St Barnabas, Norwich VT
Sermon by Rev Jennie M Anderson
Lord, make us stewards of ourselves, that we may be servants of others. Take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire, for Jesus’ sake. Amen. Good morning! Welcome!
Convenience - Following Jesus will almost always be inconvenient. A convenient spirituality is no spirituality at all, because it means we are simply doing what we feel able to do, or what we feel comfortable doing. If it is convenient it means we don’t have to rely on God very much. -Br. John Braught
This Advent I have been looking for ways that we can and are planting HOPE while we await the birth LOVE. I have been remembering the past and dreaming about the future. I want to expand a little bit around the theme that I began last week. I want to stretch us, our minds and souls to consider the whole world. Let’s look at the church in the world and see where our faith is alive and thriving and all about the business of planting HOPE while we await the birth LOVE.
ERD, Episcopal Relief and Development, is the first organization that I turn to in the church which looks be the compassionate response of The Episcopal Church to human suffering in the whole world. Hearing God's call to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of every human being, Episcopal Relief & Development serves to bring together the generosity of Episcopalians and others with the needs of the world.
The next Episcopal group I look to is the Young Adult Service Corps of the Episcopal Church and their Office of Global Partnerships. They serve as a bridge for developing and nurturing relationships between the Episcopal Church and our partners around the Anglican Communion, our ecumenical and interreligious partners, and with organizations such as the United Nations and the National Council of Churches.
Another group is the Episcopal Migration Ministries, who each year, with a network of local affiliate partners welcome more than 5,000 refugees from more than 30 countries. From the moment they arrive in their new communities, refugee clients receive care, hospitality, and assistance from professional affiliate staff and from the hundreds of generous church volunteers who welcome the stranger through this ministry each year.
The Mission Personnel of the Episcopal Church are individuals who feel called to serve God across cultural boundaries have the opportunity to serve as Episcopal missionaries in over 25 countries around the Anglican Communion, supporting local church communities in their calling to participate in God’s mission. Missionaries are doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, computer technicians, administrators, theologians, and communicators. Missionaries are lay and ordained, young and old.
These organizations are just who we see working in the world through the church when we scratch the surface of the links and web pages of the Episcopal Church for a couple of evenings in Advent.
Our collect this morning reads in part that God sent messengers, the prophets, to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. So again I say REPENT!!! That is just a word that means turn around… that we turn ourselves around and seek the path that leads us to be fully present for the birth of LOVE. I want to share, in part, one of the most moving presentations of planting HOPE to await the birth of LOVE that I have ever heard. It came to the house of Bishop’s who met in Burlington in September of 2001.
Fifteen years ago my friend Richard Parker and fellow parishioner from Christ Church Cambridge addressed the House of Bishops regular scheduled meeting just days after the twin towers in NYC came crashing down. Richard began his presentation this way.
“If we are to talk about “globalization” today, we must first talk about death. I do not say that to shock you or because it pleases me to speak this way. Yet in the wake of what happened at the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, death is much on our minds these days as America prepares for war. Since September 11, 2001, we now mourn the loss of more than 5,000 American lives. But let me share with you some simple facts: Over the course of this coming year, more than 50 million— 50,000,000— people will die, most of them from preventable disease or malnutrition. And the overwhelming majority of those, who live in the Third World, will be human beings the World Health Organization estimates need not have died had someone been willing to spend just a few dollars per person for food or medicine. To give some perspective, 50 million dead is greater than the total casualties of World War II— itself the most horrendously murderous war in modern history. It is eight times greater than the Holocaust, about which we all rightly insist “Never Again.” It amounts each year to 10,000 World Trade Centers, which must also never be forgotten. And yet— year after year— this loss of life goes on not merely forgotten, but unknown to all but a tiny fraction of Americans. There is an even more painful fact here: of those 50 million who will die more than 12 million will be children under the age of five. That is one million children needlessly dying every month, a quarter million every week, nearly 40,000 children every day. Put slightly differently, by the time I finish speaking to you this morning, more than 5,000 children will be dead— and you and I could have saved almost every one. But we will not…”
Richard went on to put into historical perspective, the responsibility of the Episcopal Church to progress into this century with a progressive expansion of the Social Gospel Era begun in the mid-1800s. He concluded his presentation with these words. “Today, here in Burlington, you have gathered as the leaders of a proud and powerful church— a church that has given this country nearly a third of its Presidents and nearly half the Chief Justices of its Supreme Court. Your agenda is to weigh, in this new millennium, what this church owes not only the nation, but the world.” It is 15 years later and I want to expand on this mission that Richard introduced in his presentation.
Episcopal Relief & Development's programs strive to honor best practices as well as the contributions and dreams of those we serve. ERD’s programs connect with the SDGs and support truly sustainable development in nearly 40 countries worldwide. - The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, build on the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Established by the international community in 2000, the MDGs were eight goals focused on reducing the number of people who live in extreme poverty by the end of 2015. The MDGs targeted a range of development issues such as poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to clean water and sanitation.
Despite the value of a united global agenda and the success of the MDGs in meeting specific targets, poverty remains an enormous challenge worldwide. The new SDGs, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people. The intention of the SDGs is that no one is left behind. These goals are practical and specific, with measurable outcomes. They also engender a culture of accountability.
I plan on introducing the U N Goals in a little more detain during the coffe hour this morning but here are a few clear distinctions between the SDGs and MDGs. There are 17 SDGs compared to 8 MDGs. The SDGs are universal, addressing poverty everywhere it exists. For instance, the United States is equally accountable for poverty alleviation at home as it is abroad. There is a paradigm shift in how development is approached in the goals. The SDGs put each country in charge of its own strategy. Gender equity is front and center in the goals because a disproportionate number of people living in poverty or without access to power and influence are women.
Repenting isn’t always about not being a sinner anymore… except that it is. Repenting isn’t always about becoming both humble and righteous and even more whole in our souls… except that it is. Repenting isn’t always about changing the road you are on and going in a completely different direction… except that it is. Repenting isn’t always a loud, shouted and clanging affair that I have been presenting throughout today’s message, it is most often accomplished in whispers.
Let us pray. Laboring God, with axe and winnowing fork you clear a holy space where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds sway. Clear our lives of hatred and despair, sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.