Sunday, February 1, 2009

Souper Bowl Sunday Sermon

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for the poor is unrelenting, may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all; as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit, may our hearts overflow with compassion for all; as you long for justice for the poor, may we strive for justice for all.

Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, and give us courage to accept our responsibility, wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(EGR Prayer by the Rt. Rev. Jeffery Rowthorn)

As millions will watch the Super Bowl this evening and see the Steelers win, we are challenged to remember those who will not be feasting before their TVs tonight, those hungry masses in our country and around the world. We have seen the need in this country grow rapidly, homeless shelters overflowing, food pantries seeing more and more clients, and the safety net is being reduced at all levels. I saw this story on Friday about those struggles…

"They started lining up at the "Faith Cafe" before lunchtime — the unemployed and the homeless, the hungry and the hopeless. They were just two miles from Raymond James Stadium, where workers were putting the finishing touches on the site of America's biggest party, the Super Bowl. It sure seemed a lot farther away to these folks, who waited outside a drab building where workers doled out sustenance to the desperate — a sandwich or two, some potatoes, maybe a doughnut. Come nightfall, they'll spread out in search of a park bench or a patch of grass, some place to sleep away another lost day. This week they've tried to make their voices heard in a city throwing a big party they're not invited to, complete with stretch limousines, steak-and-lobster dinners, high-rise hotel suites and a $1,000-a ticket football game on Sunday." (Two miles from Super Bowl stadium, another world By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer, 1/30/09)

In these tough economic times, it is the poor around the world who face the brunt of hardship, with so many in our world going hungry, it is hard to look around and see what can be done. People who live on less than a dollar a day are especially hurting. All cry out for relief, to have their voices heard. And some have heard their call…

Kiva.org was started by a couple who spent time in Africa and saw the need for development through microfinance. – “Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.” You give them $25 and they pool together money from others and help loan money to people around the world for their business, people who could never get a traditional loan from a bank. It not only helps that one person and their family but also helps the communities they live in.

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Students at three colleges in North Carolina wanting to put their energy into action to help those living in extreme poverty, have joined together to sponsor a Millennium Village, part of the UN’s MDG project. They have raised $1.5 million to help end extreme poverty in one village.

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In September 2008, America’s Second Harvest changed its name to Feeding America so the country understands that its network provides food to Americans (1 in 8) living with hunger. CT Food Bank in New Haven is part of the national network.

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Each of these in their own way have tried to respond in hope to the great need that is out there. As we listen to scripture, it is the prophets who remind us of our responsibility not to neglect the poor, whose words still inspire us today. As one author put it, “Prophets envision and proclaim how God’s goals for the world are relevant to the world we live in the present.” (Steven Harmon)

It is Moses who reminds us that it is we who asked for these prophets, prophets who are raised up among us who help us see what God is calling us to do.

In our own time, we look back and remember MLK, Jr. - Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Life’s most urgent question is what are we doing for others?’ Or to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and what she said, “Do something beautiful for God. Every person, no matter how small, is a person of great dignity. Every person is Jesus-in-disguise.”

For some around this world, MLK’s words of Mother Teresa’s words may not be heard, but the sounds from the rock band U2 are. And what’s most amazing, is that if you dig into their music, you can see resonating throughout their songs, this wonderfully Christian view of hope and love and call to action. One author called them unexpected prophets, because “their songs of social engagement, not only cry out about injustice, but also dare to imagine an alternative in light of the Christian vision.” (Steven Harmon) One such song called Miracle Drug is looking for the medicine to help those in need with lyrics such as:

Oh God, I need your help tonight

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
It’s whispering
In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in (now that’s a Biblical view!)

The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I’ve had enough of romantic love
I’d give it up, yeah, I’d give it up
For a miracle drug, for a miracle drug
Miracle, miracle drug

Sounds like U2 has Goal 6 of the MDGs in mind: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. And indeed there is hope that such miracle drugs will reach the world’s poor who cannot afford such drugs to keep them alive. “When Jesus calls us to feed the poor and water the thirsty and provide clothing to the naked, visit the prisoner, visit the sick, heal the sick - the Millennium Development Goals are about all of those,' Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said. 'The MDGs are concrete images that people can wrap their minds around. They are a specific way of addressing the Gospel challenge to care for our neighbors. They're achievable in our own day if we have the will to do it.'

Our will to reach out to the poor, to identify those who suffer is part of our response to God’s grace, it is what Christ calls us to do. As Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people there were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, even helping the one who was possessed to be free and live a new life. Our call is to do likewise as followers of Jesus, who has taught us to see the need around us and respond.

It is as Dr. King once said, “If I can help somebody as I pass along; if I can cheer somebody with a song; if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong; then my living will not be in vain . . . I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others.”

May our lives be one of service too. Amen.

1 comment:

Cheryl Mahoney said...

"May our lives be one of service too"...that's beautiful. Thank you for the inspirational thoughts, and the stories on giving. I work for UniversalGiving, another resource for giving to others online, connecting individuals with the best projects to donate to or volunteer with. We're at www.universalgiving.org if you're curious. Wishing you all the best in all you do!

Best,
Cheryl Mahoney
cmahoney@universalgiving.org