There’s a lot to reflect on this week.
Our midterm elections last Tuesday had record numbers of people turn out to vote. Many of us had to wait quite some time to cast our votes, but everyone I talked to said that the polling places were places of cordiality and neighborhood connection. And whether you are happy with the results or not, we can all be encouraged by the interest in our public life and governance.
Merely a day later, however, we heard the awful news of 12 victims and their assailant dead after a senseless mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. Another in a line of too many tragedies that come from a mix of mental illness, mal intent, and firearms.
While this part of the country is still recovering from hurricanes and tornados, out west, the Wild fires in California are now the worst on record causing massive damage.
Today, of course, is also Veterans Day, a day to honor those who have served our country. On top of that, we remember that it is Armistice Day, and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Closer to home we have some happier news: Here at St. Michael’s, we welcomed Margaret Kathryn Hansen into the world last Monday, a beautiful baby girl born to Christian, our youth minister and his wife, Nicole.
And Yesterday I was privileged to help celebrate the marriage of Suzanne Owen and Cork Coyner, both widowed, who have found new love and new life with each other.
While we rejoice with those who rejoice, we also mourn with those who mourn. As a community of faith, We also hold in prayer our Senior Warden, Bonnie Ashley, and her family, as they grieve the unexpected death of Bonnie’s mother, Florence, who we will bury this Tuesday. And of course, so many others on our St. Michael’s prayer list, whom we uphold.
Today, as a faith community, St. Michael’s is putting on our Gifts from the Heart Fair before and after our services to buy gifts supporting the work of non-profits throughout the area – which will make a huge difference in the lives of so many people. Even more, we are blessed to have beautiful music from the ProArte ensemble of the Greater Richmond Children’s Choir.
Why don’t you take a few moments, and reflect on your own big news of the week. The highs and lows. The Joys and sadness. The places of blessing and challenge. What’s been going on with you, personally, in your family, your circles, with your health, your job, your emotions…
It is good to pause and take time to reflect on where we have been, to exit briefly from the treadmill of the day in and day out in order to pay attention. To notice. To be mindful. And while there is a lot going on this week – in the world, at St. Michael’s and in our own lives – this week is really not all that different from many other weeks. Each week, each day, holds its gifts and challenges. Depending on where we are personally, some events of the week will rise to the top and either some great joy will overshadow the sorrows and challenges, or some tragedy or wound will overshadow the everyday blessings.
Every Sunday, we come to church with a week full of stuff behind us, and a week full of stuff before us. Stuff we know about, and the stuff of surprises – surprises that may delight or despair.
Each Sunday we come to church seeking where God is in the middle all this stuff. What may be God’s purposes behind it? What might be God’s path through it? What might be God’s gift in it? What might be God’s call in the midst of it? What might be God’s promise ahead of it?
In other words, we seek Good News. We seek Comfort, Consolation, and Direction. We also seek Connection with our wider community, the visible Body of Christ, our friends, our church family.
And if we are in a good space spiritually, we come each Sunday, not for just for ourselves, but to immerse ourselves in something bigger, to place our stories and the world’s stories in the midst of God’s Story, and to lift our eyes beyond the immediate to the eternal. We join with Angles and Archangels and all the company of heaven to worship around the throne of God. We want God’s Word to feed our hearts and minds, and the Body and Blood of Christ to feed our souls and spirit. We then, in gratitude, seek ways to serve others beyond ourselves, to find ways to make a difference in the world. We seek to Celebrate, Love, and Serve.
And so it is with all of this we come together this morning.
Take another moment right now, and consider what it is you are looking for as you come here this morning. Perhaps Jesus is asking you the question we’ve heard him ask others, “What do you want me to do for you?” [pause]
So as we come together today, as we do every Sunday morning, what does the Word of God give us this morning, as a reflection on the week past, or as direction and promise for the week to come? Depending on where you are this week, perhaps one of our passages speaks more to you than the others.
