Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pentecost +3, Orange is the New Green

The Season After the Pentecost, Proper 5, Pentecost +3, Readings Can Be Found Here (note, we are using the semi-continuous track 1)


The stole is a symbol of my service to Christ—somewhat like a yoke harnessing an ox to the plow, a stole is meant to indicate that right now, and in this moment, my identity is that of servant to God. It is a clear indicator that my liturgical role has begun—that in my service I am preparing a space for the work we are called to do together in worship and praise of God.

A uniform, it marks me as me, yet more than me—as someone with a particular role in a particular context. Traditionally worn in colors that mark the season of the church, this green stole’s color is meant to relay this time and space we are in as a green and growing time.  Yet, the color is not without ornament…and the cross adorns this one, a reminder of the one we serve.  The one whose death was our death and whose life is ours to live.

Those who erected the cross saw it as a tool for execution. The one who hung upon the cross turned it into a tool for liberation.  This defiant act took what was evil and transformed it utterly into a good. 

Alongside the cross, I have attached an orange ribbon. Joining with colleagues throughout the Episcopal Church, I have accepted the invitation to wear orange and stand against gun violence. The call to wear orange came from an organization called “Everytown for Gun Safety” and was furthered by the denominational group, Episcopalians United Against Gun Violence. Orange is the color used by hunters to make sure that other hunters don’t mistake them for game. Today this color is worn as a reminder that, as I was taught in by my father and the hunter safety courses I was required to take, a gun is never to be pointed at another human being.

This then becomes another sign and symbol, another call for transformation.   I wear this ribbon as a means of responding to a call that I, as a member of the clergy, reaffirm the right of everyone to live a life free from gun violence.

I heard the call, and I responded. In a world awash with the blood of the victim, I stand in this place to further the call of those who might otherwise be unheard.  And I do so knowing that part of our calling as Christians is to listen to the cry of the suffering and respond as the body of Christ.

There are some who will hear these words and wonder at my neglect of the scripture today. But, I find that rather then neglecting the scriptures, I am heeding the scriptures.  From the texts appointed for today…   

“He cried out.”

“The Lord listened.”

“He had compassion for her…”

Elijah cries out for the child and assumes responsibility for his fate. Jesus encounters death and, without being asked, creates life. Widows, the very least of these, with neither power or privilege in their context, are given a freely given gift of hope for a better tomorrow.  Elijah and Jesus take on the suffering of the outsider and the outcast and redeem it.  They create life out of death and respond to the desperate cry of the grieving mothers.   

It can be tempting to read the scripture like some sort of archaic history or dismiss it as pure “story”, but if we do so, we lose the opportunity to see our own story unfold within its pages.
And, today our story is the story of the beloved children of God who have been lost to gun violence and our call to act in such a way that those deaths are redeemed by our pursuit of peace and justice.

We don't have to look to hard to see and hear our story...from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to Selby Ave, St. Paul*. Gun violence’s reverberations can be felt from here. And so, in reading these scriptures and knowing our story, and then seeing how our story is the story of Christ in the world—well, it doesn’t require us to go much further to see that today’s good news is that the call to create life is a call that WE as followers of the way of Christ can and must pursue.

So on this day, we are asked to hear the cry of those who grieve, and to respond in ways that will make manifest the compassion of the God who hears and sees the brokenness of the world. 

And, thus, as the body of Christ in the world living as we do in these days after the Pentecost, we are to listen to the voice of the suffering, the widows and the orphans of our own time, and respond to their desperate need.

From the orders for Noon Day Prayer and Compline, the bidding to prayer begins with a petition addressed to God,

Lord, hear our prayer

the people respond,

And let our cry come to you.

Elijah cried aloud for the suffering widow. And, her cry became his. We, like Elijah are called to cry out on behalf of the suffering—and like the Christ to offer healing to those whose voices would go unheard. 

I wish to close this sermon with prayer, and so, turning to page 833 in the Book of Common Prayer, let us pray the prayer of Saint Francis together…

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.

*not to mention that every single school kid in the public schools in Minnesota (and throughout this country) has had to practice lock down drills since they started kindergarten at 5 years of age.  Why, why, do we think it more acceptable that 5 year olds should know how to hide in place in case of an armed intruder than to legislate laws that would prevent the arming of said intruder?!

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