What’s Our Thing?
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
15 March 2020
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
I don’t know about you, but I have learned, or relearned, a great deal so far during this age of Covid-19 in the United States.
I have learned, or relearned, about superheroes. They don’t all wear tights and capes.
Superheroes wear medical gear. Nurses, doctors, technicians, researchers, medical care providers of all sorts.
Superheroes wear work clothes. Janitors. Custodians. Cleaning services. Carry bottles of disinfectant and sanitizer. Clean our public places. Clean our streets. Check out our groceries. Deliver meals. Deliver packages.
Superheroes wear uniforms. EMTs. Police. Firefighters. First responders of all shapes and size. Those who serve in our military.
The people – all the people – who often labor in obscurity in ways I cannot remember or imagine or name this morning to make life better, fuller, more whole for us – they are the superheroes. They are your neighbors, whether you know their names or nor. They are your family. They are seated around you. They are you.
I have learned, or relearned, about systems.
We need a health care system that allows all people access.
We need a public health system that can respond quickly, nimbly, creatively in moments of crisis and protects us all.
We need an employment system that provides medical leave for all people and assists hard working people who fall on hard times.
We need a housing system that provides a safe place for all people. That system must protect people who may receive abuse instead of love in their homes.
We need a criminal justice system that protects the public at large but also respects the dignity and protects the lives of offenders.
We need an economic system so structured that elected officials have no concern that closing schools will result in children going hungry. An economic system that responds to the needs of people more quickly than it responds to the corporations.
I have learned, or relearned, about accepting responsibility.
At 7:09 pm on April 12, 1945, the owner of a failed haberdashery from Independence, Missouri, who had only a high school education, was sworn in as President of the United States. On his desk, he placed a sign that read, “The buck stops here.” And while Harry S. Truman served as president the buck did stop there.
I have learned, or relearned, that while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something.
Zion Williamson is 19 years old. He plays basketball for the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. He makes more in one month from salary and endorsements than most people will earn in a lifetime. The NBA suspended the season on Wednesday. On Friday, Zion Williamson announced he would pay the salary of every Smoothie King Center employee – that’s where the Pelicans play – he would pay their salary for the next 30 days. Other players and teams have made similar gestures–both basketball teams and hockey teams. My son Eric’s favorite player – Kevin Love appears to have been the first – “Love” – how about that for fulfilling your name. Still one thing sets Zion Williamson apart. He is 19 years old.
My guess is that none of us here make $10 million dollars a year. None of us has a list of endorsements longer than today’s bulletin. None of us own a sports team.
But all of us can do something.
My friend from high school, Nancy, suggests we make care packages for the 90-year-olds who live in our neighborhoods. Toilet paper. Lysol. Hand sanitizer. Leave it anonymously. If we are caught, Nancy suggests that the appropriate response is “Please let me know if you need anything else.”
Yzette, who I work with at the presbytery, has posted an offer on Facebook. Anyone who needs anything for their children can contact her and she will do whatever she can to help.
Phil and Samson eat in Chinatown on a regular basis to support the restaurants and their employees. (Note: this was written before it was announced that restaurants would close except for deliveries and take-outs as of Tuesday, March 17).
The First Presbyterian Church of Hastings, Nebraska has initiated a “meal ministry.” People are invited to double the recipe when they make a meal Half they eat. Half goes into the freezer. Appropriately packaged. When they hear of someone who has fallen ill, or someone who is homebound due to a quarantine or fear of going out, they deliver it to them. They are encouraged to include a note and a prayer with each meal they deliver.
In the moments before this service began, the Deacons of the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone voted to make a gift to support the work of City Harvest to rescue food to share with people who know hunger in New York.
None of us can do everything. Each of us can do something.
We see that in our Gospel reading from John.
A woman. A Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at a well.
At a time when men did not interact with women. Especially with no one else present. At a time when tensions tangled relationships between Jews and Samaritans. Jesus talks with her. Jesus talks with her.
They talk about her life. Jesus knows everything. And there is a lot to know.
They talk about living water. About life. Abundant, eternal, whole life.
The woman is transfixed. The woman is transformed.
And she knows the blessings that Jesus bestows are not just for her. They must be shared. She returns to her city to tell her friends, to tell anyone who would listen, to come and see Jesus.
None of us can do everything. Each of us can do something. And that was the Samaritan woman’s thing. She had an experience of such power and wonder and grace that she simply had to share. To tell people about Jesus. To encourage people to meet Jesus.
Some in her city came to believe because of her testimony about Jesus. More came to believe when they made the trek to the well and met him for themselves.
None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something.
As we live in this age of Covid-19, the challenge, the opportunity, the invitation we face, as individuals and as the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone is to ponder the question, “What’s our thing?” And when our discernment leads us to clarity, then we are called to act – and to do the something God calls us to do. By the grace of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the company of Jesus and all the saints, may we so live.