A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19, September 15, 2019
Recently, I went to Perry’s, the restaurant on Union Street, and I had a flashback. Not a bad PTSD flashback, but a pleasant flashback. The walls of Perry’s are covered with posters from the presidential campaigns of old, and photos of people like John Kennedy and the Beatles, and famous San Franciscans like Joe Montana, Joe Alioto, and Joe DiMaggio. My flashback was to the 20th Century. I realized that I felt very comfortable surrounded by all those familiar faces with so many associations. I am a “Mid-Century” baby, formed by the culture of the late 20th Century.
Our history at All Saints’ is also deeply rooted in the 20th century.
Today and next Sunday we’ll gather after Mass to spend some time in the 20th Century to talk with each other about our history.
Since All Saints’ hasn’t had an Interim in 30 years, you may have never participated in a history day before. History days are a standard part of the Interim time when we get together and talk with each other and gather some information about where we’ve been, and also share memories with each other. Some of that information will be captured so that when we get to the Search Process, we’ll have narrative data to work with. Because we have a rich history, we’re going to have two history days. And we may have more discussions down the line.
At today’s meeting we’ll look at the big picture. We’re going to place ourselves on a giant timeline, and have some small group table discussion.
Next Sunday we will spend more focused time in small group discussion talking about the last 50 years. I hope that you can stay for a light lunch and discussion for about an hour today and next Sunday. It will be interactive and fun. Don’t worry, I’m going to give you specific instructions.
Today’s readings both tell us something about the history of God’s relationship with us. One ends on a wrathful note, and the Gospel ends on a joyful note. What do they teach us about the nature of God, and who God wants us to be?
In Jeremiah we hear about God’s anger with God’s people. “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end…for I have spoken, I have purpose; I have not relented nor will I turn back.” Jeremiah grieves, and is shocked by the prophecies YHWH presents to him.
Contemporary commentators say that Jeremiah spoke of a shift from the original Covenant of Moses to a covenant based on a new paradigm. The existing worldview had to collapse before a new one could be constructed, which sounds strangely familiar given current events these days.
This passage spoke to me in its desolation of the earth. Today, the earth is hurting from our wasteful way of life. We need a new paradigm for the earth to survive.
Last week Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish climate activist sailed across the Atlantic for a U.N. conference to avoid the carbon footprint involved in flying. I have great hope in the younger generation of activists like Greta who are standing up and saying this is a crisis, our house is on fire. The Parkland students are in the same new wave of activists who are saying enough is enough. A new paradigm is fighting to be constructed. They have a righteous anger, much like God’s righteous anger in Jeremiah.
In our reading from Luke Jesus tells us two familiar parables: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. What do they tell us about God’s covenant relationship with us?
I love how Jesus starts off with “which of you does not?” In fact, I bet not many of us would leave 99 of our sheep to find the 1 who wandered off. Especially in our time of late capitalism, the loss of 1 sheep would be written off as a business loss, and expected as a cost of doing business. If you left the herd unsupervised while you went on a search, the rest of the herd might wander off. Part of the surprising nature of Jesus’ parables is in these unlikely twists. He calls us to a look at things differently.
In the Parable of the Lost Coin Jesus shows us a woman with ten coins (which was a lot of $) who searches just as diligently for the lost coin as the shepherd does for his lost sheep. She does a clean sweep of her house under expensive lamp light to find it. What does this mean?
These parables show us a different kind of relationship with God than in the Old Testament. They show us the same God, but the Gospels show us God in a new way. God is loving and seeks us out, and never gives up looking for us. And when God finds us, God calls together the angels and they rejoice together.
Notice the joy in both parables. There’s the joy of finding the lost sheep, and the lost coin. And there’s the joy of gathering together and celebrating in community. Each sheep has value and is treasured; this idea of inherent value is even more pronounced in the story of the lost coin.
Today at our gathering after church one of the things I want you to think about is: How did God bring you to All Saints’? And, where do you find joy at All Saints’?
On Friday and Saturday I attended a Diocesan training called “Healing Racism.” I learned a lot.
One of the activities was a Lection Divina session on our Gospel passage today. The passage really spoke to us as a group about the idea of inclusion. For me, If God is always seeking us out, God is also modeling a way of being in the world. We need to seek out those who are lost or hidden from our sight. In light of the healing racism training, we asked, who is missing from our flock?
I don’t think it means “saving” people as much as being in relationship with people. Saving is about power, and welcoming is about intimacy. Saving is primarily about individuals, welcoming is primarily about community. I wonder what that would look like here at All Saints?
As we move farther into the 21st Century, we’ve entered a challenging time for the Episcopal Church as a whole. We are increasingly older and whiter than the neighborhoods around us.
The commentator G. Penny Nixon writes, “True repentance happens when our minds are changed to such a degree that we cannot see a community as whole until all are included and none are “lost.” This is 21st century work for parishes all over the country right now. It resonates with our ministry context at All Saints’. The Good News is that we are not alone, and that Christ is there leading us into a more inclusive way of being.
What stands out for me in the passage is the joy that comes from finding the lost sheep and the lost coin. There is “Joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents.” It sounds like it’s definitely worth the search, worth the work of repentance, worth the work of our interim time together. Amen.