September 11, 2016 – Shipwreck

Pentecost 17 September 11, 2016  Acts 27:1,7-12; 13-15, 18-26; 27-44; 28:1-2   Shipwreck ********************************************************** In days of old anyone who lived near the sea knew about shipwrecks. I’ve been reading The Outermost House by Henry Beston, an account of the year he lived in a cottage on the dunes in Eastham, near the edge of the National Park’s Coast Guard Beach. Beston’s small cottage stood just thirty feet above the high water mark, a mile and a half from the Coast Guard station. The Outer Cape shores were notoriously perilous before the Canal made it possible for ships to avoid their waters. Beston’s closest neighbors were the Coast Guard rangers… Every night one would walk past his cottage on patrol – watching for ships coming too close – lighting flares to warn them back from nearby shoals. There were a dozen Coast Guard stations between Eastham and Provincetown, with tiny half-way houses in between each, and nightly patrols over all this terrain. Even so, there were six shipwrecks on the Cape that year, and many lives were lost. When a shipwreck happened lifesaving crews would either row through turbulent surf in a lifeboat – often a dangerous venture – or shoot a line from a cannon onto a stranded ship’s deck, then run rescue gear out and bring people off the boat with ropes and pulleys… A technical advance over what could be done in St Paul’s day. But as he describes the wreck of a three-masted schooner stranded nearby, Beston’s account sounds remarkably like our last reading from Acts. Long ago or not so long ago, when a ship runs aground on rocks or sandbar, stormy waves can often tear it apart in just a few hours…And… Even ninety years ago, when Beston lived in Eastham – much more so in the time of the book of Acts – death at sea was relatively common. Sailors and frequent sea travelers like the apostle Paul were very familiar with the dangers of ocean travel.  But owners of ships often insisted on sailing even under unsafe conditions. The ship carrying Paul and companions to Rome was a merchant ship, loaded with Egyptian wheat, purchased by the Imperial powers-that-be, to be given to Romans, to keep a lid on social unrest. Meanwhile children in Egypt often went hungry due to food shortages. Which was of little concern to Rome and ship owners, who profited on every load of wheat delivered. Thus the owner (and the captain, who may have received a bonus for completed trips) insisted on continuing the journey, even though the Jewish Day of Atonement (known as The Fast) which occurred between late-September and early-October, had already passed, signaling the end of the safe season for sea travel. *** The book of Acts is a God-driven story that works simultaneously as sacred history and sanctified theological metaphor… As Acts tells its close-to-the-end shipwreck story very slowly at first, capturing the mood of an approaching storm…Describing  stops at various ports, and the transfer of Paul and other prisoners to another ship – then sailing on, against the winds, with difficulty… Pausing for discussion of the critical question – to sail – or not to sail onward in spite of the danger… We hear Paul’s warning against sailing onward rejected. And our...

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September 20, 2015 – More precious than silver

Pentecost 17   September 20, 2015   Psalm 1, Proverbs 3:5-15, Mark 9:33-37; James 4:1-10          More precious than silver ******************************************************* Last Tuesday our family went to the outer cape. At sunset we were walking at Coast Guard Beach. Warning signs were posted, saying: “Great White Sharks are in these waters, eating seals every day. Do not swim anywhere near the seals…” Seals were swimming close to shore as we walked…And… As we walked along we heard a sound like crying and singing… As we walked a little further, we saw many seals – seventy or eighty at least – lying on a little barrier island sand dune… Singing a song so mournful, it was like the wind was crying… I wondered if the seals might be singing funeral hymns for seals eaten by sharks… It sounded that sad… (That’s probably my run-away imagination. But who knows?) Later someone told me seals were probably singing a sunset song, like a vespers prayer. Seals apparently do that…. But whatever the reason for seals singing, it was both quite sad and very beautiful at the same time… (and…) The letter of James tells us we too should be singing sad songs… “Lament and mourn and weep,” James says… For the world is badly broken…and… Sometimes we need to be told to mourn, because we humans are often in denial about our need to express sorrow… Some of us have been taught not to weep, because that’s allegedly a sign of weakness… (Stiff upper lip, old chap, the British used to say, at least in the movies.) But sometimes by grace and with help from our friends, we figure out… crying can be a good thing… As a teenager I learned to love Ray Charles singing weepy soulful ballads (like–) “Oh it’s crying time again, you’re gonna leave me...” And a bit like the soul and blues I grew up with… but on a much deeper level… The bible is full of sad songs. A good half of all the psalms are psalms of lament – basically sanctified blues… And James today says “Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection….” Weep and mourn… For so many children of God are lost, hurting, and dying… in so many places, for so many reasons… And so often we tend to glaze over…There’s so much visible human tragedy…We sometimes develop calluses on our souls…We fear having tender hearts, which, we’re told, break more easily… So we neglect to mourn and weep… for those who are hurting… and even for ourselves… But Jesus said “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…” And James says “let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection…” Are James and Jesus trying to bring us down? Being real downers? Or – could it be that Jesus and James know what the seals know…What every little human infant child’s also born knowing: Crying and weeping is the best way to let God (and mom and dad) know our need. Humbling ourselves before God is still the most direct route to right relationship with the Maker of the universe… And are there not always plenty of good reasons to mourn? Should we not weep because this world – and most families – even the...

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October 5, 2014 – Enough

Exodus 16:1-3, 9-12 The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger….” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” Exodus 16:13-18, 31 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’“ The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed…. The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 2 Corinthians 8:15, 9:6-12 As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little….” The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which...

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September 15, 2013 – Pentecost 17

Ezekiel 34:1-6, 11-16 The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them….     For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.  But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. Luke 15:1-10 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”...

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