Dear Friends of the Earth,
For a couple of weeks a faithful, passionate, small group of us have been working on a resolution for Convention.
The draft attached is pretty close to the final version which is due next week
If you are a lay or ordained delegate to convention and would like to join us in sponsoring it we need to hear back from you by Wednesday, you MUST be a delegate to sponsor, but we hope all of you will talk about this resolution in your congregations.
As you can see it includes resolutions on divesting and investing, actions and acceptance of responsibility for Climate Change by all of us.
We worked with members of Trustees of Donations Social Responsibility Investment committee closely and they were very helpful in this draft and in paving the way for constructive conversations with the full Board, congregational investment committees, Convention delegates and others before convention.
(click “more” to continue reading)
So: Jesus is angry. In fact, everybody from whom we’re hearing today is pretty irritated. Of course, we’re accustomed to that from the prophets—damning, well, darn near everything is their stock-in-trade. But less so from Jesus.
Some people find this disturbing — in fact, this passage gives a lot of people a lot of trouble. Me, I actually LIKE angry Jesus. For the same reason I like the Jesus who breaks down and cries at Lazarus’ tomb. And the Jesus who is scared to death in Gethsemane, and who asks God if, hey, uh, maybe we can think about doing this some other way?” And the Jesus who, on the cross, has one last moment of doubt, and who cries out, “my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
We sometimes think of Jesus as “all God,” a perfect creature who basically dressed himself up in human flesh. We forget that he doesn’t refer to himself as “the son of God” — he calls himself “the Son of Man.” He is as fully human as he is fully divine. He gets annoyed with his mother and quarrels with her at a party, then changes his mind and does what she asks. He’s tempted, just like we are, in the desert, and, I like to think, barely manages to avoid giving in. So we shouldn’t be surprised that he gets frustrated sometimes, and loses his temper at others. Even resorts to physical violence, smashing stuff up like David Ortiz in the dugout after a called third strike. That’s important; if he didn’t fully share our common humanity, he couldn’t understand what we experience. Just as we, throughout our lives, strive to better understand the ultimately non-comprehensible mystery that is “god,” so God, too, had to work at figuring US out.
So what’s Jesus, the kid from Nazareth, all peevish about this time? And why, when he so often talks about humanity as one big happy family who are all supposed to get along, is he talking about division and strife —as though it’s a good thing? Isn’t there enough division and strife in the world, in our nation, in our town—even in our parish?
I’d start by saying that I think we make a mistake in seeing Jesus as one-dimensional. There’s a great — and often very funny — book that came out a few years ago, called American Jesus, which describes the many Jesuses that Americans have worshipped over the centuries. Because he changes, with every generation, and across state lines. Just as he changes in our own lives: I daresay the “Jesus” you think about today is quite different than the one you worshipped thirty years ago, and a very far cry from the Jesus of your childhood. Many have preferred “Jesus meek and mild,” the Good Shepherd, the Comforter. Others have prayed to a very angry Jesus, the Jesus who will come again and judge at the terrible Second Coming, which can’t come soon enough for some folks, the Jesus who damns sinners and who redeems only a very select number of the faithful — most of whom, apparently, don’t live in Massachusetts.
The fact is, reading the Bible, you can make up your own Jesus by cherrypicking whatever best suits your personal Jesus. Or you can do the rather more difficult work of establishing a relationship with a somewhat more complex Jesus, one that’s a little more slippery, harder to nail down. Someone as complex as you and me. That one certainly preaches the Good News, reassures us that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to all of us. Of course, he also makes it clear that at least attempting to meet certain basic standards is required. And when those demands aren’t met — particularly by the wealthy and powerful — that’s when Jesus gets very angry indeed. Jesus can forgive sin—it’s hypocrisy that bothers him most. So we shouldn’t be suprised that Jesus has very different sides. What we want is to understand each, and in context.
So when we look to what’s getting his goat in today’s reading, we might look at the Psalm. There, we’re told that that we are to
Save the weak and the orphan;
defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor;
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
We get another clue when we see what happens in Luke just before Jesus says what we just heard. He’s been preaching, for a while, to a crowd of thousands. And he’s just finished telling them the parable of the bad servant, which ends with these words:
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Well. WE are the servants who DO know our heavenly father’s will. Much IS expected from us. More than is expected from our neighbors. Jesus often points that when it comes to giving to charity, being polite, being a decent citizens, why, “even the gentiles do that.” But that we are called to do more.
We are called, I think, to Greatness. That’s a term we don’t hear much today. In fact, I think we hear the term with some embarrassment. After all, “greatness” sounds rather boastful. And downright undemocratic. It’s an unfashiobale concept; we don’t, as a culture, seem to aspire to greatness. Think about “great” political leaders—no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, you probably don’t think about anyone in government right now. No FDRs, no Dwight David Eisenhowers. At the risk of falling prey to old fogeyism, think about television and movies, and the truly GREAT films you’ve seen—how many, really, were made recently? How much of contemporary music is “great,” is going to be replayed in a generation or two? It seems, these days that we’re content with mediocrity.
