Summary: A sermon for Proper 22, Series B, reflecting upon the recent killings of school students, especially those in the Amish community.
18th Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 22) October 8,
2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, from the beginning of your creation, you established marriage and intended that we should be a people living in community with one another. Yet because of sin, the harmony of the home is often burdened, and the social fabric of our community is often disrupted by senseless violence. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, increase our faith, that we might learn from our Lord the true meaning of forgiveness and the power of love to restore us to live in peace and fellowship with one another. This we ask in Christ’s Holy name. Amen.
Mark Wegener, in his commentary on our first lesson from Genesis, states the following: “Everything in this text points to community. It starts with the realization that people should not be alone. After hearing the account of the creation in Genesis 1, with its refrain, ‘And God saw that it was good,’ readers will recognize the enormity of the pronouncement in 2:18, where the Lord God says, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’
Birds and beasts are not fully fit companions for humans… [So when God creates the woman and introduces her to the man] their union results in an outburst of poetic joy; ‘This at last!’ Thus, from the biblical perspective, true humanity occurs in community. At its most personal and primitive level, such unity is a ‘one flesh’ affair with unashamedly sexual overtones.” End quote. [New Proclamation, Year B, 2003, Fortress Press.]
If I understand Dr. Wegener’s comment correctly, our text from Genesis is not simply about God instituting and establishing the sacred estate of marriage between a man and a woman. It is also about God’s intention that we human beings are intended to live in community with each other, that we might uplift and support each other in our life hear on earth.
This thought seems to be born out in the fact that in Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus is reported to uphold the sanctity of marriage, he rebukes his own disciples for wanting to stop people from bringing their children to see Jesus.
“Let the little children come to me,” he said. And he took them up in his arms and blessed them, indicating that the kingdom of God belongs even to those who have yet to comprehend the intellectual significance of his presence. Clearly, to Jesus, the kingdom of God involves more than marriage, but establishing relationships that are lived in community with God and in community with one another. And as Mark tells us, Jesus became indignant, or angry with his disciples for wanting to restrain those who brought their children to see him.
How do you think Jesus would feel about the recent killings of children attending school? This week, I heard a report that just since August of this year, 26 children have been taken hostage, shot or killed in our community schools. What does this say about the value we place, or fail to place, not just on the sanctity of marriage, but the sanctity of human life and God’s created intention that we live in community with one another?
This past week has been especially troubling for me, and for many in our community. For example, as Diann and her crew were cleaning up the shrubs and sidewalks around our church Tuesday morning, you could sense a real sadness and deep anguish as we pondered that horrific event. It was as if, amidst the jokes and humor that was intended to lighten the burden of the task, there was still a pain felt by all, stemming from the knowledge that sin had again invaded the sanctity of life, according to God’s intention.
Perhaps it was the young age of many of the girls that were bound and killed execution style in the Amish community school near Lancaster. Or perhaps it is because we have a large Amish community living here among us in Western Pennsylvania, and we can relate to their loss. Or perhaps it is because, whether we agree or disagree with their lifestyle, that we respect the Amish for seeking to live their lives in community with each other, based on what they believe are God’s principles for life.
Regardless of what might motivate our thoughts, we grieve, not just for the husbands and wives who have lost their children due to this senseless violence, but we also grieve for the loss sustained by their community and our own. And amidst our grief, we look for God’s redeeming grace to heal us.
And then, as news of the ensuing events of this week were reported by the media, the grace of God was proclaimed to all of us throughout the world who were in grief over the loss of these children! And it was such a powerful message, such a profound statement of God’s redeeming grace, that I hope every one of us heard it.