We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Plastics Polluton

Plastics are present in furniture, construction materials, cars, appliances, electronics and countless other things. According to the New York Times, the main cause for the increase in plastic production is the rise of plastic packaging. In 2015 packaging accounted for 42% of non-fiber plastic produced. That year, packaging also made up 54% of plastics thrown away.

Plastic pollution is now recognized as a hazard to public health and the human body

Chemicals leached from some plastics used in food/beverage storage are harmful to human health. Correlations have been shown between levels of some of these chemicals, and an increased risk of problems such as chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.

The EPA estimates that production of plastic products account for an estimated 8% of global oil production. The drilling of oil and processing into plastic releases harmful gas emissions into the environment including carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, ozone, benzene, and methane (a greenhouse gas that causes a greater warming effect than carbon dioxide) according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. 

When plastics break down due to exposure to water, sun or other elements they can break into tiny pieces -so tiny,most of them cannot be seen with the naked eye. These small plastic fragments are now everywhere. When you drink water, eat fish or other seafood, or when you add salt to your meals, chances are you can also be ingesting tiny pieces of plastic. Those particles -called microplastics- are a contaminant which is now present in the oceans, water ways, the soil and even in the food that we eat. Once plastic enters the bloodstream of an organism it stays there.

What you can do – Reduce, Recycle, Remove

 You can calculate your plastic footprint here

 Step 1  –Reduce your consumption of plastics.

 1. Take a reusable coffee cup with you.

 2. No to plastic straw

 3. Cut down on plastic carrier bags    bring your own!

 4. Use dishes, glasses, and metal silverware instead of their plastic counterpart

 5. Choose cardboard and paper over plastic. 

 6. Say no to single-use plastic bottles! Stop buying bottled water. Carry a reusable bottle to limit the number of throwaway bottles, a major source of pollut

 7. Select products that are designed for multiple uses and making sure nothing gets thrown away before its usefulness is spent is another effective way to drastically reduce one’s plastic pollution footprint.

8. Take a little extra time while doing your shopping and select products without plastic packaging. and always be sure to avoid products that are  xcessively wrapped in plastic.

9. When you go clothes shopping, avoid fabrics with plastic microfibers such as nylon and polyester.

Step 2- The second step to be sure to take is recycling the plastic you do use and making sure you are doing so properly.

 Port Royal Convenience Site

25516 Tidewater Trail

Port Royal, VA 22535

Step 3 The final step is contributing to the removal of plastic that is already in the environment by recycling your plastic bags and participating in roadside and river clean-ups.

Season of Creation, 2022

The burning bush is the Symbol for the Season of Creation 2022. Today, the prevalence of unnatural fires are a sign of the devastating effects that climate change has on the most vulnerable of our planet. Human greed, desertification and land misuse lead to the disintegration of ecosystems, the destruction of habitats, and the loss of livelihoods and species at an alarming rate. Creation cries out as forests crackle, animals flee, and people are forced to migrate due to the fires of injustice that we have caused.

On the contrary, the fire that called to Moses as he tended the flock on Mt. Horeb did not consume or destroy the bush. This flame of the Spirit revealed God’s presence. This holy fire affirmed that God heard the cries of all who suffered, and promised to be with us as we followed in faith to our deliverance from injustice. In this Season of Creation, this symbol of God’s Spirit calls us to listen to the voice of creation.

May this 2022 Season of Creation renew our ecumenical unity, renewing and uniting us by our bond of Peace in one Spirit, in our call to care for our common home. And may this season of prayer and action be a time to Listen to the Voice of Creation, so that our lives in words and deeds proclaim good news for all the Earth.

Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological seminary wrote the following about creation care. “The fundamental mandate for creation care comes from Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to “till it and keep it…” Human “dominion” as intended in Genesis is best practiced in care for creation, in stewardship, which according to Genesis Noah fulfills best by implementing God’s first endangered species act.”

Keys to the Season of Creation

For centuries, our theology our theology has focused on relationship with God and our human relationships with one another. The Season of Creation focuses God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation (and with God through creation). It highlights our role in understanding and addressing address the ecological problems we face today as a part of God’s creation.

“Imagine a great circle. God encircles everything else in this circle.

Inside the circle is a second circle, and that circle is us. We human beings encircle the rest of creation, at the center of the circle. Look at the word, earth. If you move the letter “h” from the back of this word to the front, the word “earth” becomes the word “heart.”

We are going to look at 6 keys to the Season of Creation

1 God as Creator The Spirit of God moving over the face of the water created the earth. Creation is also on a journey,  it is ongoing constantly in a process of being made new. 

