Today is both the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.
And the Day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Nineteen weeks focusing on
the renewing, creative work of the Holy Spirit.
And a special focus on the Holy Spirit's work
inspiring us even today
through the life of this twelfth-century Saint.

Today you can enter countless churches across this City.
And, across the denominations,
experience a near equal number of blessings of animals.
Which is right and good.
A joyful celebration of the goodness of all creation.

More than anyone, Saint Francis,
has pointed people across the generations
to the birds of the air,
creatures of land and sea.
Pointed people to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Brother Wind and Fire, and Sister Water.
As he terms them in his beloved
"Canticle of creatures."
Theology in song.
Ecology in song.
Pointing us to the inter-connected
and mutually life-giving character
of all creation.

No wonder Pope Francis begins his recent encyclical,
subtitled "On care for our common home,"
with the constant refrain of that canticle.
Laudato Si'
Praise be to you.

For the creation, as God first made it,
was good,
so very good and life-giving,
that all creation
sang of God's glorious praise
for this most glorious gift.

Yet, today the creation groans.
Groans because in recent generations
we have so badly misunderstood our place in it.
We misread human dominion over the earth;
misunderstand our status of being made a little less than divine,
as permission to mistreat the earth.
To borrow Pope Francis' words,
perilously misstep in our
"unbridled destruction of nature,"

Destruction of air and land.
These essential sisters and brothers.
And our Mother Earth.

The thing about the destruction of the earth,
is that destruction of nature effects people,
our sisters and brothers;
effects the human family
because each of us relates to the earth
in many and various ways.

Human relationships to the earth,
and relationships to one another
are inextricably linked in a wondrous ecology of care.

Today, Jesus responds to a certain abuse of that care.
If you study Torah,
you see that Jesus is not so much disturbed by divorce,
so much as he is disturbed by a
blatant judicial, legalistic exploitation
of the allowance for divorce.
"Unbridled" disregard of husband for wife,
and wife for husband.

He likens such caviler disregard,

A heightened, not-to-be-missed response
to his interlocutors,
to a society
all-too-willing to employ technical legal prowess
for one person's gain
and another person's peril.

If you cringed when you heard the Gospel
or didn't naturally see the legalistic opportunity Jesus condemns.
Don't worry too much.
You're not alone.

We have so terribly mis-read this passage of scripture.
As defense of the exclusivity of different-gender marriage.
As the prohibition of divorce.
That in condemning those who do not adhere to our mis-readings
we've missed the point all together.

Our own Lutheran publishing house
-- a tradition claiming a grasp of Holy Scripture
a cut above the rest --
terms the passage "Teaching on marriage."

Jesus point is this: law is not just if it does not protect all.
The protection of the least of these.
The vulnerable.
The powerless.
The most often forgotten.
Even forgotten in the bonds of marriage.

The protection of a child, entirely dependent on another.
For their wellbeing.
For care.

Which makes we wonder what Jesus would say
about our lack of concern for each other
as expressed in our lack of care for the earth itself.
The very thing of which we are all made.
This dust of the earth.
Dust that has the very breath of God.
The breath of life.

Makes me wonder
what Jesus would say
about our lack of care for the little ones in our midst.
The ten dead in Rosenburg, Oregon.

No, I don't have to wonder at all --
he sternly rebukes the disciples.
Rebukes us.

And, weeps with us.
Weeps with these ten families

The conditions which lead Jesus
to such an overtly stringent interpretation of Torah
Are largely behind us.
At least in America.
Where due process is granted divorcees.
Where spouses have protection.
And children.
People are no longer considered property.
To be discarded or taken advantage of.

Of this part of God's creation,
we have instituted some important
checks and balances.

But, not our care for the least among us.

Many of us thought the tragedy of Columbine
would propel us to enact reforms.

When that didn't happen
we thought our legislators would act.
A decade and a half later after:
the carnage of Sandy Hook.

We continue our neglect,
preferring to argue over the number of such shootings since,
and various technicalities.
Rather than actually doing something of substance about it.
Google "school shootings since ____fill in the blank___",
and you'll be disgusted by the level of discourse.

If we were shocked then,
Today, to borrow the observation of our President,
we've become numb.

A friend traveling through O'Hare airport
posted that as news broke about Umpqua Community College,
he observed no stop-in-your-tracks,
prublic response.
Vast numbers of people simply went about their business,
as though nothing significant were happening.

Sisters and brothers,
it is as though we've re-written the
Pharisee's interaction with Jesus
trumpeting that Moses allowed people
to buy the deadliest of weapons without the intent to do harm.

Weapons such as these
have no other purpose than tearing apart flesh.
And bodies.
I mean, when parents need to identify their children.
And they are not shown the bodies, but photographs
because these weapons do such horrible destruction.
Jesus' response is certain:
All are accountable to this bloodshed.
as though committing murder.

We exist in relationship to one another
and to the whole creation.
To fail to protect the creation and one another,
To disregard the creation and one another,
For whatever reason, however technical or legal,
Is especially heinous.
A violation of the ten commandments.

Because to have such disregard for creation and one another
is ultimately
to cause damage to ourselves,
and to the image of God, the Imago Dei, we all carry.

Pope Francis could not so much get the words
"Do unto others"
Out of his mouth,
in his address to the joint meeting of congress,
before the House Chamber
erupted in applause.
The golden rule,
is powerful.

And if we apply it in this case.
In every case related to the goodness of the human family,
and of the creation.
We see just how much injustice and harm
we are doing to one another,
to Mother Earth,
and to ourselves.

If I have little hope for America,
I have very much hope for the Kingdom of God.

For the kingdom of God is founded
on that very thing on which God founded the creation.
As in the beginning the Spirit hovered over the waters.

Waters which gave birth to us and all creation.
Waters which wash sisters and brothers
into the communion of saints we call the body of Christ.

Waters, which are God's promise of life eternal
to those saints murdered in Rosenburg
-- whose pastors
will now sprinkle their caskets with this very same water --
as in Newtown,
in Columbine,
and in so many other places.

Waters which are God's tears,
weeping with us.

We have this water.
Have it to wash away our sin.
Have it to wash over this land.
This politics of ours.

Water as strong as a mighty river.
flowing by the throne of God
and beating against the chambers of Washington.
Waters to cleanse us and the whole earth.

So that, like Noah, we might see
a bow in the sky.

So that, like Miriam, we might dance
on the safe side of the sea.

Might have breath and water
in Ezekiel's valley of dry bones.

Might wade in the Jordan as Jesus
who in rising brought us to new life.

The waters of God's good creation.
Among us.
Sure and stronger than any of our neglect.

The scriptures tell us that
if there is anything that makes us human,
a little higher than the rest,
It is intelligence.
It is being endowed with responsibility.
The waters of the Kingdom of God
Call us to that responsibility.
Call us to join God's promise:
"behold I am making all things new." (Rev 21:5)

To trust this water's ability
To make us and all creation
good again.

To mark our bodies
-- our minds, lips and heart --
our very lives and all we do with this water.

For our sake.
For our children's sake.
For the sake of the life of the world.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York


Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Saint Mark 10:2-16