First Sunday of Lent 2018
The Rev. Justin R. Cannon

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Chief Seattle

“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
John Muir

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“How we eat is connected to how we care for the planet
which is connected to how we use our resources
which is connected to how many people in the world go to bed hungry every night
which is connected to how food is distributed
which is connected to the massive inequalities in our world between those who have and those who don’t
which is connected to how our justice system treats people who use their power and position to make hundreds of millions of dollars while others struggle just to buy groceries
which is connected to how we treat those who don’t have what we have
which is connected to the sanctity and holiness and mystery of our human life and their human life and his little human life.”
Rob Bell

If there is anything the leaders, teachers, prophets, and poets have to teach us, it is this one simple truth: all things connect. In fact, this theme is event resounding in the Scripture lessons we heard today. In the Old Testament lesson God says, “I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you…” This is not just a covenant God makes with the people, but with all the animals, in fact, later in that passage God refers to “the covenant between me and the earth.” This conveys a relationship between not just God and humanity, but God and the whole creation.

Similarly, there is an interesting detail included in the Gospel lesson we heard from the Book of Mark. He writes, “And the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” We always think of Jesus alone in the wilderness, tested by Satan, but he’s not alone. Saint Mark writes that the wild beasts—creatures of the earth—and the angles—the creatures of heaven—were with him. In his desert journey and companionship, the interconnectedness between humanity, beast, and heaven is illuminated…I think that was a glimpse or foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God. Not surprisingly, when he departs from the desert Jesus goes to Galilee, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” The Kingdom of God has come near! The prophet Isaiah offers us glimpses of this Kingdom:

“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.” (Isaiah 11:3-8)

Echoing the words of Reverend King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The organization Episcopal Relief and Development has presence in over 40 countries helping to rebuild after disasters and to empower people to create lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger, and disease. In 2009, at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, Lent was designated as a time to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief and Development or ERD as it’s commonly known. In fact, this very day we join congregations across the country recognizing today not just as the first Sunday in Lent, but also Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday. Congregations around the country are joining hands to support ERD’s work through prayers, sermons, and special offerings.

In our parish narthex free Lenten Meditation booklets have been provided by Episcopal Relief and Development. Sean McConnell, Senior Director of Engagement for the organization states, “At Episcopal Relief & Development, we are blessed by partners who nurture some of the world’s most vulnerable children. They are people of deep faith and spirit. In this edition of Lenten Meditations, we look to the source of that faith, encountering Christ in the children they serve.” Their organization is committed to four main goals:

The 2018 Lenten Meditations series focuses on the gifts of children in profound and joyous recollections and reflections of educators, caregivers, parents and grandparents.  ERD stands behind the belief that:

  • everyone should have access to clean water
  • no one should go hungry
  • all children and families deserve a healthy start in life
  • no one should live in poverty
  • and that together we can heal a hurting world

In the Kingdom of God these are realities. And we pray each Sunday: thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May this Lenten journey be a time of introspection, and may we learn not just to repent f the ways that we have dishonored the web of life, but also may we reflect on the areas in our life into which God might be calling us to actively work, in concrete and tangible ways, to heal those bonds and restore an awareness of our connectedness to all of life.