In the story of Ruth, we see God providing for two widows, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, through the care of their kinsman-protector Boaz. God brings them through a time of great of challenge, when both of them were grieving Ruth’s dead husband, and both were vulnerable women with few prospects. But through God’ leading Naomi to return to her homeland, and the eventual union of Ruth and Boaz, the women are not only cared for, but Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and the ancestor of Jesus himself. It reminds us that how God helps us through the challenges of our own times may lead to unimagined blessings in the future.
Maybe you can name a time in your own story, where God brought together unlikely elements to provide you or someone you know with what you needed. I wonder what unlikely scenarios God is working on right now, in our public life or in our private lives, that will not only provide us with what we need now, but prepare us for unimagined blessings in the future. [Pause]
In the psalm, we are reminded that all our worry and strife is for naught unless we have put God in charge of it all.
“ Unless the Lord builds the house, *their labor is in vain who build it.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, * in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.”
And my favorite line from the psalm:
“It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late; *
vain, too, to eat the bread of toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Those are words to nap by!
In the cares and concerns of each day, the Lord wants us to trust him, and to rest in that trust. God entreats us to enjoy our families and children. God wants us to put our political concerns of the city and state under his authority to work for the welfare of all. We are asked to place our own work under the overarching lordship of God’s care and providence.
In other words, “Relax. God is ultimately in charge!”
What’s keeping you up at night? What are you toiling after in vain? Can you enjoy the gifts of family, and trust that God is in charge? [Pause]
The passage from Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is our great high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice for sin once and for all, appearing before God on our behalf. We are therefore freed from any guilt we may feel for not measuring up to God’s desires or even our won best intentions. Forgiveness is a reality already accomplished through Christ, not something we have to strive for. Therefore you and I can receive God’s forgiveness and mercy with thanksgiving, and look forward to meeting God face to face without fear of judgment.
So Imagine yourself entering the Holy Sanctuary – coming into the presence of God – with our Great High Priest at your side. You have been made a perfect offering before God, an innocent child, all weight of guilt or brokenness can melt to your feet, so nothing stands in your way to encountering God. [pause] In a world so full sin, and in our lives so in need of redemption, Jesus’ work on our behalf and the world’s behalf is good news. It allows us, in freedom and confidence, to join God in working for the betterment of the world.
Finally, we hear turn to our Gospel story this morning. Jesus is in Jerusalem the last week of his life, and through his teaching and preaching is opening the eyes of his disciples to the realities of the world around them.
He warns them not to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the Scribes strutting around in their Long Robes or to be too impressed by the Rich who put large sums into the treasury. Jesus knows how money talks and those with power or prestige often want to flaunt it in order to make things go their way. Times haven’t changed so much over 2000 years.
Jesus instead draws his followers’ attention to the widow who put the two small coins into the treasury. He notices the one who in barely noticed by others.
Those widow’s coins, lepta, in Greek, were the smallest coins in circulation at the time. Tiny pieces of copper. Worth an 1/8th of a penny to us. They were the only money she had, and she put them both in. Our passage says it was “everything she had, all she had to live on.” Literally, the Greek reads, “it was her whole life.” She gave it all to God. While others gave out of their surplus, she gave everything. While the rich proudly gave large sums, the extra left over from what they spent on themselves, this poor widow gave all she had, and trusted her well-being to God. How are you trusting what you have to God? What is holding you back from giving your whole life to God? [short pause.]
Trust is the theme that holds all these lessons together this morning, and I believe Trust is God’s word for us today in the middle of all that is going on in our lives and in the world.
We can trust God with our joys – Thankful for our children, our partners and friends. Thankful for our common life and for the freedom we have in this country to worship and vote. We trust that God, using us as his followers, will work to bring about the best for all as we keep focused on his will.
We can trust God with our concerns and troubles, and let God be in charge while we sleep.
We can trust that God loves us, and through Christ, has already forgiven us and accepted us as his own.
We can trust that God is enough, and that as we entrust our whole lives to God, God will provide for us abundantly. Amen.