June 28, 2020

Pentecost 4 - Year A

 

You'll find a video of the entire service at

https://www.facebook.com/StStephensSLO/videos/467411627456385/

 

Click here for the Worship Booklet  and Hymnal & Psalter for June Sundays after Pentecost.

 

2020 June28_RevKaren


Proper 8 - Year C

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Karen Siegfriedt

 

Jesus said to the twelve apostles: “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.” (Mt. 10:42)

 

In 1964, I entered the 6th grade of the Boston Public School System. As you might remember, 1964 was a time of new possibilities. The Beatles had taken America by storm. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. And the U.S. Space Program was going gang busters. But it was also a time of tension for many people on the margins of society, including women who were often discriminated against simply because they were female. At that time, women were denied ordination to the priesthood, prevented from full participation in educational and athletic programs, and subject to unequal pay. It was during this time of new possibilities and rapid change that our 6th grade class was given an assignment to write an essay on what we wanted to be when we grew up.

 

Having watched film clips of John Glenn orbiting the earth and all the preparations that went into the space program, I wrote passionately about the future that I had set my eyes on. When it came time for me to deliver my essay, I walked to the front of the class and announced: “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut!” Immediately, the class broke out in laughter after which one boy yelled out: “You can’t be an astronaut. You’re a girl! And they don’t let girls be astronauts.” I put my hands on my hips and replied: “Then they are just going to have to change the rules!” As I sat down after finishing my delivery, I remember my teacher, Mr. Galvin, saying to me: “Karen, hold onto that dream!” From then on, I became a strong advocate for justice, equality, and the dignity of every human being.


Hold onto the dream!

 

Isn’t that what the spiritual life is all about? There is a strong prophetic voice in our Judeo-Christian tradition which recognizes that the world in which we live is broken and that another world order is possible. Let us reflect on this dream for a moment.

 

  • Imagine a world where nation no longer lifts up sword against nation; where the oldest of enemies become the best of friends; where the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid, and a little child shall lead them. Just imagine "peace on earth."
    (Is. 2)
  • Imagine a world where humanity is at one, where there are no borders to protect or self-interests to fight for; where there is no discrimination between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight. (Is. 2, Gal. 3)
  • Imagine a world where the underlying principle of economic development is the golden rule rather than personal profit; where CEOs manage their companies for the glory of God and for the good of the public welfare rather than simply to please stock holders.
    (Is. 61, Lk.2)
  • Imagine a world where the biblical imperatives for social justice and the dignity of every human being inform the decision-making process of our elected officials. (Isaiah)
  • Imagine a world where we care for the earth such that the wilderness blossoms and flourishes and our planet earth is restored to full function. (Is. 35)


This new world order is God’s dream for us.


It is a dream where healing and
compassion become the
dominant themes such that the
blind see, the lame walk, the poor
are fed, the oppressed are
liberated, and all people are
given the opportunity to live
a full life.


Matthew calls this dream ‘the kingdom of heaven’ while others refer to this dream as God’s reign on earth. It is with this dream in mind, that Jesus sends his disciples out on mission to heal the sick, to cast out evil, and to preach the good news.

 

In today’s gospel story, Jesus concludes his pep talk to the twelve disciples, warning them that this dream, this revolutionary way of thinking, will not be well received by all people. In fact, they will be resisted, persecuted, and ‘tuned out’ as they attempt to challenge the conventional wisdom of the day. But he does assure them that preaching the good news is well worth the effort and that they will reap their reward in the end.

 

Today is the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC in 1969. This uprising was a response by the gay community against police brutality, intimidation, and imprisonment for simply being gay. Hundreds of people began to protest and riots broke out. This pivotal event led to the gay liberation movement which has elevated its human rights concerns to the level of the Supreme Court.

 

Since the early 1960’s, much progress had been made on the legal front in regard to human and civil rights. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Title IX, the Ordination of Women, Marriage Equality, and bilingual education, many injustices have been addressed. However, as the tragic events of the past month have shown us, there is so much more left for us to do if we are to make God’s dream a reality in our country.

 

While the media has focused on the legal, political, and institutional issues surrounding discrimination, what has been not been emphasized are the spiritual issues. From my perspective, racism, fear, prejudice, and greed are all spiritual issues that require spiritual solutions. You can’t force a person to change his/her mind thru public shaming, sermonizing, or legal means. While laws can force people to behave publicly in certain ways, laws do not necessarily change the human heart or mind. Change is never easy and most of us resist when forced to examine old ways of thinking and acting.

 

So how do we move forward on the spiritual front as we strive for justice, peace, and the dignity of every human being? To be quite honest, Jesus never addressed the issues of racism, homosexuality, or women’s ordination. However, he did say that he would send an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who can lead us into all truth. Whenever I am challenged to come up with a spiritual solution to a spiritual problem, I turn to the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, by practicing the spiritual disciplines that include but are not limited to:


Meditation, Prayer, Fasting,
Study, Simplicity, Solitude,
Submission, Acts of Service,
Confession, Worship, Guidance,
& Celebration.

 

We are not responsible for the racist, homophobic, and misogynist environment into which we were born. However, we are responsible for our actions today which include judgments, subtle comments, employee selection, and our voting record over the years. We are not responsible for the disparity in wealth into which we were born. But we are responsible for how we manage and invest our money today, always remembering to tithe our income and to give generously to those who have little.

 

During these four months of “shelter in place,” I have had the time to honestly reflect on my own internalized prejudices, my uncomfortable reactions to the radical demands of the protesters, and the distorted thinking that arises from my ego defenses. And I pray each night, that the Holy Spirit will cleanse the thoughts of my heart and lead me into all truth. We only see in a mirror dimly and so it is vital for us in this time in history to listen carefully and not to argue with those who are crying out for justice. So what do you see in your own mirror and how are you going to be an agent in making God’s dream come true?

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