The Rev. Will Stanley
July 3, 2022
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9C)
I think Amanda Gorman is one of the prophets of our time. You’ll remember her as the first youth poet laureate who delivered her rousing poem, “The Hill We Climb” at the Presidential Inauguration, just two weeks after the January 6th insurrection—that horror of a day which has returned to our national consciousness in recent weeks.
Days after the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings, Gorman responded with a new poem, entitled: “A Hymn for the Hurting.” It begins:
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Even our children
Cannot be children,
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
Indeed, It IS a hard time to be alive. Gorman’s words are hauntingly true for the events of the past two weeks. For many of us, in addition to minds “made muddied and mute,” there is also fear…and there is also anger.
And as if that weren’t enough, this weekend in our civic life we are prompted to celebrate: Independence.
Independence Day in a time when many feel as if their PERSONAL abilities for autonomy and self determination—the very nature of independence—have been stripped away. Because there is so much that hurts…there is so much to be healed.
There is much work to do.
And who will be called to take it up?
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
In this morning’s gospel from Luke, Jesus is getting to work.
And he does not go it alone. He sends out ahead of him seventy others to go and prepare his way, to EVERY place that he will wind up in due course.
To EVERY place. He sends them out to announce plainly and clearly.
THE focused message of this good news:
“The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”
His clarity continues. Jesus commands them to leave behind everything that might burden or distract them from this critical mission. And part and parcel of his instructions is preparing them for WHEN they are rejected and unwelcomed…not IF. He knows full well that his radical message of love and grace and truth will be met by the wolves, or as the apostle Paul would later say, “by the powers and principalities” of their own day.
And so they are to stay focused, keeping their eyes on the prize of proclaiming that kingdom of God…which has come near.
Amanda Gorman’s poem continues:
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
Friends, the alarm is ringing. I daresay it’s been ringing for years and years. And the pandemic helped illumine how loudly and long it’s been ringing for some of our siblings. So now, the sound and call to rise up and get to work is loud and clear.
And it is the work of proclamation: To sound another alarm, in response,
and to stay focused, especially when we are rejected.
Many of us are outraged…and that anger is righteous and even holy. We know the truth and even as we are promised that this truth will set us free, the work of transforming hate “into a love that lets us live” as Gorman writes,
…is just down right hard.
As people of faith and followers of Jesus, we need to be prepared to “run the race that is set before us” like a marathon rather than a sprint.
We as a people, a church, and a nation—especially those of my generation—need to be fortified for the LONG HAUL.
Like countless generations before us, we also need—in the words of Pauli Murray—to “get smart.” We do well to remember Matthew’s version of this story:
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves;
so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We need laborers in the vineyard who are “wise as serpents,” staying focused and “on message” for this critical gospel work. We need folks who are not received, you just go right ahead and shake off that dust on your feet and move onto that next house.
The message does not change. The stakes are too high for anything else—because “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
The good news—this day and always—is that GOD is the one doing the transforming…THROUGH us. The two best pieces of good news remain true:
- There IS a Savior
- And it is NOT YOU.
As you and I labor in the vineyard, we remember that it is the Lord of the harvest who has sent us out to do this work. God has granted us authority and power over the evil powers of this world “which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.”
God is responsible for the harvest; we are the laborers sent out into the mission fields to gather in what God has already transformed,…to gather in the love that lets the whole world live.
Amanda Gorman’s “Hymn for the Hurting” concludes:
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.
On this eve of Independence Day, we recall that even as “it’s a hard time to be alive”…it is even harder to stay that way. We as the people of God have been given work to do. We need not carry anything with us. With eyes clearly fixed on the mission of love, we take strength from the promise of Ephesians that “God’s power working within can ALWAYS do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”
For it is God who will mend our every flaw. It is God who both sounds the alarm and gives us the freedom to hear it for ourselves. And it is God who calls to each of us this morning, saying
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
…So let’s get to work! And to help us remember that it is our God, the Lord of the harvest who is working through us, may we close by praying for our nation on this eve of Independence:
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP, 258)