The Bible speaks of a God who is not passive or distant, but active and involved.  God here exercises divine power through peaceful means. God creates by the word “In the beginning, God designed a home, a home in which God dwells, a home in which God delights, a home which God calls good. The earth is God’s home…”Nothing goes to waste in this creation. All this creation has a purpose, and every bit of this creation depends on every other bit of creation.” 

I his letter to the Romans, right up front, Paul makes this statement.”Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things that God has made.

The goal in worship then is to deepen our understanding of God as Creator, to celebrate God’s role as Creator, and to examine and deepen and widen our own relationships with God, creation, and with one another. How are we impacting creation which God said was “good.”

2 Jesus brings us Abundant Life –The Word Jesus was always with God even before creation began.

Jesus is the source of truth and understanding of God’s will.  All of creation, including planet Earth, is the result of the impulse of the Word (Christ) from God.  The Word is the supreme creative force through Whom all things were made.  Jesus is the source of life by which men have a relationship with God and hope of eternal life.  Christ reconciles all things in heaven and Earth

The Word is also divine wisdom, the principle of reason that gives order to the universe. Jesus dwelling in nature as one of us to bring us abundant life

As one of the Collects says  “Things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Take a walk through the woods and you’ll see fallen trees and decay, and yet new birth is everywhere with seeds and new life Volcanoes give birth to lava.  When the lava cools into rock, lichens grow on this rock, helping to erode it into soil in which plants can take root.

3. Role of the spirit. As the “Giver of life” and the “Sustainer of life,” the Holy Spirit is the source of our empowerment, inspiration, and guidance as we seek to live in a way sustainable for all God’s creation. Being “in the unity of the Holy Spirit” encompasses our relationship with all of life. This is foundational for our worship.

4  Humans have a role in Creation Care as caretakers and to be healers because we were created with the rest of nature . The breath of life is the created spirit that God gives all living creatures so they can live. In Genesis 2:7, it says that God “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul

We came from Earth and we cannot survive without all that Earth provides. Just as Earth has creative powers, so Earth itself has restorative powers. Unless we have centered opportunities to express awareness of and gratitude for our  dependence upon Earth and our relationship with other creatures, we will not be whole as human beings.

Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological seminary has written “The fundamental mandate for creation care comes from Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to “till it and keep it…” Human “dominion” as intended in Genesis is best practiced in care for creation, The root of the word “dominion” is the Latin word “domus,” the word for home.  To have dominion over the earth is to be a housekeeper of the home of all creation.  Our task, as the people of the earth, is to encourage the earth’s fruitfulness rather than to strip it of every life-giving resource. The world is a gift and we need to nurture it as such to make is prosper

5. What must we do ? Open our eyes to the beauty of creation and see life is connected

In his letter to the Romans, right up front, Paul makes this statement.  “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things that God has made.” 

This healing and care cannot even begin until we take the time to open our eyes and truly see what is around us; to know that even in the midst of the degraded condition of the earth, glimpses of the goodness that God had in mind at creation are still visible.

When we truly look at our home in creation, the original goodness and perfection of God’s plan for all of creation and for all of us gets revealed to us, and in that perfection, we can see the promise of the kingdom of God that will someday come  to earth.

We tend to get lost in the big picture as we miss the details.

That’s why we must first, before we do anything else, take the time to appreciate the natural world in its beauty and sometimes terrible magnificence, to see it as the dwelling God has given us rather than an object to be used up for our own benefit.  As the Pope has said many times, “We are the guardians of Creation” and “everything is connected.” We must be the stewards of our earth and be on guard for its exploitation.

We were created with the rest of nature. We came from Earth and we cannot survive without all that Earth provides. Just as Earth has creative powers, so Earth itself has restorative powers. Unless we have centered opportunities to express awareness of and gratitude for our  dependence upon Earth and our relationship with other creatures, we will not be whole as human beings.<

So Jesus says, don’t just walk past a lily in the field.  Stop and consider it.   

To dwell on the beauty of a flower is to peer into the perfection of God’s creation.  And to dwell on the beauty of creation can be a hopeful act, one that sustains people in the face of the most unimaginable disasters.

This act of seeing is a prayerful activity.

This act of prayerful seeing gives us hope and gives us an undying longing for  the kingdom of God to come on earth, which is why Jesus taught us to pray, that God’s kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  In God’s kingdom on earth all of creation will be restored.

6. Season of Creation emphasizes the creative role of humans. We must act to heal and restore our creation that was a gift to us. – Our baptisms in living water help us claim our place in God’s harmonious creation. When that baptismal water pours over our heads, we are given the opportunity to open our eyes to God’s creating powers throughout our lives. We have the desire to seek that new creation even when all around us has grown old and hope seems to have vanished.   