And there may be a good reason for that. We are anxious. We are suddenly aware that the global economy could crash at any moment, that what went down in 2008 could repeat itself on Tuesday morning. We are witnessing political turmoil and street violence around the world that is hard for many of us to comprehend–life was so much easier when there was The Soviet Union and there was the United States, Communism vs the Free World, everything laid out neatly in black and white. For the first time in America, our children are facing a future less prosperous future than that of their parents. Our identity as Americans is being shaken. And when we look for guidance, what do we find? What Jeremiah calls, in our first reading, “prophets who who prophesy lies in my name.” What today’s Psalm called the “powerful wicked,” the “unjust judges.” No help there. We’re disillusioned: from politicians to sports figures, pop stars to entertainers, our heroes have all, it seemed, to have turned out to have feet of clay. We refuse to be fooled again. And that’s a good thing, that kind of healthy skepticism, but it’s an evil thing when skepticism turns to cynicism, when we reject the idea of Greatness itself.
Now: think about our parish. There is something very noble in our day-to-day struggle to survive, to make ends meet, to stay afloat despite the odds. But I wonder whether Jesus would be satisfied. Or whether he might dare us to be, well, “great.” To aspire to something beyond merely surviving. To really think about what we are called to do—again,
Save the weak and the orphan;
defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor;
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
Now, that’s a tall order. That’s the kind of thing we sometimes expect others to do — in fact, we leave it up to the wealthy and the powerful, because, hey, who are we to think we can do that? Many of us aren’t very well off financially. We don’t feel very powerful in our communities. We feel, very often, more like victims than we do heroes.
I think we have the answer before us. We are the ones to whom much is given—in the form of Faith and Hope.
So, maybe today’s reading are less a condemnation than a challenge. A challenge to recognize that as Christians, we are not simply called to greatness, but we are already armed with all we need to do great things!
Remember, the very last words we hear before we depart from the sanctuary are:
“Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.”
Think about that for a moment. “Go forth into the world” means that our mission is to transform the world. “Rejoicing” means that we’re not afraid to do just that, no matter how high the odds. And most important: we are never alone; we are not victims; WE, the good servants, to whom much is given, are armed with “the power of the Spirit.” It doesn’t mean that our work will be easy. But there is no greater power on earth than that.
I want to end on a personal note. As most of you know, I am — as of nine AM tomorrow, actually — going to be able devote less time and energy than I have, and far less than I’d like, to this parish. And I’m preparing to do what I am precisely because I’ve been inspired to “do great things.” It sounds downright arrogant, doesn’t it? But that’s my new standard. I will personally fall short — over and again. But better to aim high than settle for mediocrity. My most fervent prayer is that we, as a parish, start thinking in those same terms. Expecting to fall short, but aiming for nothing short of Greatness. Of godliness. Of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I had a choice between two sets of readings this week. When Norma was assembling the missalette, she told me — Norma, remember what you said? [Norma: “I said they were both horrible!”] She had a point. But buried in all that anger and damnation, we find, today, in Paul, these words:
“For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
Now, these were not divine beings. Not messiahs. Just ordinary people like you ‘n me … who dared to be great . When their families, their communities, their nation —and their parishes, it were — needed greatness. “Need justice administered? Someone to wrestle a lion? An army put to flight? Give me call.”
YOU are great people. I’ve heard so many of your personal stories, and I’ve been blown away by the kinds of adversity you’ve overcome in your personal lives, and I know what odds you’ve defied as parish as well. So what I would take from today is not Jesus’ condemnation, but his challenge. AND his assurance. Don’t ever underestimate what you are capable of, working together — and armed with the Power of the Spirit. And if our community, and our nation, and our globe needs one thing, it’s seriously healthy dose of that Spirit.
It needs us.
In the name of the Father, and the Son….
Thanks to all who made this such an inspiring sevice!
Good morning: and hallelujah. It is, in many ways, a good morning in Massachusetts; as today’s psalm says, we have “walked through the valley of death.” And while we emerged to lie down in pastures green beside the still waters, while we feel relief, there is no joy. We are reminded that not everyone made it. And we are reminded, as we seem to be reminded every week, how easy it is, in this troubled world, to be led astray: led from fear into hatred; and from hatred, into madness; and from madness to violence.
