Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rise Again: Thoughts on the Readings for Pentecost 3 (RCL Proper 10C, 5 June 2016)

Rise Again
Thoughts on the Readings for Pentecost 3

RCL Proper 10C
5 June 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
1)    Sometime I find watching the news an experience that tests my faith in God and my faith in human nature.
a)    The forest fires that raged through Ft McMurray and the surrounding areas may have been caused by human agency of one sort or another.
b)    Unscrupulous profiteers extort thousands of dollars from refugees to buy a place on vessels that are not sea-worthy causing the deaths of thousands of men, women and children.
c)     An seemingly never-ending conflict in the birthplace of civilization, fuelled by religious fanaticism and political corruption, is a constant story, whether on the air, in newsprint or digitally.
d)    While home values rise rapidly in our major cities, more and more people are unable to find stable housing to support their desire for a home.

2)    Yet, when I am tempted to fall into despair and to wonder why I believe in a God who is generous, compassionate and just, there are moments that renew my faith.
a)    Canadians from coast to coast to coast have given generously to help the people of Ft McMurray begin to rebuild their town, their homes and their lives.
b)    Seafarers from throughout the world risk their lives to rescue those refugees and migrants whose boats founder.
c)     The Sikh community in the Lower Mainland offers Syrian refugees free education in the Sikh schools.
d)    A Nanaimo man opens his home to people with brain injuries or conditions, so that they may have a place to live, to work towards independence and to regain that personal dignity which is theirs by right.

3)    In today’s readings from the Scriptures we hear stories of how people who have been brought to the edge of despair are pulled away from the precipice and given life.
a)    The widow of Zarephath gives water to Elijah and opens her home to him despite the drought that has brought her and her son to the point of starvation.  God, through the prophet, gives them all enough food to survive.
b)    When her son dies suddenly, leaving her with no future, no protector, no status, God, through the prophet, revives her son and turns tragedy into joy.
c)     Paul, so convinced that he is doing God’s work by persecuting the early Christian movement, pursuing them to Antioch and beyond, realizes that he has actually been working against God’s purposes.  His blindness to God’s work in Jesus of Nazareth is cured and he begins his missionary work that will result in you and I being here today.
d)    Like the widow of Zarephath, the widow of Nain faces certain poverty and social discrimination.  All that stood between her and this fate was her son and now he is dead.  By raising the son to life, Jesus gives her back her future.

4)    God’s last word to the widow of Zarephath, to Paul of Tarsus and to the widow of Nain was not ‘death’ nor ‘despair’.  God’s last word to them was ‘life’ and ‘hope’.  I am not describing some sort of na├»ve and childish belief that all will turn out for the best.  I am describing a faith in God’s generosity, compassion and justice that is more powerful than all the forces that try to thwart God’s purposes and destroy the creatures of God.

5)    In 1982 a freighter went down off the New England coast.  One crew member made his way to an overturned life boat.  The seas were stormy and waves washed over the boat.  He was convinced that he had only delayed the inevitable.  And as he pondered his fate, the words of a Stan Rogers’ song came to his lips.  He kept singing that song every time a wave came over the boat.  And he was singing it when the Coast Guard pulled him out of the water.

6)    It was the ballad of the Mary Ellen Carter, a song that told the story of a group of seamen committed to raising their sunken ship, a ship that had gone aground through the negligence of a drunken captain and mate, a ship that had been written off by its owners as soon as the insurance money came in.

She went down last October in a pouring driving rain.
The skipper, he'd been drinking and the Mate, he felt no pain.
Too close to Three Mile Rock, and she was dealt her mortal blow,
And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.
There were just us five aboard her when she finally was awash.
We'd worked like hell to save her, all heedless of the cost.
And the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim
That the Mary Ellen Carter would rise again.

Well, the owners wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend.
She gave twenty years of service, boys, then met her sorry end.
But insurance paid the loss to us, they let her rest below.
Then they laughed at us and said we had to go.
But we talked of her all winter, some days around the clock,
For she's worth a quarter million, afloat and at the dock.
And with every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain
And make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

Rise again, rise again, that her name not be lost
To the knowledge of men.
Those who loved her best and were with her till the end
Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

All spring, now, we've been with her on a barge lent by a friend.
Three dives a day in hard hat suit and twice I've had the bends.
Thank God it's only sixty feet and the currents here are slow
Or I'd never have the strength to go below.
But we've patched her rents, stopped her vents, dogged hatch and
porthole down.
Put cables to her, 'fore and aft and girded her around.
Tomorrow, noon, we hit the air and then take up the strain.
And make the Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again.

For we couldn't leave her there, you see, to crumble into scale.
She'd saved our lives so many times, living through the gale
And the laughing, drunken rats who left her to a sorry grave
They won't be laughing in another day. . .
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again.  Throughout the centuries of the Christian movement we have witnessed highs and lows, triumphs and defeats.  But God, who is ever faithful, keeps singing the same song to us, ‘Rise again.  Rise again.’  In all that we face, in all that we witness, may God’s song be our song, ‘Rise again.  Rise again.’

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