Inclusive Text- Readings= Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 / Psalm 50: 8-9, 16BC-17, 21 &23 / Matthew 23: 1-12
My friends, who is it in our lives that we elevate to such a high standing or position? Who is it that we make god in our life? As I have also said in the past, it pretty much comes down to one thing, relationships. Relationships with others and our own relationships especially when it comes down to our images of the Creator in our life practices.
Friends, unfortunately in other parts of my work, I have seen people who are in relationships, in particular with an intimate partner or spouse, elevate that partner to a high status as if no one else existed and that person could do no wrong. In essence they make that person a god. What happens when that person, upsets you or disagrees with what you are thinking or saying? Sisters and brothers, we have to be mindful of the way we interact with the people who are brought into our lives. I am not saying that we shouldn’t trust those who are close to us or walk on egg shells for fear of upsetting them. The love we give and measure out has a responsibility to it from both parties. Whether it is a close friend, pastor, teacher, spouse, partner or supervisor, there is a duty that we are held accountable for our actions. Parents who love their children love each child equally yet differently. There are no favorites among them.
We have to become aware of not hurting people without compromising our morals and values. Jesus never did that, he was true to himself. Whether we think we know consciously or unconsciously, deep down we know. There is another part to this as well. We must know our part in it. When we have been hurt, what was our role in it? Were we on another agenda? What happens when you thought they understood your position and then your world is turned upside down when they do the opposite of what you thought? Even with that you say to yourself I will follow what they say anyway.
Friends it is simple that one can swear never to be influenced, but when you are in the middle of it, you surprise yourself. Others may even blame you for it stating that it was your idea for it and now you are to blame for all the upheaval that takes place. Whatever it is, whatever it was, we have all been there and need to forgive others and forgive our self. We need to take the responsibility of what was done and move on. Becoming more and more aware of our self in this journey is more than half the battle.
Let us remember that it is in the example of God’s servant Jesus that we strive to be true servants of God, not by being taken advantage of but by the true nature of offering up our spirits to the One who loved us first by humble service to others but that does not mean to compromise our morals and values.
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text- Readings- Deuteronomy 9: 4B-10 / Psalm 79: 8 ,9, 11 & 13 / Luke 6: 36-38
Friends, how often do we judge? We spend the time judging others more than we judge ourselves. Why is that? Do we feel that making ourselves just as powerful as God entitles us to do this? Do we think that by making ourselves more judgmental is going to change the behavior of those we are judging? Do we judge our self with just as much authority?
When we do this, and I am sure we do, we become so self-righteous that we focus only on what we are placing on the person and our self. It is as if we forget the person as a whole and narrow in solely on the fault at hand.
What is the message we wish to convey when interacting with our sisters and brothers? Do we want to show judgment or do we wish to show mercy?
My former first testament professor in seminary would tell this story.
One day a Rabbi had met with God and asked God, if God had prayed. The Rabbi was so adamant to prove to God that he had prayed continuously and couldn’t believe that God the Creator would even need to pray.
The Rabbi, who was so persistent, would finally hear from God. God answered the Rabbi saying “Yes, I do pray! I pray that my need for mercy outweighs my need for judgement.”
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text- Readings- Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Psalm 130: 1-7A, 7BC-8 / Matthew 5: 20-26
Friends, I think what Jesus is saying to the disciples and to us today is that we should be careful of our ego’s becoming too big. Be careful of how we interact with others. Mindful that there isn’t anyone or anything who is above us and that we need not place ourselves below anyone. When it comes to the Kingdom, we are all equal sisters and brothers in the eyes of God. There couldn’t be one thing that would cause God to keep us from entering the Kingdom. However, it is us who can prevent ourselves from truly becoming Kingdom people.
