Saturday, July 19, 2014

Proper 11A, Being a Blessing in a Heart Rending World

The pervasive feeling of helplessness that I’ve been experiencing this week has been frustrating and heart breaking.  

As I read the news, the strong sense that history repeats itself, that our culture has learned nothing about help for the helpless, that children matter less than acts of revenge and that children seeking sanctuary are denied safe shelter, that taking a stand becomes more important than acting with mercy.  

For awhile this week I tried to ignore it.  

I googled "Minnesota refugee children", and when I found nothing I thought, well this situation, this situation is not relevant to us in the far reaches of the north.

(And, don’t deny it, even Southern Minnesota sits in the far reaches of the North!)  

But, then, letters appeared in my newsfeed from the Episcopal Public Policy Network requesting advocacy on the part of children and refugees.

Then, I read the essay by the President of the House of Deputies in which she reminds us that Jesus was an infant fleeing violence in his place of birth.  

A friend and colleague posts a picture she took in the Garden of Gethsemane on her recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

And, moments later a picture of a Palestinian hospital destroyed by bombs.

And, then, and then...

Brokenness leading to more brokenness.  

And, the lamentations of the psalms comes to mind, “how long O Lord, how long?”

And, I got stuck in that place of lamenting, seeing no way out...and the scripture appointed for today irrelevant to the pain of the world.

But, in the midst of this seemingly inescapable litany of tragedy this week,

I read an interview with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams in which he references theologian Karl Barth in his charge to any potential Archbishop,

'You have to preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other'."You have to be cross-referencing all the time and saying 'How does the vision of humanity and community that's put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?' And you have to use what you read in the newspaper to prompt and direct the questions that you put to the Bible: 'Where is this going to help me?'

So, I charged myself with this task this week, looking at the scripture appointed for today and listening, listening to what it says as I hold this newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.  

And, this is what I heard...

We are a people called to be IN the world.  When I speak of faith as a verb, when we leave this place we are reminded to serve the Lord.

And, as much as I want to filter away the broken bits and focus instead on the good and the whole and the holy.

If I pretend the broken does not exist I lose the opportunity to be part of the healing.  As Christians, we are charged with bringing the good and the whole and the holy to this broken world we live in--to bring reconciliation, to bring peace, to embrace mercy.

The act of making whole what has been broken...the work of reconciliation lays before us.

So holding the Bible in one hand...

In Jacob’s encounter with God, he is told that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring”.  

Will we, the people of St. Clement’s, be a blessing to all the families of the earth--regardless of race, nation, creed or class?  Will we as a community advocate for the marginalized, will we lend voice to the voiceless?  

Will people look upon us and see us as a blessing, will we exist as the hope of creation? 

For as Paul writes, “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God”.

As we work towards God’s kingdom--the indwelling grace and love made manifest through our efforts--will we be the children creation longs for?  

As ice melts, as sea levels rise, will we be careful stewards of this longing creation?  Will we bring healing to the earth?  Will we raise awareness of the reality that the earth carries the burden of our lives and lifestyles?  Will we seek change for the good of all creation?  

Will we grow ever closer to the God of all and claim our place as children of the kingdom?  Children of the kingdom spread out throughout the world--concerning ourselves with the work of creation rather than destruction.  
And, when we let go of destruction can we then nourish weed and wheat together, knowing that if we seek to destroy that which we deem evil we will also destroy that which we deem good?

Scholars note that the weed to which this passage refers looked much like growing wheat.  So, if the weed was pulled up there was risk of pulling the wheat as well.  
And thus in the terms of this parable, in taking revenge and exacting judgment we risk destroying ourselves.  

Will we work for peace in the world and counter evil with mercy?  Will we see Christ in every human being and mourn each one dead as our own? 

Holding the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other...

Our stories.  These are our stories.  This is the world we live in.  And, in just these few words of scripture today--we are reminded that we are called to be a blessing, we are called to set creation free from bondage, we are called to nourish and not to judge and we are called to trust in the ever present God of creation--knowing God’s presence at all times and in all things.

To quote again, Archbishop Rowan Williams, 'How does the vision of humanity and community that's put before us in the Bible map onto these issues of poverty, privation, violence and conflict?'

In your pew you will find newspapers alongside your pew Bibles (and if you read the news on your smartphone feel free to pull up your newsfeed now).  I invite you to take some time to notice some story, some piece of the world’s brokenness and then in the silence that follows...

Take some time to pray upon the truth that we are a people called to the work of reconciliation.


Monica said...

Not depressing! It's convicting. Well done, and I like the idea of giving them newspapers to pray.

Megan said...

I love your comment about if we judge, we risk harming ourselves. It is framed exactly how I wanted my sermon to, but much more succinct. Thanks for inspiring me.