Pentecost 15, Year B (full size gallery)
We had 18 at the church, 4 online, a relatively slow Sunday
We began the 5 week series on the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is the annual Christian celebration of prayer and action for our common home. Together, the ecumenical family around the world unites to pray and protect God’s creation.
This year’s symbol, Abraham’s tent, signifies our commitment to safeguard a place for all who share our common home, just as Abraham did in the Book of Genesis. Abraham and Sarah opened their tent as a home for three strangers, who turned out to be God’s angels (Gen 18). By creating a home for all, their act of radical hospitality became a source of great blessing.
Abraham’s tent is a symbol of our ecumenical call to practice creation care as an act of radical hospitality, safeguarding a place for all creatures, human and more human, in our common home, the household (oikos) of God.
1. There was a land acknowledgement at the beginning of the service that our church sits on land originally belonging to indigenous people – To pay tribute to those who came before us, our services now open with an acknowledgement of the Nandtaughtacund people, and the Rappahannock Tribe
2 People were invited to bring their composting to the church. In particular Catherine talked about the benefits of composting.
3. The sermon was about being active participants in God’s work of restoration, healing and ongoing creation. “That is, God calls us, as God’s people, to be about the work of making all things new.” The example was the work done to preserve Salmon and their spawning on the Columbia River in Oregon. The second example was local – the Rappahannock River – “But like every river, the overall health of the Rappahannock River and the creatures that inhabit it depends on our day to day care. Last year, St Peter’s participated in a Friends of the Rappahannock tree give away. In the side yard of the church, you can find an oak sapling and a dogwood, and in the back corner of the graveyard, a sweet bay magnolia is growing. And the redbud that Cookie planted recently in the back corner of the parish house yard, is flourishing. These trees, as well as others planted by you, help to filter the water flowing into the river. ”
4. Catherine encourage people to bring an object to church next Sunday they could describe as part of the Season Creation
5. The Prayers of the People had numerous references to creation – “Creator of beauty and awe-inspiring complexity, we long for the wisdom we need to cherish this earth. Give us the vision to see what you have made—vast expanses of prairie, forests lush and green, oceans full of wondrous creatures, and the heavens, bigger than our imaginations. Show us how to keep your gifts as good stewards. Hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.”
6. The Eucharistic Prayer was “We Give Thanks” – “You brought forth all of creation and filled it with life, from the shining stars at the farthest reaches of the universe, to the abundance of the earth itself; its dark rich sustaining and life giving soil replenished by rain, and the springs and creeks, streams and rivers that water the earth. You made us in your image to dwell within your miraculous creation, but we wandered away from your endless gifts of abundance into the dry and dusty waste lands of our own making.”
7. The blessing was taken from a blessing by John Philip Newell.
“May the blessings of earth, the blessings of air, the blessings of fire and of water, fill us with heaven, and stir us with flames of compassion. And the blessing of, our Great Creator, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us forever. Amen. ”
The lectionary readings celebrate God’s power to heal and restore. Isaiah looks ahead to when God will bring healing to God’s people and to the land. Proverbs reminds us that God rewards just behavior. James speaks of God’s gift of inner, spiritual wholeness, a wholeness that results in outward acts of purity and kindness. In the gospel, away from the clamor of the crowd, Jesus transforms a man’s silent world by healing his deafness and a speech impediment.
Lectionary Commentary by Canon Lance Ousley, Diocese of Olympia, Washington
“Last week the texts focused around the identity of Israel and our identity as Christians and the Church as the Body of Christ. This week we get a clearer picture of what that looks like. We also get a vision of how we can be stewards of the faith we proclaim as Christians by responding to the needs of those around us, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. Ultimately, it is our churches’ ministries that people pledge to support with their financial resources, their time and their God-given abilities. Good stewardship of our faith begets good stewardship of our resources!
“Both Proverbs and Isaiah speak of God’s preference for the poor, downcast and weak. Isaiah 35 paints the vision of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, establishing justice for all people especially for those who are burdened by physical, social or economic circumstances. James charges us with making this a reality in our midst as proof of our faith. Our ministry in many ways is to bring about the reversal of fortune for the unfortunate!
“A couple weeks ago I spoke of a former Theology and Ethics professor of mine at Sewanee. His name is Joe Monti and his voice is echoing in my mind again this week. Joe said sometimes you just have to preach against the grain of a text in scripture. This week Mark 7:24-30 demands this of us. There are several cultural issues at work here that make this a very complex preaching text. In our contemporary culture we can’t preach around the fact that Jesus refuses at first to meet the needs of the Syrophoenician woman and that he likens her to a "dog." This is harsh even if it is a cultural reference to Gentiles in the 1st Century.
“However, we can preach through this text using it as a prompt to examine our own actions and preach against this reflexive action within us, pointing to Jesus’ grace in ultimately healing the woman’s daughter. Mark’s Gospel account here points to the universality of God’s grace – all are included, not just those who are like us! We do well to be responsive to the overarching message here and to not get lost in the initial reflexive refusal. It also is interesting to note that this Gentile woman is the only person in Mark who refers to Jesus as "Lord." And it is her persistence in pursuing healing and freedom for her daughter that mirrors God’s persistence in pursuing wholeness and freedom for all people.
“So, James urges us not to just speak about our faith, but also to act upon it. Just as Jesus reached out to touch and heal the deaf and mute man from the Decapolis, we too, are to reach out and enflesh the Kingdom of God in our midst. As stewards of our faith we are called to act in the reversal of fortune of the unfortunate with the same perseverance that the Syrophoenician mother had for her daughter and with the universal grace God pours out upon the whole world through Jesus welcoming all people to God’s table.
“So whom will you welcome at God’s table in your congregation? How will you enflesh the Kingdom of God on earth with your acts of faith?