Proper 27, Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 February 13, 2013 Ash Wedneday Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 103, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 10, 2013 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 9:28-36, II Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany February 3, 2013 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, I Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 27, 2013 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Nehemiah 8:1-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21
Second Sunday after Epiphany January 20, 2013 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
First Sunday after Epiphany January 13, 2013 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The Feast of the Epiphany January 6, 2013 Epiphany, Year C Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012 December 24, 2012 Christmas, Year C Luke 2:1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year C December 16, 2012 Third Sunday in Advent, Year C Luke 3:7-18, Philippians 4:4-7
Sermon, VTS, December 13, 2012 December 13, 2012 Daily Office, December 13, 2012 Psalm 145
Second Sunday in Advent, Year C December 9, 2012 Second Sunday of Advent, Year C Canticle 16, Song of Zechariah
First Sunday in Advent, Year C December 2, 2012 First Sunday of Advent, Year C Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year B November 25, 2012 Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year B Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37
Proper 28, Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost November 18, 2012 Sermon, Proper 28, Year B Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25, Psalm 16
Proper 27, Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost November 11, 2012 Proper 27, Year B I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

 

Proper 27, Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon Date:November 11, 2012

Scripture: I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 27, Year B


 

I’ve just finished reading a book by Connie Lapallo, called Dark Enough to see the Stars in a Jamestown Sky.

In the book, Lapallo recreates the tragic and difficult situations that the first settlers in Jamestown , Virginia, faced in the winter that stretched through the fall of 1609 and into the spring of 1610, the winter that we know in American history as the Starving Time. 

By October of 1609, approximately 600 people had arrived in Jamestown, and by the following spring, only sixty people—sixty people!  were left, and even they had come close to starving to death.  During that winter as the little cornmeal they had ran out, the settlers ate anything they could find, including rats, shoe leather and the canvas sail that had provided cover for the first church in the settlement.    Some of them became insane before they died.  The situation was hopeless. 

And now March of 1610 had come, and Joan Peirce had a decision to make. 

Joan and her friend Temperance, two of the settlers, had barely managed to keep Joan’s little daughter Janey alive through the winter, and they were barely alive themselves.

And now Grace Fleetwood’s husband had starved to death, and the widow was alone and distraught.  Joan and Temperance decided to take her to their cottage, in spite of the fact that their secret supply of acorn meal was running low, and when it was gone, they too would die, because they would have nothing else to eat. 

One day, as Joan was dividing their meager soup into the four bowls, she felt resentment rise up inside.  Grace was going to die anyway.  Shouldn’t the small amount of soup allotted for the day be eaten by those who had at least a chance of surviving?

No one would know if Joan gave the dying woman less than her share. 

In the face of this hopeless situation, what decision would Joan make?  Would she divide the thin soup evenly, or give the dying woman less than the other three would get? 

When I read this passage from the book, I found myself thinking about the hopeless and starving widow of Zarephath, another starving woman with a decision to make.

As she is gathering sticks to make a little fire, the prophet Elijah shows up and asks her for some water and then for bread.

Now this widow and her son are also in a starving time because of a three year drought.  She’s getting ready to cook their last bit of meal and then the two of them will die because they won’t  have anything else to eat. 

At this point, the widow holds out absolutely no hope that she or her son will live. 

She protests when Elijah asks for bread. 

So Elijah says to her, “Do not be afraid.  Go and cook your meal, but before you eat, bring me a little cake of it first, and after I eat, make something for yourself and your son. 

For thus says the Lord God of Israel—“The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord God sends the rain upon the earth.” 

Scripture doesn’t tell us what goes through this widow’s mind as she considers Elijah’s request and thinks about whether or not she will share her last bit of bread. 

Why have hope in such a hopeless situation? 

And yet Scripture tells us that this poor widow of Zarephath, a Gentile, about to starve, decides to put her hope in this God of Israel that Elijah has told her about, a God great enough to keep meal in her jar and oil in her jug until the drought finally ends. 

She decides to take a chance on this God and to act with hope by sharing what she has with Elijah.      

