Sunday 6-5-16

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!

Vincent van Gogh said, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"

Dalai Lama said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

Encounter - Sometimes we need to cross over the threshold from the familiar and known into the unfamiliar and mysterious in order to come face to face with the living God. Br. James Koester, SSJE

Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come with talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains
Within the sound of silence

At Pentecost, I offered a message that was about the discernment of whether the Pentecost miracle was a miracle of the ear or a miracle of the tongue. With the help of my friend and theologian Eric Law, it was determined to be both, and more often than not, I am drawn to opportunities that express the miracle of the ear. That is, God’s power of love through my listening to one who has the wisdom that comes from experiencing life’s more challenging adventures: being far from home, being sick, being homeless altogether, being poor and “uneducated” and therefore without access to the “better life” such as one that provides adequate food, shelter, and love. More examples of folks I am drawn to listen to are people who are oppressed because of their gender, their skin tone, their class, and especially those people who are forced out of their homes and country by leaders who are more fearful than wise. And this past week especially, we remember those who have been wounded and those who have been killed by gun violence pray and work toward a better world for their sakes.

In restless dreams I walked alone, narrow streets of cobblestone
Neath the halo of a streetlamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, split the night
And touched the sound of silence

 My friend Kate is a wonder at offering focus questions that help us go deeper with our scriptures, our traditions, our reason and our experiences. As we focus on the reading from First Kings, the overall topic of this week’s message is, “The Voice of the Silenced.” This topic is all about how important it is to learn to listen well, for how else are we going to be able to listen to the voices of the silenced? When have you ever had to muster courage in order to be compassionate? How are you, and your church, "a force that leads to blessing"? What are the "hostile places" in which you try to do God's work? What "otherwise" do you dare to imagine, and to bring to life, by allowing God to work through you? How is God's work getting done, through you?

And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared, and no one dared
To stir the sound of silence

When we look around at our lives and the life of the world, what abundance do we see about to break forth because of unexpected generosity and surprising, courageous compassion? Whose voices, long silenced, do we need to hear? Today, in many situations, it requires a measure of courage to act out of compassion, especially for the stranger, the person on the margins, and the powerless who have little voice in the way things are. In the face of that reality, [Karl Allen Kuhn] One perceives a choice and a challenge in this first Kings story, summed up in the big picture, "the forces that lead to blessing and the forces that lead to destruction" in this story.

Fool, said I, you do not know, silence, like a cancer, grows
Hear my words and I might teach you, take my arms then I might reach you.
But my words, like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence

There are all sorts of wonderful things swirling around in this story [in first Kings]: the power of God, the rains of mercy on parched earth and dried-up lives, the small ones lifted up, the generosity that transforms the direst of situations, the blessings of God multiplying in unexpected and unimagined ways. When we look around at our lives and the life of the world, what abundance do we see about to break forth because of unexpected generosity and surprising, courageous compassion? Whose voice, perhaps long silenced, needs to be heard in our community, and our life?

Also, in today’s lesson from Kings, God's prophet is on the run after speaking truth to power in the court of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. A drought has struck the land, just as Elijah warned, after Ahab set up worship sites for the false god, Baal - the one Jezebel brought with her from Sidon. As he flees, Elijah is thirsty and hungry and in need of hospitality. While we know Elijah as a great prophet with many stories told about him in the Old Testament, his memory plays a role in the New Testament as well, for his name comes up often when people wrestle with who Jesus is (see Matthew 27:47). Like Jesus, Elijah's good news was particularly good for the poor, not the powerful and arrogant. While his preaching doesn't go over well with Ahab and Jezebel, he does have a good word to bring to the poor but generous widow. Elijah begins with that always-reassuring good news, "Do not be afraid." Angels and prophets and Jesus himself tell us not to live in fear, no matter how things look. The widow, at the end of her rope and preparing to die with her son, suddenly sees salvation arrive at her door. Where there was scarcity, there is now sufficiency [maybe even abundance].

And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they'd made
And the sign flashed its warning in the words that it was forming
And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence

Later, when the widow's son lies dead, Elijah is summoned once again to be the means by which God brings new life. Indeed, where there appears to be death, there is, amazingly, life! Small, powerless, and yet full of insight, the woman recognizes the hand of the true God at work in her life, and she makes the leap of faith to trust the word of this God.

When we look around at our lives and the life of the world, what abundance do we see about to break forth because of unexpected generosity and surprising, courageous compassion? Whose voices, long silenced, do we need to hear? [Kate Huey]

Vincent van Gogh said, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"

Dalai Lama said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

Encounter - Sometimes we need to cross over the threshold from the familiar and known into the unfamiliar and mysterious in order to come face to face with the living God. Br. James Koester, SSJE

Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come with talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains
Within the sound of silence

Let us pray, Provident God, whose love enfolds the helpless, the needy, and those who mourn, give us strength through Jesus Christ to be instruments of your compassion to those who are desolate or wounded by life. Amen.