Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sermon: June 17

Lord, you are in this place: Fill us with your power.
Cover us with your peace. Show us your presence.

Lord, help us to know: We are in your hands.
We are under your protection. We are covered by your love.

Lord, we ask you today: To deliver us from evil.
To guide us in our decisions. To defend us from all harm.

Lord, give us now: Eyes to see you. Ears to hear your call. Hands to do your work. And hearts to respond to your love. Amen. [Morning Prayer by David Adam]
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
As St. Peter’s walked on our birthday lap at Relay for Life, it was a moment of grace, a small thing done with great love, to keep celebrating birthdays in the midst of cancer, hoping and praying and working for more birthdays and less cancer.

At the New Haven green, a group of St. Peter’s folks handed out sandwiches and water, another moment of grace, another small thing done with great love, as we celebrated eucharist together, we shared a sacred meal and upheld our common humanity, seeing Christ in those in need and those who came to the green that Sunday afternoon.

Such acts are what Jesus is talking about in his twin parables of the Kingdom of God in the sower and mustard seed in today’s Gospel. A sower who sows seed and knows not how but from the seed will come the harvest that is the Kingdom of God. I think of this true story:
A church had collected clothing for those in need and the youth group volunteered to sort, fold and pack the clothes. The youth made a game of it, trying on items that caught their imaginations, creating weird costumes, merrily clowning as they worked.

Then one of the kids felt a lump in the pocket of a worn cardigan sweater. He reached in the pocket and found a little bundle. He opened it to find a gold wedding ring. On the paper wrapped around the ring was written: "I have no need of this now. I hope it will help you."

The hilarity in the room was hushed. The ring glowed as it was passed silently and reverently from one young hand to another. No one joked, no one presumed to try on that sacrificial gift for a needy stranger. Tenderly, the ring was refolded inside the note. It was secured inside the pocket of the sweater with strong safety pin; the sweater was then packed off with the other clothes. [Cath. Digest]

We never know how a kind word will affect someone else or how even the smallest act of charity will transform another person's life. Christ asks us to embrace the faith of the sower: to be willing to plant seeds of kindness and joy in the certain knowledge that it will, in some way, result in a harvest of God's life and love.
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa
And that willingness to sow even when we know tragedy happens, even as we walk in the shadow of death, is the faith of a mustard seed that is inside each of us, a small seed planted, tiny at first, but it will grow into something bigger & useful, such faith is part of the Kingdom of God.
Consider, as we reveled in the glory of Easter, this past April, the people of Sarajevo marked the 20th anniversary of the horrific siege of their beautiful city during the Bosnian Civil War. The longest siege of any city in the 20th century. The anniversary was marked by many events, exhibitions and concerts - but by far the most moving part of the observance was the chairs.

11,541 red chairs. Organizers lined up the red chairs along Sarajevo's main street - one chair for every man, woman and child killed during the 3 year siege of the city. 825 rows stretching for half a mile in the city of Sarajevo. 643 of those were smaller red chairs representing the children who were killed. Many Sarajevans placed flowers, candles and gifts, including teddy bears & toy cars, on the chairs. This was the first time that Sarajevo had any kind of public memorial service for the slain; so many victims had to be buried quickly in impromptu graveyards because of the siege.

The endless rows of red chairs made the mind-numbing numbers of war dead very real. It was a stunning sight: 11,541 red chairs lining the length of Sarajevo's main boulevard, a powerful image of all that is lost when innocent life is taken. (gleaned from AP)
The neatly-placed rows of red chairs in Sarajevo mirror Jesus' image of the mustard seed in today's Gospel. We often dismiss whatever and whomever we consider too "small" to matter, too powerless to make a difference, too insignificant to contribute anything useful or meaningful. But we are all mustard seeds, possessing within ourselves the ability to accomplish God-like things if we are taught and encouraged and inspired to do so.

The sight of those 11,541 chairs was a moving reminder not only to the people of Sarajevo but to the world as to what a city is, what makes a community work, the gifts that each man, woman and child can give to enrich the lives of all of us. The "mustard seed" faith that Jesus calls us to embrace is to honor that seed of God within every human being that enables everyone to contribute to the building of God's kingdom in our midst.
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa
Let us honor the gifts we have been given and use them in small ways with great love to proclaim the Kingdom of God in our world today. Amen.

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