“What the world needs now is peace”

Second Sunday of Easter

“What the world needs now is peace”

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Today, the world celebrates  Earth day.

Alina Bradford of Live Science reports on the history of Earth Day:

“The first Earth Day was in 1970. When Sen Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, saw the damage done by a 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, was inspired to organize a national “teach-in” that focused on educating the public about the environment.

Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, a politically active recent graduate of Stanford University, as national coordinator, and persuaded U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey of California to be co-chairman. With a staff of 85, they were able to rally 20 million people across the United States on April 20, 1970. Universities held protests, and people gathered in public areas to talk about the environment and find ways to defend the planet.

“Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values,” according to a history of Earth Day by the Earth Day Network, which was founded by the event’s organizers to promote environmental citizenship and action year-round.

Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of Earth Day, Nelson wrote in an article for EPA Journal, “It was on that day that Americans made it clear that they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources.”

Earth Day continued to grow over the years. In 1990, it went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated in the event, according to the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day 2000 included 5,000 environmental groups and 184 countries. Hayes organized a campaign that focused on global warming and clean energy. “The world’s leaders in Kyoto, Japan, in late 1997, acknowledged the scientific fact that the leading cause of global warming is carbon emissions from fossil-fuel consumption, and that something must be done to address those rising emissions,” Hayes told National Geographic.

In 2010, for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, 225,000 people gathered at the National Mall for a climate rally. Earth Day Network launched a campaign to plant 1 billion trees, which was achieved in 2012, according to the organization.

Last year on Earth Day, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked world leaders to sign the Paris Climate agreement aimed at keeping planet warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit). (Then U.S president Barack Obama signed the treaty that day)

Today, more than 1 billion people across the globe participate in Earth Day activities, according to EDN. 

Although Earth Day has become mainstream, surveys show that environmentalism may be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 42 percent of Americans believe that the dangers of climate change is exaggerated,  and less than half say that protection of the environment  should be given priority over energy production.

But Earth Day is still important because it reminds people to think about humanity’s values, the threats the planet faces and ways to help protect the environment, said Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

According to a survey from device recycler ecoATM, 30 percent of those polled plant a tree for Earth Day, and 23 percent clean up a local park. About 47 percent of those polled associate Earth Day with recycling.

Here are some Earth Day ideas from people around the country:

 

  • “The first is to promote understanding of important environmental issues so that more people are aware of the critical actions we need to take to protect our environment. The second is to commit yourself to service on or around Earth Day — plant some trees, clean up a stream or help your local community garden.”
  • “Read your labels, and require transparency from your favorite brands. Make a pledge to keep water clean and accessible for years to come,”  “Commit to making an at-risk species your mascot, and become an advocate for that particular species.
  • “Take a walk in nature and simply appreciate it, plant a tree or a flower, pick up a discarded bottle and recycle it (even if it isn’t yours), turn off your printer for a day, power off your computer and take a tech break, go vegetarian for a day, use a certified natural skin-care product.
  • “A simple way that everyone can celebrate Earth Day to make the world a better place is to turn off the lights in their own homes and in their offices … not just sometimes, but all of the time,” “It may sound simple, but how many times have you left the lights on when you could be saving energy?”

 

Singer and song writer Dionne Warwick sang her wonderful song on what the world needs now: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No not just for some, oh, but just for every, every everyone. What the world needs now is love sweet love.”

My favorite singer and song writer, John Denver, an environment lover sings his “Flower that shattered the stone”

  1. The Earth is our mother just turning around With her trees in the forest and roots underground Our father above us who’s high is the wind Paint us a rainbow without any end

[Chorus] As the river runs freely the mountain does rise Let me touch with my fingers and see with my eyes In the hearts of the children of pure love still roams Like a bright star in heaven that lights our way home Like the flower that shattered the stone

Sparrows find freedom beholding the Sun In the engine and beauty we’re all joined in one I reach out before me and look to the sky

 

What the world and all that dwell in it, need now is Peace. Peace that knows no bound, peace that surpasses all understanding. The kind of peace our Lord and savior Jesus Christ said to his disciples who were terrified of what had just transcribed in their very eyes.