 The world is filled with creativity because it was created by a creative God whose art and talent are inexhaustible. In recent years, much of humanity has viewed creation as a resource to be exploited rather than a mystery to be celebrated and sustained. The time has come not only to celebrate creation but to transform our human relationship to creation by worshiping in solidarity with creation

Through the Season of Creation and worship  we have an opportunity to come to terms with the current ecological crises in a spiritual way so as to empathize with a groaning creation. Worship provides a viable and meaningful way not only to include creation’s praise of God but also to engender a deep relationship with the suffering of a groaning creation.

“Imagine a great circle. God encircles everything else in this circle.

Inside the circle is a second circle, and that circle is us. We human beings encircle the rest of creation, at the center of the circle. Look at the word, earth. If you move the letter “h” from the back of this word to the front, the word “earth” becomes the word “heart.”

The current ecological crisis affects most of 6 days of creation – 2nd Day the sky , 3rd day – dry land, seas, plants and trees were created, 5th days creatures that live in the sea and creatures that fly were created 6th day animals that live on the land and finally humans

There are 4 areas of the environmental crisis.

  1. burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas are adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that will cause temperatures to exceed 1.5C, most simulations suggest. 
  2. Rising temperatures causes rise of sea levels though warming of water and melting of glacier
  3. Severe water shortages can be expected when there will be no or only very little ice left to melt in the summer. This will affect food supplies
  4. the global benefits provided by trees are being threatened by deforestation and forest degradation Deforestation is a major cause of global warming. When trees are burned, their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere.  The most important factors are clearance for agriculture (including cattle ranching), poor governance (illegal logging, corruption, and ineffective law and order), insecurity of land tenure, the system of international trade, poor planning (e.g. building of major trunk roads in forest areas), and unsustainable logging
  5. We long for the new creation when all is made whole, complete, contained, safe. All of us, no matter how our lives have gone, came from the life giving safety of our mother’s wombs. And somewhere deep down inside, it is to that safety and security that we all long to return.  

Scripture describes this womb-like environment for humanity as the Garden of Eden, where all of creation lives together in harmony. 

This is our season of waiting.

In birth and death, springtime and harvest, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, we are waiting on God.

And while we wait, we undertake our journeys within this world, hoping for the day when we will reach that place that the generations before us have reached—the presence of God, our Garden of Eden.

But as we journey, we must remember and rejoice in the fact that God has granted us the miraculous privilege of a sojourn in the midst of God’s intricate, magnificent creation.

God, who is constantly breathing and speaking new life into all of creation, will renew our strength and give us wings like eagles for our journeys to God, who is our beginning and our ending and our beginning again.    

For everything there is a season.

So may we rejoice as the seasons turn, one to another, and as the days that seem long turn into the years that fly by.

But when we lost our way, so did the rest of creation.

But although we have lost our way, we have never lost our longing, and neither has creation.

And in that longing for the new creation lies our hope, and the hope of the whole creation

Jesus himself connects us with one another when we find him present in our midst as we break the bread and pour the wine and share it together, connected around God’s table, so that we can then go share God’s love with the world, working to reconnect what has been lost and disconnected.   

And when we come together in God’s name to reconnect with creation itself, the creation that God calls good, the creation that God dwells within, the whole creation that God will gather in at the end, the insects, the birds, the creatures, the trees, the oceans and rivers and the earth itself,

God will rejoice as we work to reconnect all that we have broken and divided.

And we will find joy and rejoice ever more deeply and fully as God reconnects all of us in the fullness of time into God’s new creation– as it was in the beginning, and is now and ever will be, God’s world without end.

Sermon, Season of Creation 1, Sept. 4, 2022

Sermon, Proper 18, Year C Season of Creation I 2022

We are no strangers to counting the cost of things. 

In these days of high food prices, I see people going through the grocery store, calculators in hand, counting the cost of items on the shelves before placing those things in their grocery carts. 

A person who is buying a car counts the cost of driving the  car under consideration over time, considering gas mileage, the inevitable upkeep and repair charges, the cost of new tires, and insurance costs. 

Many people count the costs of having children  before deciding to have children. 

Buying or building or renting a house—what will the cost be? 

I don’t know about you, but I get put off by what Jesus has to say in today’s gospel, when he tells the crowds who are traveling with him that if they expect to be his disciples, they must count the cost.

Jesus says that the costs of discipleship include our possessions, our families, and even life itself. 

These costs don’t make sense to rational, sensible people who work hard for what they have, love their families, and treasure their life here on this earth and, in addition, as followers of Jesus use all of what they have for good purposes.

