|Advent 1, Year C 2021||November 28, 2021||Advent 1, Year C 2021||Psalm 25:1-9, I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36|
|Christ the King, Year B||November 21, 2021||Christ the King, Year B||John 18:33-37, Revelation 1:4b-8|
|Pentecost 25, Year B||November 14, 2021||Pentecost 25, Proper 28, Year B, 2021||Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Mark 13:1-8|
|All Saints, Year B||November 7, 2021||All Saints' Sunday Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44`|
|Pentecost 23, Year B||October 31, 2021||Pentecost 23, Proper 26, Year B||Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Mark 12:28-34|
|Pentecost 22, Year B||October 24, 2021||Pentecost 22, Proper 25, Year B||Mark 10: 46-52|
|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 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4
Sermon Date:September 26, 2021
Scripture: Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Mark 9:38-50
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4
In his meditation for this past Thursday, September 23, Richard Rohr writes about gifts. In fact, the title of his meditation is “It’s all a gift!”
Rohr challenges us to choose to live in an economy of grace rather than an economy of exchange, which is an economy of reward and punishment, in which justice is retribution.
Rohr says that this way of thinking, and we think this way because our society is based on an economy of exchange, “becomes the framework for our fundamental relationships, our basic self image, and our actions.” For instance, “I deserve, you owe me, I will be generous if it helps me too.”
Rohr says that we all have to admit that “this system of exchange seems reasonable to almost everybody today. If we’re honest, it makes sense to us too, and seems fair.” Rohr doesn’t say that this system is wrong. In fact, he says that it can do much good, BUT the only trouble is that Jesus offers a different way, and he’s the one we’ve chosen to follow!
So Rohr encourages us to choose to live in a gift economy. “In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. We don’t really like this model, because we feel we’ve worked hard to earn our rights, and to earn what we have.
Ultimately, the only way we can move from living in an exchange based economy into choosing to live in a gift economy is to experience for ourselves receiving something without earning it.
“This is called forgiveness, unconditional love, and mercy.” If we’ve never received–or chosen to accept– unearned, undeserved love, then we are suspicious of anything “free,” especially free things for those we would consider to be underserving.
So let’s look at today’s Old Testament reading through this lens of the system of exchange versus undeserved gift.
Moses is aggravated because he is trying to carry the burden of the unruly and untamed Israelites who are never satisfied and are always complaining.
Moses accuses God of giving him more than he can handle.
God’s solution to Moses’ frustration is to take a bit of the spirit that God has ALREADY given to Moses, and to spread that spirit among the seventy elders that have come to the tent of meeting, so that Moses now has seventy people helping him.
The spirit even comes to rest on Eldad and Medad, who aren’t even at the tent of meeting when God distributes this bit of spirit. They are in the camp with everyone else.
So wait a minute! Hold on! Who are these two to get this “undeserved” gift of the spirit? Moses gets complaints right away from several sources, including Joshua, an assistant of Moses.
“My Lord Moses, stop these two from prophesying! They are undeserving—they weren’t among the chosen seventy elders!”
But Moses, having seen that the gift of the spirit that rests on him and the others is a free gift from God that none of them did anything to earn, wants God to share that spirit even more widely.
“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
In today’s gospel, the disciples fall into the same trap. They come to Jesus complaining that they’ve seen someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. And they tried to stop the person from doing that good work because the person wasn’t one of them—so therefore, the person is undeserving of doing deeds of power in the name of Jesus. But Jesus reminds the disciples they should be glad that others are doing good works in Jesus’ name.
That is, don’t try to limit God’s gifts of power to only those that you feel are deserving of that power!
In fact, Jesus is so adamant about God’s gifts of power, freely given to whoever God wants to give them, that he warns the disciples in no uncertain terms not to interfere with God’s work. “Don’t put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me!” Jesus says. Jesus makes sure to get the attention of the disciples with the gruesome examples of cutting off a hand, or a foot or tearing out an eye if it causes you to sin. We all get put the test, the temptation to try to hoard or to limit God’s power so that only the deserving have it, but God has different ideas—
“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another!”