The Peace that Jesus Christ declared to his disciples gathered in a concealed room after his death, was the most important word his disciples desperately needed to hear in that very moment when the Jews were looking for them. His disciples still cannot understand all that had transcribed and been happening. They just witnessed the brutal and horrific death on the cross of their friend and Lord Jesus. They were doubtful of the reports given to them by the women who first witnessed that his body was nowhere to be found in the tomb, even the report that an angel appeared and told them that Jesus had resurrected from the dead. And now, for fear of the Jews, they locked themselves in a room, perhaps recalling and putting together all the pieces in the puzzle and understanding the meaning of all these events. Jesus appeared to them the first time and still had doubts. This time, he appeared again in the presence of Thomas who now said, “My Lord and my God,” when he saw the marks of Jesus wounds.

I don’t blame Thomas for I too had my own doubts of the love of God. I was looking for miracle to happen when my dad was hospitalized and that I wanted to see him and talk to him before anything happens. When my prayers didn’t happen how I wanted it, I began to say “Why?” and doubt on God’s saving grace. It was until I heard the sermon during his funeral when the Bishop said the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord,” that I realized the true joy and abundant life that came out of that doubting experience of the saving embrace of God in the resurrection. It was in that experience that I received the Peace of Christ which passes all understanding, that peace that the world cannot give was brought by the source of all Peace, Jesus Christ himself.

I thank those who shared their life experiences reflecting on the 7 last words of Jesus on the Cross on Holy Week. There’s so much revelation and truth shared that a human experience can truly have, even that of doubting to get an answer from God. There have been times when we locked ourselves inside of us and ignore all that could possibly happen. Then, out of the sudden, Christ appears to us saying, “Peace be with you.”

Peace then is what the world needs now. Chaos is all around us. There are tensions everywhere and leaders are pushing each other into the limit, while the rest of the people in the world, especially those who have been there are terrified that they will again be brought into such experience. Young innocent children and old and tired bodies seniors are looking helpless thinking that the world have not learned from the past.

Peace is what refugees and victims of wars and violence in their countries of origin are desperately needed. They were forced to live in countries they are forced to adapt and yet meet resistance and apprehensions from the very peace loving country.

Peace is what our inner souls need when we cannot sleep thinking if are able to keep our roofs and able sustain our family when everything else seem to be unreachable and vain.  Peace is what our inner souls need when pain is all within us and seem to stay the rest of our lives. Peace is what our inner souls need when our lives are dependent on a machine that keeps us temporarily alive.

Last Friday, I shared the message to the members of the Bishop Committee that Deacon Tricia is experiencing her most difficult part of living under the help of an oxygen tank and antibiotics. Rev. Rebecca told me that Deacon Tricia said to her “goodbye.” I called Deacon Tricia right away and said, “I wouldn’t let you go without saying, “I love you and thank you for all the good deeds you imparted to every one of us at Holy Child and St Martin.” Then I said, “The Peace of Christ be with you.” She said, “Thank you” and we hanged up. The next day, Luz Mack texted me saying, “The doctors allowed Deacon Tricia to be airlifted back to San Francisco as her wish. Her oxygen level is better. She wants to sing during the April 29 concert. Deacon Tricia’s faith is always strong and positive in her resolves.

I have no doubt that our Lord Jesus Christ is always near Deacon Tricia, comforting her and keeping her faith high with God. She is at peace with God no matter what happens.

We all need that Peace and Love. The world needs that peace and love. Let us all be at peace and loving with each other, our family, our community, our nature friends around us, and the world. Let us turn to the person next and around us and make peace with each other, the peace that our Lord Jesus Christ wants us all to have. Amen.

