Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Environmental Stewardship Commission Lectionary Reflection Sermon for Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) and Gospel Lessons Year B, Fifth Epiphany

Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Lesson [2 Kings 4:(8-17)18-21(22-31)32-37]

[One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. She said to her husband, "Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us."

One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, "Call the Shunammite woman." When he had called her, she stood before him. He said to him, "Say to her, Since you have taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?" She answered, "I live among my own people." He said, "What then may be done for her?" Gehazi answered, "Well, she has no son, and her husband is old." He said, "Call her." When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, "At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son." She replied, "No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant."

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.]

When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. He complained to his father, "Oh, my head, my head!" The father said to his servant, "Carry him to his mother." He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. [Then she called to her husband, and said, "Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again." He said, "Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath." She said, "It will be all right." Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you." So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, "Look, there is the Shunammite woman; run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?" She answered, "It is all right." When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, "Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me." Then she said, "Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?" He said to Gehazi, "Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child." Then the mother of the child said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you." So he rose up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, "The child has not awakened."]

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the LORD. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite woman." So he called her. When she came to him, he said, "Take your son." She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.

Gospel [Mark 1:29-30: ] Jesus left the synagogue at Capernaum, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany, Year B by the Rev Wanda Copeland

Do you not know, little one? Have you not heard, grasshopper? Listen and learn. The earth is so large. The needs of the world are greater than you or I. Polar bears are drowning because the arctic ice is thin in too many places. The total ice coverage in the arctic had shrunk 25% in the last ten years. Species are evaporating at alarming rates. The changes involve habitat, climate at gestation, food cycle, and natural predators. Can you not see, little ones?

The singular commutes in our gas-guzzling cars to every place under the sun. Less trips, more careful planning, driving together or doing without would be better. Some of our vehicles get only 10MPG. Do we not care?

Over 90% of the world's ocean schools have been fished out. The imbalance is affecting aquatic plants and water quality around the world. We continue to farm fish in the ocean, putting more and more chemicals and intense amounts of waste in the water in concentrated areas. Do you not see, grasshopper?

The rainforests continue to be cut, whether for exotic woods, or to clear land for fast-food burger meat. In their wake are acres and hectares of naked land, which produce only stubble and rubble. The secret of the lushness of the verdant canopy was in its biodiversity and its finely-tuned ecosystem. Now destroyed, its naked smokestack can be seen from satellites. Are we not listening, little ones?

The Cuyahoga River once burned. It's nearby friend, Lake Erie, was full of red fish, poisoned with the pollution from our factories and towns. Hard work and strict regulations turned the water from putrid to acceptable. God mixed the brew and it became alive again. Now, we have to wonder what will ignite Erie again, as the toxic brew once again is being mixed. Have we not listened to the past?

The permafrost is melting. The Larson Ice Shelf, the approximate size of Rhode Island, broke off Antarctica two years ago. The edges of the ice are melting everywhere. Many suspect the thinness of the ozone layer near the poles, causing more intense sunlight to burn onto even the whitest of snow and ice. The resulting rising water levels have forced people to leave their island home in the Pacific. Within 10 years, four more island chains are expected to succumb to the rising waters. Can you not know, grasshoppers?

Each week in China, a new coal-fired power plant comes into operation. They want to plug in their hairdryers, refrigerators, and computers. China and India are achieving in ten years what it took Europe and the United States forty to achieve. But there are millions more of them doing it all at once. Why shouldn't they want what we already have? But, with old technology, the effects will be devastating. Are we not listening?

The earth is heaving and spitting and twisting in precarious convulsions. It generated a tornado in New Orleans last weeka tornado in January! Unbelievable! It may not be the end of the world as some fantasize. Just the end of us. And look how much of the world we want to take down with us.

We close our eyes to drought cycles in Africa, to changing wind and weather patterns over and around South America, to the loss of the Gulf Stream to northern Europe, and to the intensification of storms in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Super Bowl commercials are much more important. They are cute. This news is not.

Global climate change won't fit neatly into a sound bite for the pundits. Bogus says our President. Overblown says his cronies. Too much fuss say the oil executives. Reality say 99.95% of the scientists. Devastation on a scale we cannot fathom.

Jesus had only performed one miracle, says Mark. Everyone in the synagogue that day was impressed. But it came close to home. It was Peter's mother-in-law sick with a fever. Quietly and intentionally, Jesus went to her, took her by the hand and lifted her up. He brought life and health back to a single woman. He cared enough for a solitary life. And she responded by serving him. See, little ones, this is how it is done. Let me show you.

Healing does not have to be super-sized. It does not have to involve millions of people. Jesus healed the world around him a little at a time. He restored bodies gently and intentionally and with all the compassion he carried. The disciples had to have been impressed. They had only recently been called. Here was their new leader being the coolest cat in town. And this was the life they had just signed up for. Wow. What a dude!

He was about proclaiming salvation, but he was about healing. He was rabid about making lives whole again. Everywhere he went, people sought out the richness of life that he offered. Who wouldn't want to live life to its fullest. He wanted the disciples to see. They were right there, all gathered into the scene with him. See, grasshoppers, this is how it is done. The glory of our God is present in healed lives. Teach that, live that, become that.

We are those disciples. We have the power to heal. We can be destructive forces in our world, or we can be healers. Much of the destruction our life-style causes is optional. How many TV sets do we need? How big does the house have to be? Can we cut our water consumption?

Lift up your eyes to the hills. Gaze upon the beauty of a Minnesota lake. Walk slowly through an oak forest. The Holy One we profess has made all this. It is to his glory. In our greatest moments of hubris, we cannot imagine creating sunsets as majestic as the ones we already know.

If we worship him, why do we not want to protect God's handiwork? Is the good pleasure of God's creation not important enough to concern us? Are we waiting for some thunderbolt to come from the sky? He has sent us instead. We are the healers. Our hearts are full of all we need to know. Our hands and feet are the instruments of his healing touch. Our compassion is what drives our world.

Grasshoppers, we are so small. But if we unite, we can have as much force for good as the locusts across Egypt. Instead of stripping the fields, we can restore the waters and the air. We do know and we can see. God is good. It is our privilege to care for each other. For all the places and creatures he has shown us. We know. We can do it. Come little ones, let the whole world hear our roar.
Copyright Statement

The Rev Wanda Copeland is Rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Elk River, MN, and former Co-chair (1997-2001) of the Environmental Stewardship Commission and former Chair (2001-2004) of the Episcopal Ecological Network. She originally wrote this sermon in 2006. Wanda and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Wanda Copeland or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55734-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the web site.

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