Sunday, September 27, 2009

17th Sunday after Pentecost - 27 September 2009

17 Pentecost - 27 September 2009 - Proper 21 B
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
James V. Stockton

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.” It’s the opening sentence of author Julian Barnes’ latest book, Nothing to be Afraid Of. Barnes claims to be an atheist. Of course, if it were a settled issue for him it seems unlikely that would have written an entire book expressing his nostalgia for Church, religion, and faith in God. His voice made especially poignant because it speaks for one who believes that he once had that relationship, but seems to have lost it somewhere along the way.

I read a story about a family of mice who make their home inside a large grand piano. For as long as any of them can remember, they have blissfully enjoyed the music that regularly surrounds them. Sometimes it is sad, but not regretful, sometimes inspiring, and often soothing and peaceful. The mice take great comfort in the sense of some great Unseen Someone above them but also close to them from whom comes the beautiful music that they all love.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

15th Sunday after Pentecost 13 September 2009

15 Pentecost - 13 September 2009 - Proper 19 B
Proverbs 1:20-33; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
James V. Stockton

One break-in was bad enough. Add to that another one, more severe, ten days later. Add these to the grief we still bear from July and August and one must wonder, is this just part of what one must endure and, given that we are Christians, must endure with and especially stiff upper lip? We’ve been through rather a lot here at ECR in a just short amount of time. So, is it our role as Christians to endure all this with particularly stoic disaffection? In terms of what we hear in the reading from the Gospel today, is this just our collective cross to bear?

People use the phrase in ways that suggest that it is so. Someone may be caring for a loved one who is chronically ill; someone else has been passed over for a promotion at work; a community has lost a beloved friend; a community’s sense of safety has been violated by people whose values violently contradict its own.

And if people find consolation in the notion that somehow this is just their cross to bear, then far be it from you or me to deny them that comfort. But it must be said, at least among you and me together, that the God that we are here today to worship and praise does not inflict pain and suffering on anyone. So, from where, then, comes the common wisdom that misfortune is sign of the cross that Christ Jesus places upon the shoulders of those who follow him?