In the New Testament, we meet a poor widow in the midst of the crowd at the temple in Jerusalem.  She is clutching two small copper coins in her hand.   Her situation is also hopeless.  This money is all she has. 

This widow also decides to take a chance on God and to act with hope by sharing the last bit of money that she has.    

She makes the hopeful decision to put her last two coins into the temple treasury. For this woman, the temple, the place where God dwells, is the closest place she can come to God.  And God has charged the temple authorities to care for the widowed and the orphans, and even though these same authorities have become vain and self-centered, this widow has hope that they will heed God’s orders to care for her, a poor widow and for the other widows and orphans as well. 

Jesus tells the disciples that this woman has given everything she has, everything she has to live on.  We have no idea what happens to her afterward.

But we do know what happens to Jesus. 

It’s Passover, and tensions are high in Jerusalem.  Jesus and the disciples have shared a meal, Judas has betrayed Jesus, and now Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying. 

Mark tells us that Jesus is distressed and agitated.  He tells his disciples, “I am deeply grieved, even to death.” 

And Jesus prays to God—“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

And now Jesus has a decision to make in his own hopeless situation.

The Garden of Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives.   And just on the other side of the hill, about a ten minute walk, lies the wilderness.  Jesus can easily leave the garden, disappear into the wilderness and escape to safety. 

But Jesus decides to finish his life as he began it—as a hopeful witness to God’s love and wisdom, as witness to the kingdom of God drawn near, by dying as he has lived, totally focused on God and God’s plan to restore creation to its original blessed goodness. 

And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus , who hopes and trusts in God even when he knows that he will die, is now  in heaven itself, appearing in the presence of God on our behalf.  By sharing his very life for us, he brings us eternal salvation. 

And what about Joan Peirce, starving to death in Jamestown? 

Joan stands at the table with the four bowls in front of her.  She puts a smaller portion into the dying woman’s bowl and turns to feed her, and then she stops, and thinks to herself–

“Wait!  What was I doing?  Here in this place under these vile conditions, we would have to make choices—were making choices—every day.  Which path would we take?  The selfish one turned us further into animals, and I had seen that effect on men’s minds.  Bitterness and hoarding, hatred and anger.  I had only to look at the woman on the bed and my choice was clear.  I did not choose to die an animal, or survive the winter knowing I had been one.  I could not put her out, nor give her less than we ourselves ate.  I set the bowl down again and dished it out fairly, even as my eyes greedily hungered for what was in her bowl.” 

In her hopeless situation, Joan made a choice for hope.  She decided that even if she died, she would share what she had, and she would live as if she were in God’s kingdom, for in that kingdom, there is no room for bitterness and hoarding, hatred and anger.  She placed her hope on a God of love who would be with her in life or in death, and shared her soup with the dying woman. 

Now we Americans have decisions to make.   We have become starving people—we are afraid of not having enough, or of losing what we have, and as a result, we have become selfish, angry and resentful, even bitter, and we find ourselves starving—starving for hope.    

The Psalmist reminds us where to place our trust and hope in today’s psalm.   

“Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;  I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth, and in that day their thoughts perish. 

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!whose hope is in the Lord, their God;

Who
made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever.”


The Psalmist encourages us to trust in our Lord and Savior, through whose sacrificial love we hold out hope for life, both now and in eternity, in the kingdom of God’s love.

Joan Peirce, the widow of Zarephath, the poor widow with the two copper coins, and Jesus—all put their hope in God in hopeless situations and shared all that they had—an equal portion of soup,  a handful of flour, two little coins, and in the case of Jesus, life itself.  

And where we decide to put our hope, and what we are willing to share,  will make a difference, for better or worse, not only for ourselves, and for those around us, but also for our nation and for all of creation. 

 

Amen. 

Resource:  Dark Enough to see the Stars in a Jamestown Sky:  Based on the True Story of the Women and Children at Jamestown.  By Connie Lapallo.  Llumina Press, Coral Springs, FL.  2008. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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