Acts 2:14a, 36-41 † Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 † 1 Peter 1:17-23 † Luke 24:13-35
For over 1400 days—nearly four years—between 1992 and 1996, the city of Sarajevo was under siege. One study of the survivors found that many had developed a super-heightened sense of spatial awareness—a skill for evading bullets or bombs, a skill that they carried with them throughout their lives.
“People, during times of prolonged, radical change, end up changing,” said the study’s author[i] in an article this week that takes an early run at how we might be changed on the other side of this pandemic. It makes sense. We are an adaptable species. We grow and change according to requirements on the ground, in the environment, or just at home in these times.
Not surprisingly, studies from previous outbreaks—SARS, Ebola and swine flu—showed almost universal spikes in anxiety, depression and anger. But they also found that people acted to regain a sense of autonomy and control. People worked on their diet. They read more news. They made art. Who knows, maybe they made masks.
You may remember those Sarajevo roses we showed you some months ago in the “before times.”
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 † Psalm 32 † Romans 5:12-19 † Matthew 4:1-11
Is sin a virus? Does it spread with contact or exposure from one person to the next to the next? Is it transmitted communally, somehow?
Perhaps it is the attention that we’re giving to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus outbreak creating growing concern throughout the world, that has me thinking about this connection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that while the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low for the general public in the United States, "current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic" and that more cases in the US will be identified.
The story is changing rapidly, as you surely know. I want you to know we are paying close attention, and thinking about how best to respond appropriately and reasonably to the most reliable and current information. And we trust that you are educating yourself, and considering how to respond according to your needs and resources—staying home if you have a fever, keeping yourself from potential transmission if your health is already compromised, practicing good hygiene.
For now, though, listen again to the beginning of the Romans reading:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.
Sin sure sounds like its gone viral as we pick up the writer’s metaphor at this point in the text. It seems to have some of the same characteristics as this new epidemic and, for that matter, many a youtube meme--
Genesis 2:18-24 † Psalm 8 † Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 † Mark 10:2-16
Did you catch that little phrase at the beginning of Mark’s passage, “and to test him they asked...” I think that’s what bothered me the most about this text. And it took a while for me to get there because there was a lot that bothered me. But when I took some calm reflective time to read it well, I realized – it’s that phrase. “and to test him they asked……”
As I read this text from Mark, I realized I was looking through the centuries to see these men, these pharisees, dragging something that has intimately affect me, a divorced woman, into the public square, for their own agenda: to test Jesus – to have him, this dissident, weigh in on a hot topic of the day – to score some points against him, and hopefully discredit him. And frankly it made me mad.
And even though this story is from another time, my anger is not misplaced, because that’s how these stories work. Yes, the men from these texts, together with the women seldom mentioned, are in a different time and place. They are working with different laws and different cultural norms, but they do and say things that work to collapse our stories into each other. They speak to us of things we know about, care about, and they invite us to add our voices, to bring our experience, and to work with them, with God, and with each other to try to get to what is good and what will help us be well.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 † Psalm 15 † James 1:17-27 †
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
It is probably not new to most of you that the 16th century reformer Martin Luther was not a fan of the book of James. In fact, he wanted to remove it from the New Testament canon. He didn’t think it belonged in the Bible. He didn’t think it should carry the force and authority of scripture.
Now, it may be news to more of you as to why he actually wanted to see it removed. It wasn’t because James was too focused on good works as a standard for true faith or true religion. It wasn’t because he saw it as being untrue to the arc of the Old Testament scriptures, including this text we have from Deuteronomy which is commentary on what it means to attend to the heart of the law—the commandments given to Moses on Sinai that were the heartbeat of Hebrew faith and the center of Jesus’ bible.
It wasn’t because he disagreed with James’ powerful summary that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God... is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress.”
1 Kings 19:4-8 † Psalm 34:1-8 † Ephesians 4:25-5:2 † John 6:35, 41-51
No-one gets to move through this life Scot-free. No, not even the Scots. We are a charmed people it’s true, but even we, must at some point, reckon with what ours to face, ours to do.
