Sunday, November 18, 2018
Year B Proper 28 2018 And Be Thankful
Year B Proper 28, 28 November 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“And Be Thankful”
Collect: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of ev erlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Mark 13:1-8 As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”
From Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2)
“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. “There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
We have spent a lot of time this fall looking at our theme: Called to Peace. And be Thankful. It has been explicit and implicit in our teaching, preaching, and some of our events. Today, I want to stay there, but for the first time I want to focus on the second half of that phrase. And be Thankful.
We chose this theme looking at the worry, frustration, and division your pastoral leadership felt was coursing through our societal veins. We wanted to do a reboot. We wanted a mulligan on how we were approaching things.
A phrase I repeat so often, and have needed to say ad infinitum recently is from my Pastoral Care class in seminary, “Hurting people hurt people.” We lash out. We make poor choices when we are hurting.
All families have their stories that reach the mythic level. I have told you before about the trip we took to Germany just before I was priested. Now my youngest was only 6, and the concept of popping her ears was beyond her ability and comprehension. We tried gum. We tried massaging just below her ears to unclog her pounding Eustachian tubes. As we were descending from our flight back across the Atlantic, she started really hurting. She was crying, and it was only getting worse. As we were descending over Long Island coming into JFK we descended below the clouds and the blizzard was apparent. Winds were rocking the jumbo jet. People were tense. Stephanie and Sojo were in front of us, and Selah and I were behind. We had two seats and two seats by the windows. And Sojo was letting everyone know she was not happy. At one point, after severe duress she cried out to my wife, “Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!” And when Stephanie tried, she screamed, “Stop touching me!” This went back and forth for about 2 or 3 minutes. You could tell people felt so sorry for her, and more than a few worked hard to contain their chuckles. With the worry of the weather, and a poor, hurting, screaming child we all needed to let off some of the tension. Obviously in pain, she was giving such contradictory commands. It got so bad I had to lean into Selah and say, “Let’s pretend we are not with them.”
Often we hear, “Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something!” But there are times and places when we need the opposite, “Don’t Just DO SOMETHING, Stand There.” Gather your mind. Collect yourself and your thoughts before you barge in.
I have quoted this before, but it contains such truth I say it again. This is Father Richard Rohr: All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.
And all that being said, it takes us to where we are today in our Gospel.
Jesus and the disciples were walking out of the glorious Temple. They were astounded at the work of their hands. They were giving themselves and their people a celebratory pat on the back. But Jesus saw other. They looked and saw strength and glory. Jesus was pre-grieving about what he saw was to come. Toppled towers and broken stones. What they were putting their trust in was temporary. They saw solidity. Jesus saw the ephemeral.
Where do you put your hope? Where do you put your trust?
[Singing] O God our help in ages past, our hopes for years to come,
A shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.
Where do we look for hope. How do we transform the pain of this world, before we transmit it. The world is screaming: “Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!” And simultaneously, “STOP TOUCHING ME!” We are not some hurting six-year-old. We are supposed to be the grown-ups, but we deliver those contradictory commands just like my hurting little girl. And as tense as these times are, it is just not funny. I cannot even chuckle.
If you ask Episcopalians, or in my limited experience I have found, that if people know ANY Collect, they know this week’s: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. I cannot tell you how many people I know say this is the best Collect. It is definitely the most memorable. It gives us something to do, and it tells us why to do it.
Scripture: Hear, Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest so we can have the Hope found in You, God.
When the world seems hopeless, crazy, and dark, we are given the light of the one who was there in the beginning, is here now, and will be with us forever. Jesus promised his disciples that the way ahead was not going to be all roses and sunshine. Dark days were ahead. Would they lose faith? Would they let go of the hope they had found in his way of loving God and neighbor? Will we?
Think of all the bad things that have happened in the last few months. Hurricanes Florence and Michael, Fires all over the West (especially California), mass shootings, earthquakes, wars, societal and international upheaval. So much I cannot keep track. Stop the world, I want to get off. Jesus said that these are the birthpangs. We might use the phrase, “It is always darkest before the dawn.”
But then I remember, that is why we are here. We are here to give hope to the hopeless, to proclaim release to the captive, and good news to the poor. We are here to RE-MEMBER. Do not forget what that words really means. We think to bring it again to mind. But it really is, what are we to bring to mind. We are to remember what it is we are connected to, to Re-Member, to Re-Connect with God and one another.
If you think about it, that is what we do here every week, as we read Scripture, as we receive the Eucharist, as we Pass the Peace. We join again, we re-member with God and each other. And it is a beautiful thing.
This year I have been rereading the Bible. I am going back and re-membering where we have come from and where we should be going. I am actually reading, marking, learning (and re-learning), and inwardly digesting what it is to love God and be loved by God. And I am given the Hope, the One who started “this good work in me is faithful to complete it.” Philippians 1:6 And the One who started it all, the Alpha, is the same One who will cross every T and dot every I, and will put the period on the sentence, the Omega.
So that is why in the living of these days we look to this One, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Hebrews 12:2 We look at the story of how he calls us, refines us, and enables us to find ourselves in our relationship with the everliving, everlasting, everloving God.
When the world screams and cries in hurting contradictory ways, may our response be to model and preach Peace and Thankfulness, we can go a long way to making both real. May we remind them, love them, and sit with them and let them know that one day we will land. One day this will all be over, and our hope will remain. We tell a Narrative that is “the better story.” We proclaim a hope we hopefully live. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems on the same level of thinking that created them.” This is still so true. May we reframe, and step up. May we proclaim peace and model it. May we be thankful, and encourage it. May we be a city set on a hill. May we be lamp on a lampstand in the darkness. May we be the Salt of the earth.
This week we set aside for family and feasting, for rejoicing and being thankful. When you pause this week, lifting up your Thanks, remember the hope that you have, the hope that you live, the hope for even the darkest of days.
May we have the Hope of one hopeless, poor Hannah we read about in Samuel today. Barren. Berated. Bereft. But still she sang:
“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.
“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
This Thanksgiving, may our song rise like Hannah’s, may we without reservation declare:
[Singing] O God our help in ages past, our hopes for years to come, A shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.