Sunday, April 3, 2022

"Yesterday Today Tomorrow , Homily by Rev. Richard S. Vosko, The Fifth Sunday of Lent 2022 - Year C

"Jesus treats the woman as the social and human equal of the scribes and Pharisees.” What stops us from advocating a second chance and equal rights for all people?:

The Hubble telescope captured this image of the Star nicknamed Earendel, the most distant star ever discovered in the universe.



If you are looking for something to cast light on a dreary period of history you might find it in the discovery of Earendel. Astronomers say they are looking at Earendel as it existed 13 billion years ago! It was a bright blue super giant star that emerged 900 million years after the Big Bang. Earendel’s luminosity just reached earth and provides a new appreciation for our place in a vast cosmos. 1 Will the dawning of this star affect the way we understand what matters most in our mortal lives? Amidst global troubles imagine if secular and religious leaders got together to talk about Earendel. They could marvel at its distant brilliance. More importantly they could talk honestly and humbly about strategies for living peacefully on this tiny planet.

Holding such a meeting to heal the world will take some doing. Diplomatic relationships are stymied because of nationalistic geo-political policies. Voting rights are violated to protect the privileges of powerful castes. Russia, China, Turkey, Israel and other countries have invaded neighboring sovereignties. Sadly, factional warfare is waged globally with and without weaponry.

Earendel’s light linked yesterday and today. Time will tell what tomorrow may bring. We tell time because of the way stars and planets like ours engage in a cosmic dance. Although it is long gone the brightness of Earendel shows the relationship between time and space. It beckons interdependence with our environment and each other. 

We are challenged to take notice because there is work for us to do. The prophet Isaiah (43:16-21) reported what God said to the Israelites who suffered greatly — do not dwell on the past because I am doing something new. It is springing forth. Can’t you see it?

Imagining a new world order is hard to achieve given the way we view time. We abide by linear chronological time (minute to minute, day to day, century to century). The biblical sense of God’s time, on the other hand, is not one dimensional. Mindful that we live in a grace-filled time inspires us to bring about the peace that defines God’s kin-dom on earth. Undertaking this task means we see ourselves as inhabitants of this great planet and citizens of a celestial sphere. 

But there are many earthly obstacles in the way. COVID-19, inflation, war, political extremists, dishonesty, and fake news have disengaged us and clouded our perceptions. How can we appreciate what we have in the midst of mistrust and fear? How do we move forward?

Professor of Old Testament Amanda Benckhuysen writes that Lent is a time to “come face to face with the mess we as humans have made of our relationships and of this world … [it is] when we recognize how profoundly broken and how incapable of fixing ourselves we are. For it is in this place of helplessness and disorientation that hope emerges.”

That’s what Jesus did when asked to judge the woman charged with infidelity. (John 8:1-11) He altered preconceived notions of justice. Jesus’s response stunned the accusers by daring them to throw the first stone at her. The late biblical scholar Gail R. O’Day explained that “Jesus treats the woman as the social and human equal of the scribes and Pharisees.” What stops us from advocating a second chance and equal rights for all people?

Jesus linked the past with the present and the future. He shunned the old law of punishment. Instead of judging the woman Jesus urged her to respect her own life. He looked to the future and gave her hope. 

Psalm 126:1-6 reminds us: “God has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” But, not everyone is singing this tune these days. We must rise up like the biblical stars of yesteryear to work for justice today so others can live with dignity and without shame tomorrow.

Hope keeps people moving forward even when there is fear of what the future may hold. Ukrainians are showing us what hope is and how they expect to shine again as a free country.

Earendel is an Old English word meaning rising light. Lent is an old Germanic word for spring, a time of renewed growth and new beginnings. The stories about passion, death and resurrection still inspire us during this Lenten and Easter season. Hearing them again we strive to improve our lives and bring new life to others. There is always still time to do so.

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1 Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains at least 100 billion stars, and the observable universe contains at least 100 billion galaxies.

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