It must be easy, because we are surrounded by it. We all know the names of the victims of the Marathon bombing, but how many of us know the names of the seven people shot in Boston on Wednesday night? The man shot in Roxbury who died this morning? The two people shot right here in Stoughton late last night? The 26 people killed in a bombing in Baghdad three days ago? Or the names of the twelve young children who died when another bomb exploded just last week in a small village in Afghanistan, a bomb deliberately directed at their homes by our leaders, paid for by our tax dollars, and summarily ignored by each and every one of us.
Not one of these deaths is excusable.
Not one of these killings is acceptable.
This is madness. This is obscene. This must stop.
Set against this ongoing horrorshow, we read, together, this morning, Psalm 23, the most famous and the loveliest of them all. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” “His rod and his staff, they comfort me.” These lines have been recited literally hundreds of millions time over by people over the centuries as they suffered, as Boston has suffered, and and as they endured, as we shall endure. It’s a happy coincidence that they are being read aloud in so many churches in the Greater Boston area this morning.
The psalms are wonder-full things: they console, they inspire, and they strengthen. But prayer alone isn’t going to heal this broke-down world: we are. You know, one of the things that drew this former Roman Catholic into a reformed religious congregation is the idea that as Episcopalians, we are ALL called to be ministers. That means we are capable of leading others in prayer services, as Bob is doing this morning; it even means that folks like you and I can stand up here and do our humble best at preaching. But we’re called to do more than that, and to extend our ministry beyond these church walls and into the world. As in, “He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” As in, “Be fishers of men.” And so on. What we do here, gathered together among friends, exchanging th0e peace, smiles, and a few jokes is easy. It’s what we we do when we walk out that matters.
In today’s Gospel text, drawn from John, Jesus refers to himself as “the good shepherd.” In Luke’s gospel, Jesus talks again about the lost sheep, and says that he comes, not for the 99 good sheep, “but for the one who is lost.” It’s worth recalling that our word “pastor” is Latin for “shepherd.” Well, here’s the thing: if we are all ministers, then it follows that
…we are all pastors;
…we are not only sheep, but shepherds as well;
…we are called not merely to follow, but to lead. To minister to the lost sheep. “Pastor-al care” isn’t something our ordained priests do on behalf of the sick and the troubled. “Pastoral care” is what each one us, by virtue of the baptismal vows we renewed at Easter, is required to do on behalf of the world.
We witnessed, this week, what happens when a sheep is well and truly lost. When a good sheep goes bad, very bad. We don’t know, and we will likely never understand, what motivates our neighbors to engage in the kind of evil we witnessed. Rescuing some of those sheep is likely waaay beyond what most of us are capable of.
But there are other sheep out there who are straying, but who are not that far gone. I was struck, reading the story of one of the bombers, hearing that he had written, “after ten years in this country, I don’t have a single American friend.” Now, that’s no excuse for stealing a candy bar, much less terrorizing a city–but is there anyone, hearing those words, that doesn’t want to reach out? And I wondered what someone had? What if, at some critical moment, he received a kind word from a stranger, and not a call to violence from a wicked accomplice? What if it had been a church, and not (possibly) a terrorist organization, that provided him the sense of family and community he craved? Would history have been changed?
Maybe not. Maybe nothing would have changed. But we understand how easy it is for those who live in unescapable poverty, or those who are bullied and ostracized, or those who “look different” or dress differently or speak differently, to start believing that they, too, have no friends, no COMMUN-ITY. And how, once someone loses that sense of connection with his fellow human beings, once he feels isolated, he becomes increasingly capable of terrible things. Of maiming over one hundred people standing on a sidewalk in Boston without remorse. Of shooting a kid he grew up with outside a neighborhood bar in Stoughton without thinking twice. Of reading about his or her own country bombing villages overseas without blinking. Of forgetting our common humanity.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t have what we have—a supportive community. We call them by different names. “At-risk youth.” “The homeless.” “Addicts.” “ And worse. Far worse. But they are the lost sheep. And they are crying for shepherds: for attention, for understanding, for a hand, for a smile. For what Jesus gave them. Not judgment, but mercy. Not condemnation, but unconditional love. Not preaching, but, above all, connection. Comm-unity.
They need us, these lost sheep. Not just our prayers, not just our good thoughts, not just our charitable donations. Not love-from-a-distance. Not a helping hand reaching down to them, but friends standing shoulder to shoulder with them as equals. They need us to recognize and to treat them as having been created in the image of God. To see beyond their current circumstances, and to see beyond the labels—“junkie,” “convict,” “pervert,” “illegal”, “bum”— even “terrorist”—that allow us to shun them, to condemn them. To simply forget them. To pretend that they don’t matter, or are unworthy. That they are beyond redemption. That they are scum. Dirt.And worst of all: invisible.
They need us to wash their feet.
To some, those who live on the fringes of society are outcasts.
To God, they are children.
To Good Shepherds, they are the lost sheep.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., put it this way:
“I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”
No one is beyond redemption.
