being instruments of God’s peace, by Pastor Noel

Oct. 7 & 8, 2017     Proper 22A     18 Pentecost

 

      “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; (God) expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry.”

      (Tomorrow) In a little while we will ooh and aah and smile as our animals are blessed. I would love to preach on St. Francis and talk about his love for all creation, and how all creation loved him.

      But Francis wasn’t just all sweetness and light with bluebirds sitting on his shoulder. He was a strong voice calling for peace and God’s justice. Like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and so many others, he wasn’t shy about proclaiming and living the justice and righteousness that God expected.

      We will sing part of his beautiful hymn, and pray his wonderful prayer, but know that he was also a man of action. He’s quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”

      So I have some difficult words for us today, and then some ways we can live the gospel in other ways.

      It’s been a week since the massacre in Las Vegas. By the time I preach this there may have been another violent act somewhere else.

      As of October 5 there have been 275 mass shooting in the US. Last year there were 483. A mass shooting means at least 4 people killed.

      My daughter was born in 1968. In her lifetime more than 1.5 million people have died by gunshot. That is more than all the soldiers who have died in all the wars we have fought. Not even 50 years.

      In the US we are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than are folks in other developed countries. And women’s bodies are more strictly regulated than guns.

      Gunshot wounds cost us $2.8 Billion a year. Imagine what could be done with that money if we could use it somewhere else. Like giving Flint Michigan clean water for the first time in over 3 years.

      And the sad thing, the really tragic thing, is that many of those gun killings and woundings are accidental.

      All of this is sad, and tragic, and avoidable. All of this makes me cry and feel sick and fearful.

      Add this fear to the worries about losing health care or Social Security, and the worries about folks in the path of so many hurricanes, climate change, and rampant racism, and threats of war.

      This is not a healthy way to be living, and there are ways to help us find peace.

      Many of us want to reach out to help victims of the storms and the shootings. Many of us just want to feel safe and calm.

      We can do both. And we need to do both—for our own emotional and spiritual health.

      When bombers disrupted the Boston Marathon, I had the TV on for hours. I finally realized that it was making me anxious and ill. I turned off the TV. The resulting silence was a balm, and I could sit and pray and soak in peace.

      So, as we have to deal with more and more stressful news, the first thing we should do is disconnect from that stress. Not pretend it’s gone, but find ways to deal with it and find peace.

      We can: Turn off the news when you’ve already heard it. Once is enough! Turn off social media. Turn on music that will help us relax.

      Spend time with friends—having promised to not talk about stressful things. Read a book you can get lost in. Take a walk if you can. I love to get outside every day with my camera and find peace and joy in nature.

      These things can help—and we can do them and be just as stressed as before!

      So, the first plan of defense for our souls is to sit in prayerful meditation and be filled with God’s love and grace.

      I like to sit in silence for this, but some folks like to have soft music playing, or to focus on a lit candle or an icon or the Cross.

      There are apps for your phone or computer that give you several minutes of peaceful sounds like rain, or a babbling stream, or bird’s singing.

      A few minutes each day will help you find the peace that seems in short supply.

      God will help us find it.

      And, science tells us that this also lowers our blood pressure, and heals our brain, and boosts our immune system. A win-win situation! And it’s free and easy. A wonderful gift from God.

      When we find a measure of peace, then is the time to be active in “preaching the gospel at all times.”

      Let us find ways to speak out against violence of so many kinds. Let us promote the human values that Isaiah calls God’s justice and righteousness. Like good drinking water in Flint and everywhere. Like good health care for everyone. Folks wounded in Las Vegas shouldn’t have to resort to Gofundme pleas to pay for their medical care.

      Just as we are the ones to care for the animals who’ll be blessed this weekend, so are we the ones to care for the world we live in.

      We are called to pray, and we are called to act. As civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer said, “You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”

      In this country we have the right and the responsibility to speak for God’s justice and righteousness. This is how we live our faith.

      Call or write those we have sent to govern us. Say thanks if they are doing what you think is right. Call them to task if they are looking to their own interests and not the rest of us.

      If you think that’s being too political, just remember that Isaiah sends you, and so does St. Francis. Let’s say the prayer on page 833:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details