Last Sunday after Pentecost
Today we heard the readings for the last Sunday after Pentecost – the end of the long lectionary season that stretches through the summer and the fall and brings us to the doorstep of Advent, a new year in the church calendar.
Today we heard a Gospel that brings us to the foot of the cross – the last moments before the death of Jesus in his earthly life. Soon the readings, through the voices of the prophets, will begin once again to point us toward the impending birth of the anointed one, Emmanuel, the one who would enter into the world to redeem and release
This week I have been faced with a wide variety ending moments and beginning moments – all facets of the depths of experiences life in this world has to offer.
On Friday night I received word of a tragic and unexpected death of a young man, a Rock-Hillian who entered into paradise, many would say, long before his time was due.
And in the same week I heard the joyful news of a new life, growing inside of a young mother, whose family will welcome its newest member next year.
These are the most basic, the most obvious examples of the end and the beginning – the loss and birth of life itself…
I asked myself, “Where have I seen Christ this week?” I have seen Christ in the hands of loved ones reaching out to comfort the grieving—in the sharing of stories, and the strength that a family must find to lose a loved one and to have to say goodbye. This week, for me, Christ was found in the image of death, and in the strength that we are given to make it to the next day.
I also asked myself, “Where have I come face to face with the cross this week?” I have faced the cross in the wonder that I always experience at the news that a friend will have a baby soon and that new life will grow in the world that we live in. For to me, the cross is ultimately a reminder to us that our human body is finite in this world, but again, that there is hope in the words expressed by another man who hung on a cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” For we too have received the promise of paradise, by virtue of our death and rebirth acted out in the waters of baptism.
This week I met a woman, one of many, who have come to our church office seeking assistance with her utility bills this month. And on the same day I learned of a new program of the
At the juxtaposition of these two events – I cannot help but realize that we are faced with the needs of those around us every day – we may choose to see those needs and respond, or we may choose to look the other way – to allow ourselves to be busied with our own lives, and our own needs and concerns and to leave others to fend for themselves.
This woman was not the first, and certainly will not be the last to seek and need the help of her community to provide for the needs of her family. Her struggle, to me, reflects the polarization of wanting to help the individual in need, but knowing it is only a symptom of a larger system that needs help, that needs true change.
Our reading from Jeremiah points to those in authority who will be judged based on the way they have dealt with those in their care with the greatest need. To do justice is to do the will of God – justice, in this case, might mean working as a community to understand why so many people are overextended on their utility bills, either due to lack of effective skills in budgeting, or cost-effective practices, or lack of efficiently insulated housing options for people of all socio-economic statuses…
Organizations like the
The beginning of action marks the ending of complicity – as we are faced with the growing needs of the community – will we as a congregation choose to see Christ in our neighbors in need, and face the cross – one that will demand a change in us change and our way of being, so that new life may begin with our actions, our striving to do justice in this world?
Where did you see Christ this week? And where did you face the cross?
Today, as a community, we will have the opportunity to witness together the achievement of an Eagle Scout Award – an honor that marks the end of a boyhood practice of setting and achieving goals and the beginning of a manhood of living up to those characteristics associated with the rank of Eagle Scout. Today we will also witness the presentation of a young boy scouts’ God and Family badge – marking an earlier stage in that process of setting goals and striving to achieve them.
Endings and the beginnings...
These moments surround us. They are our moments of transcendence. Some will talk of the day their childhood ended and their adulthood began. But those turning points can only be seen and be understood in retrospect
When we are in the midst of these moments, it is not always that clear just what is happening – though awarded an Eagle Scout today, an accomplishment to be sure, this moment does not in and of itself mark the “true onset” of adulthood, nor does turning 18, nor does participation in the rite of Confirmation – make one immediately an adult. Rather, these beginnings and endings are transcendent; they are markers along the way within a process of development, a process of growing into adulthood.
Our call as a community is to journey together throughout these moments – to give strength, support and kindness to our loved ones who are dying and who have died, and to our newest community members whose arrival and presence we anxiously await.
Our call as a Christian community is to see and hear and respond to the needs of those around us. To remember that Jesus’ life and ministry was spent bringing hope and healing to the lowest of the low – even in his death he was in the company of criminals. And his words to the man who called out to him, seeking sanctuary, seeking a place in God’s eternal kingdom were to grant such glory as the promise of paradise.
And finally, our call as a community, bound together by that mystery that we share in, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, it is to witness the transcendence of our own experiences and those beginnings and endings that happen each day, so that we might capture a glimpse of the eternal power of the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End that is the love of Christ stretched out beyond time, enfolding us, inviting us and enveloping us in life together as a community.
I invite you to spend this week – in the final days of the season after Pentecost, to look through the ending, and as we enter a new season of Advent, to look through the beginning, to discover where you see Christ, to discover where you see the cross, and to know that offering the prayer, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom, so that when your time of ending comes you will know it to be yet another beginning as you receive the promise that today you will see paradise. Amen.
Delivered by The Rev. Mary Catherine Enockson
The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, Rock Hill, SC