This is the sermon the Rev.Canon Janet Waggoner preached at the diocesan worship service for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2020.
The Rev. Canon Janet C. Waggoner
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth Worship Service
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Year A – Pentecost XIII – Proper 17 – Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6,23-26,45c; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
I speak to you in the name of the Living God: Holy Trinity, ever One. Amen.
Good morning, dear people of God in the Fort Worth area and around the world. In this time of disconnection, I want to take a moment and acknowledge that in this very moment, we are worshipping together with our neighbors – our neighbors from across the street and around the world – who are tuning into this worship service together. I hope that stating this reality helps you feel a little bit closer to one another, a little bit more connected.
During this time of pandemic, political strife, and natural disaster, we need one another now more than ever. A national survey taken the last week of June by a leading health agency in the US found that 41% of adults are struggling with anxiety, depression, and/or substance abuse. And this was before recent natural disasters across the country – from Hurricane Laura in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas to wildfires in Colorado and California – have made hard times worse for millions of people.
I ran across a cartoon in The New Yorker this week which captures our current struggle with wry humor. A grim-faced woman says to her partner who is camped out on the sofa:
“No, it’s my night to be despairing and hopeless. You get Thursdays.”
How are we to get our footing in the midst of it all, when even the rocks beneath our feet, the ones we have so depended on, seem to be shifting and are no longer dependable?
Psychologists tell us that there are a few reliable ways to get back on solid ground. One of these is to stay connected to others – and staying connected doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re viewing this service on Facebook Live, look at the comments people are making as the service progresses. Sitting in church, I have often wondered what other people are thinking, whether or not they were inspired by words in a hymn or Scripture reading. Well, worshipping together on Facebook Live, you don’t have to wonder any longer! You can hear what others are thinking and make comments of your own in the dialogue box on the side of your screen.
Another reliable way to get back on solid ground in the midst of the storms of life is to have a clear sense of purpose. In addition to the pandemic and political strife and natural disasters, people are having their own personal crises as well. A death in the family, the loss of a job, figuring out transportation and childcare when schools aren’t in session. In the midst of all that, it’s hard to feel like anything we might do is enough, like anything we might do will make a real difference. We may be tempted to try to do everything – or to hide our heads in the sand and do nothing.
You might be afraid to even start thinking about having a purpose because, let’s face it: there’s a possibility that you might end up like Moses. All he does is turn aside to look at a bush that is on fire, and his purpose ends up being leading the people of Israel out of slavery!
I invite you to remember that purpose, that faithfulness, doesn’t have to be big. In fact, most of the time it looks small in the moment.
This week, a friend of mine shared a prayer that touched my heart. It’s a prayer by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Lord, please let our small mustard seeds of daily service
grow into great shrubs of change and
trees in whose branches the birds can nest and
in whose shade our children can rest and feel safe. Amen.
In the midst of ALL the chaos and challenge of these days, what is your purpose? What burning bush can you see out of the corner of your eye, calling you to turn aside to be something, to do something?
For me, the burning bush this summer has come to me in the voices of two friends who are African-American. Their words were simply this: don’t stop now. Their concern is that after all of the awareness-raising about violence against African-Americans, after all of the marches and protests this Spring and Summer, they are afraid that little or no lasting change will occur. So my purpose is to continue to write letters to the editor and support legislation, to speak out and stand alongside my brothers and sisters, so that justice will “roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
What burning bush is waiting for you, calling you to turn aside?
In the past, when I have preached or taught about seeing a burning bush or about hearing the voice of God, there has always been someone who has said, I’ve never heard the voice of God, there have been no burning bushes for me. This morning, if that is you, I invite you to do this: Read again the words of Paul in today’s passage from his letter to the Romans. In the paragraph just before our reading today, Paul has called the Christians in Rome to “present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” and has described in broad strokes what it looks like to love God and love your neighbor. Then, in the passage we read this morning, Paul names some specific things that Christians might do. Who knows? You might just catch a glimpse of a burning bush in his words.
And If you don’t, attend your church’s online coffee hour or call a friend and ask them to help you see the burning bush, the one that’s there for you, waiting for you to turn aside and see what God has for you.
Blessing for today, by William Sloane Coffin:
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short,
grace to risk something big for something good,
grace to remember that this world is now too dangerous for anything but truth
and too small for anything but love.
And the blessing of God almighty – holy Trinity, ever One – be with you now and always. Amen.
 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm – Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1external icon.
 The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. based on Amos 5:24.
 Romans 12:9-21