November 12, 2017

Pentecost – Proper 27           Remembrance Sunday

Amos 5: 18-24; Wisdom of Solomon 6: 17-20; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13

The Rev. James M.L. Grace

Into paradise may the angels lead thee, and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city, Jerusalem.  AMEN.

            Yesterday, November 11, our country recognized Veteran’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate the sacrifices of members of our military in times of conflict.  We commemorate those who have died in the service of our country on Memorial Day in late May.  In other places outside of America November 11 is called Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, and it is more similar to our observance of Memorial Day in the United States. 

            The reason why Remembrance Day is celebrated on the 11th of November is because World War I formally ended at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, thus November 11.  At St. Andrew’s we honor this day with an act of remembrance, a Commitment, and at our 10:30 service, a sung portion of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem in D Minor entitled “In Paradisum.”

            The purpose in all of this is to honor those who have fallen in the service of this country.  It is appropriate to do since the freedom we enjoy in this country is built upon the sacrifices of roughly three million human lives, and upon the shoulders of countless veterans in all branches of our armed services today, and in decades past.  It is the soldier, who courageously enters situations unimaginable to us or to most politicians we recognize today. 

            If you are a veteran of any branch of the United States military, I would ask that you please take a moment to stand, so that we, as a church, might recognize, and publicly thank you for your service [Veterans stand]. 

            As our Vestry person, Lisa Mustacchia, mentioned earlier, today at St. Andrew’s we are donating all loose funds received into the collection plate to Operation Finally Home, a non partisan non-profit organization which provides mortgage free homes for veterans injured in the line of duty to protect this country.

            So I am asking you to give and to give generously.  I know that some, or many, of you might be wondering “when is that priest ever going to stop asking me to give money?”  And here’s my answer:  when every person on this earth is treated with dignity and respect, I will stop.  Until then, I will ask, I will ask, I will ask, until I can speak no more. 

            Because here is what I believe about the collection plate - that plate that the ushers will pass around in a few moments.  I believe that plate represents opportunity.  It represents a moment when an opportunity to literally change the world for the good, for the better, is placed literally right into your hands. 

            I don’t know how you all feel about the phrase “thoughts and prayers.”  I hear it so much  now “thoughts and prayers for Las Vegas, thoughts and prayers for Sutherland Springs, thoughts and prayers for Orlando, thoughts and prayers for Charleston.”  That phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to me because it feels so empty and lethargic.  The purpose of prayer, is that it leads to right and moral action.  A group of Episcopal Bishops earlier this week released a statement on gun violence and the oft repeated phrase we hear of “thoughts and prayers” from I which I quote directly: “Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives.”

            God says to the prophet Amos this morning: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”  Were God speaking to Amos today, I believe Amos would hear God say “I take no delight in your thoughts and prayers, Amos.”  And I believe God would say to me “Don’t post about this on Facebook, Jimmy.  Not one person’s mind has ever been changed because of an opinion they read on Facebook, and I know, because I am God.” 

            We honor the sacrifices members of our armed forces make on our behalf by choosing to act, by choosing to reach across the aisle, by choosing to love our enemy, and by choosing to sacrifice.  This my check. It’s going to Operation Finally Home. My check isn’t going to singlehandedly fill the void between what veteran’s needs and what the government provides, but it will help, a little.

            Sacrifice takes no holiday, it affords no Sabbath, because the need is so large.  But so is our ability to create sustainable change.  It begins with us, each Sunday, when that plate comes into our hands.  What will put into it - what you left to give, or will you sacrifice, as millions have done so before you to guarantee your right and your safety to sit in church this morning, and wonder, “what will I contribute to God’s kingdom today?”  AMEN.