Sermon: Barbara Marshall
Sermon: The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
The Parks and Wildlife Department of a small northern town released a warning for local golfers. It advised them to take extra precaution and be on the alert for bears while playing on the courses in the town.
Golfers were encouraged to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert, but not startle, the bears unexpectedly of their presence. They were also advised to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.
The announcement went on further to explain that it was a good idea to watch for signs of bear activity. Golfers should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings on the golf course. Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur. HOWEVER, grizzly droppings have bells in them that smell like pepper spray.
Playing golf can be a dangerous activity. One must weigh the risks and rewards before embarking on a potentially bear-laden golf course. It is the same with discipleship. It comes at a cost, but also at a great privilege. Instead of bells and pepper spray, we are equipped with fruits of the Spirit and other God-given gifts to bear our own dangerous lives in attempt to follow Christ pandemic or no pandemic.
My guess is most of us are tired of hearing about the pandemic. Many of our daily-living plans have been derailed. We are faced with situations and decisions that force us from our comfortable, safe existence. Do we ignore COVID 19 and its variants? Do we get a vaccine or not? Do we minimize the problem and sweep it under the rug? And what about those uncomfortable masks? Do we wear them or throw them on the ground?
Perhaps a story about the man who pioneered facemasks can shed a little more light and hope for a healthier future.
A deadly plague was spreading throughout the northeast regions of China, within four months, 60,000 people died.
Sound familiar? Actually, the year was 1910. The Chinese government recruited one of the best trained physicians in Asia at the time, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh. Dr. Wu had studied infectious diseases in England. After performing a series of autopsies, he found a bacterium similar to the one that had caused bubonic plague in the West. Dr. Wu realized immediately that this disease was not transmitted by rats or fleas but by infected droplets humans sneezed and coughed into the air. Dr. Wu designed a face covering based on ventilators from the Victorian era; padding layers of cotton and gauze, with strings so the users could secure it to their head. The mask was simple and inexpensive to produce.
Dr. Wu had designed the modern facemasks.
Dr. Wu’s mask was met with skepticism. A French physician was particularly critical of Dr. Wu’s findings and refused to wear the mask – but the doctor soon was infected and died of the disease. His death shocked the Chinese in following Dr. Wu’s advice.
Dr. Wu urged everyone, especially health care professionals and law enforcement, to wear the masks. Chinese Authorities mandated that everyone mask and also followed Dr. Wu’s directions to enforce stringent lockdowns and quarantining the sick. Four months after Dr. Wu began his work, the plague ended.
Dr. Wu went on to establish teaching hospitals in epidemiology and public health.
While masks became a political flashpoint in the United States, and elsewhere during the Spanish flu pandemic in the 1920’s, facemasks became a symbol of national pride and modern health care in China that continues today. Dave and I know this fact to be true because we were in China several years ago and witnessed mask-wearing. Often times, it is because of the poor air quality. In fact, during the days we spent in Chengdu we rarely saw the sun because of the air pollution.
The people of China and Southeast Asia have covered their faces during outbreaks of meningitis, cholera and influenza for more than a century. For the Chinese, masking is viewed as a matter of social responsibility and care for one another.
After a year and half, many of us have had enough of facemasks- but would we think of them much differently if our national experience was like that of the Chinese? Today’s Gospel challenges us to think of things like facemasks as “crosses” we take up in the spirit of Jesus to bring healing and peace to Good Friday brokenness. In some of the hardest words he speaks in the Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that discipleship calls us to “crucify” our own needs and comfort for the good of others; to take on, with humility and gratitude, the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves. Only in “denying ourselves” in imitation of the servanthood of Christ do we experience the true depth of our faith. Only in embracing his compassion and humility in our lives do we enable the Spirit of God to renew and transform our world in God’s life and love.
Let us Pray!Holy and Gracious God, the pandemic is trying for each and every one of us. There are so many differences of opinions on the best ways to deal with the COVID 19 and its variants. Help us to not think like humans but to think like You. We are all Your children and it is our responsibility to put aside our differences and think more like You. Help us to think not only of ourselves but others as we try to do all that is necessary to eradicate COVID 19 and all the variants. Help us not to dwell on the negative. May we stop our whining, pick ourselves up, and do what is necessary to move on toward more normalcy. As disciples, help each of us to take up the spirit and love of Jesus as we do our part to bring healing and peace from our current pandemic. We praise and thank you for your positive influence and loving guidance. Amen!
Resources for this Sermon• Connections for September 12, 2021• Lectionary Levity by Markam and Gottlich p. 162