But for dreamers, who often seem to lack sense and to be irrational, these demands of Jesus make perfect sense, 

because dreamers can see beyond what is to what might be. 

Dreamers are willing to pay any cost, no matter how high,  to realize the dream.   

Jesus himself was a dreamer.  He dreamed of bringing God’s kingdom of love to earth.  Jesus lived as if his dream were already a reality. 

Instead of working as a carpenter, gathering the possessions he would need to live a respectable life as a craftsman, instead of marrying and settling down, having children, being a respected, faithful, dependable man in his community—all of which would have been good, and would have made a positive difference in his immediate world, Jesus left all those dreams behind for a far bigger and better dream, the best dream– the  kingdom of God’s love spreading over the earth, restoring universal joy and justice and peace to all of creation. 

Ultimately, this dream cost Jesus his physical life on this earth, a price that even Jesus hesitated to pay as we know from his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death. 

Jesus knew that for those who followed him, this dream of God’s reign of love coming to earth must become their dream as well, and that they too, must be willing to pay any cost to live into the dream.   

So Jesus taught his disciples how to pray the prayer of dreamers, the Lord’s Prayer. 

Only dreamers, or at least people who are willing to try to dream, would pray the very first petition in this prayer, and I’m going to put it in the familiar language that we have up on the wall behind me,

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” 

The New Zealand Prayer Book’s translation of “thy kingdom come”  fleshes out the dream of God’s reign on earth a little more.   

“The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!  Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.”

Jesus calls dreamers, or at least people who are willing to dream, to follow him, regardless of the cost. 

He tells them to carry the cross, and to follow, knowing the cost. 

That cross that Jesus asks the disciples to carry is the cross of obedience, obedience to God, for following God’s commandments also requires that we be dreamers, to be able to see beyond the dreams of immediate gratification to the bigger dream of God’s reign as a dawning reality in the process of being fully realized.

No wonder, then, that Moses, way back in Deuteronomy, asks the Israelites who are waiting to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land to be dreamers as well. 

He asks them to choose life instead of death,  to dream of a life defined by loving God, obeying God and holding fast to God.  Obedience to God would lead to a dream realized –life in a land flowing with milk and honey, a place where the Israelites could at last put down their roots and grow into the people that God hoped that they would become—because you see, God is a dreamer too, to believe in people at all! 

Today’s letter to Philemon from the apostle Paul is about a dream that Paul has for a man named Onesimus.  Paul has met Onesimus in prison and Paul has a dream for the future of Onesimus, greater than just Onesimus getting out of prison and going back to his former life with Philemon, which is a pretty good dream. Paul dreams that Onesimus will go back to Philemon and that rather than continue on as slave and master, Onesimus and Philemon will be brothers as they would be in the reign of God come to earth.

So Paul writes to ask Philemon to be a dreamer too, to be obedient to who he is as a follower of Jesus, to forgive Onesimus and to take him back not as a slave, but as a brother, and in doing so, to bring into reality for Onesimus the dream of God’s reign of love and justice come to earth, and in doing so, to make that witness of love and justice visible to the world. 

How do we disciples of Jesus make God’s love and justice visible and active in the world today?  How is God calling us, here and now, to be obedient to God, regardless of the cost?

Here at St Peter’s, we have been dreaming the dreams of God’s reign of love and justice coming to this earth in our work on racial reconciliation.  The Sacred Ground scholarship which we established this year is the result of a dream of wanting to address the historic inequities in education for people of color in our nation dating back to slavery and continuing in decades of racist government policies that denied people of color the opportunities that white people had.  Our hope is that the people of color who receive the Sacred Ground scholarship in the years ahead will find justice, peace and freedom in having been able to pursue their educational goals a little more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.    

And here at St Peter’s, we also dream the dream of God’s reign of love and justice for all of creation, which is why we observe the Season of Creation each year, along with the wider church—our Catholic and Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters, and more and more, people throughout Christendom, taking the time to celebrate and consider what it means to care for creation intentionally as part of our obedient discipleship as followers of Jesus. 

As all of creation is suffering more and more greatly from the effects of climate change, this Season of Creation reminds us, as dreamers, to dream again the dream of God’s earth sustaining  the web of life and security for all living beings that God planned at the beginning of creation. 

Our temptation as rational, sensible people is to count the cost and to decide that we cannot wholeheartedly care for the earth as disciples because the cost is just too high—too inconvenient and too expensive.  Maybe the small, feel good stuff, but that’s enough.

For too long, we have settled for the small dreams of our own easy lives at the expense of dreaming God’s dream of ecological justice for the earth.  Our obedience gets compromised by putting our own wellbeing and ease ahead of obedience to God, who appointed human beings as the earth’s caretakers.

