Pentecost 3 – June 25, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Gen. 21:8-21; Ps.86:1-10,16-17; Rom. 6:1b-11; Matt. 10:24-39

O God, we pray for the well being of all children, their love and care and support, and our difficult but essential calling to see that this, your desire is more realized in our time and places.

As some of you know, our son and his partner had a baby last Sunday… knowing they had gone to the hospital and there was a birth as worship began… Lori’s thumbs up during the hymn of the day signaled all was okay… (I was not, before or after…)

– we would later learn it was a boy, 7lbs 5 oz, born three weeks early by emergency C-section because he was breach and the cord was involved, causing distress…

– we had a chance to go see them in Alberta on Tuesday evening and returned last night… thank you for your prayers…

– to be with them in support, and observe all the support they received, especially the baby in the NICU, monitoring, feeding…  and for the parents, to rest and heal, to be with their baby, touch and skin to skin time, and feeding, to know everything they needed and wanted to know… the parents spoke so gratefully of all the care their baby and they received…

– we watched the baby’s transfer from NICU to the unit and mother’s room on Wednesday, checking and double checking of information, and the care and kind words of everyone…

– in this case, all women, often speaking of their own children and experiences in helpful and encouraging ways…

– and family with them through it all, physically and emotionally, for all three of them… such wonderful support… to see this tiny life thrive… for which we are so thankful…

– and for us, signs of God’s love and support for this new life and his parents, and for every life… so thankful

In contrast, we hear the story today of Hagar and her son Ishmael… an “Egyptian slave woman” to Sarah…

– in her and Abraham’s desperate struggle to have a child, she “gave” Hagar (in The Handmaid’s Tale like way) to Abraham, to have a child with her…

– but now, having her own son Isaac, she can’t stand to see Ishmael and Isaac together… and wants them cast out…

– Abraham is saddened by this… but God is complicit, but with a plan and promise for Ishmael…

– and with the smallest of provisions, Abraham sends her and the child away into the wilderness…

– and when her meager provisions ran out, she puts her son under some bushes some distance away so she won’t hear him cry to death… as she cries out…

– God hears their cries and speaks to Hagar, promising her son will not die, but will be the source of a great nation… and Hagar suddenly sees a well, and they drink from it and live…

– An important story for the people of Islam, seeing themselves as the descendents of Ishmael, descendents of Abraham, our Muslim neighbours identifying with their mother Hagar and her son, cast out to survive in the wilderness, including in circumstances today…

The contrast:

– Hagar and Ishmael, no support, “cast out,” by the Father of her child and by Sarah, a woman and mother like her, with little provisions of food and water, left on their own to survive or die…

– and our new grandbaby and family and all the support and care they needed  to ensure his and their thriving… along with all the other children and parents in that NICU and hospital and like hospitals throughout Canada and many other parts of the world….

But not every part… and not the same care and support for every mother and child… in our community, our province and nation and certainly not in this world…

– the child poverty rate in our own province one indicator… as one of the economically richest provinces one of the highest child poverty rates…

– will the new situation in government change that – will the proposed raising of assistance rates by $100 per month help change that, or is this a political move not intended to be enacted?

– so also in Canada, among the richest countries in the world, the latest UNICEF report card on child poverty has Canada continuing to rank lower, now about 25th among 37 countries included, with 13.3 % of children living at 50% or less of the median income… and a disproportionate number of these families are indigenous and single mothers and children

– worldwide, over 65 million displaced persons, 22.5 million refugees, more than 50% of whom are children, more than half from 3 countries, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria, predominantly Muslim countries with conflicts involving world powers and politics… only 190,000 resettled in 2016

– what support and care is there for these Hagars and Ishmaels, or are they cast out to survive or not in the wilderness?

– these desperate concerns can be overwhelming… but actions, including our own through support of Canadian Lutheran World Relief, refugee sponsorship, the Reformation Challenge, the Shelbourne Community Kitchen to name a few examples… are expressions of support and care, that need to be accompanied by advocacy and calling for radical change in the distribution of wealth in our community, Province, nation and world.

That is a challenging call, a radical mission…

– it’s the kind of challenging and radical mission to which Jesus was calling his disciples, to which Jesus is calling us?

– many troubling words in Jesus’ warnings and promises as he sends them, and us! out;

– within the Gospel writer’s community we can imagine from Jesus’ words the tensions and conflicts that are present in the community and even in families, dividing people, even mothers and fathers and children… for the sake of this message and mission of Jesus…

– things uncovered and secrets revealed by Jesus’ and his followers telling the truth, even shouting it from the housetops,

– acknowledging Jesus.. not peace but a sword of division between those who speak the truth and follow God’s ways in Jesus and those who would deny them for their own sake…

–  with Jesus everything is asked, nothing is excluded, everything sacrificed if required, that’s the cross, that’s losing your life… for the truth of Jesus, of God’s will and way for all…

– And! three times… do not be afraid, not afraid, not afraid…

God’s radical purpose/mission:

– that no child and no one would be cast out to survive on their own…

– for the common good of all children of God, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, agnostic, atheist, none…

– for the mending of the universe… all creation included, even the sparrow…

– for liberating by God’s grace… true freedom for all people

– for the healing of the world… in care, compassion and support

– for salvation and eternal life and ways everlasting… lived and shouted from the housetops today and forever…

That’s our mission, we’re God’s evangelists for this purpose…

– a certain popular coffee chain whose CEO uses this term…

– wants every customer to be a brand evangelist… inviting others to join in what is a movement… by their actions… and their constant holding of the cup that is a sign of their being a follower – my words… and you should be too… there’s one just around the corner… drop in, bring and colleague or friend…

– can we imagine being as loyal and committed and consistent in our habits and practises… as evangelists for God’s mission and purpose, for Gods radical calling to new life for every child and mother, for everyone and everything in this world?

That’s a radical, revolutionary truth, and purpose and mission… no less than a resurrection of everything in this world…

– but do not be afraid, not afraid, not afraid… because…

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Yes. Amen