Recently, I was talking with a woman who was very upset about her current job situation. She was complaining about herself being treated unfairly at work by her boss. She stated to me that she wished that her boss would get into a car accident and perish. The woman obviously was distraught, and her feelings were very harsh. The woman was very knowledgeable of sacred scripture in the Bible. She says she is a Christian. However she is so blinded by her current situation that she feels she is at the end of her rope and can no longer cope. Although she introduces herself as a person of faith, her negative wish, I shared with her about a time I had felt the same way. As I tried to simply listen and have her own her feelings, I proceeded to have her explain herself if she was up to it.
She and I were able to explore her feelings. We spoke and came to the understanding that we have the power to curse or to bless. The woman took the time to explore her feelings and she came to the realization not to give people the power to control her. Whether the person or persons who are hurting us know consciously or unconsciously what they are doing, it is us who give permission to allow these people to control us. These persons are often victims of abuse. There is a saying “hurt people, will hurt people”.
My former pastor and friend from the Roman tradition at one time challenged the whole entire Diocese of Brooklyn. He said if we believed in the God of love and forgiveness then Hitler is in heaven. He went on to say this does not excuse the atrocities that Hitler committed. Sisters and brothers this does not give us the right to do whatever it is we feel like doing without any consequences, but to know that if we believe in the redeeming and ultra-magnificence of the God of all creation we too can be able to give everyone who has wronged us a chance to redeem themselves. Would we not want the same opportunity? If we stop trying to be God and let God be God there are always second chances, if we truly come to God who is ever waiting with arms opened wide to give us ultimate Joy.
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text – Reading Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 / Psalm 138: 1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8 / Matthew 7: 7-12
Friends, we are entitled to so much. We know that our Creator God has not forsaken us and has not abandoned us. We know that as we seek to place ourselves in the loving care of our God, how can the God of all look to diminish what God has created. We know the things that are and aren’t good for us. God on God’s part seeks to always remain in conversation with us. I think our part is to just remain faithful to the conversation process. To trust, listen, and pray, as we do to listen more deeply with the ear of our heart. Let us not grow weary and trust that God is always with us. I recently read the book, “The Shack” written by William Paul Young. My friend, this book is a powerful book on the awesome and un-restrictive scope of the power and reach of God’s love. The movie on this book is currently playing in movie theaters. I recommend reading the book first, if you are able to then go see the movie. I promise you, you will not be disappointed as God doesn’t disappoint.
In the readings today, we see 2 significant moments In the history of salvation. The first is the acceptance of Abram(Abraham) to pull up stakes and leave behind his kinsfolk and all that was familiar to him and set out to a place unknown to him to become a father of a great nation. Remember he was 74 years old and in that time travel was difficult and leaving meant that he would never return. It was a key moment of faith to accept the call. Even later at his death, Abraham had one son as heir and 2 grandsons. While he had 6 other sons, they were not in the line of those who received his inheritance, although they spread far and wide and we know today that Abraham is known as a Father of faith to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Thus, while his inheritance was small at his death, ultimately many nations have been born from him in the course of the centuries. His relationship with God and the fidelity of those who came after him brought us to the entrance of Christ into the world and the age of Christianity he started.
The Transfiguration in the gospel today is a transformational moment because Jesus chose 3 of his disciples to share a moment where, in a glorified state, he spoke to Moses and Elijah. It was a moment of confirmation and of passing on from the prophets Moses and Elijah to Jesus. At that moment, with the voice telling the disciples to listen to him, the relationship from the time of Abraham to that moment was passed on to Jesus. It was a moment and experience that the 3 disciples didn’t completely understand until Christ’s death and their encounter with the risen Christ. This moment in a way prepared them for the Passion and death, but still in their own human weakness and fear were challenged by the events of Christ’s death. Despite that, Christ continued on, for he came for the weak, for those who sin, for all who are fearful or doubtful. His love, the love of God, was for all and he freely gave without judging asking only that those he met to believe. In all times, that love which also encompasses forgiveness for all our faults is what is at the real core of life. So perhaps our best response to what was read today is “I believe”
Inclusive Text – Readings: Isaiah 55: 10-11 / Psalms 34: 4-7, 16-19 / Matthew 6: 7-15
In Tuesdays reading Jesus gives us the Our Father.
