|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 17, 2021||Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year B 2021||Psalm 91:9-16|
|Pentecost 20, Year B||October 10, 2021||Pentecost 20, Proper 23, Year B||Amos 5:6-7.10-15. Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31|
|Pentecost 19, Year B, Season of Creation 5||October 3, 2021||Feast of St Francis, Pentecost 19, Year B||Jeremiah 22:13-16, Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||September 26, 2021||Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Mark 9:38-50|
|➤Pentecost 17, Year B, Season of Creation 3||September 19, 2021||Pentecost 17, Proper 20, Year B, Season of Creation 3||Psalm 54, Mark 9:30-37|
|Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation 2||September 12, 2021||Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation II||Mark 8:27-38|
|Pentecost 15, Year B, Season of Creation 1||September 5, 2021||Proper 18, Year B Season of Creation 2021||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, 14-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 13 B – Rev. Amy Turner||August 22, 2021||Pentecost 13, Proper 16||John 6:56-69|
|Pentecost 12, Year B||August 15, 2021||Proper 15, Pentecost 12, Year B||John 6:51-58|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 8, 2021||Pentecost 11, Proper 14, Year B||John 6:35,41-51|
|Pentecost 10, Year B – Rev. Bambi Willis||August 1, 2021||Pentecost 10, Proper 13, Year B||John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 9, Year B||July 25, 2021||Proper 12, Pentecost 9, Year B||2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 18, 2021||Proper 11, Pentecost 8, Year B 2021||Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Mark 6:30-34|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 11, 2021||Proper 10, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B||Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2: 11-22, Mark 6:14-29|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 4, 2021||Pentecost 6, Proper 9||2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13|
Pentecost 17, Year B, Season of Creation 3
Sermon Date:September 19, 2021
Scripture: Psalm 54, Mark 9:30-37
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 17, Proper 20, Year B, Season of Creation 3
To lament is to give voice to grief and mourning. And to give voice to grief and mourning is an important step in healing the grief we inevitably face in our lives.
The psalmists and the prophets both knew the healing power of laments. Both of today’s Old Testament readings are laments.
Look at Psalm 54 in your bulletin.
The first thing the lamenting psalmist does is to call on God.
“Save me, O God, by your Name; in your might, defend my cause. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth,” that is, listen to me!
Then comes the complaint, or the description of suffering.
In our psalm the complaint is in verse 3. “For the arrogant have risen up against me, and the ruthless have sought my life, those who have no regard for God.”
Then the psalmist confidently calls on God for help.
“Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life.”
And then the psalmist asks for a condemnation of the enemy.
“Render evil to those who spy on me; in your faithfulness destroy them.”
And then often there’s a confession of sin, not explicitly stated here, but we do get the response of the psalmist who is faithfully calling on God. The psalmist trusts that God will respond.
“I will offer you a freewill sacrifice and praise your Name, O Lord, for it is good. For you have rescued me from every trouble, and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.”
Not only do the Psalmists lament in this powerful way, but so does the earth itself.
We all know that the earth has many reasons to lament these days. Climate change, oil spills, gigantic forest fires, topsoil blowing again from the dust belt, and closer to home, lawns that strip the landscape of plants that sustain the local ecosystem, putting pollinators at risk, lawnmowers that put out more pollution than our cars, and the list goes on. Yes, the earth has reason to lament.
So the earth cries out to its Creator. “Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life.”
And then the earth waits, in trust, on the Lord. But in its waiting, the earth is not passive. In fact, in line with today’s psalm, the earth offers up its freewill sacrifices, those natural processes that God has set in place to rescue the earth from trouble.
Here’s a local example of lament and offering on the part of the earth.
Those who drive on Route 17 between here and Fredericksburg have watched the state loggers cut down a swath of forest along the highway around the area where ongoing roadwork is taking place right now. The trees and the creatures they fed and sheltered are gone. In their place, the loggers left a mess. Several months have passed, and the earth in that area has certainly appeared to be in lament mode.
But now the earth is now offering up a highly visible freewill sacrifice of praise to God, one that will help the area recover, and will also help us. The earth is very generous in this respect, helping us in its healing even as we’ve harmed it.
As you drive through that area, you will see thousands of American Burnweed plants covered in white fluffy blooms. Maybe you’ve noticed the snowy little puffballs that have been blowing across the road lately.
Now if you read the September Parish Post, you know why a field full of these weeds is a wonderful thing. Can anyone tell me about the benefits of American Burnweed?