When we come to our choices regarding how we care for the earth,  we have literally reached the point  of choosing between life and prosperity or death and adversity as Moses said so long ago.  God sets before us life and death, blessings and curses in our relationships with creation. 

What we do, or choose not to do, for creation will literally mean life or death for our children and our children’s children. Consider plastic, which is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that we don’t think twice about buying and using it. Seemingly small decisions like choosing plastic containers over biodegradable containers because the plastic containers are cheaper and more convenient or choosing the convenience of a plastic water bottle over a refillable water bottle are ultimately death dealing decisions for the environment.

But wait, I recycle, you may tell yourself—I tell myself that all the time.    

But here’s the awful fact that we forget at our own peril—that plastic NEVER decomposes. 

Instead, over time plastic breaks into plastic fragments.  The plastic fragments eventually become micro fragments, and then the micro fragments become nanofragments, so small that they can barely be seen with the most advanced microscopes.  These nanofragments already swim throughout our water supply.  Even in the most remote regions on earth, the rain itself contains these nanofragments of plastic.  We are drinking in these nanofragments and because they are carried on the wind, breathing them in as well. 

In today’s world,  choosing material other than plastic for things we use  when possible is a choice for life rather than death.

So today, I challenge us all to dream again the dream of God’s earth sustaining the web of life and security for all living beings that God planned at the beginning of creation.   Let’s carry the cross of obedience and follow Jesus in the ways that we decide to care for creation, regardless of the cost. 

And I challenge us all to dream the dream that Jesus himself dreamed and lived and died for, the greatest dream we could ever dream, the dream that Jesus dreams that we, his disciples will dream—God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.    

Videos, Sept. 4, 2022 – Season of Creation I

1. Hymn – “When Morning Gilds the Skies”

2. Hymn – “A Scottish Blessing”

3. Gospel reading Luke 14:25-33

4. Sermon

5. Selection from Prayers of the People on creation

“We pray for your creation: convict us of the ways in which we break down and destroy the fabric of your world and give us the will to amend our ways as we seek to live in harmony with the goodness you have created. ”

6. Offertory – Solo piano

7. Eucharistic Prayer – “We Give Thanks”

8. Concluding Blessing

9. Concluding Hymn – “This is My Father’s World”

Sunday links, Pentecost 13, Sept. 4, 2022

Presentation from Victoria School in Jamaica

Sept. 4, 11:00am – Holy Eucharist

Season of Creation, Sept 1 – Oct. 4

  • Zoom link for Sept. 4 Meeting ID: 869 9926 3545 Passcode: 889278
  • Bulletin, Sept. 4, 2022
  • Lectionary for Sept. 4, 2022, Pentecost 12
  • Sermon, Sept. 4, 2022

  • All articles for Sept. 4, 2022
  • This Week

  • Ecumenical Bible Study, Wed, Sept. 7, 10am-12pm. Reading lectionary of Sept. 11
  • Thurs, Sept 8, 3pm Parish House Tea to welcome Alice Hughes
  • Pentecost 13, Year C, September 4, 2022

    I. Theme – Exploring the meaning of discipleship and commitment.


    “Climb That Hill”

    The lectionary readings are here or individually:  

    First Reading – Deuteronomy 30:15-20
    Psalm – Psalm 1
    Epistle – Philemon 1-21
    Gospel – Luke 14:25-33 

    Today’s readings explore the meaning of discipleship and commitment. In Deuteronomy , Moses challenges God’s people to “choose life” by remaining faithful to God. In his personal letter to Philemon, Paul disarms the slaveholder’s authority by bidding him to receive the slave as a dear brother. In today’s gospel, Jesus describes a disciple as one who knows the cost and is willing to make a radical surrender to Christ.

    The Gospel says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

    Hate our parents? Reject our spouses? Deny our children? The traditional hyperbole of today’s gospel may have been designed to separate the serious followers from the crowd. Whenever huge throngs gather, we can assume a variety of motives. Did they follow Jesus from curiosity, hope for healing, need for security, peer pressure or self-interest? He dispels all motives but one: radical commitment to a way of life that carries an exorbitant cost.

    The final verse of today’s gospel reading (Luke 14:33) reiterates Luke’s concern that possessions might be an obstacle to Christian commitment. His concern can be interpreted in many ways. Jesus was addressing people who didn’t have any possessions, so why would it pose a problem to them? Luke Johnson argues in The Gospel of Luke that the language of possessions is symbolic, referring not so much to wealth (which can be used for good or ill) as to attitudes. Jesus wants vulnerable people, ready to surrender their assumptions and find a new identity in him. On the other hand, he rejects those who cling to comfortable ideas and who resist transformation.