“Creator God, Abba, God- Mother and Father, Papa ….” What is your name for God?
Sisters and Brothers yesterday we read Jesus telling his disciples how one doesn’t have to have fancy elaborate words to talk to God
I attended a day retreat by my former beloved pastor and friend, who officiated at my wedding. He held a day retreat on the Our Father. In that one day alone I found it to be a day of self-realization. My pastor went on to explain that the Our Father could be stretched out into a whole week to give the participant ample time to reflect on each line of the Lord’s Prayer. To me it speaks about living in the now, the present moment. How it reminds us in all that we do, hear and see how we are to give self-awareness to the God who created us and how our God reciprocates that love. The Our Father reveals the realization of creation before us, thanks for what has been given to us, and for the bread not yet received. It speaks of forgiveness which is so hard for us to forgive others, let alone to be able to forgive ourselves. If we can’t forgive, even if it takes years hopefully we reach that moment of forgiveness when we can finally release the chains that will untether from this world, not remaining stuck, preparing our hearts In this present reality and for the existence to come when we pass from this world to the next. If we look for the will of the Most High to be done, we have to engage in the process of conversation with God. We need to be faithful to the conversation even when we feel that it may be too much for now. Even when we may feel that way it is up to us, even after the pause if need be to pick up the conversation again. ….and lead us not into temptation.
Jonah 3: 1-10 / Psalms 51: 3-4, 12-13, 18-19 / Luke 11: 29-32
In Wednesday’s reading Jesus talks about how the people want a sign.
We cannot see the sign because we keep ourselves bound, who is it that we need to untether as the hurt, the wrong that was done to us keeps playing over and over again in our minds? Isn’t it us who needs to free ourselves of these shackles? Whose presence is it that we need to keep and be reminded of? It’s right in front of us. What do we need to let go of? Could it be anger, fear resentment, jealousy and anything that is preventing us from seeing the sign of how much God loves us?
rev. Michael Theogene
Reading: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18 / Psalm 19: 8-10, 15 / Matthew 25: 31-46 Inclusive Text
Sisters and Brothers we see yesterday in our first Sunday of Lent how we are many times in our lives led into the desert. The temptations are all around us. It is in these times that we need to have our faith because we don’t see God. We may not hear God or feel God who I believe is always communicating with us but we are too wrapped up in ourselves to notice. It is at these times that God is most present to us in spite of not feeling God. Even though we may feel abandoned, do we believe that God is there and that God is going to get us through? I am reminded of a woman in a former community I attended whose prayer was always giving thanks for all the many wonderful blessings of those things that are seen and for those things that are not seen in spite of the obvious struggles she encountered. Still to this day I find wonder in that statement.
All the things that we go through in life, we may think we are done and have accomplished so much. We may ask ourselves, ‘why am I still here? Because love is an ongoing commitment that grows until we are in the arms of the God who loves us.
Readings: Isaiah Chapter 58 verses 9-14 / Psalm 86: verses 1-6 / Luke 5 verses 27-32
Inclusive Lectionary Text
How in tune are we to those we encounter each day? In my secular work this is usually a question I start off with when speaking about support for co-workers or family members. The same can be asked among us in any setting whether it be home, work, or at ones house of worship. I think it can always be so easy to hear the automatic response, ‘I’m okay, or fine, etc.,’ Even if we get a hint that something is wrong, we listen briefly and then move on. It can be so easy to neglect and go right past the ones we love, the ones we are so very close to. We have become so insensitive that we do not see or hear the person in front of us. We do not treat everyone equally. We raise some up and put others down.
In the book “The Power of Now” written by Eckhart Tolle, he writes a story telling of a Zen Master who overheard a conversation between the butcher and a customer. The customer apparently wanted the best cut of meat. The butcher stated that all the cuts of meat were the same. It was at that moment that the customer became enlightened.
The Pharisees and Scribes were complaining that Jesus was associating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus showed us that he truly saw each person as Gods creation and truly listened to them treating equally them with compassion and love.