Inclusive Text- Readings- Ezekiel 37: 21-28 / Psalm: Jeremiah 31: 10-12ABCD, 13 / John 11: 45-56
Think back to a time when you coordinated a project, knew something was wrong but could have gone right, messed up by others, but decided to take the blame and fall on the sword. You may have been involved to some degree knowing that everyone contributed their best but no other course could have been taken. It didn’t mean you had to suffer and die for it but perhaps you avoided going to the end because of fear. Something so minor in that sense, but what would happen, we would get through it, right?
On the other hand, as we know, Jesus had to go through it. Jesus in essence had to fall on the sword because so much was at stake. The soul of humanity was at hand. Jesus could have turned back and leave God, but he knew deep down inside it had to be done.
What were the times in our lives when we could not turn back? What forced us to make the decisions that we had made when it came to others? Could we have turned back? If we did, why? When we didn’t, what gave us the courage to speak up for the cause?
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text- Readings- Jeremiah 20: 10-13 / Psalm 18: 2-3ABC, 4-7 / John 10: 31-42
Inclusive Text- Readings- Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95 / Psalm: Daniel 3: 52-56 / John 8: 31-42
Friends, as I mentioned yesterday, remember at one time or another when you may not have felt welcomed. I am sure it has happened to us at one time or another. At the risk of sounding prideful, I have always felt that I can get along with anyone. However, there have been times when I was not welcomed, perhaps because of my friendliness. No matter what I thought of my actions in those moments, it was important not to take it personal and be aware of my lack of sensitivity to others needs in those situations, not my feeling of being unwelcome.
It reminds me of when two people are dating and it seems good and one party decided to break up the relationship, and states, ‘it’s not you, you are great, it’s me.’ Right away we blame ourselves for the breakup but in reality we are being called to live up to the real love of God in our lives and not blame ourselves or others and accept change.
rev. Michael Theogene
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year c, 9-11-16 Exodus32:7-14, Ps 51, 1Tim 1:12-17, Luke 15: 1-10
I had my desk piled high with books & commentaries about the Book of Exodus, looking for ideas for today. Then I read today’s opening prayer. Let me read it again: “Let us pray for the peace which is born of faith and hope. Father in heaven, you alone are the source of our peace. Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all.”
Well, this week Mother Theresa of Kolkata was canonized as a Saint, and today we have a Day of Remembrance for the attack on September 11th. How much more clearly could the Holy Spirit have urged me to talk today about peace and service?
Moses was God’s servant bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The people all had been born in slavery, as had their parents. It was the only life they had ever experienced. Freedom was new, and difficult. They were accustomed to being dependent, to having decisions made for them. They escaped from Egypt only 3 months before, and now Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for 6 weeks with God; they were afraid he wouldn’t return. They fell back on their experiences from Egypt; they made and worshiped a golden cow, and their behavior became wild & uncontrolled. Worshiping something they made did not bring them peace.
The people still thought of God as being made in their image, like an idol. So God is described as having a human fit of rage. They expect God will destroy them, just as their Egyptian masters would have done. But in the next chapter, Moses presents the 10 commandments to the people, and they promise to do their part of the covenant with God. This is actually the high point of the Old Testament story. The people commit to worshiping only God and God commits to protecting and loving the people. Their worship space is filled with the Ark of the Covenant and they work together the make the space ornate and beautiful. The Glory of God fills the meeting tent & peace returns to the people.
So, I think we can say this: that service is to bring the word of God to one other. And peace comes from God’s word and from trust and obedience to God’s word.
Our Psalm is the confession of King David after he broke God’s law and took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. David was God’s servant, making the nation of Israel a strong and great nation, leading the people into a time of peace, ensuring the people were faithful to their covenant with God. But there would be no peace for David until he confessed his sin.
Likewise, our 2nd reading is a confession by St. Paul about murdering Christians prior to his conversion to Christianity. Paul had been a Pharisee, proud & arrogant. He had actively and violently worked to stop the followers of Jesus after the resurrection. But then Jesus appeared to Paul, and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” So Paul became a servant of God, taking the Word of the Risen Christ into the world. He helped form the faith as we know it. His peace came from not from hatred and violence; instead he found peace even as he became the subject of violence and hatred. He was beaten and jailed, all in service of the God he praised and worshiped.
