SERMON: 9 Pentecost B 6 24 18
Charlie Benjamin and I took Bobbie Gordon out to lunch for her birthday last month. As we do now and then, we went to Alex's Restaurant on Main Street. I parked the car in what looked like a good spot.
After lunch we came out and I had a ticket. A $135 ticket. I had parked in a handicapped parking spot. Unintentionally, I assure you. It had been marked with normal parking signs, topped with handicapped parking signs which I either didn't see or subconsciously ignored. As did Bobbie and Charlie, I presume, as neither of them said anything.
Fast forward a month. Molly and I came back from vacation Wednesday and I now have a court date. I will make my case for mercy and my generally good citizenship and see how it goes. But it brought to mind how sometimes we think we're doing one thing and we're actually doing another. Sometimes people think we're doing one thing and we're doing something else altogether. Sometimes we think we have an understanding and we find out we are mistaken.
Like the pastor who could tell Bubba was out of sorts. "What's the matter, Bubba?" the pastor asked. "I need help with my hearing, pastor," Bubba said. "Well get down on your knees, my friend," the pastor ordered. "We'll pray on it." So for five or ten minute the pastor prayed for Bubba's hearing. Finally he stopped and asked Bubba, "How's your hearing now, Bubba?" Bubba Replied, "I don't know, pastor. It's not 'til next week."
I also kind of resonated to this joke because I read a really good meditation from Forward Day by Day while Molly and I were gone that pointed out that as nice as it is to imagine our problems being relieved by the love of Jesus, what Jesus promises you and me is the freedom from fear. We can turn to Jesus in prayer in the midst of the most difficult problems and find ourselves strangely ready to go on because the debilitating power of our fear is gone. We suddenly know we can go on, no matter what.
I watched that realization wash over the face of a woman this week who had suffered some serious disappointments recently and was terribly unhappy. I asked her about her prayer life and how often she asked God to be with her during the day. I asked her if she believed in God's readiness to help her and she said she did. Then I told her God would be with her throughout whatever comes her way. And that she could help herself by offering prayers of thanks to God for the good things in her life that made it worth living.
She stopped crying and looked up with a lovely smile and started talking about her daughter and how wonderful she is. She thanked me a few times before she got out of the office. This, I thought, is the miracle of faith, the certainty that God cares about us and hears us and stays with us all the time. I was grateful for the experience.
Long ago I learned about the importance of an attitude of gratitude. I have joked on occasion that if one can't generate an attitude of gratitude, then an attitude of platitudes will work. And while I mean it in a comical sense it is also true. Because platitudes are commonplace. They have described the human condition for so long that they seem mundane, but they are actually reliable. Here's a few:
Good things come to those who wait.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the result to be different
Time heals all wounds
Such is life.
What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger.
Hard work always pays off.
Money can't buy happiness.
It's not rocket science.
I could go on and on, but I trust you get my point. Irritating as some of these phrases might seem in the midst of a situation, they are, generally, true. Sometimes the truth hurts. (There I go with another platitude.)
Speaking only for myself, I have to admit that there are times where I seek out the complicated solution when the simple one is sitting right in front of me. Like turning to prayer. Or reflecting on all I have to be grateful for.
Our vacation contained a number of situations which surprised me in their simplicity. We went to see Yosemite National Park, the sequoia trees, the redwood trees and the Oregon Coast, where my brother lives. If I got started telling you about the trees you wouldn't get home in time for supper. They were astonishing. They were alive in ways much more marvelous than roots and branches and needles and cones. There were like living animals. And they knocked us out.
Molly had been reading about Yosemite and John Muir and the amazing trees and the beginning of the conservation movement in America. Yosemite started it all.
This topic came up in Forward Day by Day Thursday. It read, "One of my favorite statements by conservationist John Muir came from his defense of the Hetch Hechy Valley near Yosemite.(Actually in Yosemite.) 'Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike'."
The reading continues, "Muir lost the battle--the valley was flooded to create a reservoir--but the question remains: Would the world be better off if we poured all of our resources into what is "useful," into what serves a practical purpose?...Like Muir, Jesus believes that value isn't strictly a function of utility. Beauty--including acts of kindness and mercy--is as necessary to the spirit as bread is to the body."
In the middle of the forest and the park, watching the whale in Port Orford Oregon surface before diving for more food, this simple understanding of why we have nature and beauty is obvious: this is God's creation. This is the way God wants it. It is ours to enjoy or ignore, preserve or destroy.
Our readings today also point us in the direction of care and enjoyment of creation. Samuel tells David God has needs that maybe David can meet. David can create for God a house of cedar as a sign of the Israelites care for God's creation and their obedience to God's ways.
Jesus and his weary disciples have been busy caring for God's people. Jesus sees they are weary and proposes rest. They are preparing themselves for the feeding of the 5,000 although they don't know it yet. But clearly Jesus and David know they are honoring God by protecting what is precious to God.
We, too, are called to protect what is precious to God. Last week in Oregon we heard a priest in his sermon actually shout about the atrocity of the government locking up children in cages. This week there will be much comment from many pulpits about truth telling and treason.
We needn't turn partisan and we needn't despair. Our faith points us in the direction of loving our neighbor and caring for God's creation. That we know how to do. Amen
A sermon preached July 22, 2018 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector