Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sermon on Sept 11, 2011 ~ last years 9/11 sermon





Sermon for 11 September 2011
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

I like the silent church
before the service begins,
better than any preaching.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

On this day, this 10th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, I would offer some moments of silence.  Will you join me?  Let this silence be a reminder of God’s presence with us, of God’s ever-presence with us and with this world he created, and this world that he blessed.  Let these few moments of silence give us time and space to allow us to see and feel God among us, with us, and within us…

10 years ago, I was introduced to the following prayer, and I find it to be a rich reminder of the profound awareness that we are finite beings, we are given some time here on earth, and this time is fleeting, and this time is temporary, it is a lease rather than a sale, it is a loan, rather than ownership.  Our time here is short, so we have to consider how we will respond to this gift, this gift of some limited and finite time…

Life is short,
And we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those
Who travel the way with us.
So be swift to be kind,
And as we go,
May the blessing, the love,
the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One
Who is in the midst of us
Be among you and remain with you
Always.
Amen
(adapted from the French Poet Henri Amiel)

And so, I find myself here in this pulpit ten years after I was also in a pulpit in Philadelphia, where I was preaching a sermon that was meant to remind a group of middle schoolers about the deep and rich and real power of prayer in their lives.  In the midst of that sermon, the rest of the school entered the chapel – 800 students and 150 teachers crammed into that chapel to hear some words of wisdom, some words of hope, some words that would move us through those fear-filled days. 

Ten years later, I read the words of Jesus as he preaches the challenging and audacious words that we should forgive not solely 7 times, but 77 times… and, if you thought that was hard enough, some interpreters believe that the translation should be 7 times 77 … come on, Jesus, I thought you said your burden was light! 

And so, what can we learn from this story of Jesus… I would say that he is telling us to “Be holy, welcome the stranger, embody the forgiveness of God.  Life is a team sport.”  He is telling us to “Be Holy,” in the sense that we should choose to live the life that is one that is walking in the light, that is one that would make God smile, one in which Jesus would set down for us.

You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die.
Or when.  You can only decide how you’re going to live.
Now.
~Joan Baez

And, so how would we live? We would live a holy life.  A holy life would include welcoming the stranger, even those who we might consider to be the most “other” that we could imagine.  How well do we know (and love) those who disagree with us?  How well do we force ourselves to be in situations where we are put into the situation of “being the stranger?”  How often do we put ourselves into situations where we find that our preconceptions and prejudices are shaky at best, and tragically wrong, at worst.  How well do we welcome the stranger?

To be holy, we would also live a life of forgiveness.  How might we forgive, when forgiveness is so tough?  How would we enter into the space of forgiveness and reconciliation when these are places where we would rather not go?  It takes time, it takes prayer, and it takes the slow awareness that God has prepared the place for us.  God has prepared the place for us, and God has prepared us to be agents of forgiveness, and agents of reconciliation.   He has set a high bar, but is boosting us over it.
Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as ever you can.
~John Wesley

We are meant to work together, even those neighbors near and far are part of us.  We are meant to live a life of love, a deep love that helps us to see that we are not mere passengers together on the underground metro – strangers awaiting our exit, but that we are riding on a team bus.  We are a team, and we need each of us.  Life is a team sport.



Though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains, and have not love,
I am nothing.
~1 Corinthians 13:2

We are socially constructed beings, and we are lovingly made by God, and lovingly nurtured and grown by God and by our fellow travelers along the way.  We are called into a deep awareness that we are not islands, but deeply connected to one another.  We are members of one body, one Spirit.  As Turtullian said, “one Christian is no Christian.”  We are made to be teammates, not individuals in a dog eat dog kennel.  As William Sloan Coffin said, even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat.  We have been empowered to be humans, bound to one another in love, and made to be in unity with one another.

A person is a person through other persons.
~Tutu

We are to Be holy, we are to welcome the stranger, to embody the forgiveness of God.  And we are empowered to remember that “Life is a team sport.”

It is a vision that God has set for us, it is a vision that is hard to see, especially as we recall the pain and the fear and the tragedies of our lives.  It is a vision that is cloudy and unclear.  It is a vision that I, for one, would like to have God make a bit more clear.  But it is a vision that is dim, and required our faith, and hope, and the support of our “team,” our companions along the way.
Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
~1 Corinthians 13:12

In community, we get some glimpses of seeing clearly.  As we “travel the way,” we turn to one another – even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death.  We are not alone, and as we turn to one another we see something of the  home that God has promised for us.

Life is short,
And we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those
Who travel the way with us.
So be swift to be kind,
And as we go,
May the blessing, the love,
the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One
Who is in the midst of us
Be among you and remain with you
Always.
Amen

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