Forget the Fish and the cucumbers

Posted in christian, Christianity, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit by Rev. Martha on September 26, 2015

26th Sunday Year B 9-27-15 Numbers 11: 25-29, Ps 19, James 5: 1-6, Mark 9: 38-48

Moses, as you know, was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, across the desert and into the Promised Land. But it was not a smooth trek through the desert. The Israelites walked in the desert approximately 3,000 years ago, but there were people just like us in a lot of ways – particularly that they complained a lot. Just before our 1st reading starts, they were complaining about food. “Oh, that we would have meat to eat,” they whined. “We remember the fish & cucumbers, the melons & the leeks, the onions & the garlic in Egypt. We are famished and have nothing but this manna.” God had sent them manna, the “food of the angels” everyday, always enough to fill them, but they seemed to be stuck in “nothing-is-ever-good-enough” mode. Entire families stood at the entrance of their tents and cried about the food.

Moses was overwhelmed. Desperate, he prayed to God, “”Why do you treat me so badly? Are you so angry with me that I must be burdened with all these people? They are like babies crying, that I must carry them around! But I cannot carry them; they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you will deal with me, please kill me now so I won’t have to listed to this whining.” So God replied, “Assemble 70 trusted elders, and I will take some of the spirit of leadership from you and give it to them, that they may share the burden.” So it happened. But one little thing went wrong.

Two of the elders somehow missed the memo & had remained in the camp and did not come to the meeting tent along with the others. Despite not being with the rest of the elders, they still received the spirit. They were prophesying in the camp, just as the others had prophesied at the meeting tent. Prophesying was an outward, physical sign of the granting of the spirit. So, Joshua came running to Moses to tell him what was happening and urging Moses to stop them.

This should sound a lot like the passage from Mark. “Jesus, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him.” Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one can do good deeds in my name and malign me at the same time. Even if he only gives someone a cup of water because of me, he will be rewarded.” But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. “If you stop anyone (the term “little one” is not limited to children) from doing good in my name, if you divert their good intentions into sin, then you deserve capital punishment, death by drowning.” This is not said to support capital punishment, but to emphasize the critical importance of small kindnesses, generosity & good works. It’s that serious. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus keeps going.

If something as valuable as your foot or your hand or your eye causes you to sin, or someone else to sin, then rid yourself of that part. Otherwise, your entire body will be thrown into Gehenna. Gehenna had been an ancient site of human sacrifice. In Jesus day, it was a scary burning garbage dump in a valley near Jerusalem. You, yourself, become like trash when you trash someone else’s good deeds. Our actions toward others carry heavy consequences indeed.   Our thoughtless exclusions and self-centeredness can have huge repercussions.

There are many applications of these readings, but I have one particular favorite. This may be the best reason I have ever heard for the ordination of women. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets” (or deacons or priests).   Would that the Lord bestow His spirit on them all. If only each one was free to act on the call of God, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, strong or handicapped. CACINA has taken great steps toward this, but we need to frequently remind ourselves to keep the way open & God’s sacraments available, to remain inclusive & ready to take the responsibility for acting out the Word of God. 

When my son and his wife went to prepare for their first child’s baptism, all they got was castor-oil-style dogma served cold with a frown. It was the last time they entered a church. I thought church history would be really interesting, until I began to read of all the greedy, violent, nasty, underhanded, evil things done in the name of Christianity. No wonder Moses was so exasperated and Jesus was so very harsh in his correction. 

Another action, equally serious & harmful, is addressed by James, and that is to hoard wealth and goods far in excess of need, particularly at the expense of the poor. I thought of this as I listened to Pope Francis’ speech to Congress. He said, “Business is a noble vocation…producing wealth & improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity…especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” That is the good side of wealth. However, if we have so many clothes that some are never worn, so much food it rots, so much jewelry that it rusts, use so much energy we deplete the earth & have so much in the storage unit we forget what’s in there, then if we are able but fail to pay our legitimate debts and neglect charity, well, that’s another story. But just when I feel righteous, I compare my wealth and lifestyle to most of the world & I realize how very wealthy I am. The image of Francis’ Fiat among the fuel-guzzling, emissions-spewing SUVs remains in my head. St. James, you warn me how easy it is to guard my own inflated image without considering the consequences to others. 