Yes, Burnweed takes nitrogen dioxide from the air—one of the chemicals being spewed across that field from the cars passing it on Rt 17. Of the plants tested so far, this plant is one of the most efficient of all plants at performing this incredibly important task of absorbing the chemical that causes airway inflammation when we breathe it in, and also causes acid rain. This plant is so efficient at absorbing nitrogen dioxide that Japanese scientists have suggested creating green walls of Burnweed and other plants that perform the same function along highways and buildings to remove nitrogen dioxide from the air.
On Rt 17, the earth itself has created this green wall on its own, and the Burnweed is absorbing the nitrogen dioxide from Rt 17 traffic. And these weeds are helping to anchor the soil so that it doesn’t wash into the watershed. Although the area will take decades to recover, the healing has begun.
As I drive by, I can just imagine the Earth praying “I will offer you a freewill sacrifice and praise your Name, O Lord, for it is good.” And knowing what the earth’s freewill offering of “weeds” in that logged area are doing, we too can give thanks and praise the Lord for nature’s healing power, and praise the Lord’s name as we drive through this area.
The lamenting psalmist’s knowledge that God will respond and has confidence in God is evident in today’s gospel as well.
Jesus tells the disciples for the second time in Mark’s gospel that he is going to be betrayed, killed, and then three days later, he will rise again. The first time Jesus shares this news with the disciples, Peter actually rebukes Jesus!
This second time around, the disciples say nothing. Even though they don’t understand what Jesus is saying, they are afraid to ask him to explain. Fear takes over.
Instead of lamenting over this news that Jesus is to be betrayed and to be killed, and to trust in God, by asking Jesus about what he has said, the disciples argue among themselves about who among them is the greatest. Fighting about who is in control helps them avoid facing their fear.
So Jesus sits down and teaches them. He gives them a better way to deal with their fear than anger and arguments. Jesus tells them that “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” And to illustrate his point, he takes a little child and holds that child in his arms and says to them, “Whoever welcomes on such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Children were non-people in Biblical times. They had no standing. For Jesus to hold a child and to say that to welcome an insignificant child in his name is to welcome the one who sent him would have been a mind blowing example for the disciples, who had just been arguing about who was the greatest among them.
Jesus reminds the disciples of the power of a lament’s conclusion—the affirming of confidence and trust in God, knowing that even in the most seemingly insignificant and lowly things, like a child in Biblical times, or a weed in our yard, that God is present and working and healing and bringing resurrection out of death.
So I encourage you today to lament over those things that grieve you, rather than to give in to anger with one another, as the disciples did as they argued about who would be greatest, trying to take control, when they heard for the second time the awful news that Jesus would die.
If the disciples had lamented, they would have been acknowledging the awful things that were to happen, and they, like Jesus, would have put their worries into God’s hands, trusting that God would bring order out of the chaos, that God would right the wrong, that God would bring justice where there is none.
As today’s lamenting psalmist reminds us, to lament is not to be passive in the face of tragedy. Lament is active. When we lament, we call on God, we spell out the complaint, we ask for help, and then we express confidence and trust in God as we offer our praise and thanksgiving to God.
And so, we come together at St Peter’s not to be angry and to argue with one another, but to lament—and as a result of our lament to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as we open our eyes and trust in God. We reach out our hands to the people who may seem insignificant to the powerful on this earth. We see the hungry, we lament hunger and we offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving through the food distribution. We see the poor around the world, and so we lament poverty, and trusting in God, offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving through a mission to school children in Jamaica. We see those in our country who have been treated unjustly, and so we lament racial injustice, and, trusting in God, offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the continuing work of the Sacred Ground group and in the acknowledgement that long before we arrived, the Native Americans cared for and tended the land where we now gather to worship.
In this Season of Creation, I encourage you to look around, and lament the state of the Earth. And then, trusting in God, offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving by welcoming God in the most insignificant of things, as Jesus told the disciples to welcome a little child.
Welcome God in the Burnweed absorbing nitrogen dioxide, and in the devil’s walking stick plants now putting out their sustaining berries for wildlife. Welcome God in the goldenrod and the wingstem, the asters and the autumn phlox that provide nectar and pollen for the insects that pollinate the plants that feed us and sustain us.
For God is at work all around us, redeeming and renewing and healing the earth. Trusting in God, we can welcome the seemingly insignificant gifts of God’s creation as an act of praise, giving them their rightful place as a way of saying thank you both to God and to the earth itself for all that God provides for us in God’s good creation.