    Yet to over-emphasize symbolism would blunt the evangelist’s sharp social criticism. He wrote for a wealthy community, or for well-to-do Gentiles concerned that conversion might mean grave economic loss. He challenged them to continue Jesus’ welcome to the economically poor and to work for a reversal of the social order that would bring justice to all.

    While Luke does not offer a definite answer to the problem of possessions, he suggests a direction that is fleshed out in Paul’s letter to Philemon. There we find a concrete example of the radical commitment Jesus demanded. Paul has the audacity to ask a slave owner to give up a costly possession; in this case, a human being. Furthermore, he invites a shift in attitude: that Philemon see Onesimus not as slave but as brother. His plea combines both elements of Luke’s message: relinquishment of possessions, change of heart. If we have the courage to apply the message to our own lives, we probably respond with an honest “Ouch.”

    There are other thoughts about living a life according to God.  There are two ways to live: to live into God’s ways, or to live into the way of the wicked. It is clear in the Scriptures that the way of the wicked is to abandon God. Do we abandon God in exchange for a set of rigorous rules? Do we abandon God in exchange for worldly success, comfort and wealth? Do we abandon God to be around people who think, look and act like us, where we are comfortable? Or do we seek God’s ways, which are not always easy but are often hard—to be among people who are different, to be open to learning new ways of thinking, to stand against war, injustice, and poverty? One way is more straightforward and easy, but serves ourselves. The other way is harder, but serves others, and is concerned about the whole community—the whole kingdom—the whole reign of God.

    II. Summary

    First Reading –  Deuteronomy 30:15-20

    The book of Deuteronomy was written as Moses’ farewell address to the people of Israel gathered at the border of the promised land. The book re-presents Mosaic teaching in order to deal with the changed situations of later history. The applicability of Moses’ teaching to each generation is emphasized (5:3; 6:1-2).

     This reading comes from Moses’ third address (chaps. 29–30). It challenges the people to decide between two ways of living, life or death, blessing or curse, as they prepare to enter the land that was prepared for them. The format reflects treaties between nations of that period. These concluded with a call to the gods to act as witnesses to the treaty. Here the whole created universe is called to witness the covenant (31:28).

    The people are urged to “choose life,” not merely a prolongation of days but the fullness received in love, obedience and faithfulness to God.  In a classic prophetic “rib” pattern, heaven and earth are called to witness what God sets before Israel: “life and death, blessings and curses”.  It is classic covenantal speech that beseeches Israel to do one thing.  “Choose life!”

    For those who follow God, obey the commandments, observe the ways they have been taught, God’s blessings are with them now and always. But for those who go astray, who do not follow the commandments and what they have been taught, it will lead only to death. This is part of the final discourse of Moses, warning the people that the way they live their lives matters. The way we live our lives shows our faithfulness to God, our upholding the covenant. God cannot break the covenant, only we can.

    Psalm –  Psalm 1

    Psalm 1 reflects the blessings and curse of life choice reflected in Deuteronomy. For those who turn towards God, the blessings of life are found in the life well-lived; for those who turn away from God, they will not experience the blessings. This isn’t about worldly success and riches, but rather the blessings are wisdom and fulfillment—even joy—for those who choose to follow God.

    This psalm, with its call to a righteous life based on knowledge of the “law of the lord” (v. 2), the Torah, serves as a fitting introduction to all the psalms. It springs from the wisdom tradition, which emphasized how to live in both material and spiritual prosperity.

    The righteous are those who have not taken the advice of the wicked, nor imitated their way of life, nor joined in their rejection of the law. They “meditate” (v. 2) upon it, literally, read it aloud in a low voice. The lord is in intimate and personal relationship with the righteous.

    Here all of these portions of Wisdom are assigned to the ones who love YHWH.  They are compared to the “wicked” that are like chaff.  Another agricultural image describes the righteous – “like a tree planted by streams of water”.  Note, however that it is not an ideal tree always in bloom and with fruit – no, times and seasons govern these as well.  Real life is lived by both the righteous and the wicked.  The righteous will be given the way of life, a path not granted to the sinner.

    Epistle-  Philemon 1-21

    This is the only personal letter of Paul’s to have been preserved. Paul writes from prison (perhaps in Ephesus around AD 56 or in Rome around AD 60), to Philemon, an earlier convert of Paul’s (v. 19b), in whose home the local congregation now meets (v. 2).

