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supplemental note for Proper 18, Year A -- Hurricane Katrina

I've been getting a lot of email from folks asking how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina might shape sermons for this Sunday. If I were preaching, I would probably choose to contentrate on this part of the gospel text:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.

A natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina is frightening in so many ways, and I'm finding with the folks I'm talking with that one of the biggest is in underscoring how much is beyond our control. That's an important lesson for us to learn, to be sure, but that lesson can be twisted to a kind of learned helplessness that's not what God wants for us.

So what's the difference between a healthy humility about what we can and can't control and a destructive kind of learned helplessness? I'd say that learned helpless is paralyzing, while appropriate humility is liberating and empowering. Humility leads us to acknowledge that we can't control the wind, and it leads us into a deeper appreciation of just how fragile and precious human life is. A healthy sense of connectedness to humanity gives us compassion to grieve with the suffering, and share the righteous anger of those who found their poverty trapped them in unspeakably awful conditions, as well as rejoicing with those gratefully reunited with the families and finding opportunities to serve others even in the midst of their loss.

And then we are to ask what power we have and how we are called to use it to further Jesus' compassion and justice in the world. Many of us have resources that we've offered indidually, opening homes and schools and wallets to help. We have another resource, though of inestimable worth to offer:

We have power. Community is power. Gathering others who will make common cause amplifies our voice. How, then, do we want to use it? We can work for the preservation and the healing of the wetlands that not only are home to wildlife, but also help to slow and absorb winds and waves. We can make our governments accountable for how they spend resources: does it really make sense to prioritize tax cuts when so much is needed for relief, rebuilding, and redevelopment? What can we do to see that when a disaster like this strikes, it's not the poorest and most vulnerable among us who are hardest hit? And the real, heartbreaking suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath should make that much more vivid to us that there are thousands of people around the world who every day try to survive without clean water, electricity, communications, basic medical care, sufficient nourishing food, without safety or shelter. Such extreme poverty is an unnatural disaster, a human catastrophe we can't blame on wind or waves.

When we come together, we can do something about it. Some of the world's brightest economists (like Jeffrey Sachs, for example) are saying that if we came together, we could actually eliminate extreme poverty by the year 2025. And we are coming together in Jesus' name; when we work together, we've got Jesus' power behind us as we work with and, as need be, confront earthly authorities to challenge them to do justice, and as we battle the powers and principalities of cycles of poverty and violence.

The image that keeps coming to my mind is of the waters receeding from the Great Flood, when God said "Never again!" to that kind of devastation, and made God's bow -- a weapon, conceived by warlike people who thought the universe itself was set toward war -- into a sign in the heavens of the peace and justice toward which the earth arcs.

As the waters receed from this flood, we've got an opportunity. We can claim the power we have as we gather and commit to following Jesus together. We can offer ourselves, our souls and bodies and our VOICE, to Jesus' mission. We have the chance, the resources and the power, to build and rebuild communities as signs of compassion and hope for the world.

It starts as two or three gather, and Jesus comes among us. It begins to take root as we listen together for Christ's voice, to discern what we're called to do together with the power we've got as Christ's Body. We know how it all ends:

See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them;
they will be God's peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more;
for the first things have passed away.
And the one who was seated on the throne said,
"See, I am making all things new."
-- Revelation 21:3-5

That's very hard to see now, I know, when we're overwhelmed with images of devastation. That's why we come together, to pray and sing and invite Jesus among us so that we can catch a glimpse of God's dream for the world, and discern together what would be one step, what next step, we can take toward Creation's destination. Jesus is among us; we have what we need for Jesus' mission.

Thanks be to God!

September 3, 2005 in Community, Current Events, Matthew, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals, Pastoral Concerns, Revelation, Year A | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: supplemental note for Proper 18, Year A -- Hurricane Katrina

« Proper 18, Year A | Main | Proper 19, Year A »

supplemental note for Proper 18, Year A -- Hurricane Katrina

I've been getting a lot of email from folks asking how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina might shape sermons for this Sunday. If I were preaching, I would probably choose to contentrate on this part of the gospel text:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.

A natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina is frightening in so many ways, and I'm finding with the folks I'm talking with that one of the biggest is in underscoring how much is beyond our control. That's an important lesson for us to learn, to be sure, but that lesson can be twisted to a kind of learned helplessness that's not what God wants for us.

So what's the difference between a healthy humility about what we can and can't control and a destructive kind of learned helplessness? I'd say that learned helpless is paralyzing, while appropriate humility is liberating and empowering. Humility leads us to acknowledge that we can't control the wind, and it leads us into a deeper appreciation of just how fragile and precious human life is. A healthy sense of connectedness to humanity gives us compassion to grieve with the suffering, and share the righteous anger of those who found their poverty trapped them in unspeakably awful conditions, as well as rejoicing with those gratefully reunited with the families and finding opportunities to serve others even in the midst of their loss.

And then we are to ask what power we have and how we are called to use it to further Jesus' compassion and justice in the world. Many of us have resources that we've offered indidually, opening homes and schools and wallets to help. We have another resource, though of inestimable worth to offer:

We have power. Community is power. Gathering others who will make common cause amplifies our voice. How, then, do we want to use it? We can work for the preservation and the healing of the wetlands that not only are home to wildlife, but also help to slow and absorb winds and waves. We can make our governments accountable for how they spend resources: does it really make sense to prioritize tax cuts when so much is needed for relief, rebuilding, and redevelopment? What can we do to see that when a disaster like this strikes, it's not the poorest and most vulnerable among us who are hardest hit? And the real, heartbreaking suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath should make that much more vivid to us that there are thousands of people around the world who every day try to survive without clean water, electricity, communications, basic medical care, sufficient nourishing food, without safety or shelter. Such extreme poverty is an unnatural disaster, a human catastrophe we can't blame on wind or waves.

When we come together, we can do something about it. Some of the world's brightest economists (like Jeffrey Sachs, for example) are saying that if we came together, we could actually eliminate extreme poverty by the year 2025. And we are coming together in Jesus' name; when we work together, we've got Jesus' power behind us as we work with and, as need be, confront earthly authorities to challenge them to do justice, and as we battle the powers and principalities of cycles of poverty and violence.

The image that keeps coming to my mind is of the waters receeding from the Great Flood, when God said "Never again!" to that kind of devastation, and made God's bow -- a weapon, conceived by warlike people who thought the universe itself was set toward war -- into a sign in the heavens of the peace and justice toward which the earth arcs.

As the waters receed from this flood, we've got an opportunity. We can claim the power we have as we gather and commit to following Jesus together. We can offer ourselves, our souls and bodies and our VOICE, to Jesus' mission. We have the chance, the resources and the power, to build and rebuild communities as signs of compassion and hope for the world.

It starts as two or three gather, and Jesus comes among us. It begins to take root as we listen together for Christ's voice, to discern what we're called to do together with the power we've got as Christ's Body. We know how it all ends:

See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them;
they will be God's peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more;
for the first things have passed away.
And the one who was seated on the throne said,
"See, I am making all things new."
-- Revelation 21:3-5

That's very hard to see now, I know, when we're overwhelmed with images of devastation. That's why we come together, to pray and sing and invite Jesus among us so that we can catch a glimpse of God's dream for the world, and discern together what would be one step, what next step, we can take toward Creation's destination. Jesus is among us; we have what we need for Jesus' mission.

Thanks be to God!

September 3, 2005 in Community, Current Events, Matthew, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals, Pastoral Concerns, Revelation, Year A | Permalink

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http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c234653ef00d8351e93f153ef

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