24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
11 September 2011
Rev. Robert Weiss
[HMS Pinafore Tune] This tune is from the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore. Written in 1878, it is a satirical observation on the British navy and contemporary society in general. It wouldn't take much imagination to transfer this musical image to contemporary structures such as the Church, or African and Mideast dictator-style rulers, or the present US government.
We're gathered under this tent, a temporary haven, a reminder of how the Jewish people found minimal shelter, rare rest and barely enough food (manna) during their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. This “tent” helps us remember the trying times of later-day refugees, be they the Seminoles whom Andrew Jackson exiled to lands west of the Mississippi, the 20 million or more displaced persons in western Europe after WWII, the countless Volga Germans Stalin sent to Uzbekistan, or the modern-day African people fleeing their homes to find food and water – not to mention similar people in the Far East.
Today we have left a permanent, empty structure in Nenno. That church ediface is similar to buildings in scattered, regional deserted parishes all over. We have assembled in this warm, fresh, sunsine-filled air to share Eucharist on this shore of Lake Sinnissippi. In the 20th verse leading to today's Gospel passage, Jesus states the profoundly meaningful idea that we, gathered together here, have Jesus in our midst.
Today our nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In media presentations in past weeks, we are called to remember the massacred victims, the heart wrenching losses to their families, the surviving injured, the heroic first responders and the nation's heartfelt reactions. But more soberly considered, we ought also to remember the negative aftermath of our government's decisions and the injustices these decisions have led to. We ought to remember the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional invasion of two countries with the inevitable victims seen as “collateral damage.” We ought to remember here at home the abrupt and unjustifiable abridgment of US citizens' civil rights and the government's playing of the terror card to justify military and munitions buildups to the detriment of our own country's needs.
Not adverted to on September 11, 2001 and its annual observance today, have been the thousands of citizens throughout second- and third-world nations who experienced intense suffering and deaths because of starvation, drought, disease, family and political violence and military actions. We cannot neglect reflecting on the dire conditions in which so many people find themselves and seek solutions.
The blunt message of today's first reading is the need for us to forgive. In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates that God's unrelenting forgiveness knows no boundaries. In the face of violence, or the petty greed shown by the forgiven debtor, or the desire for revenge, these sins and crimes are to be canceled out by forgiving the perpetrators. We have continual need to pause for personal reflection and measure the true degree of our forgiving others.
In the graced environment of this Eucharist on this shore, we recognize the power of creation all around us. The wholeness of our humanness is expressed in respecting and honoring all creation. Ours is not to exploit creatures and creation through misuse, violence and death. Ours is to honor their coexistence with us in all aspects of this huge universe. As we end these thoughts, we ask forgiveness for all our sins against God's creatures and creation. (Pause) AMEN!