The eyes of faith, by Pastor Noel

May 4 & 5, 2019   3 Easter, C

 

      “Grandma—what big readings we have today!” “All the better to confuse you, my dear.”

      Yes, we do have long readings. It’s easy to space out and forget what we hearing when there are so many words. So I’ll keep mine shortish.

      In the Collect we prayed that God would “Open the eyes of our hearts” so that we might see Jesus in “all his redeeming works.” Not just on the Cross. Not just raised, but everything, everywhere.

      There is a lot of stuff being said and done these days in the name of Jesus and the church that is not Jesus-like at all.

      It’s more important than ever for us to be good students of what Jesus really said and did, and how our church would have us follow him.

      One silly example. I have been informed by the painting by Caravaggio of Paul on the road to Emmaeus. It shows Paul falling to the ground from a very large horse. In fact, the horse seems to be the most important part of the picture.

      So, I said to a group of kids I was teaching that “Paul fell off a horse” and they all said, “NO!”

      We looked at all three accounts of this event, and they were right. It never mentions a horse.

      So, the eyes of my faith were opened to a truth that probably doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change how I follow Jesus, but it shows how easily we can have the wrong ideas about what the Bible says.

      Our reading from Revelation says, “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea..” is blessing God.

      Paul tells us that all creation is groaning for the revelation of God’s kingdom.

      So, if we think that we’re in charge and can do whatever we want…well, look where that got us!

      This earth is not just our home, it is home to millions of other creatures and plants. We are the source of health or sickness for our planet.

      There are plenty of places in the Scriptures that tell us this. I’m not going to quote huge passages because we’ve already heard a lot. God tells us that our job is to care for the earth, tend it and keep it strong. Be good stewards of this gift.

      How can we open the eyes of our faith to be better stewards of creation?  Each of us can do many small things that don’t seem like much but that will add up to a cleaner, healthier planet for us to live on.

      We can ditch plastic in every way possible. No more plastic bags to blow away and get caught in trees or kill whales. We can let manufacturers know that we won’t buy their product with too much packaging. It’s hard to open and hard to get rid of. And it’s harming our planet.

      Paper cups, paper straws, paper cartons for take out—all that will biodegrade but the plastic we throw away will be around for centuries.

      Look for the display on the bulletin board in the parish hall to learn about the best ways to get rid of our trash.

      We all have to do what we can, and then urge our lawmakers to do what they can to help clean up our trash, our dirty air and our dirty water.

      Polar bears and Giraffes are groaning right now as their habitats are being destroyed. By us. We should be groaning and running as fast as we can to help stop this destruction.

      Imagine Jesus coming back and finding no fish in the oceans! Unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine. It’s happening. We can help fix it.

      John tells us that “Jesus showed himself again to his disciples.”

      Showed himself again? Once wasn’t enough?

      That may sound incredible, but it’s good news. God never gives up on us.

      Jesus showed himself several times to several people. He kept showing up so that they would all believe. Like Peter many of us need more than one chance to show that we believe and are willing to follow.

      Whether Peter actually “got it” or not, we don’t know. We do know that Jesus gave him marching orders that day on the beach. Nothing new or earthshaking, just new ways to hear “Love God, love yourself, love your neighbor.”

      “Feed my sheep,” he tells Peter three times. And, “follow me.”

      Today I am thinking of two women who have done a good job of feeding Jesus’ sheep, and of following him.

      Rachel Held Evans died early this morning. She was a writer who fed me and countless others with stories about her faith journey. Her last book was “Inspired—slaying giants, walking on water, and loving the Bible again.”

      It’s hard to think that her voice is silent.

      The other woman was Mary Marguerite Kohn, a priest I met not long after I was ordained 30 years ago.

      She fed Jesus’ sheep by working for God’s justice and reconciliation every way she could.       She and the parish administrator were shot and killed by a man who didn’t like the food pantry rules.

      MM would have fed him from her own pantry if he’d given her the chance.

      We feed Jesus’ sheep here every Sunday in worship and in free Sunday suppers. We feed the sheep on the docks in Galilee with hot soup.

      And there are hundreds of ways to feed Jesus’ sheep that don’t even involve food.

      Today we open our parish campaign to help fund Episcopal Charities. (Tomorrow we will hear how Charities supports the work of St. Mary’s Home for Children)

      Charities feeds Jesus’ sheep by supporting food programs, pantries and meals. South County Volunteers has been supported as they offer rides to doctors and shopping, and deliver meals on wheels. The Johnnycake Center is supported.

      The biggest grant is to Episcopal Camp and Conference Center where children of all ages are fed with worship, Scripture, friendship, and learning about faith in so many ways.

      Our support for Charities gives hope and help to Jesus’ sheep all around the state.

      I invite us all to give as generously as we can, knowing that this is one way we can follow Jesus.

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