    Onesimus was converted to Christianity by Paul, and the relationship between the two men was most like quite close.  The book becomes an exercise in practical Christianity in the face of social norms and expectations.  The letter consists of four sections: a) Introduction (1-3), b) Thanksgiving (4-7), c) the main Body (8-22) and finally a d) Conclusion (23-25). Onesimus has now runaway. The legal penalties for runaway slaves were severe.

    Paul complies with the legal requirements by returning the slave and by making himself responsible for all damages due the owner. Paul asks Philemon to receive back his runaway slave, Onesimus, and then, like Abraham at Sodom, asks him to go farther and to send Onesimus back to Paul for “he is indeed useful to you and to me.” 

    In the privacy of their relationship, Paul pushes the boundaries of their relationship in Christ.  There is no preaching against slavery, nor is there any accusation about Philemon’s desiring Onesimus’ return.  Instead there is the request to understand this as a situation unique to these two, no three, Christian men. 

    Paul is able here to use the slave language to advantage, he who described himself as a slave to Christ.  Thus he describes the possibility for Onesimus as “no longer a slave but more than a slave.”  Paul does not push his apostolic authority, but yet implies a greater authority that ought to direct Philemon’s response, “Confident of your obedience.”   

    Playing with Onesimus’s name (which means useful, beneficial), Paul points out that the formerly useless slave is now useful to both of them and asks for Philemon’s generosity (vv. 20-21). Paul’s letter is a masterful work of rhetoric in hopes of convincing Philemon to not be harsh to Onesimus, but to welcome him back and to see him differently—no longer as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. Paul is calling for Philemon to change his mind, to change his view. Paul calls Philemon to become a person of stature, to embrace a larger vision of his social context in which all people are God’s beloved children, worthy of affirmation.

    This is not merely suggested as a personal favor to Paul but is grounded upon the recognition that the slave is now a “beloved brother” of his master, “in the flesh and in the lord” (v. 16). Philemon is left to decide his own course of action: whether merely to refrain from punishing Onesimus, or to free him or to accept him as a fellow evangelist (and perhaps send him back to Paul).

    The Revised Common Lectionary excludes the last few verses of personal note, but verse 22 is very important because Paul is going to follow up and make sure that Philemon is treating Onesimus well, for Philemon is a follower of Jesus

    Gospel –  Luke 14:25-33 

    This scripture also needs to be set in context Luke’s parables in Chapter 13 – 14 (of which this is part) which calls us to whom we should direct our ministries – the crippled woman, the man with dropsy, and the guests from the highways and byways.

    In this reading, Jesus cautions those who accept the invitation into the kingdom too easily. In Semitic idiom, hate means to lack commitment or attachment, a point made clear in Matthew 10:37. Coming to Jesus for teaching and healing must be complemented by following him as disciple and servant (9:23).

    Therefore the “hatred” of father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters” is not disaffection from persons we love, but rather understanding the even greater things that Christ calls us to.  The family of reference is really the larger family of discipleship.  What is it, we ought to wonder, that Jesus really calls us to, and do we know the cost of it.

    The two brief parables illustrate the point that one must count the cost before undertaking a demanding enterprise.

    1. ” For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ The tower is not a fortification but a farm building, a watchtower or a silo.
    2. ” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” 

    Verse 33 does not summarize the parable but counts the cost of true discipleship: renunciation.

    This passage does cause to examine the larger context of our lives. Are we “possessed” by our possessions, stressed out in our quest for the comforts promised by the American dream? To love the world rightly we need to place God at the center of our lives; conversely, we love God best by bringing beauty and joy to the world. The vision of an impossible ideal can motivate us to seek the most realistic transformation in our current situation.

    Ordinary Time, Sept 4- Luke 14:25-33 – The Cost and Benefits of Discipleship

    Climb that Hill

    Here is the passage

    This is at least the third time Jesus has said something provocative. Jesus makes a statement in 12:51 about not bringing peace. Also consider his actions on the sabbath in 13:11. Now another teaching moment on the cost of discipleship.

    Picture yourself in the crowd following Jesus. You can only see his back. Occasionally, he turns around to deliver a difficult saying, almost as if daring people to continue following him. Yes, he is probably trying to reduce the crowd by making the way harder than it is now. Jesus is beginning to sense the “all” that lies ahead for him personally (betrayal and denial by his closest companions, followed by false arrest, torture, and brutal execution). He is trying to find the genuine seeker.

