Sermon 12/6 Preparing for Peace

Date: Dec. 6, 2020 Second Sunday of Advent In-person worship, outdoors
Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8
Sermon: Preparing for Peace
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

To access coal seams in the Appalachian mountains, companies are literally
removing mountain tops. First the trees and brush are removed by tractors and bull
dozers. Some lumber is sold, the rest is burned. Then explosives are used to blast
the top of the mountain. The rock and dirt is pushed into nearby valleys and
streams using a drag line that can encompass the area of a city block and weigh up
to 12 million pounds and can move up to 100 tons in a single load. This method of
mountain top removal can decrease the altitude of a mountain by up to 1000
vertical feet. An area bigger than the state of Delaware has been flattened
including over 500 mountains. All of this to expose seams that are mined for coal.
It gives a whole new meaning to a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking!
[Information about mountain top removal mining from https://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Mountaintop_removal_mining
and
https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/what-is-mountaintop-removal-mining]

In China even larger efforts are underway to move mountains to create more land
suitable for development. In one project in western China, 6000 workers operating
3000 excavators and dump trucks, are removing hundreds of mountain tops to
accommodate development. Much of this initiative is sponsored by the
petrochemical industry to meet increasing energy needs. These efforts are
expected to produce billions of dollars in profit.
[See https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/01/21/china-is-movingmountains-for-the-new-silk-road-literally/?sh=46f263b07e28 ]

So, clearly, the human species has developed enormous earth moving abilities.
Now, this past week, another young black person was killed in St. Petersburg. At
the Food Max on 18th Ave. S. Again. This tragic event is not just the result of the
personal choices of those directly involved. On Dominique Harris’s part. Or on
the part of the police. This tragedy is the result of hundreds of years of excavating
that has taken place preparing the ground for such an event. The ground was
carefully prepared over centuries by shoring up laws, erecting economic structures,
and amassing societal attitudes that created the context for yet another death of a
young black person. The behavior of Harris, in this case, as well as the police, was
influenced by are a human construct generations in the making. The way was
prepared for this event through monumental cultural mobilization creating
systemic racism and a culture of violence.

This is what we are capable of. Moving mountains. Literally. And moving
mountains to create systems of domination and oppression. We have enormous
power. But what are we doing with it?

This morning, we heard two scripture lessons about earth moving. Isaiah speaks of
preparing the way for God:

“Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low;
let every cliff become a a plain,
and the ridges become a valley!”

And Mark speaks of preparing the way for God.

“I send my messenger before you
to prepare your way,
a herald’s voice in the desert, crying,
‘Make ready the way of our God.
Clear a straight path.’”

Valleys filled in. Mountains made low. Cliffs flattened. Ridges leveled. The
creation of a straight, clear path. This is huge, transformational work. Of course
there were no earth movers back then for this work. This imagery refers to
transformation to be done in the soul, the spirit, the collective consciousness, the
community, the culture. It is a call to do the work necessary to make way for the in
breaking of the God of Love.

The prophet Isaiah and the gospel of Mark announce that there is preparation to be
done. On this second Sunday of Advent we are talking about preparing for way
for peace in our world. Let’s remember our capacity – we have prepared for
hundreds of years for the violence and injustice that we have today. It did not
emerge overnight. And it is not going to be changed overnight. The state of
violence we are living in has evolved with intention based on choices made by
people including leaders and CEOs. The economic dis-ease, the fear, the gun
violence, the defense budget, the demeaning of people who are different, all of it
disturbs the peace and it has been set up like that. It is not a given and it is not
being imposed on us from outside of the realm of human power and influence. It is
not a proverbial ’act of God.’ The violent state of things, the lack of peace, is of
human creation and therefore can be changed by humans. We have the capacity to
do this work.

Just look at how covid has changed our lives in a few short months. Masks.
Staying at home. No hospital visitation. No eating out. Schools closed. No going
to movies. A year ago, we would have thought that kind of change was impossible.
Yet, the earth has moved.

We have a son who lives in California so we watch the covid happenings there.
They are under strict lockdown. Again. They are under order to stay at home
except for essentials. Restaurants are closed to diners and can only offer take out.
Salons, gyms, and playgrounds are all closed. No nonessential travel is permitted.
Our son may not be able to come to Florida for Christmas. We’ll see.

This is what California governor Gavin Newsome has to say about the restrictions:
“Lives will be lost unless we do more than we’ve ever done. We are being called
to do everything in our power to make the kind of tough decisions that are required
to get through the next few months. We will enjoy the other side of this.” He goes
on, “There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are a few months away from seeing
real progress. We do not anticipate having to do this once again but we all need to
step up and we need to meet this moment head on and do everything we can to
stem the tide, bend the curve and do everything we can necessary to get that
vaccine into the hands of every Californian in the state.” [The Guardian,
California plans sweeping stay-at-home order as Covid cases surge, Vivian Ho, 3
Dec. 2020] Newsome speaks with conviction and with hope.

This Advent season, as we think about preparing for peace, we want to remember
the scope of our abilities. We have created the situation that exists in terms of
violence and injustice. We can change it. Just like we can take down mountains in
Appalachia and clear the land in China. Maybe we don’t have an earth mover, or a
drag line, or a dump truck. Maybe what we can do is grab a shovel. A spade. A
hoe. A rake. Something. Anything. We must each do our part. As Newsome
says, ‘lives will be lost, do more than we have ever done, do everything in our
power, make tough decisions, step up, meet this moment head on, bend the curve.’
Then we see ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’ and we can look forward to
enjoying ‘the the other side of this.’ Peace awaits us!

Jesus comes to usher in a new reality of peace and we must prepare the way;
contribute to the transformation necessary for a culture of peace to emerge and be
welcomed in this country and on this Earth. This season, as we prepare to
celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, may we implore God to rekindle the
flame of peace within us. May we dream peace. May we see peace. May we live
peace. This is what we are called to do to prepare for the birth of Jesus and the
birth of every child. May we create a landscape, a habitat, hospitable to peace.
Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For
additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

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