The Third Sunday after Pentecost
E. Bevan Stanley
June 21, 2020
Proper 7, Year A, Track I
Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
I am sick and tired of this pandemic. I am sick and tired of racism and the abuse of power. I am sick and tired of polarization. I am sick and tired of death. And I am sick and tired of talking about them.
Consider the readings we assigned for today. The reading from the Hebrew scriptures is about how Sarah’s Egyptian slave is kicked out of Abraham’s household the second and final time. She had been forced by Sarah to have sex with Abraham because they thought God needed some help in fulfilling the promise that Abraham would produce offspring. Hagar bears a son named Ishmael, named after a sailor on a doomed whaling voyage. When Sarah gives birth to the miracle baby, Isaac, she gets jealous and has Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. Out in the desert, when she is preparing to die, God rescues her and says that Ishmael will also produce a nation of offspring. God is willing to keep his original promise to Abraham and Sarah, and also has compassion on Hagar and Ishmael, victim and result of Abraham and Sarah’s lack of faith in God. In short, God is more faithful than we are, even when we mess up.
The reading from Romans teaches us that Baptism is into Jesus. We join the Body of Christ when we are baptized. More to the point we are baptized into the death of Jesus and then raised to new life. This was more obvious in Paul’s time when baptism was by immersion. Going down under the water was like burial, and coming up from the water was like resurrection. It means that when we bring an infant to be baptized we are re-enacting Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. We are bringing the child to die. And then be raised to new life. Paul says, “But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” It means that Baptism inoculates us against death. Death no longer has a claim on us. We know that when our bodies give out, there will be a new beginning with a new body.
Then in the Gospel, Jesus tell us about the resistance we will face when we try to tell people about the coming of the Kingdom of God. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Or in Paul’s language, whoever gives up his or her life for and to Christ, will find new and fuller and abundant life in place of the old one.
Now in the midst of the pandemic, struggling with the racism and injustice in our country, grieving for those who have died, and fearing for those who have not. In the mids of all this, we are reminded the God keeps God’s promises in spite of our doubts. We are reminded that we need not fear death for ourselves or for our loved ones. We are reminded that now matter the difficulty of proclaiming and working for the Kingdom of God, Jesus is with us.
Bishop Stephen Charleston, and Episcopalian Bishop and member of the Choctaw nation wrote this recently:
Now is the moment for which a lifetime of faith has prepared you. All of those years of prayer and study, all of the worship services, all of the time devoted to a community of faith: it all comes down to this, this sorrowful moment when life seems chaotic and the anarchy of fear haunts the thin borders of reason. Your faith has prepared you for this. It has given you the tools you need to respond: to proclaim justice while standing for peace. Long ago the Spirit called you to commit your life to faith. Now you know why. You are a source of strength for those who have lost hope. You are a voice of calm in the midst of chaos. You are a steady light in days of darkness. The time has come to be what you believe.
Whether we are still staying at home staying connected with our friends and family by Facebook, Zoom, and email, or we going to work and interfacing with colleagues and customers, we are went by Jesus. Our baptisms have prepared us for this. Our prayers have prepared us for this. Our reading of Scripture have prepared us for this moment in history. Like Abraham and Sarah we may only see the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises. Like Hagar, we find ourselves rescued from death and injustice by God’s voice. We may face death clinging to the truth that death is the only way to greater life. We will speak our truth in the face of opposition even from those closest to us. We will do this because God calls us to it. We will do it because we love Jesus and we love this world for which he died. We will do it because God has given us the Spirit of divine love, and it is our good pleasure to do so.
We will trust God, proclaim and build the Kingdom, and we will give up our lives to gain the life of God. Amen.