Sunday 5-29-16

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!

As per usual, I open with a meditation, and then this week, I offer a prayer through song, also a message about our hunger for control and power which is inspired by Richard Rohr, blended in is a reflection on the scriptures and then, finally, an entreaty from some of our Bishops. -Br. Geoffrey Tristram and -Br. Jim Woodrum offer a message about Ask and our prayers about Listen.

Ask - Be careful what you ask for. Don’t pray, “Come Holy Spirit, my soul inspire” unless you mean it! Don’t pray, “Breathe on me breath of God” unless you are prepared for the consequences. Those first disciples had their lives turned upside down by the divine power invading them. For them the gift of the Holy Spirit changed their lives forever. Listen - I think this is a common misconception: that we are the only ones who are supposed to speak. But prayer is reciprocal, and believe it or not, God sometimes wants to initiate the conversation.

    Chorus
The (G)first time it was fathers, the last time it was (D)sons
And (G)in between your husbands marched a(C)way with drums and (D)guns
But you (G)never thought to question you just (C)went on with your (G)lives
'Cause (C)all they'd taught you who to be was (Am)mothers, (C)daughters, (D)wives 

To be in control of one's destiny, health, career, or finances seems to be an unquestionable cultural value. On a practical level it may be partially true, but not on the bigger level. Our bodies, our souls, and especially our failures, teach us this as we get older. We are clearly not in control. This is not a negative discovery, but a thrilling discovery of divine providence; being led, used, and guided; having an inner purpose and a sense of personal vocation; and owning one's destiny as a gift from God. Learning that you are not in control situates you correctly in the universe. You know you are being guided, and your reliance on that guidance is precisely what allows your journey to happen. What freedom and peace this can bring!

You (G)barely just remember the tears your mother (D)shed
As she (G)sat and read the paper through the (C)lists and lists of (D)dead
And the (G)gold frame held the photograph your (C)mother kissed each (G)night
And the (C)doorframe held the shocked and silent (Am)stranger (C)from the (D)fight 

 The needed virtues in the first half of life are quite rightly about self-control; in the second half they are about giving up control. That is a major switch and why Richard Rohr wrote the book Falling Upward. [Richard Rohr] These themes of seeking power and control seem also to fit in with our need to defeat another’s appalling behaviors by calling on them to defend themselves in war. Perhaps if we truly worked on our spiritual health, we would be more apt to seek out new ways of offering diplomacy, respecting the dignity of all humans. In the gospel lesson for today, Jesus is amazed at the faith of the warrior, the leader of other warriors.

And (G)twenty-one years later you had children of your (D)own
The (G)trumpet sounded once again and the (C)soldier boys were (D)gone
And you (G)made their guns and drove their trucks and you (C)tended to their (G)wounds
At (C)night you kissed their photographs and (Am)prayed for (C)safe re(D)turns

My friend Kate calls the wisdom of the gospel lesson, “Echoes and amazement.” That's what we encounter in this week's story from the Gospel of Luke, “echoes and amazement.” When a foreign military officer requests that Jesus the prophet heal his servant, we hear echoes of another military commander long ago, another foreigner, another "other," Naaman, the Aramean commander and enemy of Israel, who seeks healing from his leprosy from Elisha, "the man of God" (2 Kings 5). And when Jesus is "amazed" by the faith of the centurion, we hear echoes of the amazement of so many others already in the Gospel of Luke. Michael Card provides a litany of these folks: "Zechariah's neighbors, those who heard the shepherds, Joseph and Mary, those who heard the boy Jesus in the temple, those who heard the adult Jesus in the synagogues at both Nazareth and Capernaum, Peter and his partners, and finally those who witnessed the healing of the paralytic" were all amazed by the things happening before their eyes, and now Jesus himself is amazed by the faith of an outsider.

