Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 6 (Proper 5) Sermon

We come to share our story.
We come to break the bread.
We come to know our rising from the dead.
The words from David Haas, a contemporary hymn writer, speak to our coming together every week as the Body of Christ in this beautiful place.

We come to share our story.

We each have a story. In fact, we each have lots of stories. About family, about play, about work. Our loves and hates. Lots of things…

It is here, in this place, where we can share our story with one another. Stories of struggle, stories of despair, stories of hope, stories of you and me.

After my father died suddenly of a heart attack 13 years ago, I remember going back to church that first Sunday.

I wasn’t ready to worship God. I was much too tender for that, but I was ready to be in the faithful community, upheld by their love and prayers.

They knew my story, seminarian from MI, a father who died a month to the day after my wedding, and the community held me up.

It is here we gather at the best of moments, at the baptism of a child, at a wedding, and the saddest when we say good bye to a loved one at a funeral. We gather to ask for healing, for guidance, for celebration too.

We celebrated with Ruth Cyr on her 61st wedding anniversary on Friday, and we supported her after she fell and broke her hip that same morning.

We felt sadness at the news of death of Bea Mott, a parishioner from long ago.

All these are pieces of our story. We share them here.

We come to break the bread.

Each week we gather for a meal, a ritual done since the time of Jesus when he broke bread and shared wine, asking the disciples to do this in remembrance of him. We now remember as we gather around the altar, inviting young and old, newcomer and old timer, rich and poor, welcoming everyone to the Lord’s table.

Bread and wine, gifts of the earth, the work of human hands.
Bread and wine, the body and blood of our God, lovingly given to us in the Eucharist.

But the bread and wine is more than the gifts of God to God’s people; they are parables of what it means to become God's people.

Like seed, we are transformed from grain to flour through the creative love of God. Farmers and vintners - in the form of parents, spouses, teachers, pastors, friends - have nurtured us and formed us. We struggle to finally grow up; we stumble along the way. Like grain that is baked into bread, like grapes that ferment into wine, we change and become complete not in spite of what we suffer but because of what we suffer. We are kneaded in the water of baptism; we are re-created in the fire of the Spirit.

And like the many grapes that are pressed together into the unity of the sweet liquid that fills the chalice, our prayers and sacrifices, our acts of generosity, our work of reconciliation and forgiveness, our sacrifices for one another in imitation of Christ (who is both the vine and winemaker), makes us "church" - the wine of the sacrament of unity.

What we see on this table is ourselves. We are bread; we are wine. We are called to be the sacrament we receive in the breaking of the bread. [Adapted from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo.]
We come to know our rising from the grave.

We hear from our scriptures, our tradition, of how God has entered into lives. As the biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann puts it,
“Biblical faith attests that God, creator of the world, is the giver of life, even in a world of deathliness. While that claim is pervasive in faith, it is rooted in specific, nameable moments when God’s power for life was particularly concentrated and effective in contexts of death.”
Two of our readings today, are such moments. Today’s Gospel reading, of Jesus’ compassion for the widow of Nain and bringing her son back to life, is echoed by our first reading, of Elijah’s resurrecting the widow of Zarephath’s son in 1 Kings..

In both cases, we have widows who are on the margins of society, and God has compassion on their plight at the death of their only sons. The stories don’t speculate but bear witness to the fact that God intercedes into our lives, bringing life when there is death.

These stories are not just old stories from long ago, they are our stories today. For in death, new life can begin…

Patricia Quigley and Susan Retik lost their husbands in the horror of 9/11. As they struggled to rebuild their families' shattered lives, the United States launched its first military campaign to remove the Taliban and terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Decades of conflict had ravaged the country, leaving tens of thousands of women and children without husbands and fathers.

Patti and Susan felt a growing kinship with these women and families. So Patti and Susan took the money they received in the 9/11 settlements and began Beyond the 11th, a nonprofit organization to aid widows affected by war and terrorism. Working with CARE and other international relief organizations, Beyond the 11th provides widows and their families with food assistance, health education and opportunities for vocational training and employment. Their foundation has helped one group of widows start a small community farm; they also gave seed money to a co-op formed by Afghan widows to weave rugs.

In Afghan society, widows are the poorest of the poor, the most powerless and marginalized. Patti Quigley and Susan Retik, widows who received an outpouring of financial and emotional support following the deaths of their husbands, seek to bring that same hope and support to women who have been victimized by the same terror. The major obstacle they face is not only to get society to value these women more but getting women to value themselves more.

Patti Quigley notes that the challenges of widowhood are universal: "Dealing with kids alone, dealing with the extended family alone, finding a way to support the family - no matter where you are in the world, you understand exactly the feeling, the frustration that comes with dealing with things alone."

Susan Retik says, "The terrorists may have killed our husbands on September 11, but we can create our own future and destiny. The cycle of poverty and lack of education and all those things we take for granted here in the United States, if we can end that whole cycle, or help in some small way, this isn't going to happen again.”

[From The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor,]
We come to share our story.
We come to break the bread.
We come to know our rising from the dead.

No comments: