Monday, November 16, 2015

Wake Up Call!

Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
15 Nov. 2015 Proper 28 Year B: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; 1 Samuel 1:4-20 (as canticle); Hebrews 10:11-14; Mark 13:1-8

A father knocks on his son’s door, saying: “Son, wake up!”
His son answers: “I don't want to get up, Papa.”
“Get up! You have to go to school!”
“I don't want to go to school.”
Why not?”
Three reasons: 1st, because it is so dull;
2nd, the kids tease me;
& 3rd, I hate school.”
His father responds: “I am going to give you 3 reasons you must go to school.
 1st it is your duty.
2nd you are 45 years old
& 3rd you are the headmaster.1
With headlines such as this weekend's carnage in Paris, many of us may want to stay in bed with our heads under the covers. The ostrich with its head in the sand has its appeal.
It reminds me of my elementary school days [in a location near open water] where we feared Russia & its ally, Cuba, could launch an atomic attack so very close to us. We drilled at school what to do in case of an atomic attack:

 At the alarm, we hid under our wooden desks.
What kind of protection is that?!
Disaster preparedness is a good thing. It can be like an annual physical for us. For the church & for us in our homes, disaster preparedness is a matter of stewardship of the assets entrusted to us. Yet we can overdo & let fear rule our lives, as I see in a woman implementing extensive plans from fear that has grown reading Ted Koppel's book Lights Out.
Jesus assures us in our Gospel that we are not to be alarmed by wars & rumors of wars
to beware that no one lead us astray by
claiming to be Jesus.
Our impressive structures, like those that wow the disciples do get destroyed. In fact, the Temple that impresses them with its outstanding masonry work, far greater than what they see in Galilee,2 is “the reconstructed temple begun under Herod the Great [about] 20 B.C. [& which gets] completed [just]...7 years before [the Romans] destroy...[it] by fire in A.D. 70.”3
What if the disciples had wrung their hands worrying over the Temple & the what-ifs of people coming in Jesus' name? How much ministry could they effectively do stuck in what-ifs?
We can worry so much & use our precious, limited asset of time
hiding under wooden desks that we miss the joy of living.
We can be so preoccupied by having everything perfect to make oodles of money at our Bazaar that we miss the joy of working together.
Fact: The amount of money raised at the Bazaar is a blessing to our budget & many ministries beyond our red doors.
Fact: More important than the Bazaar bringing in revenue is our exercise of stewardship of our relationships, our energy, our health, our love, our sharing the Gospel truth: God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome.
To exercise our stewardship [including our stewardship of relationships] we can learn from Hannah in our 1st lesson. She knows God is in charge. Praying silently, which is unusual in her day4, Hannah asks God to give her a son. God says “Yes”. She names the son Samuel, which means “asked of God”5.

What do you ask of God?
Notice: Despite the spiteful way Peninnah treats Hannah, Hannah does not respond in kind. She kindly refrains from lashing out, refrains from complaining to her adoring husband to do something about mean Peninnah. Hannah shows us grace, gratitude & generosity.
What else but grace, gratitude & generosity would lead this barren woman to ask God for a gift & then return the gift to God?
Her selfless act, as one preacher says6: can remind us that all things are God’s gift to us & can remind us of the truth many congregations say at the offertory:

All things come from you, O Lord,
& of your own have we given you.”
You do give so generously to God, to each other & to our brothers & sisters beyond our red doors.
These items represent the abundance of your gifts, your creativity, your generosity of time, resources & skills. We will ask God's blessing on these items, the many in the Parish Hall that they represent, & all the laborers involved in their production & the Bazaar.

Blessing of Items for St. John's Bazaar7
Reader 1: Many there are who rely upon their hands and are skillful in their own work.
Reader 2: Prosper, O Lord, the work of our hands.
Reader 1: Prosper our handiwork.
Celebrant: Let us pray. (Silence) O God, your blessed Son worked with his hands in the carpenter shop in Nazareth: Be present, we pray, with those who work in this place, that, laboring as workers together with you, we may share the joy of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
Reader 2: We present these items for the Bazaar, and other items they represent, and all our labors to God's glory and in the hope and expectation that God's grace may enfold us and all whose lives are touched by the Bazaar.
Celebrant: Let us pray. (Silence) O God, whose blessed Son has sanctified and transfigured the use of material things: receive these works which we offer, and grant that they may proclaim your love, benefit your Church, and minister grace and joy to those who see and use them. As you have blessed the hands and the hearts that have created them, so may your blessings + be abounding among their recipients; Holy God, we may all our work serve to your glory and the welfare of your people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

The Book of Occasional Services 2003. New York: Church Publishing. 2004.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Howell, The Rev. Miguelina. “Holy Ground, Holy Spaces, Proper 28(B) – 2015”. Accessed: 14 Nov. 2015.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.

1 Parts rephrased from: Howell, The Rev. Miguelina. “Holy Ground, Holy Spaces, Proper 28(B) – 2015”. Quoting from Anthony de Melo’s story.
2 Ibid. Howell, The Rev. Miguelina. “Holy Ground, Holy Spaces, Proper 28(B) – 2015”. Accessed: 14 Nov. 2015.
3 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1083.
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 562.
5 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 562.
6 Howell, The Rev. Miguelina. “Holy Ground, Holy Spaces, Proper 28(B) – 2015”. Accessed: 14 Nov. 2015.
7Adapted from The Book of Occasional Services. Pp. 152, 211, 207; 246-250, 104. And from Prayer Shawl Blessing “Blessings Are Thrown across Our Lives”.

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