|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|➤Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 9, Year A||August 2, 2020||Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A||Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year A||July 26, 2020||Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020||Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52|
|Pentecost 7, Year A||July 19, 2020||Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30,36-43|
Pentecost 14, Year A
Sermon Date:September 6, 2020
Scripture: Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A
What a journey we’ve been on since the beginning of March, when suddenly we found ourselves no longer worshipping together in person in our beautiful worship space of St Peter’s, but instead bound together in spirit, interconnected in cyberspace while we all stayed at home—a rather disembodied experience that has nevertheless served us well and helped to keep us well in this time of COVID.
But now, thankfully, since July we have had the option of gathering in person outdoors, and being together in person. Not even masks and distancing can keep the love that Paul speaks of in Romans from flowing among us as we gather together as the body of Christ, gathered in love for God and for one another. Jesus is here in our midst, outside with us as we worship.
We are blessed to be gathering outside in this Season of Creation.
In this season we enter in heart, mind and spirit into the great love that God has for us and for all that God has made, so that the depth of God’s love and life giving creativity surrounding us can inspire us to deepen our own love for this earth and its creatures. We are interconnected with one another and interconnected with God, and we are also interconnected to all of God’s creation. After all, we ourselves are a part of that creation.
In today’s reading from Ezekiel, the Lord has appointed Ezekiel as a sentinel to the House of Israel, to warn them of the ways in which they have turned away from God and sinned. God wants the people to stay connected to God and also to one another.
God warns us because God wants us to live. God has no pleasure in “the death of the wicked,” as the reading puts it, but God wants the wicked to turn from their ways and live.
Creation is one of God’s sentinels to us. Creation warns us when we human beings have gone astray. What goes on in creation reminds us to turn away from the harmful habits we have developed that keep us from fully loving the earth and also from fully loving one another.
Creation speaks to us and warns us when our interconnectedness is at risk, putting creation and all of us in danger.
As part of our interconnectedness with God’s good creation, our responsibility as Christians is to know how the things we do can contribute to climate change and then to work on how to change the things we do for the good of the earth, and ultimately for the welling being of the human family itself.
Now whether you believe that the current climate change is just a natural occurrence or that human beings have caused this climate change isn’t the point here—the point is that the things we human beings do have inevitably have an effect on the climate.
In recent years, California has experienced the deadliest and most destructive fires on record.
Scientific American reports that a recent study from Stanford University shows that in California, temperatures have risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit and precipitation in the state has dropped 30% since 1980. Now the number of autumn days when the fire risk is highest has doubled.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and one of the study’s authors, says that this is “a really big increase over a relatively short period of time that can be attributed directly to the changes in climate.”
And when climate change mixes with poverty, inequalities among people get compounded.
Last week, The New York Times published an article about how decades of racist policies in cities have left communities sweltering. Alert reader Ben Hicks sent me a link to this article, which is well worth your time to read.
The article uses Richmond, VA, as an example of how racist policies have led to climate inequities for people of color in poorer neighborhoods. In the 1930’s, federal officials redlined neighborhoods in Richmond, marking them as risky investment areas because the residents were Black. This practice became illegal in the 1970’s, but the damage from redlining is ongoing.
Today, these areas are the hottest parts of town, sometimes as much as 15 degrees hotter than a white area of town on a summer day, because of the large areas of pavement and the lack of vegetation, especially trees. These formerly redlined areas have less tree cover today than areas that weren’t redlined.
And this fact isn’t true just in Richmond. The pattern repeats itself in cities all over the country, with temperatures varying from 5 to 20 degrees hotter in neighborhoods with residents of color and lower income versus the wealthier, whiter areas of these cities.
During a heat wave, every one degree increase of heat can increase the risk of dying by 2.5 percent. Richmond’s four hottest zip codes have the highest rates of heat related emergency room visits.
The climate is speaking to us as a sentinel, reminding us that God desires us to turn from the ways that hurt creation and one another, and to live. In Gilpin, one of the hot neighborhoods in Richmond, lacking tree cover, life expectancy is 63 years. Just a short drive away in Westover Hills, a middle class neighborhood, its streets lined with massive oak trees, life expectancy is 83 years.
God tells Ezekiel to tell the house of Israel—“Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?”
In this season of creation, we can consider how correcting the mistakes of the past can not only help others to live more comfortably and for more years, but can help us live too—because we will be living in a more just society.
Just think, in the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, that comes down from heaven to earth in the Book of Revelation, and where God makes God’s home—with God’s throne at the center of that city—I’ll bet that there are no areas without tree cover—the trees with the healing of the nations stretch not only along the river of living water than runs through the center of the city, but spread throughout the city, with their healing leaves providing cool comfort and health for all who dwell in that city.
Today’s gospel reminds us that we each have a responsibility to speak with one another about the inequities around us when we discover them—not just here within the church, but out in our society as well. If we are to be a truly Christian nation, then we will welcome those who point out the injustices that exist in this nation, and we will want to work toward correcting those injustices.
Creation itself will help. What would happen if only one oak tree were planted in a play area in Gilpin that has no shade? That one tree, planted strategically near a building, would reduce the energy used inside the building. The tree would lower the temperature of the play area, inviting people out to socialize and to cool off in its shade because of the water evaporating through its leaves– both the air and the surface temperatures around the tree would be cooler. And the tree’s leaves would remove some pollutants from the air—dust, ozone, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants.
And not only that, but that one oak tree would support hundreds of species of moths and butterflies, more than any other native species of tree—and those moths would in turn attract birds, and its acorns would attract squirrels or any of the over one hundred species in this country that feast on acorns —many, many species benefiting from that one oak tree.
Paul says to the Romans that the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Now is the moment for us to wake from our sleep, to hear the warnings that creation sends to us, to act on those warnings, to work for justice for both creation and our fellow human beings, our neighbors.
And when we gather in do this work in the name of Jesus, there Jesus will be in our midst.