Readings – Jeremiah 22:13-16; Psalm 148:7-14; Galatians 6:14-19; Matthew 11:25-30
This morning my sermon will be an old-fashioned three-point reflection on St. Francis whom we honor today. Our entire liturgy honors him with the Beatitudes, with the post-communion prayer that is attributed to him, with the four-part blessing, and with the lessons and collect designated for his day.
Point #1. St. Francis saw in the beauty of creation the handiwork of God. When we call it “creation”, we also affirm the Creator behind the creation. We of Central Pennsylvania are so used to seeing the sky, feeling the gentle breezes, and enjoying the trees and flowers and fields full of corn, soy, beans, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and pumpkins that we sometimes neglect to notice. The beauty of what surrounds us is overwhelming if we pause to take it in. And that pause, taking a walk, sitting with coffee, or even while driving, is healthy! I believe that in creation we do find “rest for our souls”. (Matthew 11:30)
Point #2. St. Francis’ love of the beasts, the critters of creation. Tradition has it that he brought the animals into the Christmas season with live nativities with horses, cows, chickens, sheep, and doves. St. Francis affirmed the animal kingdom as our partners for they also embody spirit, just as we embody spirit. They are our sisters and our brothers. The creatures surrounding Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child were adoring, and giving thanks for his birth, too. As in Genesis, we are charged to continue to care for all of our neighbors of the animal kingdom, hence our Discretionary Offering today is for Mostly Mutts.
Point #3. #1 and #2 are “low-hanging fruit” so to speak in today’s world. #3 can cause vigorous discussion and disagreement throughout our nation and locally, too. This part of the legacy of St. Francis passed on to us is justice, justice for all people, for all are truly God’s people. We are to “renounce gladly the vanities of this world” (collect for today), and to vigorously pursue the justice of safety, of home and shelter, of food and water, of education and training, and of health care for all. If we can figure out how to land on an asteroid, collect material, retrieve it, and then transport it to Earth so scientists can analyze it, surely we can engineer how every person on our planet can:
live in safety from bombs and bullets, live in a structure cooled in the summer and warm in the winter, live with breakfast, lunch, and dinner packed with nutrition, live with safe and plentiful drinking water, live with healthcare to ensure wellbeing, and live with training and education to accommodate a person’s talents.
St. Francis not only gave up his inherited wealth which was substantial, he welcomed, he housed, he cared for the poor, and he begged for the poor. Justice is caring for the stranger and embracing them as our sisters and our brothers even if they are from Middleburg or Mifflinburg, from Sunbury or Shamokin, from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, from New Jersey or New York, from Uzbekistan or Ukraine.
To summarize, there are three lessons from St. Francis:
First, see the Creator behind the creation and give thanks, and let it soak into your very soul. Second, care for the creation, for all the beasts, big and small. Third, promote and pursue justice for all our sisters and brothers.