“Blind, But Now I See” The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14,

John 9:1:41

 

Blind, But Now I See

 

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have been blind from birth, to sit in darkness, to need help with the basic activities of life.  You must beg to receive your daily bread. In the culture of the time, if you didn’t have any money, or family to care for you, you would have been destitute, outcast.  And then Jesus comes along to where you are sitting, without judging you and saying that sin somehow caused your condition.  He actually speaks to you. And then he asks you to do something strange.  He spits in the mud and makes a paste, spreads it on your eyes, and then asks you to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  And when you do, suddenly you can see! The beauty of colors, of sky, of earth, of animals, and especially human faces, the face of Jesus and your parents, fills you with joy and wonder.  It is overwhelming, and you feel quite overcome.  Who is this man, who can cure blindness?   Who is he?  You wonder, but your heart is singing, and somehow your intuition tells you he is from God.

There is so much packed into this story. Like the recent scripture passages we have heard over the past several weeks, the gospel writer is using the story as an opportunity to reveal the nature of Jesus.  As I have mentioned before, John’s gospel is filled with conversations that then become monologues with Jesus proclaiming his unity with the Father from before time, and his nature as the Son of God.  He uses “I am” a lot in this gospel, “I am the light of the world, I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life, I am the door.”  The gospel is also a window into what was going on in the life of the early church at the time.  As the last gospel written, John was probably composed around the year 90 A.D, when the church was struggling with its identity and seeking to balance its roots in Jewish tradition with the universal call to share the Gospel with all people.  Believers began to suffer persecution for their faith, and were thrown out of their previous places of worship.  There is a lot of talk about darkness and light, those who do evil and who don’t believe, and there was probably the expectation the Jesus was going to come again soon in his glory.  And yet, while that expectation of his coming in glory was in the future, in John’s gospel, it is also being realized in the present, in the here and now.  Jesus is the light of the world now, the bread of the world now.  He is the resurrection and the life, now.  The dead are being raised, the blind are being given sight, the lame walk, and people are coming to believe, now.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus is fulfilling God’s promise to reconcile the world to himself.

This is the setting for today’s passage, the backdrop for this story of grace and faith, of fear and doubt, of judgment and also of compassion, courage, and hospitality.  What did the story mean for those who heard it so many years ago, and what might it mean for us?  What does this story teach us about our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters?

First of all, I think it teaches an important lesson about the mystery of illness and suffering.  In the beginning of today’s passage, the disciples see the blind man and asked Jesus who sinned, the man or his parents, to cause his distress?  In ancient times, people commonly believed that illness and infirmity were punishments for sin.  As if the person afflicted weren’t suffering enough, imagine what it would be like to believe it was because of some sin or shortcoming in his or her life!  Jesus refutes this and says the blindness is not the result of sin.  He says he was born blind “so God’s works might be revealed in him.” I don’t think that is to say God caused him to be blind so that he could heal him later, because that’s not the way of love. Suffering is not sent by God, but is an inevitable part of living as imperfect beings in an imperfect world, and God longs for us to have wholeness. Sometimes it comes through a physical cure, as in our story for today, other times not.  But God always brings healing to our deepest spirit.

Second, Jesus’ response to the blind man is deeply, radically compassionate and hospitable.  He invites people to be seen, loved, and included in community.  Many of the religious authorities of the time reduced religion to a set of beliefs and purity codes that were burdensome and kept people distant from God, rather than drawing them close, as Jesus’ Abba, the  Father, longed to do  They put rules ahead of human need.  Rules about what could be eaten and with whom and what could be done on the Sabbath missed the point of the great call to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  Jesus is condemned because he healed the man on the Sabbath.  So the religious leaders consistently focus on the letter of the law, of following the rules, and miss out on grace.   For them, purity of observance is more important than purity of the heart that shows love and mercy.  At that time, and sadly, still in our own time, people who are disabled, suffer diseases, or mental illness are seen as invisible, unworthy.  Jesus will have none of that.  Not only was the blind man in the story able to see after his encounter with Jesus, he was seen, and valued, and cherished, and invited into relationship with the living God.  For us as Jesus’ followers there is no one who is beneath our notice or unworthy.  All are called to fellowship in the body of Christ.

