Proper 28B: Zombies? This ain’t about zombies!

My sermon on Mark 13:1-8: Trust me, this is so not about zombies!

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Proper 27B: Seeking Hope and Justice

My sermon on Mark 12:38-44.

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All Saints 2018: We are all in this together

For the feast of All Saints 2018: We are all in this together … all of us are saints of God.

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Opening Our Eyes to the Way of Love

My sermon today, 28 October 2018, on Mark 10:46-52, in the wake of the atrocities of pipe bombs in the mail, two people killed in a grocery store because the shooter couldn’t get into a church, and 11 killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

We are numb. We are afraid. We are grieved. But we need to listen to the lesson of Blind Bartimaeus.

The text of this sermon is posted below the recording.

I pray my words are helpful in some way.

 

Preached on the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West)

EyeIn this morning’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ clarion call to open our eyes and follow Jesus on the Way.

We hear the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who, even though he is blind, shouts for all to hear that Jesus is the Son of David, and asks for mercy. Those who know him – who know that he has been a blind beggar for years (but not his entire life) – tell him to hush up, but he won’t be silenced.

Bartimaeus might not have sight, but he has insight – the knowledge that Jesus, this itinerant preacher from Nazareth is no ordinary preacher, no ordinary teacher. Bartimaeus knows that Jesus is the one who can open his eyes and give him his sight back.

Because of his faith, Jesus does restores Bartimaeus’ sight. His eyes are opened, and he followed Jesus as a result.

If – if – we are going to follow Jesus, we, like Bartimaeus, need to have our own eyes opened.

Not because we are physically blind, as he was.

But because we are far too blind to all that is going on around us.

Unlike Bartimaeus, we – and by that, I mean all of us in this country right now, not just those of us who are sitting in church right now – we as a nation are not seeing the injustice, the hatred, the stubbornness that is taking over our country.

Look at what has been going on this week alone:

  • Fourteen people threatened by bombs mailed to them by a man who simply cannot abide by those people who disagree with him. Fourteen bombs were mailed – to people from the opposite political party of the bomber.
  • Two people – Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice Stallard – were shot dead in a grocery store on Thursday in Kentucky. They were killed – at random – because their murderer had tried to get into a predominantly black church but he couldn’t get in the door, so he went to the grocery store nearby and he randomly opened fire at two African Americans. Walking out, he was confronted by another man who had a gun, and who was crouching down by a car, and who asked the shooter, What’s going on? The shooter said to the bystander, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
  • And yesterday, 11 people – the oldest of whom was 98; two brothers – were shot and killed, and six others, including four policemen, were wounded in yesterday’s atrocity – I will not call it a tragedy, because a tragedy is an accident – when a gunman attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat services and proclaimed, as he was shooting, “I want to kill all the Jews.”

All of that – in just one week.

Yesterday’s shooting is so eerily similar – in the worst possible way – to the massacre of 26 people in their Sutherland Springs, Texas, church last year.

And to the massacre of nine black parishioners in their church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

And to the six Sikhs killed in their temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012.

And yes, even to the four African American girls killed in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

Never mind the 17 killed and 17 injured in the Valentine’s Day massacre at the high school in Parkland, Florida.

Or the 59 dead and 500 wounded in the concert massacre in Las Vegas.

Or the 49 dead and 58 injured in the party massacre at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.

Or the 14 dead and 22 injured in the office massacre in San Bernardino, California.

Or the 26 children and teachers killed, and one injured, in the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Or the countless other massacres I have decided not to list here and now.

Never mind the racism that Natives face, especially here in South Dakota and up in North Dakota, every single day.

Or the countless people of color who are shot and killed by police in this country, in disproportionate numbers, seemingly because they are, by God’s grace, people of color.

Or the hatred spewed when random white people call the police on black people for the audacity of sitting in a Starbucks. Or mowing a lawn. Or moving into their own homes. Or out campaigning during the election season. Or driving down the road. Or selling lemonade.

Or the hatred spewed when random white people attack Latinos and Asians and Africans for having the audacity to know more than one language.

Or the hatred spewed by people of all races at those who follow Islam as their path to God.

Or any of the acts of hatred and racism and sexism and hyper-nationalism and gay bashing and attacking transgender people that happen every single day in this country.

As the Washington Post editorial board said in its editorial following the atrocity in Pittsburgh yesterday, “Violence is a normal part of life of American life. The abnormal has become normal.”

Oh, my friends, we need this Gospel this morning.

