Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sermon for Year C Creation 2


Think for a minute.
Do you owe someone, anyone a thank you?
Did someone have you over for dinner or treat you to lunch
or bring you a donut on a grey, rainy morning?
Did someone wash the dishes when it wasn’t their turn?
Did someone come over, give up their morning
to meet the furnace repair man
so you could attend a workshop?
Did your neighbor feed your dog when you were out of town?
Are you up to date with all your thank yous---
Or do you find yourself—like I do--
making a mental list of excuses—

I was all out of thank you cards.
I got swamped at work.
I think they already know I’m thankful.
I was tired.
I went out of town.
They went out of town.
I forgot.

The truth is
It is so much easier to remember what we need
and what we want
than to remember to give thanks
for all that we HAVE received.

It is difficult to cultivate a 24/7 attitude of gratitude.
It is rare to live a life of thanks-giving.
We pray, pray, pray for what we want, what we need,
and then when our prayers are answered,
we are done, and off we go—until the next thing we want or need.

Today’s gospel is the story of 10 people in desperate need.
Ten lepers whose deepest desire was to be healed.
There was no cure, no treatment for leprosy in the first century.

The ten lepers see Jesus enter a village
And they are desperate enough
to gingerly approach Jesus and, from a distance,
beg for his mercy.
He is their last resort.

Jesus does not disappoint them.
They were all made clean. They were all healed of their leprosy.
And off they went.

Only ONE turns back and says thank you.
Only ONE remembers to thank God for his blessing,
his healing, his being made whole .
Only one.
ONE out of ten.

But, for a moment, let me make some excuses for the other nine.
The nine did exactly what Jesus told them to do—
“Go and show yourself to the priests.”
Go, Jesus said.
And off they went.

In order to be accepted back into the daily life of a community,
a priest had to authorize that you were cured,
that you were clean.
(You can check out the book of Leviticus if you want more on that!)

Can you imagine being healed of leprosy—
suddenly realizing you could go home again?
You could see your family, hug your children,
shop in the marketplace!
It really should not surprise us at all
that only ONE thought to stop,
turn around and say thank you.

And yet…
and yet…
couldn’t they stop for ONE minute and say thank you
for this immense gift they had just received?

We all take a lot for granted.
We take our blessings for granted.
We take God for granted.

It is one of the reasons here at St. John’s
that we celebrate the Creation Season.
The eight weeks before Advent,
We remember the blessings of God’s created world.

We remember that with gift comes responsibility—
our stewardship,
for this “fragile earth our island home.”

I was up early on Friday morning
and when I stood outside and looked up at the dark sky,
it was scattered with stars!

The beauty took my breath away.
How easily I could have stood outside and just complained
about the chill in the air,
or lamenting that I had to get up so early….
but what a waste that would have been!
To miss thanking God for the stars in the heaven!

I have learned this week
that we must be thankful with more than words for creation.
Our thanks must also be in action, in caring for creation.

This week I heard Bill McKibben speak at Warren Wilson College.
If you don’t know Bill McKibben,
he is an environmentalist and writer.
He is part of an international campaign,
Of which many faith traditions are a part,
To reduce carbon emissions.
350 is the number that is the safe UPPER limit of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere.
If we go above 350 we are in a state of climate crisis.

We are already at 390—
and we essentially zoomed up to that number
in the last 30 years.

Global warming is a rather charged political issue
but we, as people of faith,
need to hear it with our theological ears.
We are named by God to be the stewards of all God has created.

What would God have us do
as those who are called
to tend and care for this created world.?
Ignore it?
Hurry and go on our way?

Bill McKibben has been paying attention to his responsibility since 1984;
I have not.
Many of us have not.

As I listened to Bill McKibben speak I had a number of thoughts:
First of all, I thought about how much I take for granted.
I take for granted the beauty of the created world.
I take for granted all the many comforts I have—
many of them at the expense of the created world.
I take for granted that I will always have food to eat,
water to drink, gas for my car.

I take for granted that our trees will always turn glorious colors in autumn.
That I will always get to make my annual trek to Salter Path
and walk along the beach and wade in the Sound
and go out for great seafood at The Crab Shack.
I take for granted that God’s beautiful, perfectly created world
will go on and on and on. Forever and ever.

Bill McKibben made me aware that this “forever” is not likely,
if we continue on our current reckless path.

As I listened to Bill McKibben,
and as I read his latest book titled EAARTH,
I felt like I was hearing the voice of a prophet.
And it was not exactly a voice I welcomed.

I believe God still sends prophetic voices into our midst—
but we,
just like the people of ancient times
who rejected Jeremiah--and Amos and Hosea—
and the other prophets,
we don’t like what prophets have to say.
(The song on the jukebox back in those days would have been
“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be prophets”!)

Nobody likes a prophet.

We don’t want to hear or believe that we might be messing things up,
that we might be behaving badly,
that our greed and self-serving ways may prove disastrous—
not just disastrous for us, but disastrous for others,
especially for generations to come.

We don’t want to hear or believe
that our actions—or lack of actions—are NOT pleasing to God.

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes in his book The Prophets:

Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony,
a voice to the plundered poor,
to the profane riches of the world….
God is raging in the prophet's words. (The Prophets Ch. 1)

God is raging writes Heschel.
God is raging and almost speechless at how we can be so ungrateful,
how we can take so much for granted.

(As Episcopalians, we don’t much care for the RAGING God.)

But God is not raging because God wishes to destroy US.
God is raging
because we are the destructive ones.
And we are so blind to our own actions—
Actions so often based on our needs and wants,
not on our thanks-givings.

God has truly given us everything.
A magnificently created world.
A true garden of Eden with animals and plants,
with food and water, with everything!
We take so much for granted.

Remember that ONE leper who remembered to say thank you?
He was on his way,
just like the other nine,
but then,
then he remembered.

He remembered that it was God who had made him well.
It was God who had rescued him from the darkness.
It was God who had healed him.
It was God who had given him life again.

The tenth leper turns around
walks back and falls on his face before Jesus.

We can go on our way,
Barreling through creation
Or we can stop,
Look around at all we have been given in creation,
And remember God.

We can become better stewards—
Not just through words but through action.

Yes, we may be just ONE in ten.
We may feel like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness,
speaking up FOR the wilderness,
FOR a suffering planet and suffering peoples.

We may be just ONE.
who is courageous enough and thankful enough
to take being a good steward of God’s creation seriously.

There is a saying, often attributed to Helen Keller,
simply because she used it so often,
But the saying was actually written
by her good friend Dr. Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

What can we do?
Read the creation story in Genesis.
Read Bill McKibben’s books.
Go to to get a scientific viewpoint about global warming.
Plant a tree.
Ride a bike.
Take a hike.
Turn your thermostat down a few degrees this winter.
On occasion fall on your knees and give thanks.

Look around and see God’s creation
Make note of how good, how very good this creation is.
Give thanks and
accept the mantle of being God’s steward for this planet.

Maybe you are only ONE
but being ONE in ten
is so much better than being NONE in ten.

ONE is so much better than NONE.
Just ask Jesus.

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