Chorus
The (G)first time it was fathers, the last time it was (D)sons
And (G)in between your husbands marched a(C)way with drums and (D)guns
But you (G)never thought to question you just (C)went on with your (G)lives
'Cause (C)all they'd taught you who to be was (Am)mothers, (C)daughters, (D)wives 

This week's text really belongs with next week's story from Luke about Jesus raising the son of a widow in Nain (7:11-17). Both stories echo incidents from the Hebrew Scriptures that were used as illustrations by Jesus in his response to the skepticism of the hometown crowd in the Nazareth synagogue back in chapter 4. These stories about Jesus, then, would have sounded familiar to the early Jewish Christians who already knew about Elisha healing Naaman, and Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarephath (another outsider). Your point, Jesus? It must be true that God's tender mercies cannot be held in or held back, but instead they overflow every border, every boundary we set to contain them. And yet, rather than assume that this is some kind of new teaching from Jesus, scholars lead us to understand that this story from Luke "re-presents a concern at the heart of Jewish identity, and signals that the ministry of the church is in continuity with the ministry of Israel." God's expansive love, then, is presented and re-presented throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, and we hope, in the life of the church in every age. [Kate Huey]

And (G)when it was all over you had to learn a(D)gain

To (G)be just wives and mothers though you'd (C)done the work of (D)men

So you (G)worked to help the needy and you (C)never trod on (G)toes

And the (C)photo on the mantelpiece struck a (Am)happy (C)family (D)pose

Tomorrow is Memorial Day and it is a sacred commemoration. The persons we honor on that day are a silent witness to a virtuous honor that is particularly dear to people of spiritual values. This is the time each year when we remember men and women who have been, as is written about a leader of Roman soldiers in the New Testament, “…set under authority (Luke 7:8) …” On this day we remember that some of those under authority have, as a consequence of their service, sacrificed their lives. I believe that people of faith can find spiritual values from the stories of men and women who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” of their lives. [By James B. "Jay" Magness - Memorial Day 2016: We will remember them ENS]

But your (G)daughters grew to women and your little boys to (D)men

And you (G)wished that you were dreaming when the (C)call-up came a(D)gain

But you (G)proudly smiled and held your tears as they (C)proudly waved good(G)bye

But the (C)photos on the mantelpieces it (Am)always (C)made you (D)cry

This Memorial Day weekend, I want to offer one more opportunity for us to meditate, for our minds to be changing and hearts to be burning. I want to call your attention to a relatively new movement. So, besides the gospel lesson, and all of the scripture assigned for today; besides the 50 year old folk song written by Mary Small through which I hope you just might be inspired to try on a different perspective in remembering those who have been affected by war. This year, I want to introduce you an organization called, “Bishops United Against Gun Violence”, a group of more than 60 Episcopal bishops that advocates for background checks on all gun purchases and other violence prevention measures. This group of purple shirted, faithful women and men, is urging all Episcopalians to consider wearing orange on June 2 as a sign of their commitment to reducing gun violence in their communities.

The Wear Orange movement began in 2013 after Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school student, was shot to death on the south side of Chicago just a week after marching in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. Her friends asked people to honor Pendleton by wearing orange—the color hunters choose for safety—on her birthday, June 2. Their cause was taken up by gun violence prevention groups around the country who last year promoted the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

And (G)now your growing older and in time the photos (D)fade

In (G)widowhood you sit back and re(C)flect on the pa(D)rade

And the (G)passing of your memories as your (C)daughters change their (G)lives

Seeing (C)more to their existences than just (Am)mothers, (C)daughters, (D)wives

Chorus
The (G)first time it was fathers, the last time it was (D)sons
And (G)in between your husbands marched a(C)way with drums and (D)guns
But you (G)never thought to question you just (C)went on with your (G)lives
'Cause (C)all they'd taught you who to be was (Am)mothers, (C)daughters, (D)wives 

Let us pray. O Singer, your song is welcome and holiness, healing and trust. Teach us a new song to sing your praise, and tune our ears to melodies we have never heard, that we may add our voices to the harmony uniting all creation as one in adoration and thanksgiving of you, through Christ, your all-embracing song. Amen.