Sunday 6-19-16

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!


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it."

St. John of the Cross, a 16th c. Spanish monk said, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be a better light, and safer than a known way."

And, -Br. James Koester, SSJE said about Friendship - We have come to know God through the kindness of strangers and the concern of friends, for Jesus has taught us that the very act of friendship is a sacrament of God’s love.

This has been a very busy week indeed. We have suffered, worried, grieved, wondered, hoped, celebrated the Summer Solstice right next door at the Norwich Green and the Summer Revels just last night. All this busy week, we have prayed -  for the crisis in Orlando, the passing of a dear man, Tom and his family, for the newly forming refugee resettlement program in Rutland, for the homeless and those people trying to protect their neighborhoods from the homeless. And I for one prayed this week for all of these events and sang songs. One of the best moments this week for me, after watching the Video: Presiding Bishop Curry on World Refugee Day, was attending the Lebanon city council meeting. The meeting was scheduled to discuss and decide whether to adopt a city ordinance proposal that would in essence, criminalize homelessness in a particular area of that city.  I saw over 70 people from the community stand up and pledged their support in coming up with a better solution to this challenge of how we care for our poorer brothers and sisters…

The choices of scripture themes this week are many and varied. I, like my friend Kate Huey, spent most of this week focused the theme of call, God’s call to each and every one of us to become God’s prophets of love and great hospitality through acting on another’s behalf and not judgement. Like many of the prophets before us, God’s call often comes with great reluctance, built in. The cause of our reluctance to answer God’s call is usually because of our two greatest fears. One - that we won’t get what we want. And two - that we won’t get to keep what we already have.

When we are called by God to be God’s prophet, we are almost always called to both change ourselves in some fundamental way – perhaps we will have to change in order to become more open minded, more able to listen to someone’s story, more able to speak from our deepest heart and most thoughtful mind, especially when we are called to speak truth to power. When we are called by God to be God’s prophet, we are also almost always called to retain that which we were born to offer the world, be it a sense of fairness, our ability to love, or to feel anger at the unjust actions in the world… so, we are called to change ourselves and to remain the same both at once.

One of the songs I was singing this week is one that spoke to me about a reluctant and yet also willing prophet that God calls to bring God’s message to the world … I want us to sing together this morning, it is a 50 year old song, it’s a hymn actually, and it fits in with the theme of God calling us. If you picked up the insert with your bulletin or if you know it, sing it with me…

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

My friend Kate said about today’s lesson in first Kings that for many of us, the idea of a calling is just for some folks, like pastors and missionaries, and maybe doctors, nurses, and teachers. We think the voice of God, whether it's loud and clear or a still, small one, is reserved for people who are doing something "special," something that serves God and humankind in a distinctive way that requires an anointing. Even ordained pastors may steer clear of the call to be a prophet; who would want such a job? There's just too much risk and too little reward in speaking truth to power or in traveling the long hard road between one mountaintop experience and another. Elijah can certainly testify to that. Running from Jezebel and Ahab after a big scene in which he wiped out the power of the Baal priesthood, Elijah runs out of steam, and prays to God to let him die rather than face any more challenges. Instead, God sends an angel to sustain him on his way to a powerful mountaintop experience.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have born my peoples pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them,
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Elijah is running from more than Jezebel; he's trying to avoid his vocation as a prophet, and he makes excuses, including a feeling that he's all alone, the only faithful one left. How many of us have found ourselves in similar situations, perhaps not on the mountain where Moses himself trod, but certainly on the run from what God is calling us to do and to be? When are we more likely to find ourselves alone and self-justified than when we've run away from the tasks before us? God says to Elijah (and to us): "Listen, Elijah, you need to get back to work; I have things I want to accomplish, and you're the instrument for getting them done!" As Christians, we are not alone in responding to God's call: even Jesus did not "go it alone," but gathered a community around him, the same community to which we are called today, as his followers. Each of us has a vocation, and there are things that we need to do in this world, no matter what great challenges we face. If Elijah got discouraged and even gave up, it's not surprising that we might do the same thing. It's a blessing, then, that other voices intervene, however powerful, however small, and call us back to who we are, whose we are, and what we are to be about. [Kate Huey]

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Richard Rohr talks about call in a very different way. He says, “One of the only ways God can get us to let go of our private salvation project is some kind of suffering. This is why we Christians hang the cross at the center of our churches, why we kiss the cross, and why we say we're "saved" by the cross. Yet for all this ritualization, it seems we don't really believe what the cross teaches us--that the pattern of death and resurrection is true for us too, that we must die in a foundational way or any talk of "rebirth" makes no sense. I don't know anything else that's strong enough to force you and me to let go of our ego. Somehow our game has to fall apart. However we've defined ourselves as successful, moral, better than, right, good, on top of it, number one . . . has to fail. It just has to.

This is the point when you don't feel holy; you feel like a failure. You don't feel worthy; you feel very unworthy because usually you've sinned. When this experience of the "noonday devil" shows itself, the ego's normal temptation is to be even stricter about following the first half of life's rules. You think more is better, when in fact, less is more. You go back to laws and rituals instead of the always-risky fall into the ocean of mercy. [Richard Rohr]

Let us pray. God our refuge and hope, when race, status, or gender divide us, when despondency and despair haunt and afflict us, when community lies shattered: comfort and convict us with the stillness of your presence, that we may confess all you have done, through Christ to whom we belong and in whom we are one. Amen.