We need to hear of Bartimaeus, a man who once could see and then could not, begging on the streets until Jesus comes along, and then begging – at the top of his voice – for his sight to be restored.

We need to remember that in the days when Jesus walked the earth, a man who once could see and then could not was thought to have sinned – to have done something wrong – and that his blindness was God’s punishment for that sin, whatever it was.

We need to realize that that is why those around him told him to shut up, to leave Jesus alone.

Because he was, after all, a sinner.

And yet …

Jesus heard his declaration of faith.

Jesus healed him.

And as a result, Bartimaeus, whose eyes were opened and sight was restored, followed Jesus.

He didn’t get up and go back to his family, he didn’t go back to a job, he didn’t find a job.

His eyes were opened.

And He. Followed. Jesus.

And if we truly want to follow Jesus, we, too, first need to have our eyes opened.

We need to look at the world around us, to see what is happening, and to act, as Bartimaeus acted.

We cannot sit idly by and say, “These things can never happen here.”

Because “these things” are happening here.

Look at what meth is doing to this reservation – people are hurting each other, stealing from each other, killing each other – over a damnable drug.

And if you think hatred isn’t spewed on this reservation, you read social media: Every single day, people publicly attack other people – often by name – and threaten or carry out violence.

Every. Single. Day.

We can say, as one person did in Pittsburgh yesterday, that these things happen in other cities, implying that they could not happen there.

But yesterday, that thing did happen in Pittsburgh. That atrocity occurred because of hatred. Blind hatred toward one particular portion of our population.

We need our eyes opened … so that we can act. So that we can love. So that we can be the ones to change the world, to make it a better place, to stop these atrocities.

These massacres? These acts of hatred? They are not normal. They are not how we are called to live.

Yes, the Washington Post acknowledged this morning: “The abnormal has become normal.”

“But,” it declared, “we must not accept it. We must not become accustomed.”

When the editorial was published last night, the headline read: “Refuse to become accustomed.”

My friends, I can tell you this: I. Refuse.

I will not become accustomed to hatred and to atrocities.

I will be upset – every single time.

And I will fight back.

I will, with God’s help, do my best to fight hatred with love.

With God’s love.

And I ask you to join me in that fight.

I ask you to join me because we are followers of Jesus. We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.

We are the ones called to love.

That’s why Jesus opened Bartimaeus’ eyes, and that is why he is opening our eyes as well.

We cannot pretend that what is happening all around us has nothing to do with us. For if we do pretend that all of this hatred has nothing to do with us, then hatred wins.

NiemollerThe German theologian Martin Niemoller was clear about that:

“First they came for the Jews,” he wrote, “and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

So what are we to do? How can we stand up and speak, before there is no one to speak for us?

I suggest that we begin by listening to our own Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who in his faithful wisdom reminds us:

“There is power in love. There is power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live.”

Let us grasp that power and figure out how we can live in love.

Let us listen again to The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who lived in hate-filled times and lost his life to that hate:King

“When evil men plot, good men must plan.

“When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.

“When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”

Let us grasp the that glory and figure out how we can live in love.

And as for that hatred itself, which attacks our lives every single day?

I offer you this prayer from theologian Marianne Williamson, who yesterday morning wrote this “open letter to hatred, on this day of tears in Pittsburgh …

“Hatred,” she wrote,

“You shall not defeat us.

“You shoot children in our schools.

“But you shall not defeat us.

“You shoot people in churches.

“But you shall not defeat us.

“You shoot people at concerts.

“But you shall not defeat us.

“You shoot people in synagogues.

“But you shall not defeat us.

“You shoot our children and you shoot our protectors.

“But you shall not defeat us.

“For the Lord our God

“Is with us.

“We shall endure, we shall transform,

“And in time Love’s light shall be so bright that your power shall be no more.

“The reign of hatred is terrifying

“But it’s reign shall not endure.

“For God is the power

“and God is the glory

“forever and ever.

“May we so devote our lives to Love

“that the reign of terror ends on earth

“As it is already done in heaven.

“Dear God,

“Please bless and comfort the victims

“And show us what to do.

“Amen.”

My prayer for us is that in the sure and certain knowledge that love will triumph over hate, and that the light of God will overcome the darkness of evil, may we be like blind Bartimaeus, whose eyes were opened by his faith in Jesus Christ, and have our own eyes – those of our heads, our hearts and our souls – opened so that we, too, may follow Jesus on the Way of Love.

Amen.

