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Sermons > Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

27 Oct 2013

 “At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me … But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength …” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)                                In the name …

Last Sunday the parish raised nearly twelve hundred dollars for the CROP Walk of Franklin County.  There was a short course and a long one.  The short course was about 2 miles long.  The Gochinski, Gates and Lynch families took the shorter course with their children.  That was the smart thing to do because the long course was like 15 miles, and even though it was a loop that brought us back to where we started from, the amazing thing was that the entire course was all up hill, and it was snowing with gale force winds up there. You could ask Linda Puchalski if you don’t believe me, but I don’t know where she took off to.  By the time we hit the first corner, she was out of sight.  I thought last year’s walk with Donnie Robinson was fast because he wanted to get back in time to watch some Patriots game, but Linda was a blur.  But in all seriousness, it’s important that we walk and not just raise the money.  CROP Walk’s slogan is “We walk because they walk.”  The people who we are trying to help live in pretty desperate poverty and they have to sometimes walk for miles for clean water, for medical attention or for school.  Our walking helps us to empathize with them and lets them know that half a world away they have people who are trying to understand and help.

The CROP Walks are run by Church World Services.  They are a Christian ministry, and it is a ministry inspired by the example of Christ.  Take the words from Second Timothy this morning.  They purport to tell us of Paul’s final days of imprisonment as he anticipates his martyrdom.  From his prison cell he writes that everyone has deserted him.  No one has come to his defense.  “But the Lord stood by and gave me strength,” says the apostle.  We as Christians can do wonderful things for each other, things like CROP Walks, but not to the exclusion of respecting how important it is to remember that Christ always stands by us, that Christ is always there to give us strength.  No one needs to feel alone or deserted – ever.  Every one of us can count on the nearness of Jesus even if our situation is not as dire as that of Paul alone in his cell awaiting execution.  And that’s something we need to better appreciate.

In our modern, scientific, technologically-complicated and skeptical world, Jesus can sometimes feel like a nursery rhyme.  A lot of people around us just think it’s wishful thinking to imagine that Jesus brings God into the world and that this same Jesus can make any difference in what happens to us today.  I saw in last Sunday’s newspaper a cartoon strip that I have reproduced on our website under today’s sermon. [http://fborfw.com/strip_fix/2013/10/sunday-october-20-2013.php]  A little girl comments to her mother about how beautiful the autumn leaves look.  Then she says, “I know why.  Do you?”  The mother goes into a detailed explanation of photosynthesis and the chemical changes that take place as the tree starts to go dormant for the winter.  The little girl with a look of disappointment on her face then answers, “Oh, Grandma says God paints them one by one.”  Then it’s the mother who has the look of disappointment on her face, like she has taken the gift of wonder away from her child. 

This kind of summarizes the predicament that a lot of people face today, maybe even people of faith, maybe even people here.  When generations ago people could believe that there were gods of fertility and storm, when life itself and the powers that threatened life were all felt to be the effects of the hand of a god, it was easy to believe.  But now when we talk about stronger storms being caused by a warming planet being aided by so many of our activities, then science takes the place of faith in that equation.  Or our bishop was traveling to a meeting on church doctrine, on how the church would respond to current events, one of the topics being the practice of vasectomies.  Did this procedure break some divine commandment about procreation?  Did it interfere with God’s plan?  I emailed the bishop an article from that same day about scientists growing mini-brains from stem-cells in Petri dishes.  Vasectomies are child’s play in comparison to how far science has advanced.  The mystery of life, the process of creating life, is becoming increasingly understood and captured by science.  When the powers of church get together to talk in the past tense about something as ordinary as birth control and whether it interferes with the will of the Almighty, it is futile in the first place, and secondly it makes God seem small.

If the church and church people continue to play catch-up with science, then reasonable people are possibly going to see God like the grandmother’s story that He paints each autumn leaf.  It’s cute, but it’s a fairytale.  And people who want to believe are going to be stuck with that same disappointed look of the mother who stole wonder away from her child if we persist in preaching this sort of message about God.  Instead, let us preach the message of Jesus who brings God near.  That’s the real meaning of atonement.  It’s at-one-ment.  Jesus brings God close. We can be at-one with God through Jesus.  This is what inspires our collective action like the CROP Walks, and this is also what each of us can feel on our own, in our souls, just like Paul who was deserted by everyone else, but never by Jesus.  Science and technology haven’t stolen the gift of God’s wonder.  They make us realize that we really are created in His image.  We are becoming creators with Him.  We are beginning to understand His building blocks of creation.  We are keys to appreciating the wonder of God in the extraordinary ordinary.  And we are where God dwells.  As Jesus is sacred to us; we are sacred to Him.  The greatest mystery of all is that Jesus reveals the at-one-ment of God with us and us with God.  Let us believe without doubt that same truth that inspired Paul:  “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”  Let us pray that we may rejoice in this wonder, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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