Sermon – April 13, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
Southeast Kentucky Ministerial Alliance Joint Service
Grace on the Hill, Corbin, KY
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred…. Matthew 21:10
Please be seated
First of all, I truly believe our gathering must make God happy. As denominations, we have our different ways to worship and truly, the unity when we come together at times like these, representing the oneness of God, makes for blessed times and times of great honor to God. And you will have more times to be in such a place as we go through Holy Week with weekday noontime services at churches here in Corbin and a Good Friday evening service in Williamsburg. Take advantage of this holy time and these holy gatherings.
Have you ever been in an earthquake? I remember the first time I truly felt an earthquake. I was in San Francisco for a conference, staying on the 18th floor of a hotel. The quake wasn’t even a 2 on the Richter Scale and was not centered in San Francisco, but there was no mistaking what was happening. AND there was no warning. By the time I realized the whole building was moving back and forth, the quake was over, so there was no time to even move to the bathroom like you’re told. And forget running down 18 flights of stairs and out of the building. That quenched my desire to move to California, I have to tell you!
In 2011, when many of you felt the earthquake centered in Virginia, I was riding in a car, so didn’t feel the movement, but I saw what it could do. Prior to leaving for Seminary, the Washington National Cathedral was my church and after the 2011 earthquake, seeing the beautiful, vaulted ceiling with netting underneath it, was sad.
During the summer of 2012, I was a seminary intern at the Cathedral. Outside my office lay huge pieces of stone that had fallen off the roof during the quake. On the 1-year anniversary, I was able to celebrate some of the repairs by climbing to the top of one of the towers, where a floor had been constructed for the stone masons doing the repair. We celebrated the repair of part of the stonework, which had been accomplished by recycling a piece of stone that had fallen during the quake. Yet, much remained to repair and I have a photo of me standing by one of the pinnacles, where a long piece of stone was still buckled and you could stick your hand through the space created.
Even a mighty building of strong stone buckled under the shaking of the earth.
In our Gospel today, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem is like an earthquake. In fact the Greek Word used in Matthew is seio and we get our English word seismic from that same Greek root.
And isn’t that how Jesus comes to us in our own lives? Jesus shakes everything up. Jesus moves even the strongest of us off the comfortable foundations we’ve built for our lives. Jesus turns everything upside down. Because that’s what unconditional love does. It is so strong. It breaks down and breaks in everywhere we think we know what’s going on. It asks us to love stronger and deeper.
And here we all are in this region of Southeast Kentucky. We are called by Jesus to love deeper. We are called to be the body of Christ here in this place. We are called to be Christ’s hands and feet and heart and arms. We are called to be the earthquake…the shaking and the stirring in our community.
It’s a tall order. We all know how Jesus continually taught about justice, freeing people from oppression, caring for the “least of these.” We are continually challenged by Jesus’ command to the young man, rich young man or ruler, depending upon which Gospel you read, to go sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. Make no mistake, Jesus loved the outcasts and downtrodden of his time…those without voice and without power. We are called to do the same.
I was looking at some of the statistics for our region. In our region, there is hunger, poverty, unemployment and lack of housing.
- 60% of school age children are eligible for free lunch, which is 25% higher than Kentucky as a whole and 15% higher than the United States as a whole.
- 27% of the population lives in poverty, which is 40% higher than the Kentucky statistic and 70% higher than the United States as a whole.
- 54% of renters in our region cannot afford the fair market rent for a 2 bedroom rental unit.
These are just some of the basic essentials for life. If you don’t have food, you don’t do well in school or you become ill. Poverty creates extreme stress according to recent studies. A lack of housing leads to a host of other problems like increases in child abuse and domestic violence.
Jesus enters and the region shakes. Stones are thrown down to the ground like little pebbles!
And we have made efforts in addressing the challenges in our region. We have a backpack program preparing backpacks of food every week so children will have something to eat over the weekend. We have sites for feeding programs during the summer when the children are out of school. Many of our churches have food pantries. Canned food will be collected this week at each of the noonday services, as well as the Good Friday service. Many of our churches prepare meals for all who are hungry.
We have shelters for people who are homeless and organizations that build affordable housing. The Southeast Kentucky Ministerial Alliance, through your offerings at our joint services, including those this week, provides emergency assistance to people needing help with basic needs, as well as other agencies and ministries in town. The Shaping Our Appalachian Region or SOAR efforts are finding creative ways to energize our region economically. Creative and innovative people see the strength in the beauty of the region and the beauty of life here and are working to make it sustainable.
And Jesus continues to shake us…continues the quake…continues the earthquake of love that demands we love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus asks us to examine our efforts…to strengthen them. Failure to do so through complacency and neglect invites God to break our resistance just like those huge stones that toppled in an instant during the earthquake.
Jesus has entered Jerusalem and the city will never be the same. Jesus has entered our Southeast Kentucky region, moving us, shaking us, and catapulting us into action.