St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Pentecost 12 Sermon 2015

Corby mentioned last week that there are several weeks in a row where our Gospel reading is about Bread.  That is true—there are 5 weeks of John Chapter 6 and the Bread of Life, and we are in week 4 of the 5.  I found a short commentary on this that I thought may help us understand this strange faith tenet: “To say the Eucharist is necessary for eternal life is not necessarily as scandalous as it might seem at first.  In the strictest sense of the word, very little is absolutely essential, as the thief on the cross demonstrates: all he had was faith in Jesus as the King of the Jews and a desire to be with him.  Jesus here is talking about that which is generally necessary.  In a sense, the necessity of the Eucharist would be similar to saying one must be a member of the church.  Eucharist is one of the central features of church life, and it actually effects our oneness.  The New Testament knows nothing of a Christianity apart from the church.  The New Testament is very concrete.  It points to this man Jesus and says he is the Son of God.  And it points to this community and says, Here is the body of Christ, the center of divine life on earth in its fullest expression.  The necessity of the Eucharist is a part of the necessity of the church.  It is a part of God's dealing with us as material and relational beings.”
Yes, I know, pretty deep stuff!  But John’s writings are nothing like anything else in the Bible, and one can only take it in small pieces, kind of like the Eucharist.
I looked around for some inspiration for this talk and found a few things.  Mostly they were looking at life as it is going to happen or is happening.
You probably know or hear about all kinds of “special” days celebrated during the year—civil, historical, government-related, religious, even just for fun.  I looked up the “fun” version of these days this past week and found: 
Monday was S’Mores; Lazy and World Lions Day,
Tuesday was Son & Daughter and Play in the Sand Day;
Wednesday--World Elephant, Middle Child, and Vinyl Record Day;
Thursday—Int’l Lefthanders Day;
Friday—Creamsicle & Social Security Day;
Saturday—World Honey Bee & Relaxation Day,
and Sunday (today!) is Rollercoaster & Tell a Joke Day. 
I think it would be fun to know ahead that some of these days are coming up and plan to do things to celebrate them.  (I mean it is easy to get a box of creamsicles for that day, or more seriously, to plan an outing for son and daughter day.) 
We also have days our Montesano community celebrates during the year: Neighborhood National Night Out, Montesano Festival of Lights, and the Montesano Car Show.
We are asked within our church faith and commitment to celebrate certain special “church” days during the year, many of which we do just by following along on the church lectionary with the readings in the service each week, as they fall in the church calendar. 
All of this is celebrating life on a somewhat planned basis, which is fine, and hopefully isn’t messed up too much, to cause major trouble with our health and well being.
Then we have the advice from today’s reading from Ephesians 5:15-20:  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This tells us what to have as our focus—God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit to lead us, and how to focus--being positive and wise as we praise God.  This is easier said than done, although this mindset can do a lot to help us through a lot of rough patches. 
I have, and several of us have had rough going with medical issues, and we know through studies that a positive mental approach (helped by prayer and one’s church community) can make a difference.  I also see a chance for perspective, our own issues vs. those of others in our community around us.  We have our issues, and others have theirs.  We focus on both—try to know what our fellow church members are dealing with and offer prayers and comfort where we can.  We also focus on those dealing with poverty, loss of loved ones, dignity, and the like.
I read about three examples this week where people are helping others in unique ways:

  1. A Jewish fundraising campaign to rebuild a historic Christian church in Israel that was damaged by arsonists has surpassed its goal, raising more than $17,000.  The "Restoring Friendship" drive to raise funds to repair the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, where Christians believe Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, had a goal of about $13,000. But that has been eclipsed as support has poured in from Jewish people in far-flung places.
  2. The Pope will meet with President Barack Obama as part of his six-day tour of Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York in September. 100 immigrant women plan to march nearly 100 miles for a prayer vigil outside the White House ahead of the pope’s visit.
  3. Two Palestinian men protect a cowering Israeli policewoman in a photo showing a gesture of humanism.  Religious Jewish settlers attacked Palestinian farmers on their way to their fields on Saturday.  Israeli police moved to arrest Palestinians after settlers claimed they'd thrown stones at them. In the confrontation that followed, police used stun guns, and the Palestinians threw rocks.  The policewoman was caught in the middle, froze, and started to cry. As an Israeli soldier raised his gun toward Palestinians to protect the police officer, a UN worker and a local mayor stepped in and shouted, "Don't shoot!" at the soldiers, and walked the officer to the safety of the Israeli troops.

Just this week some of those we help with our $$ and food in Aberdeen dealt with loss.  The Thunderbird Motel, condemned and heading toward demolition, was for a few who were still hanging around there, invaded by Aberdeen police.  They came in with rams and wearing hazmat gear and knocked doors down and removed anyone still there, and sent them on their way—to who knows where, as there is no plan by the city to help anyone like this—no housing, no plans for making housing, no anything—just get them out.  Just yesterday, Rev. Sarah Monroe and her Rivercity Camp friends tried to have a car wash at the GH PUD, and it was going well—until the Hoquiam police showed up.  Homeless people trying to have a car wash to raise money for their next camp move, and there are several other fund raising car washes in the area. But the homeless people are the ones targeted by Hoquiam police--for a warrant search--while no one else is targeted. They take away the main person trying to help with the car wash and it is basically shut down.  Sarah tried to speak with the police as they acted and was told to “butt out”, even after she said she was the person’s pastor.  One, I guess the police have nothing more important to do, and two, it continues to show the attitudes of some of those in authority toward those with less.
What can we do to help?  Keep our focus on God, and let the Spirit lead us to actions which show that focus in the world around us.  Whether it is advocacy, $$, voting to remove those from power who don’t care, whatever!—we all can help change how the world, and our communities, operate.  Keep the focus!  AMEN!

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