And that is just the right time to read our Psalm. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple; the laws of the Lord are true. Yet, in our blindness, who can their detect their own failings? Restrain me from sin, let it not rule over me. Amen

Homily March 9, 2014 First Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on March 5, 2014

desert 1Today’s readings are about creation and its beauty. It was not just a construction of something or a building of something, but it was a complete growing evolving universe. Its primary creature was the human species which had the one characteristic that differed from all others, the ability to choose or, as you will, the freedom to choose. Unfortunately this freedom to choose allowed the possibility of disorder and chaos to happen. Small choices ultimately could and did lead to choices, situations and configurations and added complexity removing the simple bonds created between humans with each other and with God leading to distrust, disorder and all the negatives so common in our world today among its occupants and nations. It seems as if from the early times of humanity the world was unsettled, distrustful, even hostile and warring at times. People were self-aware, power-seeking, posturing. domineering.
In the gospel today, we see Christ has gone out from his baptism to pray, to be alone and prepare for his mission to desert 2come. At the end he is met with the threefold temptation so often presented not only to him but persists even in our own time. First there was food or physical well-being. Secondly, there was recognition or fame, being noticed as special or better than others. Lastly there was the offer of power and control, and I think we all know how that leads to so many awful things.
As we know, Jesus rejected these things for they are not God’s way of doing things. Jesus came not to rule or inflame or stir up his people but rather to plant the word of God. His real mission was to free us from the bad choices we and others had previously made. He was to offer forgiveness and the power to choose more wisely. He chose to show us that each person is special, each person is unique and beloved by God. He came to tell us that by choosing God we choose not to be alone or isolated and thus are able to reach out to one another and have comfort and support and be united in his church truly enjoying the world as created and intended by him. But we know this world this church is not perfect, for we are not perfect. But this we must not fear, for only Christ was perfect and even he received the temptations common to his human nature and of course he is most knowledgeable of who we are. desert 3
Our lesson today then must be an awareness of our freedom to choose. It is what makes creation so beautiful and even more relevant to us because we have a choice and knowledge and the ability to complete that creation by choosing God and being in harmony with him.

Homily December 8, 2013 Second Sunday of Advent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on December 3, 2013

Once again as advent begins, we meet up with John the Baptist. He was a stark figure dressed in baptist3-227x300camel-hair and leather, living in the desert. Obviously he was cantankerous since he was challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers and shouting their need for repentance. He was far out of anybody’s comfort zone in that desert not presenting anything but his words and his baptism. Word of mouth must have been strong because he quickly drew all kind of people to hear him and experience his words. Today, we would go to our computers or TV’s and search out the far out and unusual and never leave the comfort of food and home. Yet, I think the change to today is exactly the challenge Christians have today and have to recognize that as John called out the satisfied comfortable Jews in his day, so we are being called out to get uncomfortable for we have yet to bring about the kingdom of God to our world. Complacency can destroy all most any undertaking, and satisfaction is probably one of the greatest temptations to keep moving on and achieving new heights. Since the Catastrophe of World War II the world has moved as never before with human achievements exponentially expanding everyday.

Certainly God has kept up with this, but have we. Like in the dark ages of the church, are we making judgments based on limited human understanding of things as was done with the limited sciences of the middle ages? Christ is coming, but Christ has come and HE IS HERE in His Spirit. Everyday he challenges us to hear his voice, to see our fellow humans as kindred spirits, caring for them as He Himself did in His time. Face the fact you can never do enough, but don’t find comfort in it. Oftentimes, it is easy to accept the maxim that this is the way it is. It is the nature of human beings to institutionalize and organize and make rules and laws in the name of order and right. However, is it right to impose what we think and don’t often do. How easy is it for prejudice and other emotions to sway our thinking and concerns. These often are things we learned and not absolutes. In fact Jesus taught only one absolute and that was love.

smoke bench HRLove is the challenge that really challenges us today. It calls for us to give and then give more. It looks at the person and and their good, how the love of God can be brought to them. That is the challenge and the constant call: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Are we ready for this Advent challenge? It is not new, but it needs to be refreshed for all of us need to be reminded that we get distracted, get into schedules, concerns, work and all kind of things that take up our daily life. Now is the time to get aside and reflect and in a sense disconnect from the daily to our virtual desert and hear the words of John to make ready and renew and prepare and have a really loving unfrazzled Christmas.