|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
Season of Creation 4, Year C
Sermon Date:September 22, 2019
Scripture: Luke 16:19-31, Amos 8:4-8
Liturgy Calendar: Season of Creation, Year C, Week 4
“The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus” – Hendrick ter Brugghen (1625)
Sooner or later, chances to correct mistakes come to an end, and consequences, no matter how awful they are, cannot be undone.
The rich man in today’s gospel ends up in Hades, suffering from the consequences of disregarding the law and the prophets in his lifetime.
When the rich man asks Father Abraham to send a messenger from the dead to warn his brothers, Abraham says to the rich man, “Your brothers already have all they need—the law and the prophets, and if they won’t learn from what they already know, not even someone coming back from the dead would convince them to change their ways.”
The brothers already have all the information they need to change their ways. And we’re left wondering. Will the brothers change their ways before they, too, end up in Hades?
This parable has some interesting parallels to our own lives. First of all the parable reminds us that we are to treat the poor with respect and to care for them as God has asked God’s people to do throughout scripture.
Leviticus 19: verse 33 says that “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you, you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
In today’s Old Testament lesson, Amos tells the people in no uncertain terms that God is displeased by the fact that the rich have sbrought to ruin the poor of the land. And the land, in response, is going to tremble, and floods and earthquakes will take place.
Today, poor people around the world are the ones most affected by environmental pollution and climate change.
When I went to Guatemala last year, the country was experiencing a drought that has been going on since 2014. According to the National Geographic, Guatemala is one of the world’s ten most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change.
The UN World Food Program interviewed families from the Dry Corridor, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and found that the main reasons people were leaving their countries were because they had no food, no money and no work. Whole villages are beginning to collapse as the coping strategies people have used for one or two year droughts have not worked for longer periods. Nearly 50 percent of Guatemalan children are undernourished, and that number spikes to nearly 90 percent of children in rural areas—Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world.
So no wonder that since 2014, we have seen mass migrations of subsistence farmers and others from rural Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as these desperate people try to find food.
I wonder what the Lord our God who watches both heaven and earth, thinks of the treatment that these poor people get when they reach the border of our country.
Today’s psalm says that the Lord will raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ash heap, and God expects us to do the same.
The people at St Alban’s, in Antigua, Guatemala, went out yesterday to a small village to deliver Ecofiltros, a filter that makes water safe to drink. This Rotary Club project is an effort to bring clean drinking water to people around the world. Most children in Guatemala drink soft drinks instead of water, because there, in order for the water to be safe to drink, the water has to be filtered or to be boiled, which means obtaining the wood to build a fire to heat the water—but with these filters, the water doesn’t have to be boiled and families don’t have the expense of buying wood. Therefore, water becomes cheaper than the soft drinks. Hopefully, more families will drink water instead of the soft drinks, improving the health of both children and adults.
Locally, here at St Peter’s over the past five years, we have been trying to help mitigate some of the effects of poverty in our own community by bringing fresh produce and other food to the people who need it every third Wednesday of the month. I have had people who come to the distribution tell me that they wouldn’t have had enough food to get through the month without the food we provided.
In addition to the disconnection and chasms that have opened among people, our disconnection with the earth itself is starting to look and feel like a great chasm is being fixed that we will never be able to undo. So many parts of the natural world are suffering because of the ways that we have knowingly and unknowingly exploited the earth. The statistics are staggering.
I’m going to talk about what is happening with birds as an example of a great chasm opening that we may not be able to ever cross again if we continue to disregard the information about the plight of birds that we have already been given.
Remember, on the fifth day of creation, God said, “Let birds fly across the earth across the dome of the sky. So God created every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and let birds multiply on the earth.”
Birds are an essential part of God’s good creation, and we neglect and exploit them at our own peril.
A study released last Thursday shows that “Three billion birds have been lost from North America since 1970. It is more than a quarter of the total bird population of the continent…among the worst-hit bird groups are the insect eating birds such as swifts and swallows, grassland birds such as meadowlarks and Savannah sparrows, and the longest-distance migrants such as cerulean warblers and wood thrushes. Birds are a critical part of the natural food chain , and this loss of birds represents a loss of ecological integrity that, along with climate change, suggests that nature as we know it is beginning to die.”
Michael Parr, the President of the American Bird Conservancy who wrote about this study in an editorial in The Washington Post on Friday points out that environmental news such as this latest information on bird decline sounds negative, but he goes on to say that “it is simply data that we can choose to act on-or not. It’s a bit like hearing you have elevated cholesterol: You can choose to ignore it, but if you do, worse consequences likely await. We now have a choice to make. Let’s seize this moment to take care of the health of the planet, birds and all.”
Parr offers some ways that each one of us can make a difference for birds and other wildlife.
Did you know that Americans use one billion pounds of insect poison annually?!? Fewer insects translate into fewer birds, then fewer bird predators, and eventually, far fewer animals overall. So one thing that we can all do is to choose not to use insecticides in our yards, especially neonics, a class of insecticide that kills both beneficial and harmful insects.
Planting native plants in our yards, advocating for our public lands—for nature-based and recreational uses rather than mining and exploitative uses– are things we can do– if we choose to do them.
Choosing these things helps to close this chasm of the loss of birds that is beginning to open. Once that chasm gets too great, nothing we do will bring back the birds.
Here at St Peter’s, we are being intentional about trying our best to care for the environment, which ends up helping the birds. For a long time now we’ve been using biodegradable carry out containers for the Village Dinners. We’ve gotten rid of Styrofoam in the kitchen and we mostly have stopped stocking wasteful plastic water bottles. And we are going to try again to get a bee colony going. This past year we added a rain barrel to collect rain water for watering the plants in the flower borders, and this year we’ve added a composter which is turning our kitchen and food distribution scraps into compost to be used to enrich the church grounds.
And we hope to get our bee colony going again this coming spring, and to consider how we might best use our riverbank to both protect and to enjoy the beauty of the river.
So as we ask for God’s guidance and God’s mercy as we try to apply God’s law, God’s prophets, and the lessons from the stories that Jesus tells in this very complex world in which we live, let’s pray today’s collect again, this time together.
This prayer helps us to imagine eating around God’s table big enough to welcome everyone, the plentiful feast, and the welcome we will give in God’s name to those who are the least in our midst, including God’s creatures.
“Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: We should like a great lake of the finest ale for you, the King of Kings. We should like a table of the choicest food for the family of heaven. Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith, and the food be forgiving love. We should welcome the poor to our feast, for they are God’s children. We should welcome the sick to our feast, for they are God’s joy. Let the poor sit with Jesus in the highest place, and the sick dance with the angels. Lord, bless the poor. Lord, bless the sick, and bless our human race. Lord, bless our food. Lord, bless our drink. Our earthly home, O Lord, embrace. Amen.”
Parr, Michael. “Helping our disappearing birds.” Pg A 19, Friday, September 20, 2019, The Washington Post.
Van de Weyer, Robert. Celtic Prayers: Book of Celtic Devotion: Daily Prayers and Blessings. Brigid’s Feast, pg 53.