Did you know that scot in “scot-free” refers to a tax? No, I didn’t either, until I looked it up – bless you: credible sources on the internet! Here in this country we sometimes associate scot-free with the important story of Dred Scott. An 19th century American held as a slave in Virginia who first sued for his freedom in 1847 and after ten years of appeals finally ended up in the Supreme Court, but was denied the right to a trial in a federal court because of his status as a slave. His case influenced Lincoln’s nomination and of course, our country’s history.
2 Kings 4:42-44 † Psalm 145:10-18 † Ephesians 3:14-21 † John 6:1-21
In the fall of 2014 IHNFA, the Honduran Childcare services were restructured by a Honduran government that was under pressure from UNICEF and in a season of reform. It had been an open secret for some time that the majority of the IHNFA budget was enriching administrators and bureaucrats rather than serving the vulnerable and abandoned children it was charged to protect.
Many services were cut, including the government-run children’s homes and some of its foster programs. This created its own challenges in a country of 8.5 million people in which 138,000 are already without a home and more than 1 million are housing insecure.
Exodus 16:2-15 † Psalm 105:1–6, 37–45 † Philippians 1:21–30 † Matthew 20:1-16
The president of Seattle University, Stephen Sundborg, was talking with a group of faith leaders last Tuesday. The 7000 students who were returning to campus this weekend were on the mind of this university leader who has watched students come and go for 20 years now. And so were the challenges he sees the younger students facing in particular. The culture they have been raised in, he suggested is so overpowering, so ubiquitous, so non-stop, that it sometimes seems inescapable. It is so “thick” that “I’m afraid we don’t think our own thoughts anymore, and we don’t even realize that the thoughts we have are not our own,” he suggested. It constantly whispers its assumptions, this culture—in the technology that brings us non-stop media, in the wall-to-wall messaging that keep us from thinking for ourselves, in the forms of alignment that keep us in our bubbles of reason, in the striving and the acquiring.
President Sundborg is a Jesuit priest, steeped in Ignatian spirituality. At the center of this spirituality is the Examen[i], the simple daily practice of replaying the events of the day to become increasingly aware of God’s presence, and of our own spiritual centers, of the Spirit’s voice that speaks from the center of who we are. Ignatius understood, in other words, that a deeper knowing of ourselves leads to a deeper knowing of God and of the culture of heaven as it compares to the thick cultures that shape our mindset and compete for our loyalties.
Culture, it turns out, is a pretty good modern translation of what Jesus meant when he talked about the Kingdom of Heaven, as he does setting up the group of parables Matthew strings together, including over these several weeks of Sunday readings.
Genesis 32:22-31 † Psalm 17:1-7, 15 † Romans 9:1-5 † Matthew 14:13-21
We have not yet run out of bread when serving communion here at St Andrew, at least not in the time I have been here. Once or twice, I’ve seen the server looking nervously down the line to note how many more were to come and how that measured with the chunk of bread held in their hands. I have been in that spot myself and known that feeling of continuing to serve and trusting we’ll make it. I have come really close once or twice. There is one occasion that is imprinted on my memory and that gets to the grace of this table. It was a busy Sunday. I was getting to the end of the bread I was holding. I think it may have been a week where we expected to need more bread than normal and I was hoping that Chuck had brought two loaves instead of one. He’ll do that when he thinks we might need more. I was pretty sure he had, but just a little worried.
You see I hadn’t set eyes on any extra loaf for myself. I like to see and know for sure that the things I will need will be there. Maybe you know that need. So my anxiety grew and I wondered what I’d do and I kept going hoping, not short changing anyone, knowing that above all, the thing that brings us to this table is the claim everyone gets a piece of bread. I was getting to the last couple of pieces of my bread. There was just no way to split it between what I remember as being a dozen or so people still in my line. Mostly the choir I think, smiling, moving towards me one at a time. Then I felt this presence to my left and I turned. I kind of knew in my bones that it would show up. I am pretty sure that’s why I just kept going. I turned my head hopeful, and there was Julie Kae. Smiling, you know that way she does, with her hands outstretched, gently holding what I needed, you know the way she does. Looking at me saying, of course I noticed, of course I’ve got you. Another beautiful loaf, broken ready to go.
St. Andrew Sermons