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Leksi Roy Stone Sr., a gift to us all

Leksi RoyThe Celebration of the Life and Gifts of Leksi Roy Stone Sr., senior medicine man and spiritual leader on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

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Bio photo Kernit'sSermon on Mark 10:17-31, The Rich Young Man

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Bio photo Kernit'sOn Sunday, 30 September 2018, I used the Book of Esther to talk about what we are called to do in such a time as this. Times are tense right now in the United States, and we need to be the ones – indeed, we are called to be the ones, who stand up, who speak up, who seek justice for all.
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Matthew 2:1-12

And now we come to what one commentator calls the “’Adults-Only’ Nativity Story,”[1] Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus, the one without the census-taking, without the “no-room-at-the-inn” rejection, without the stable or the manger or the animals, without the angels or the shepherds, without the pondering in Mary’s heart.

Unlike Luke’s Gospel, in Matthew, we skip the birth narrative and go straight to the Epiphany, to the moment when wise men show up from the East, declaring that the child they seek is the King of the Jews.

We know this story. We’ve just heard the Gospel, just sung the song: The wise men (some say three) follow a star (some say for two years), until they find the Christ Child in a house (a house, mind you, not a stable) in Bethlehem (on this, Matthew and Luke agree). The visitors drop to their knees, offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (myrrh? The stuff you use to embalm a body???), and then leave, going home “by another road.”

But what if the story were told from a different perspective? What if, instead, we were to hear the story not of three wise men from the East, but of three wise women?

No, I’m not talking about that old joke about how the women would have asked for directions, gotten there sooner, made dinner and brought di-dis …[2]

I’m talking, instead, about a whole different approach to the Epiphanyt story, one that comes from retired Bishop Steven Charleston, a Choctaw and Native American bishop of The Episcopal Church:[3]

Three wise women set out to follow the star.

Each ended the journey and gave away her treasure along the way.

One dropped out when she was needed to heal the sick during a plague.

The second stayed behind to help prevent a war with her leadership.

The last remained in a great city to provide for the poor.

When the star left the heavens each awoke the next day to discover a gift placed beside her while she slept.

They never solved this mystery, but the meaning is clear:

They had arrived at their destination even though they had not completed their journey.

My friends, the Epiphany is not about the news that the Messiah has come into our lives. It is the story of what we are supposed to do with our lives.

For just as the Magi – two of them? Three of them? Heck, could have been 100 of them, as far as we know – came to make manifest to us the Good News that God is here for all the world, so we are to make that Good News manifest as well.

We are not here this morning to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in our lives.

We are here to celebrate what that arrival means in our lives.

We are here, my friends, to celebrate the revelation, the great “Aha!”, the epiphany that God came into the world, as one of us, to show us, in no uncertain terms, that God loves us.

And not just us not just those of us gathered here in this church … but all of us. The people we know. The people we don’t know. The people we love. And the people we could easily do without.

Brass tacks, my friend: Epiphany shows us the mission of our lives. The mission of living out God’s love with ALL of God’s beloved people.

I do not want us to leave this place this day thinking, “Epiphany – been there, done that, will do it again next year.”

Because Epiphany isn’t some one-day, one-off celebration that we do once a year and then forget until the next Jan. 6.

Epiphany is the revelation of God’s marching orders for our lives.

Marching orders that boil down to one thing, and one thing only:

Love.

Howard Thurman, the great theologian and civil rights leader, was speaking of this day when he wrote:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

To make music in the heart.[4]

This is the day, my friends, when we turn the joy, the celebration, the glory of Christmas, into the work of the rest of our lives.

Instead of focusing so intently on what we want – more money, more security, less fear, more stability … losing weight, or running that marathon … the Epiphany of our Lord asks us to focus on what God wants … for us, and for all of his beloved people.

And what God wants is for us to live in love, every moment of our lives, in every place, with every person … whether we like them or not.

Imagine … just imagine … what life would be like if we were like those women of whom Bishop Charleston speaks?

What would life be like if we stopped our hell-bent journeys that focus so much on getting ahead and getting what we want, in order to heal the sick?

What would life be like if we stopped to prevent a war?

Or to provide for the poor?

Imagine what life would be like if we spent our lives doing what Rev. Thurman said …

… finding the lost?

… healing the broken?

… feeding the hungry?

… releasing the prisoners?

… rebuilding the nations?

… bringing peace?

… making music?

In a few minutes, we will baptize little Zoe Rose DiBiase, daughter of Lexy Rouse. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if she were to grow up knowing that her whole life is centered in love? That God loves her from before time began to the ages of ages? And that all God wants her to do with her life is to love?

