Pentecost 4A Proper 8, June 21,2020
Gen. 22: 1-14; Ps. 13; Rom. 6:12-23; Matt. 10: 40-42
A prayer by Barbara Glasson, president of the Methodist Conference,Britain: “We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbors’ safety. We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity. We are your people God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs. For as long as it takes wherever you call us.”
As this pandemic has spread and become overwhelming in some places, I have often returned to the conversation I had with Junior and Jackie Dracobly’s daughter, Lois. She is the lead ER nurse in a downtown Phoenix hospital that has mostly non-insured patients in its care. The hospital also runs a free clinic. I have been concerned about her safety, her health, and also all the people she and her colleagues serve. The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale pays more and has patients who are easier to serve, yet Lois is the epitome of the prayer above. Lois seemed to me to consider her service at this hospital as a call. She was passionate about her work when we spoke. I feel privileged that I had the opportunity to get to know her better.
In today’s readings, we have the story of Abraham who also went where he was called for as long as it took to realize his dreams for his family and for God. By the time Isaac was a teenager, Abraham’s faith in God had matured--though he was old when he started his journey from the land of Ur. He trusted God. And, God provided for him--had been for the whole journey. And Isaac was spared.
During Pentecost, “the Triune God interrupts and invades our ordinary lives. We can either close our eyes and ears and ignore it or we can be caught off guard and get swept up in the transforming work of making all things new. We are invited to join--to participate in bringing kingdom order out of worldly chaos.” Enuma Okoro (paraphrased).
Well, our interruption started back in Lent. And, it wasn’t God but a pandemic. Yet, we can look for God in all that is happening and we can continue to obey the call to look out for others.
In The Message version of Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under the old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”
“Thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!” This is the kind of interruption we all need. Paul is speaking of this freedom as obedience to God’s call. Which is what the poem by B. Glasson above is talking about obeying God’s call to think of others and their safety during this pandemic. Considering that folks still need to be fed so we are still feeding them. Chaplains on the Harbor is still feeding and employing people. Lois is still going to work at the hospital and treating the sick not knowing if the next patient is infected as part of this pandemic. And, I hope we are all wearing masks when we are out in public.
And, in Matthew, The Message goes like this: “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help.
This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it.
It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
We are part of the Body of Christ--a community. And, even separated by a pandemic, we are still part of a community. We can still speak up when poor people go hungry, aren’t housed, and don’t have access to good health care. We can speak up when black and brown people are not honored and are killed in the streets. We can be allies for the LGBTQ+ communities who also experience similar harassment and death.
Accepting the Triune God into our lives can be a kind of rescue. And it also gives us a purpose for living outside our own small lives. We can accept the idea that there are miracles waiting to happen. We can also look for that opportunity to provide a cool drink for someone, or a meal, or a word of encouragement and support.
As Celeste Kennel-Shank (Mennonite pastor living in Chicago) noted: “Taking sin seriously means not only fighting back against oppression but taking a hard look at myself. In my feminism, am I aware of and working to end the ways misogyny particularly oppresses black, brown, Asian, and Indigenous women, as well as queer and trans people? Do I put my own concerns first or truly seek liberation for all people?” “Wherever we are, whatever it costs. For as long as it takes. Wherever you call us.” Amen.