    This text begins and ends with an “all or nothing” injunction about following Jesus, with two practical illustrations in between.

    a.  introductory statement (25)

    b. “hating” family members (26) // Mt 10:37; Th 55:1; 101:1-3

    c.  bearing one’s cross (27) // Mt 10:38; Mk 8:34; Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23; Th 55:2

    d.  tower builder (28-30) –illustration 1 no parallels

    e.  warrior king (31-32) –illustration 2 no parallels

    f.   renouncing all possessions (33) no parallels

    Jesus has three demands three demands or renunciations: (1) one renounces one’s family; (2) one renounces one’s life–by bearing the cross; (3) one renounces all that one has. Note the demands are for disciples, the leaders, not to those who are invited to only come eat at the table. Grace is for all but not discipleship.

    The Three Demands:

    1. Renounce family

    The word “hate” use here is different than in our own time It means “to turn away from, to detach oneself from,” rather than our animosity-laden understanding. In Genesis, we read in one verse that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (29:30), but in the next verse, it literally says that Leah was hated (“unloved” see also v. 33). Leah was not hated like we usually use the word, but Jacob simply loved her less than he loved Rachel. Jacob didn’t have an intense dislike for Leah.

    The family context is important. You were identified by your family. Individuals had no real existence apart from their ties to blood relatives, especially parents. If one did not belong to a family, one had no real social existence [like widows and orphans?]. Jesus is therefore confronting the social structures that governed his society at their core.

    “Hate” is used in the sense of subordinating our natural affections, even our own being, in commitment to Jesus. A person who decides for Jesus may well find their family opposed to their new faith. In such a circumstance, loyalty to Jesus takes precedence over loyalty to family – if you want to be a disciple – a leader in the Jesus movement. Ultimately Jesus’ appeal is not to ignore people’s interest but to appeal to them. You want real profit? You want real life? Then follow me – become detached.

    2. Bear Cross. Jesus usually says to take up the cross but this time is to bear the cross. In the Interpreter’s Bible it says this “Cross bearing requires deliberate sacrifice and exposure to risk and ridicule in order to follow Jesus. This commitment is not just a way of life, however. It is a commitment to a person.”

    Bearing the Cross simply may mean bearing the burdens. Luke travelled with Paul and in Galatians – “From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.” If indeed Luke accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, he would be familiar with the Pauline vocabulary. Paul no doubt thought deeply about the way that his discipleship to Christ was like marks on his body–indeed, he says that his imprisonments and punishments were for Christ.

    3. Give up possessions

    Giving up possessions means saying farewell to them. How important are they ?The idea is not being possessed by them so they don’t divert you from the task at hand. This is also related to families Jesus regularly associated family power with possession power, because both belonged together. One of the reasons for family power was protection of possessions.

    This may be more in eliminating what is dear or in the way to follow a life of simplicity to follow and act on what Jesus has to say. It is also to possibly examine our priorities and place him higher on the list

    If doesn’t mean “if I give up all my possessions, I will be automatically admitted into “Christ’s club”. It is not what we don’t have that tells us whether we are genuinely followers of Christ – it is what we invest what we have in moving the kingdom of God forward in our time and in our place.

    The passage ends with two parables. The first one is calculating the costs of building a tower. Think about the cost of discipleships before you begin, not during.

    Often, if we wait until everything is perfectly planned before beginning a project, we would never get started. On one hand, one should know about the costs of following Jesus and not just “go along with the crowd”, but on the other hand, we don’t know exactly what “crosses” may be before us. A  would-be disciple needs to consider the cost of discipleship

    The second is going into battle with much fewer troops

    A wise person would consider the “cost” of going to war before tackling an enemy who could easily overwhelm them. Faced with such an enemy, a wise person would sue for peace. A would-be disciple should consider the cost – don’t start what you can’t finish.

    Think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made. Divided priorities drain the ability of the person to be a disciple

    In summary

    On one hand, Jesus makes it very difficult to be his disciple. It will cost us everything and we need to know the cost before “jumping” in. Reliance on family and possesions must be set aside for a total dependence of Jesus, the cross-bearing Christ. Such a decision for Christ comes with consequences: humiliation, shame, trouble in relationships and life in general- bearing the cross

    On the other hand, Jesus may be making it impossible to be his disciple using our own abilities When we confess, “I can’t,” then we are open for God’s “I can.” Self-reliance must be set aside for a total dependence of Jesus, the cross-bearing Christ. Discipleship means a relationship of learning and growth with Jesus as the teacher and God as God, not family.

    In the book Power Surge, Mike Foss lists “six marks of discipleship for a changing church” which he expects members to practice. They are:

    • daily prayer
    • weekly worship
    • Bible reading
    • service in and beyond the congregation
    • spiritual friendships
    • giving time, talents, and resources

    They are simply habits of the soul that open us to the wonder and mystery of God’s active presence in our lives. They keep us focused; they fix our attention on the things of God.