And so, for little Zoe this morning, and for all of us every day, let us listen to yet another great theologian, Mother Teresa, who has the best guidance I know of for how to live our lives:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

            Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

            Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

            Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.

            Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

           Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

            Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.

           Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.

            Give the world your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

            It was never between you and them anyway.[5]

It is Epiphany, my friends. The day when we receive our marching orders … orders to go into the world, and to love.

So …

Go!

Go on! Go love!

Amen.

Sermon preached on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 2013, Year C, at St. Paul’s on the Hill, Winchester, Va.



[1] David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, “The ‘Adults-Only’ Nativity Story,” WorkingPreacher.org, http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=653.

[2] What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men? They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts. (Anonymous)

[3] The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw, Daily Devotions.

[4] Howard Thurman, “Christmas Poem,” via Facebook.

[5] http://prayerfoundation.org/mother_teresa_do_it_anyway.htm

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Luke 1:39-55

In those days, two women came together in a small town in the hill country of Judea.

The one woman, who was so much older, we know was righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. We also know that for many years, she was barren, and that she was getting on in years.

Of the other woman, who was so very young, we know very little. We know only that she was young. That she was single. And that she was engaged to be married.

And we know that both women were pregnant, each expecting their first child.

Mary and Elizabeth rejoice (courtesy of Worship Sounds Music Blog, http://worshipsounds.wordpress.com)

The older woman knew that this child was a blessing from God, for to be barren in her culture meant to live in disgrace. And this child was, after all, promised to her by an angel of the Lord who had appeared to her husband.

The younger woman, not much more than a child herself really, also knew that her pregnancy was a blessing, for hadn’t that same angel appeared to her as well, and told her so?

But both women also knew that these pregnancies brought danger to them.

For the older woman, the danger lay in her age. She was indeed getting on in age, and to bear her first child when she was so old was precarious at best. So she remained in seclusion for the first five months, taking extreme care that nothing happened to her baby.

For the younger woman, the danger lay not in her age, but in her status. For she indeed was unmarried, and to be pregnant and single in those days exposed her to punishment, punishment which in the very least could include being “set aside,” rejected by her betrothed, and if taken to the extreme could mean being stoned to death according to the laws of her religion.

And yet … both women, when they came together in that small village in the hill country of Judea, rejoiced.

Because they had been chosen by the Lord.

Them.

Ordinary people.

Living ordinary lives.

Chosen to do extraordinary things.

On behalf of the Lord.

Part of what we celebrate in this season of Advent, and of what we will celebrate tomorrow night and Tuesday morning on Christmas Day, is that in order to achieve God’s miracles, God chose ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

Elizabeth, the older woman, and Mary, the younger woman, couldn’t have been more ordinary if you tried.

They were two simple women, one married, one single. In their society, they had few rights. They couldn’t own property. They couldn’t testify in court. They weren’t allowed to make their own decisions.

And yet … God chose them.

God sent an angel – the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord – to give them the good news that they, the ones society said were less than equal, the ones who considered themselves to be completely ordinary, had been chosen by God to achieve the extraordinary.

God chose ordinary old Elizabeth to be the mother of the last prophet of the Old Testament (Newsweek, December 2003), John, who would be called the Baptist. John, who would be great in the sight of the Lord. John, who would turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. John, who would make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

And God chose ordinary young Mary to be the mother of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, who would be called the Messiah. Jesus, who is the embodiment of the New Testament, who is the New Covenant that God makes with his people. Jesus, who gives God’s people new life and life eternal.

Two ordinary women, chosen by God, to achieve extraordinary things.

When most of us think about Elizabeth and Mary, lo, these two thousand years after the fact, we tend to think of them as special, as extraordinary women. Elizabeth is indeed a saint of the church, and Mary is, of course, the Blessed Virgin.

But when God came calling, in the form of the Angel Gabriel (in Elizabeth’s case, to her husband Zechariah), they weren’t yet saints, they weren’t yet blessed. They were just two women, going about their daily lives, trying to be righteous before the Lord.

Which is pretty much the same situation in which we find ourselves, when we find God calling in our lives. We, like Elizabeth and Mary, are, for the most part, pretty much ordinary people, living pretty much ordinary lives. Yes, we are special in the eyes of The Lord, each and every one of us a beloved child of God. God loves us as our mothers do – equally, none more, none less than anyone else.

We are, whether we like to admit it, ordinary people. Just like Elizabeth and Mary.