Finally, this gospel juxtaposes physical and spiritual blindness. Physical blindness affects the body, the outward self, but spiritual blindness is a condition of the heart. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and religious authorities because they condemn the blind man as a sinner, yet are oblivious to their own lack of charity, of compassion, and of living faith.  They have their own preconceived ideas of what God is like, and box the Divine in with a fixation on rules, doctrines, and purity laws, when they should be focusing on works of love and mercy.  They have their own beliefs of what the Messiah should be like and how he should behave, and they can’t let the scales fall from their eyes long enough, they can’t come before him in humility and not knowing long enough to see that when they are in the presence of Jesus they are in the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwells. They are in a place of spiritual blindness because they find the darkness more comfortable than the light of truth that shows them their need and dependence on God alone.

What about us?  What blinds us spiritually to the presence of God in our midst?  Is it a judgmental spirit that looks for faults in others instead of graciously overlooking their flaws and appreciating how special and unique they are, gifted and cherished by God?  Is it a heart that has forgotten how to sing, how to be grateful, to receive life as a gift?  I know that at times I can have a complaining spirit, and am asking God to help me to give thanks and be grateful.   Is it the tendency to live from a place of fear and mistrust, which keep us from seeing the face of Christ in our neighbors, all of them?

Friends, what keeps us struggling with spiritual blindness?  Is it the desire for wealth and influence and power?  Is it unhealed resentment and bitterness that casts a shadow and a dullness over our hearts so that we can’t enjoy a loving relationship with God or others?  Or is it our own desire, buried deep inside, to be our own gods, to direct our own destiny, rather than joyfully surrendering ourselves to God?  How is God inviting you to let Jesus touch the eyes of your heart and soul and fill you with his light and peace?           The English poet and and Anglican priest John Newton let Jesus touch the eyes of his heart. He lived much of his early life without direction or concern for the life of his soul.  He lived recklessly and aimlessly for himself, and became involved with the slave trade.  He finally came to a point in his life, where in his words; he “professed his full belief in Christ, and asked God to take control of his destiny.” He then went on to become a priest, a prolific writer of hymns, and a fierce foe of slavery.  God had healed the spiritual blindness and transformed him.  People all over the world sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Blind, but now I see.  And yet even in our blindness and our darkness, God never abandons us.  In that wonderful Psalm, 139, we read that even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.  In John’s gospel we read that the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it.  God is calling us to invite Jesus into our hearts anew this Lent, and to let his light be our light, his vision our vision.  May we all grow more and more in the brightness of the vision of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. Amen.

Palm Sunday Sermon 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon

Rev. Leonard Oakes

April 9, 2017

“All glory laud and honor to thee redeemer king, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring…”

Today, we join Christians all over the world in celebrating the triumphant entry of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Holy City of Jerusalem. We come together to take part of that victorious journey by re-enacting that victorious march on which Jesus Christ and his faithful followers have displayed before the powerful city of Jerusalem. We sing our hymns and waive our branches of palms proclaiming Christ as the King of kings. We have been preparing for this for days! We have set a time for God, ourselves, our families, and our community reflecting on these acts. The blessing of the palms is not an invocation of magic, rather, as with all blessings, it is a prayer that God will save us from all threats to our lives, our holiness and our salvation. These blessed palms become symbols. They become expression that stimulates faith, hope and love. With this, we began to sing, “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.

 

But that is not all there is in the road to Jerusalem. That victorious entry also means the beginning of the painful experience our Lord Jesus had been preparing for. We suddenly change the mood from victory to the passion of Christ. That same road is what we have been preparing for as well during this season of Lent. We were given the choice to either walk with him or walk away and we know that walking away is never the answer to become a true follower of Christ. The road to Jerusalem also leads us to the cross and eventually to the Resurrection which is the final victory.