I started out by talking about the ways in which people descend into sin and madness. There’s a flip side to that, a bright side. I’m sure some of you must have seen photos, this week, of a man by the name of Carlos Arredondo. He’s the guy in the cowboy hat, covered in blood, who dove immediately into the crowd and began stanching their wounds and dragging them to safety. What everybody doesn’t know is that a decade ago, Carlos lost one of his sons in the war in Iraq. His other son, haunted by his brother’s death, committed suicide. Carlos could have turned cold, and bitter—and who would have blamed him? Instead, he has made spreading the message of peace his life’s mission—I can’t tell you how many times I, along with many others, have walked beside him in the streets of Boston simply amazed at how he continues to do just that. I first met Carlos in 2003; I last saw him at the shrine he erected at OccupyBoston. As it turned out, one of the men Carlos rescued turned out to be the guy who was able to provide the tip that helped to identify the bombers, thereby possibly saving even more lives, many more lives. In other words, we never know the long-term effects of the good we do. Carlos was transformed by his experiences in hell into a shepherd, a good shepherd, and he changed history.
But before we can heal others, we have to heal ourselves.
So I want to leave you with this thought: it’s easy to hate at a moment like this, to forget that God calls us to the much more difficult task of love. Jesus could not be plainer: “You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—when you do that, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel.” It’s so freaking easy to cry out for even more blood, and to conveniently forget that Jesus died forgiving those who crucified him. It’s easy to hate … but the more we hate, the more we demand violence against those who have done violence to us, the more we grow to resemble them. The more we shrink our human community, the more we fail to empathize, the more we fail to make the connection between those of us who gather at Trinity-Stoughton and those who live in Roxbury, and Baghdad, and Chechnya, and a small village in Afghanistan, the less human we become, and the easier it becomes to simply accept the madness and the violence.
And we can do that: we can choose to accept, to ignore, and to surrender. But we can choose to live another way.
Now, I don’t think Jesus requires that we simply forgive and forget. That would be inhuman. Our humanity ensures that we will remember, and as humans, we thirst for justice, as well, the best justice we poor, struggling humans can deliver. And we will. But justice–not vengeance.
More important, Jesus would have wanted us to remember, in this paschal season, that the crucifixion was followed by the resurrection. In other words, that out of the most awful evil, we can yet fashion some good. By NOT surrendering to the world, but redeeming it! That’s the only way I make sense of out senseless violence. That rather than dwelling on our feelings of hurt and anger and injustice—and god knows we’re entitled to them—we ask the Lord’s help in summoning up our better angels, and leave here today pledging to try, at least, to be sowers of reconciliation, and peace, and justice amidst the violence and the hate; and to be Good Shepherds when it comes to the lost sheep. In Stoughton and Brockton and Canton. In Boston and Watertown. And around the globe. Again, Martin Luther King:
“Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.”
The Second Commandment tells us to “keep holy the Sabbath.” That’s hard to do these days, busy as we are. But this Sunday just might be one worth keeping holy. After all the tragedy, and the anxiety; after all the horror, and the demonstrations of strength and pride; after the trauma we all felt on Monday, and relief we all felt on Friday; after that endless, exhausting weeklong roller coaster of emotion, today might be a good day to take some time out and reflect on all of God’s children, all of God’s sheep. From those who have names—from young Martin Richard to my comrade Carlos, from Governor Deval Patrick to MIT Officer Sean Collier—the list goes on and on—to those whose names we shall never know, here in our our neighborhoods and on the other side of the globe. And it might be a good day to reflect on our roles as Good Shepherds, and the role we each can play in actually demonstrating to others the power of love, and of peace, and hardest of all, of forgiveness.
And so we pray:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred,let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
Everyone is welcome to join us at Trinity for any and all of the services listed below!
Friday, March 22 ~ 7:00 PM, Way (Stations) of the Cross
Sunday, March 24 ~ Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday 8 and 9:30 AM liturgies.
The 9:30 liturgy begins in the Parish Hall for the Palm Sunday Procession.
Thursday, March 28 ~ Maundy Thursday, 7:00 PM Liturgy with Sacramental Foot-washing and Stripping of the Altar,followed by The Watch, quiet prayer and meditation in the sanctuary, until 1:00 AM.
Friday, March 29 ~ Good Friday, 7:00 PM, Proper Liturgy for Good Friday,with administration of the Reserve Sacrament.
Saturday, March 30 ~ Easter Vigil, 7:00 PM, lighting of the Paschal fire, singing of the Exsultet and Choral Eucharist. Celebrated at Trinity, Stoughton, with our friends and neighbors from Trinity, Canton.
Sunday, March 31 ~ 8 and 9:30 AM: Feast of the Resurrection, Easter Day, Festival Holy Eucharist.