And yet … just as God called them, God calls us.

Ordinary people.

To do extraordinary things.

God calls us – through Elizabeth’s son, John who is called the Baptist – to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight a path in the wilderness.

God calls us – through Mary’s son, Jesus who is the Messiah – to love our neighbors as ourselves, to heal the sick, to include the marginalized, to live radical lives driven by hope, filled with love, consumed with mercy.

God calls us – through Mary’s son, Jesus who is the Messiah – to do justice, no matter how hard that might be; to love kindness – even to the strangers among us; and to walk humbly with our God – not in God’s place, not pretending to be God, but with God.

We, who are rather ordinary people living rather ordinary lives, are called, just as Elizabeth and Mary were called.

By God

To do extraordinary things.

Will we answer that call?

Will we, like Elizabeth and Mary, have the courage to say “Yes,” even when we know that saying “Yes” could be as dangerous to us as it was dangerous to them, knowing that saying “Yes” might very well get us into trouble?

And will we, like Elizabeth and Mary, not only say “Yes,” will we rejoice in doing so? Will we magnify the Lord for looking with favor on the lowliness of his servants?

Will we bless the Mighty One for doing great things for us, and proclaim his name to be holy?

Because the fact of the matter is, we are called.

Not because we’re special.

But because we are ordinary.

Just like all those other ordinary people God called throughout the ages.

You see, whenever God wants to do something extraordinary in God’s good creation, God turns to ordinary people. Throughout history, God has asked ordinary people to do the extraordinary on his behalf: Noah. Abram and Sarai. Jacob. David. Debra. Elijah. Susannah. Isaiah. Jonah. Jeremiah. Obadiah. Ezekiel. Elizabeth. Mary.

And oh, my, were these ordinary people. Noah? Who was he, other than a carpenter – and apparently could build a boat. Abram? He was so concerned with saving his own skin he lied – twice! – about his wife! Jacob? He was a double-dealing liar! Gideon? He was so unimpressed with the visit by the angel that he made the angel prove – repeatedly – that he indeed was from God! Jeremiah? He spent his entire prophetic ministry complaining to God: “I don’t like these people! I don’t want to do this!” Jonah? He objected to God sending him to Ninevah so much that he ended up in the belly of the whale – and then ended up in Ninevah anyway! David? He was stinky shepherd! OK – he was tall and ruddy and handsome. But he stank!

All of them were ordinary people. Called by God. To do the extraordinary. On God’s behalf.

There was nothing terribly special about those people before they were called.

We remember them only because they answered God’s call.

There’s nothing terribly special about us, either.

We will be remembered only if we, like those who have gone before us, answer that call.

So that God’s extraordinary acts can be achieved.

In these holy seasons of Advent and Christmas, are we ready to say “Yes” so that we, too, can do extraordinary things on God’s behalf?

So that we can bring about God’s justice, God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s hope in this world?

God is calling.

How will we answer?

Amen.

Sermon preached at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Staunton, Va., on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, 23 December, 2012.

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Gaudete Sunday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Staunton, Va., 16 December 2012.

Today, my friends, is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent on which we are called to rejoice in the Lord.

Radio 104.1 WMRQ

The Prophet Zephaniah tells us to rejoice and exult with all our hearts, for the Lord has taken away the judgments against us.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us to ring out our joy, for surely it is God who saves us … to sing the praises of the Lord for he has done great things, and this is known in all the world.

The Apostle Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice, for the Lord is near, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

And yet …

We come to church this morning, on Gaudete Sunday, with heavy hearts, scared, grieving, and crying out, “How long, O Lord, how long … before all the killing stops?”

We come to church this morning, on Rejoicing Sunday, not knowing how to rejoice, because we are still weeping.

I tell you, the only way we can rejoice this day is if we listen to John the Baptist, who tells us exactly what we need to do to move from fear to courage, from sadness to joy, from weeping to laughter.

John, who has just accused all those who come to him for baptism of being a brood of vipers, tells the people: “You want to make the world a better place? It’s not rocket science!” (OK, he didn’t say just like that) “In fact, it’s pretty darned easy. Share what you have … don’t be greedy … don’t be mean.”

In fact, if you fast forward 2,000 years, you hear the exact same advice from Robert Fulghum, who wrote the seminal book, All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Do you know that book?

His lessons are simple:

•Share your cookies.

•Hold hands crossing the street.

•Be kind to little old ladies.

As I said, it is not rocket science.

And yet, this morning, it is hard, isn’t is?