 

From the beginning of our liturgical celebration today, we were not mere spectators but participants of the grand procession with the blessed palms, the hymns of praises and eventually our sharing of the Passover meal and our mission to the world is itself a sermon. We have been resolved that it is our duty to proclaim the year of the Lord from this generation, to our children and our children’s children that this experience be a living experience we meet in our everyday lives; our everyday passion, our everyday victory. Our lord Jesus Christ in this very day did not call and teach disciples and followers to have audience in his painful sufferings and death. He knows the danger that is waiting for him in Jerusalem but he is not going there and wished to appeal to the nation solemnly gathered for the festival, to follow his way and so make possible the establishment of the kingdom so that they would either repent and follow its righteousness, or exhibit themselves as disobedient. But rather, he gathered them and led them to a destiny where they can be a witness of God’s saving grace an event that is going to take place in the resurrection. It is that same grace God gave his only Son to us. Humbled himself and became one of us that he may feel and live the life we have. He obediently followed the will of the father by lifting the lives of the less fortunate, the destitute, the lonely, and the persecuted. He prepared them about the coming event of his crucifixion in the place he was born and dearly loved, the city of Jerusalem. But he also assured them that on the third day he will rise again that the world may believe and that the world may be saved. With these, he simply taught his disciples to ride on an animal that is a symbol of quietness, not on a war horse, wave palm branches not missiles and guns and bombs; the songs of children not the cries of children from suffocations of nerve gas; How can children sing the hymn “All glory laud and honor to thee redeemer king, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring…”

 Jesus taught us of love and compassion, not hate and humiliation; of kindness and understanding, not bombing of churches and mosques or temples, not of trying to inflict more pain to anyone or nation already suffering from being dispersed around the world and losing their identity, yet being despised and not welcomed and loved. These refugees wanted to go back to their homeland because they experienced a lot of bully and rejection from other nations. But how can they go back when there’s so much danger and death waiting for them?

Yes, we must show our resistance to any aggression of war and power that lead to destruction and killing of people, children and the defenseless. But tooth against tooth will lead to more destructions of people than we originally intended to resolve. The world leaders have failed diplomatic solutions because of their own political and economic interests instead of the interests of peaceful resolutions. Why can’t we all lay down our weapons and peacefully march to Jerusalem? Jesus taught us to love one another as he has loved us. He peacefully marched to enter the dens of the lions, the powerful political and religious heads in Jerusalem, to show them that Love conquers all. The Love of God conquers our indifference, our selfishness, our hunger for power, if we only allow God to enter our hearts? It may not be easy as we are used to have and do, it can be painful and may even lead us to death.

Following Christ is not always a glorious experience, it can be painful and sacrificial even to the call of death. Such road is what our lord Jesus Christ would like us to follow. We too have our own roads to Jerusalem. It may be bumpy, rocky and even muddy. Our Journey may not be glorious but at least we chose the road that is essential to our faith as followers of Christ. God has assured us that in our struggles, he will always be with us. He will always be there for us like he was with Moses and Israel in their liberation from the bondage in Egypt; Like he was with Martin Luther King and the other civil rights leaders in their struggle for equality and brotherhood; like he was with mother Theresa of Calcutta on her compassion towards the poor, as he was with those who once lived and are living for the cause of the kingdom of God. God is with His Son Jesus and He is with us now.  

Whatever happens to our own transformed experience today in our reenactment of the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, and his passion experiences, may we be made into who we truly are, the body of Christ, bread for each other and bread for the world. Let us gather more and more in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the breaking of the bread and in our prayers for love, peace and unity of all God’s people.

Amidst all the uncertainties of the current events happening in the world, let us with steadfast love never cease to sing: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.” And by doing so, let us not forget that all will lead us to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Yes, to that powerful victory of the resurrection where the love of God is shown all powerful and loving. Oh blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!!! Amen.