Pentecost 23 (RCL): No Matter where you are.... GOD is there.
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12;2 Timothy 2:8-15 and Luke 17:11-19
In the reading from the Hebrew scriptures, the Jewish people are in exile in Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. Once again under another rulers thumb, Jeremiah brings a message to God's chosen people: do not languish - flourish! Set up homes, build a community and invest in that community "...for in its welfare you will find your welfare". No sense having a pity party. For now this is where you are planted - pray to Me and I am with you and you will grow.
Psalm 66 reflects the theme. 'Be joyful in God, all you lands....Bless our God, you peoples; let the voice of his praise to be heard....For you, O God, have proved us; you have tries us just as silver is tried...You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
Paul writes to Timothy from prison:... [though I am chained as a criminal]The word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect...Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
In all these passages I see a thread made up of several strands: our personal lives, our lives in God, our lives in community. The three are interwoven and inseparable. We live separate lives, but not solitary ones - we are with God and created to live with one another. Do we - within community - have differences? One need look only to your parents and siblings (that nuclear community) for confirmation on that one! Do we have similarities? Yes. Foundationally, fundamentally, intrinsically we have more similarities than differences.
Why then do we (particularly those of us in the densely populated developed countries), who are so utterly dependent on each others toil, talent, knowledge, skills to get through each day and each night avoid thinking of or dedicating more of our life's work to our communities?
There is missionary work beyond your apartment door, beyond your parish doors, beyond the water cooler. There are evangelism opportunities directly on the other side of the street from Saint Swithen's.
Oh,but Episcopalians don't DO evangelism. Why not? Is there an exemption clause in the Baptismal vows for us? No, my friends, read carefully:
Will you continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship...Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? No exemptions.
Luke's Gospel story emphasizes the power of mission and evangelism. Jesus was traveling in a fragile neutral zone - between "his" Jewish community and one hostile to his faith. A band of roaming lepers, considered unclean and banned from living within the general population is approaching on the outskirts of a town. They stopped in their tracks when they saw him in the distance, silenced the bells they were obligated to use as a warning to others that they were approaching and called out as one, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us'. Some of the ten must have been Jewish to recognize him as a Teacher and Rabbi. Jesus saw them, acknowledged them and told them to go to the priests - Jewish ones.
Jesus, against the prescribed laws of his faith, challenged them to join fully into community. All ten went in the direction of the local synagogue and presumably all ten were healed and cleansed on their journey yet only one - a non believer - came back to thank Jesus for the two gifts he had been given: the gift of health and the gift of community.
So many churches today bemoan dwindling numbers but few are bold enough to embark on a courageous act of evangelism. Parents fail to notice when their kids thoughtlessly toss a cup, candy wrapper or juice box out of the car and onto someones lawn but few take the time to explain civic responsibility.
If there was ever a time to evangelize, to renew pride in our communities, to befriend the stranger or the outcast, that time is now. Even if only one new family out of ten in a condo complex of 100 came to your parish to see the hand of God at work there, wouldn't it be worth it? Live into your faith in the home, on the block, at the grocery store, volunteering for the community blood drive, elections, ambulance corps, highway cleanup, community garden, or soliciting donations from fellow employees for a walk-a-thon for research in finding a cure for Altsheimers disease you will be strengthening the strand that runs through all of us: our personal lives, our lives in God, our lives in community.
Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on http://www.geraniumfarm.org