might be at least as just and peace-loving as the previous. Or alas -- in the case of way too many nobles -- to ensure that the next generation did indeed not follow the cutthroat and bloodthirsty habits of those who had gone before. Saint Stephen of Hungary also got into the act, writing such a work in Latin toward the end of his long reign for the edification of his son, Prince Imre, who was due to inherit the crown upon Stephen’s death. It is called the Admonitions of Saint Stephen and is filled with sage advice. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, Prince Imre died in an accident – mauled by a wild boar according to legend -- some years before King Stephen’s own death and so never benefitted from his father’s wise reflections. But the work has nevertheless survived the centuries for us to learn from today. Contrary to the belief of some Hungarian irredentist scholars of the past century, Hungary at Stephen’s time was not an empty plain but -- perhaps more than most kingdoms or princedoms of Europe -- a land of disparate tribes and peoples, from early-arriving Proto- Magyars to Slavonians, Slavs, Celts, Avars, left-over Huns, Proto-Bulgars, remaining Romans, Illyrians, Germans, a handful of Göktürks, Pseudo-Avars, Ruthenians, Turks, a few Jews, and ancient Byzantine business people and road-warriors. And, this is only a very partial list. So, it is probably not surprising that Stephen urges Prince Imre in his Admonitions to respect “foreigners and all who come to you.” He continues, “the guests and newcomers...bring with them different tongues and customs, different examples and weapons, and all of this enhances the splendor” of the kingdom. What Stephen wrote so long ago remains true today of course. We all gain from each other and learn from our

differences and diversity. Stephen also wisely saw the common faith of the Church, which the Hungarians had only recently embraced, as that which would hold his kingdom together for generations to come. We find similar sentiments expressed in our first Reading this morning from the First Book of Kings, as King Solomon prays to the Lord asking that he heed the prayers not only of the Israelites but even those of foreigners who have made their way to the Holy City in prayerful devotion. He implores the Lord, “when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house,” meaning the Temple, “then hear in heaven your dwelling place.” With this prayer, Solomon comes to see the foreigner no longer as an enemy of Israel, but as a potential ally; for if they pray to the same God, they cannot truly be an adversary. This is perhaps the beginning of the universality of ancient Hebrew thought; the idea that all peoples belong to the one true God of Israel. This would of course become the bedrock of Christian belief centuries later. In our passage this morning from his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul himself asks the Lord for the grace “to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel,” to peoples across the ancient world. That message of love and universal acceptance is with us still today; though, considering “the whole state of Christ’s Church and the world,” it may sometimes be difficult to credit, as peoples and nations fight over religious beliefs, ethnic background, skin colour, and even refugee or migrant status. So, King Stephen was certainly on to something so long ago when he concluded, “a country of one single language and one set of customs is weak and vulnerable.” His ultimate successors on the throne must have taken his words to heart, for it was only short decades after Stephen’s death that the Hungarian Court welcomed our very own Saint Margaret and her family, refugees from far-off and war-torn England. And, I suppose what Hungary’s founding father says about his kingdom so long ago is true as well for all of Europe today – a continent of migrants if there ever was one. For, unless you can claim Basque heritage, you or your ancestors most likely came to Europe or Hungary sometime in the last fifteen hundred years or so from someplace else. And, as the daily news reminds us, the migrations are far from over. Interestingly, Stephen seems also to have known something of refugees and those “who are suffering violence,” as he described them. Be merciful to them, is his advice to Imre – and to us. “Be patient with everyone,” he continues, “not only with the powerful but also with the weak.” “Be patient with everyone.” Indeed, “Egy kis türelmet,” is still one of the most frequent requests heard in everyday Hungarian life, whether in shops and businesses or queuing at government offices. Although patience may well be the virtue in shortest supply in this hectic, multi-tasking world of ours, it is nevertheless among the most necessary of virtues. War and violence in other parts of the world bring migrants and refugees to us still. Stephen might well tell us what he told his son, “Protect newcomers and hold them in high esteem so that they should stay with you rather than dwell elsewhere.” Strangers

and foreigners can of course seem, well, strange and foreign. And scary. Indeed, sometimes they are. But they are also people like us – all part of the one Kingdom that lasts forever no matter how you – or your religion -- name it. King Solomon knew this; so did Saint Paul and later King Stephen. So, it makes sense for us to remember the words of Stephen to Imre and to take to heart the ancient greeting which has become our standard or motto here at Saint Margaret’s, “Isten hozott.” God brought you to us. Whoever you may be, you are welcome among us. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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