Pentecost 20, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
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 20, Year B

Sermon Date:October 10, 2021

Scripture: Amos 5:6-7.10-15. Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31

Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 20, Proper 23, Year B


Native Lands Map showing the Nandtaughtacund Indians


In today’s gospel, a rich man runs up to Jesus and kneels before him. The man asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life.

I’m sure that this man believes that he is a good person.  Deep down inside, he probably expects that Jesus will tell him that eternal life is already his.  After all, he is a landowner with many possessions which make him successful and important in the world’s eyes,  and not only that, but he has also kept all the commandments since his youth. 

But Jesus  is not impressed by this man’s wealth and does not congratulate him on his goodness.  Jesus, looking on him, loves him, and then tells him what he must do. 

To inherit eternal life, the man must be honest with himself about how he got all his possessions, return them to the people he defrauded, the poor, and then he  will be free to go follow Jesus. 

Where does this idea that the rich man has defrauded someone come from?     

When we pay close attention to the commandments that Jesus quotes to the rich man, we see, that as Ched Myers points out in his commentary on Mark, that Jesus lists several of the ten commandments in his response, and that Jesus also adds the commandment,  “You shall not defraud.” This commandment does not appear in the original ten commandments. 

As the rest of today’s gospel reading makes clear, Jesus is addressing not only this rich man, but all people who have wealth.  We, the wealthy by the world’s standards, like the man kneeling before Jesus, find the demands that Jesus makes shocking.

Like the rich man, we believe that we are good people.  We have kept the commandments since our youth.  And we certainly did not defraud anyone to get what we have.  We earned what we have!  And we are already followers of Jesus.

But in our nation, and in the church itself, as we continue to reckon more and more deeply with our nation’s history and the ways in which our Anglican heritage is directly intertwined with that history, we can see that in this passage, Jesus is speaking directly to us, for we are the ones who have benefited at the expense of our Native American and Black and Brown brothers and sisters, whom we have historically defrauded. 

Along with you, I struggle with this reckoning with our history.  I too have been in denial.  I too have felt deep anger and resistance when challenged over my denial, and then as I’ve started learning more, I have felt deep grief. 

So now I ask you to listen to what I have to say even if you are feeling anger, denial, or grief over what I’ve just said,  and look with me at how the rest of today’s lectionary passages inform our thinking about these demands of Jesus. 

Jesus, a prophet himself, spoke in concert with the long line of prophets who had gone before him, calling the people to return to the Lord.  In today’s Old Testament reading we heard from the prophet Amos who also speaks to people with wealth.  They reject his warning that they should seek the Lord and live, or to be devoured by God’s wrath.    

Amos reminds the wealthy people of his time that they have trampled on the poor, have taken their levies of grain from them, and have pushed aside the needy when they ask for justice.  

Amos tells these people to seek good and to establish justice and maybe the Lord will be gracious to them after all. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that even if we are dishonest with ourselves,   God still knows the truth about us.  “The word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword….is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before God no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” 

We don’t want to look back at the painful stories of how our ancestors came to this nation, took land from the indigenous people who had been living here for centuries, and then built a thriving economy based on the unpaid labor of enslaved Black  and Brown people. We personally did not do these things.  What happened in the past is not our problem.

But even if we did not directly do these things, we have historically benefited from these sinful actions on the parts of our ancestors.  So now, like the rich man, it’s our turn to kneel before Jesus and ask for some guidance about freeing ourselves from these sins of the past which have been to our benefit so that we can follow Jesus more fully.     

In yesterday’s religion section in The Washington Post, Emily Miller writes about churches confronting their role in establishing residential schools for indigenous children.  In both the United States and Canada, native children were removed from their families in an effort assimilate them to Western culture by erasing their own native heritage.  Many different denominations, including our own, set up and ran these schools.     

I found this article especially interesting because Miller writes about Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one of several Lakota reservations in that state.  Jan, Larry and I got to tour this school when we went to the Pine Ridge Reservation on a mission trip many years ago.  I’ve often wondered about how the school has dealt with their heritage as a Catholic boarding school whose goal at the beginning was to “improve” the children by removing them from their families and taking away their heritage. 

In her article, Miller writes that the Red Cloud Indian School has hired Maka Black Elk to be the first executive director of truth and healing.  Black Elk  is a  graduate of Red Cloud, like his parents and great grandparents were before him.     

He has helped the school put into place a four step process that sounds much like what Jesus asked the rich man to do in order to follow Jesus. 

Here’s the four step process.  First comes confrontation and truth telling.  Second is understanding.  Third is healing.  Fourth is transformation. 

Black Elk says the first phase is the hardest, the truth telling.  Like Jesus saying to the rich man to go and sell what you own, it’s the slapping upside the head feeling that we get when we hear that what we own has been easier for us to come by because of what was taken from others in the past.  We didn’t do the taking, but we’ve historically benefited from the taking.  This confrontation with truth requires, as Black Elk says, “accepting history without defending it.” 

When we accept the whole history of our privilege as white people in this nation, we can then start to move to the healing phase, which in the rich man’s case would have been to go, sell what he had, and give the money to the poor.  The healing phase begins for us when we publicly acknowledge the past, and then use our  resources to help with the growth and well-being of the groups of people who have suffered in the past to our advantage.

When we come to grips with the past, and put our resources to use on behalf of those who were wronged, we  find ourselves freer to follow Jesus more completely. 

Here at St Peter’s, we are in the first, and hardest stage of this reckoning, truth telling.    The land acknowledgement in our bulletin is part of truth telling.   “We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe.” 

If you read October’s newsletter, you learned that the Nandtaughtacund did not simply disappear as the English settlers moved in.  To ensure that they would no longer make claims to the land, the powerful landowners who had taken the natives’ land by force decided that the Nandtaughtacund must be removed from the colony of Virginia.  So after an attack in which a landowner was killed by two Nandtaughtacund men who were angry over the ongoing encroachment on their  land by the settlers, the people in the tribe  were separated, and the men sold into slavery in Antigua.  The women were sent off to Maryland, and the children, one only nine months old, were placed with the burgesses and became their indentured servants.  And so the Nandtaughtacund “disappeared.”  This truth telling is uncomfortable. But when we accept the truth, we can move toward healing. 

Healing could include developing relationships with the Rappahannock Tribe, and actively working for their wellbeing in the ways that we share our resources with this group. 

Before we receive the bread and wine today, the body and blood of Jesus, that God freely shares with us, we will say the Lord’s Prayer. And in that prayer, which Jesus himself taught us, we pray for  “Thy kingdom to come, thy will to be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” 

As we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for eternal life to begin now.   This is a radical prayer.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we’re mostly happy with our own flawed versions of God’s kingdom, the kingdoms we build out of our own possessions and power, the kingdoms that are under our control.  Can God’s kingdom really come on this earth?    As Jesus tells the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“Then who can be saved?” the disciples ask.  Who would ever be able to lay down their own kingdoms for yours? 

And Jesus says, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

So along with the psalmist, may we pray that the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us, so that we will want to leave the kingdoms of our own making behind,  and follow Jesus into his kingdom come on this earth where God’s justice reigns and where God will prosper the work of everyone to the detriment of no one.  And in God’s kingdom come to earth,  all of us can rejoice and be glad all the days of our lives. 

Resource:  Emily McFarlan Miller, “Churches confront their role in residential schools for the Indigenous children,” in The Washington Post, Saturday, October 9, 2021, Metro, Section B, Page 2.    

Myers, Ched.  Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Maryknoll, NY.  Orbis Books.  1988, 2008.