Because on Tuesday, we had shootings in Oregon.

On Thursday, we had a young man threaten to shoot his fellow students and blow up a school in Oklahoma – thankfully, a fellow student told the school counselor, and on Friday, that boy with a murderous rage was arrested before he could act.

Sandy Hook Elementary School evacuation. (c) Shannon Hicks, Newtown Bee.

On Friday, we had the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School – with 20 children, six teachers and school administrators, the shooter’s mother and the shooter himself killed.

Last night in Newport Beach, California, we had a man fire 50 shots at a mall – thankfully, only into the air and down into the ground. No one was injured, thanks be to God. But the man, who apparently was seeking attention, got the full attention of the police and is now in custody.

And that is just this week.

As we mourn for Newtown, Connecticut, we also mourn for the victims of other shootings we remember:  Columbine; Kentucky; Scotland; the Netherlands; Kansas; Virginia Tech; California; Germany; Minnesota; Florida; Illinois; Texas; Brazil; Alabama; Indiana; Ohio; Iowa; Richmond; Georgia; Arkansas;[1] … alas, the list goes on and on …

We mourn those whose lives were lost, those who lost loved ones; those who were injured; those who have been traumatized …

And we wonder, “What will it take to stop this madness?”

The Sufi tell a story:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

And out of the long silence, God said, “I did do something about them. I made you.”[2]

And that, my friends, is exactly what we need to hear this morning. For we are the ones who can make the madness stop. We, who were created in the very image of God, over whom God rejoiced after creating us, proclaiming that at last, creation was very good, we who have been given dominion over the earth (better understood as “stewardship” of creation), we are the ones who are called to be partners with God in caring for God’s creation.

We are the ones upon whom God depends to care for those in need, to love, to create peace and live peace …

Because the Sufis are right: God did do something about all the evil in the world. God created us.

Pakistanis children - many of whom live in fear of violence in their own lives - hold a candlelight vigil for the victims in Newtown.

So … on this Gaudete Sunday, when the prophets reiterate God’s promises to us, and assure us that God saves us, when the Apostle tells us to rejoice …. this is the day we need to make the commitment to do whatever it takes to model God’s love, to live God’s love, every moment of our lives.

We live in a country, my friends, in which there are more places to buy guns than there are Starbucks. We live in a country with 311 million people and a reported 281 million registered guns.[3] 281 million registered guns. We live in a country in which it is easier for me to buy a gun than it is for me to buy a car. Or get a driver’s license. Or buy a house.

I don’t know what kind of conversation we need to have in this country, but the time is now — it is NOW — for us to stand up and say, “Enough! We have had enough!” We cannot afford to wait until all the mourning is done – for it will never be done. We should not wait until all the memorial services and funerals are over – for they never end for the families and loved ones.

Now is the time for us to listen to John the Baptist, who tells us to share what we have, to not be greedy, to be satisfied with our honest wages, to not be mean.

Now is the time for us to listen to Robert Fulghum, who tells us to share our cookies, to hold hands while crossing the street, to be kind to little old ladies.

We are in Advent. We are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ

I can tell you: I do not believe the Risen Lord will come again as long as we refuse to live as God created us to live, in love and community. I do not believe that as long as we celebrate our individual rights to the point that our communities are ravaged by violence and death, that God is willing to come back again.

Yes, there is suffering in the world.

But God created us to do something about it!

We can rejoice – as long as we are willing to do the things that need to be done. To love – and live – kindness. To do justice. And to walk humbly with our God.

Now is the time for us to step up and do our part …

This is not someone else’s job …

It is ours.

So perhaps as we move through these last nine days of Advent, perhaps we can figure out – and begin doing – what it is that God has called us to do.

• • •

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeleine F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Rachel DaVino, 29

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Lauren Rosseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Nancy Lanza, 47

Adam Lanza, 20

Now is the time … as faith-filled lovers of God … to say, “Enough. Is. Enough.” And to act to make that come true.

Those children? Those teachers? That principal?

They are counting on us.

Just as God is counting on us …

to do something.

We can start by sharing our cookies, holding hands while crossing the street, being kind to little old ladies.

It is not rocket science.

It is what we were created to do.

Amen.

Sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Advent, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Staunton, Va., 16 December 2012, in the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn.


[1] http://left.wikia.com/wiki/School_Shooting_Timeline

[2] Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning (New York: Bantam Books, 1993, Kindle edition), Kindle location 1549.

[3] NBC News reports, Friday, 14 December 2012.

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