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.
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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!
Thank you for allowing me to say a few words this morning about what “stewardship” means to me. It does feel kind of odd standing here in the aisle–when I took on the junior warden position, they didn’t tell me this was part of the job description. If you’re surprised to see me in this role, well, I’m doubly surprised. Never saw this coming.
But my experience at Trinity has been full of surprises, starting right from the beginning.
When I first walked through these doors, some three years ago, I was hoping for something very different from what I found. VERY different. I wanted to walk in, sneak into a seat there in the back, do my business with God, avoid the peace, receive Communion and scoot quietly, and quickly, out the side door.
First thing I realized was that there are no side doors. The second was that you don’t escape either the peace or the priest quite so easily. But what I also found out right away was that this Anglo-Catholic church offered me the best of two worlds; the Catholic and the Anglican. On Anglican side, I get a very democratic and accepting church, and a church which recognizes that the Holy Ghost continues to move in and amongst us—-in other words, both a very American church, and an evolving church; on the Catholic side, I recognized, with no small degree of joy, many of the Catholic traditions I grew up with: festive liturgies, sacraments, and, especially, weekly communion.
But the most important thing was that, as time went on, I found something just as important as Communion: I found community. Because whatever happens up there on the altar, what happens between us, in the pews and the hall, and after we leave, is just as important. Our exchange of “the peace” is to my mind every bit as as sacred as that which resides in the ciborium. Remember: “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also.”
And they’re really not separate things. While “Communion” describes my relationship with God, and “community,” my relationship with all of you, they come from the same root word, communio, which has a three-part definition: “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing.” And the same root as does “common,” as in Book of Common Prayer, and Commonwealth—as in Commonwealth of Massachusetts—for that matter.
I know that to make my audience feel comfortable I should start with the proverbial Priest, Rabbi, and Minister joke – but this is a serious topic at this time in the life of this parish – STEWARDSHIP
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori said, “The fundamental reason for all acts of stewardship is gratitude for the abundance we have been given.”
As people of faith we are called to be grateful for all the blessings we experience in our lives. We are called to acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from God. Each and every day we can be grateful for families, friends, financial resources, and this fragile earth.
And because God has been so generous to us, we are called to be generous as well – generous with our time, talent and treasure. Trinity Church provides us one major opportunity for us to express our generosity by supporting God’s work in the world. Through our pledge we respond to God’s generosity enabling us to use our resources to support the mission and ministry to which God has called us.