Monday, February 8, 2016

Sermon: February 7

Sermon given at 8 AM service.

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. (Prayer by the Rt. Rev. Jeffery Rowthorn)

This past September at the UN, countries from around the world adopted a new set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years and these replace the 8 MDGs.

I have spoken in the past about the MDGs and our role to play in their achievement. This is no less important with the new SDGs.
“Pope Francis' address to the UN General Assembly reminds us of the crucial role played by faith groups in achieving development goals in local communities, but often ignored when governments & development agencies are producing their plans. Faith groups are the key to engaging with communities living in extreme poverty, which are usually the most difficult to reach by other agencies.” (Dr Peter & Jean Rookes)
I think of our work in Mozambique, helping bring a nursery school and clean water from a local well to the people of Magumeto, a small village, many kilometers away from the main road. We helped deliver mosquito nets to prevent malaria and last year helped bring communication to remote parts of the diocese.

Such work is part and parcel of our Christian lives, to reach our in love to those in need.

Our own Bishop, Ian Douglas, believes that this commitment to sustainable goals "is consistent with how we understand God's mission of restoration and reconciliation" and that it supports "the missiological invitation ... to heal a broken world and a broken creation."

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said "Participation by people of faith in the work to abolish poverty and hunger through the accomplishment of the goals is...a witness to the gospel."

So our work in Mozambique will continue. For our faith and these new goals will not let us be complacent, thinking our work is done.

Our first reading today from Exodus tells us that “Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”

The real truth of course is that encounters with God change people, but God doesn’t let them stay where they are. Moses might have had an awesome moment on that mountain, but God sends him back down the mountain to be with the people. He glowed from the encounter but his work had just begun with the Israelites. Captivity was behind them but their lives were before them and they were just beginning the journey.

Peter, James & John on the Holy Mountain had a most extraordinary experience with Jesus. Before them Jesus was transfigured… he glowed like pure white (better than Clorox!) and with him was Moses and the prophet Elijah… and Peter was so into the moment he wants to capture it, remain there, but this experience would lead them onward, down the mountain, back into life, on the way to Jerusalem.

This experience we have with God changes us and calls us to keep going, not just stay where we are, but to open our hearts to the needs we see and hear all around us.

7 year old Scarlette threw her arms open wide and giggled with excitement when she saw the growing mountain of cases of bottled water stacked in the McFall Elementary hallway ready to be delivered across the state Friday afternoon. "It's a whole bunch of water. I think they're going to be happy," she said.

Scarlette said she came up with the idea after her mom, Macenzie Smallwood, talked to her about what was happening in Flint, MI. Scarlette's solution was simple. "I just said why don't we take some of our water to them, so we did," she said.

She and her Mom loaded up their vehicle and drove to Flint last weekend to do what they could to help. "We took about 20 cases over. That's about all we could fit," Macenzie said.

But Scarlette said after seeing the conditions in Flint and watching the families wait in lines to get one case of water, she wanted to do more. "It made me sad to see all the people have to stand in line just to get water. And they could only get one case for everything they need. And they need a lot of water to wash their clothes and wash their hands and take a bath and wash their dishes and just everything," said the big-hearted first grader.

Dubbed "First Graders for Flint" Scarlette asked McFall principal Jon Washburn if other students could help. And it's become a flood of support from there. Scarlette and her family are planning to make a second trip this weekend to Flint to bring even more water. Macenzie said a company is donating a 26-foot cargo van to help move the water from Middleville to Flint and another family friend is planning to follow in a truck and trailer. One local company has also donated three pallets of bottled water.

Scarlette said she's surprised by how many people wanted to help and how many people have donated water. "People just keep bringing in more and more and more. There's like a whole bunch of bottles now," she said with a bright smile spreading across her face.

Macenzie said their plan is to drive into some of the poorer areas of the city and leave cases of water on the curb for anyone who needs it. Scarlette said she hopes it brings smiles to the people who need the water.

"She (Scarlette) always says things like 'Well when I become President...' and I tell her she doesn't have to wait to become President to make a difference. You can be 7 years old and make a big difference and no one needs to vote for you," she said. (

Jane Goodall once wrote, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

God calls us to be transformed, to glow with our faith, but not sit still, our work is not done. We are called to give of our lives serving others; it’s up to us to decide the difference we will make. Amen.

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