Use the unique gifts, your saltiness, that God has given to you, for God’s work in the world, and be at peace with others as they use their particular God given gifts.
Today, Elizabeth Heimbach is handing out your pledge cards for the coming year. The point of this yearly ritual is to give you the opportunity to let the Vestry know about the amount of money you hope to give for God’s work at St Peter’s in the coming year. A pledge is your best guess about what you can give for the work of this church—and your pledge can be changed at any time in the year if you find that you need to adjust it. The Vestry needs your pledge now to create next year’s budget.
When I fill out my pledge card this year, I’m going to try to remember that all that I have is a gift—as Richard Rohr says, “It’s all a gift!” –and that I can share my financial gifts freely with not only St Peter’s, but with many other groups as well, the groups that are doing what I would consider to be God’s work out in the world.
In fact, part of the Vestry budget is set aside for sharing with other groups who are doing God’s work out in the world. Every December, the Vestry sends money off to various groups and by doing so, we increase the power of our money doing God’s work in the world. Locally, our budget supports the discretionary fund, so that we can help individuals in need. We support Caroline Recovery Center, a group in Bowling Green that helps those who are struggling with addictions. We support CERV, the churches in Caroline County who come together to help those who are in financial crisis. Hunters for the Hungry gets venison onto the tables of the food insecure. We support the Healthy Harvest Food Bank, which in turn provides the food for our Village Harvest. And further afield, we support the Diocesan fund which then helps churches in our diocese who are in need—we ourselves have benefited from this fund. We support the healing of children with cancer through St Jude’s. And the ECW gifts, made possible by those of you who support the village dinners, go to help people become self-sustaining through the Heifer Project, to help wounded veterans and first responders through Tunnels to Towers, and to provide quality education for the poor through St Andrew’s School in Richmond, to name only some of the groups the ECW supports financially.
Our money from St Peter’s helps God’s gifts of power go to work in the world. So consider the idea of “it’s all a gift!” when you fill out your pledge card this year.
“It’s all a gift!” is also a good way to think about how we interact with creation. How would you fill out a pledge card to the earth? We all know that the earth and its creatures are in trouble as the climate changes and native habitats continue to shrink. To tell ourselves that this is just the way things are is to absolve ourselves of responsibility for God’s good creation, the creation that God asks us to care for and to tend.
Pledge cards to the earth could include a pledge to switch to a hybrid car or an electric car to cut down on carbon emissions, to drive less, to consider using an electric or battery powered lawn mower, to remove invasive plants from your property and to put native plants in their place to restore habitats for the creatures, to set aside time for education so that you can make informed choices that will help ensure the health of the earth, and to consider supporting some of the many groups that work for the restoration of the earth’s health.
So as you remember, “It’s all a gift!” give prayerful thought in these coming weeks to your pledge to St Peter’s, as well as to the earth.
In closing, I would like to share this story that Brad Volland sent me because it fits so well with “it’s all a gift” thinking.
The story goes like this. “After the 93 year old man in Italy got better in the hospital, he was told that he had to pay his use of the ventilator for one day and so the old man started to cry. When the doctor begged him not to cry, the old man said this.
“I don’t cry because of the money I have to pay. I can pay all the money. I cry because I have been breathing God’s air for 93 years, but I never had to pay anything for it. Now I’m paying for the air I breathed for one day on a ventilator and I realize now how generous the free gift of air from God has been every moment of my 93 years. And I never thought to thank God for that free gift before now!”
Suddenly, as this man is faced with paying for air, in the economy of exchange in which he lives, he realizes that what has really mattered all these years is that he has been living in God’s economy of grace, in an economy of gifts from God, freely given, that have provided him with the free and indispensable breath of life.
It’s all a gift in God’s economy of grace!
So may God bless us with the gift of generosity as we freely give of all that God has given to us.