Finally, in our Gospel, Jesus, the ultimate servant of God, tells us two parables of not only peace, but heavenly joy. The Pharisees, like the Israelites led by Moses, wanted God to be in their image. They were angry and disgusted that Jesus didn’t put people in their place – mainly the people who didn’t make a great pretense of being holy, people who didn’t or couldn’t afford to follow all the complex rules the Pharisees helped create to set themselves above other people. So Jesus says, “What if a woman looses a tenth of all her money? Won’t she tear the house apart, frantically looking for it, not stopping until she finds it? And won’t her happiness in finding it be known to everyone? The angels in heaven, Jesus says, are the same way over just a single person who repents of their sin.” Like the woman who found her coin, the repentant one will find peace and joy in finding forgiveness.
The shepherd likewise finds his lost sheep, and rejoices, telling all his neighbors and friends. He finds relief and peace, just as there is joy in heaven over a single sinner who comes to repent and find forgiveness. I always have thought this has a touch of sarcasm from Jesus. Did Jesus suggest that the Pharisees see themselves as the 99 righteous people, when really their pride and their prejudice creates a barrier to the so-called sinners finding peace? But still I hear of churches refusing sacraments to people.
My neighbor has a bumper sticker that reads, “We need a Department of Peace.” Peace, like charity, begins at home. Peace, like service, is a choice. I don’t plan to move to India to pick up the dying off the streets there. I have found enough abused and forgotten people dying in sub-standard nursing homes right here at home. There are enough hungry children at our local Elementary school and enough refugees and immigrants in the housing development within walking distance of this church; there are enough social agencies, church charities and social justice groups crying for volunteers and donations to keep us all busy all day every day.
Every death, every injury, every mourner from 9-11 deserves our prayerful remembrance today. As does every one of the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and adults who still now continue to die from hunger and acts of war and hatred. We know the one source of peace, and we know a life of service to be the Christian life. I suggest to you, as well as to myself, to make our act of remembrance in the coming days by finding new ways to be of service, and new openings to bring peace in our own families, our own neighborhoods. Surely the Holy Spirit whispers in your ears chances to do this service, so let us encourage each other to do it.
Holy Trinity, 5-22-16, John 17:12-15, Romans 5: 1-5, Ps 8: 4-9, Proverbs 8: 22-31
This celebration of The Holy Trinity has never been something I really looked forward to, mostly because I have never heard an explanation for the doctrine of The Holy Trinity that really satisfied me. It has always been a mystery for me. It has been like wandering in a big dark cave with a little flashlight.
These days, the bookshelves are increasing filled with books which not only don’t explain the doctrine, but instead point out the difficulties or fallacies the author finds in it. They find some example of how The Holy Trinity seems to be self contradictory, or seems to have gaps in understanding. I come away thinking either it’s just too deep for my brain, or else it is an elaborate excuse for not understanding God at all. Then, people ask me to explain it. So I avoid the question by preaching on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. At least with that, I’m on really solid ground!
But this past week I read something that made sense, so I want to share it with you. John Foley, a Jesuit, wrote this: “…the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in the world. Christian living is the Trinity in action.”
I work with a young mother whose parenting style I really admire. She and her husband just came back from a week in Disneyland with their 5 year old daughter. She has high expectations of this little girl, and teaches her very traditional values of respect and obedience. But she deeply loves the child and is very attentive to her; she is lavish in her praise and rewards for good behavior. This mother enormously enjoyed the week in Disneyland because she saw it through her child’s eyes. She was not concerned with how Disney designed or constructed the place, or with the reality of the Disney stories or characters. Instead her eyes were open to the charm of the buildings, her daughter’s delight in meeting the characters, the details of the presentation, and the wonder of it all.
From that perspective, I ask you, what is wrong with finding a way to express how we experience God in our daily lives, without focusing on what we don’t yet understand about Divinity or without trying to put some rigid human imprint on God? In fact, isn’t it very right to take great delight in how God creates a myriad of ways for us to experience and rejoice in divine love, grace, mercy, and companionship? Isn’t it exactly right to fill ourselves with the experiences of God as God comes to us, and then have that fullness to take into our needy world?
Someone once wrote that God is not like a blind date, someone we might wisely be a little guarded with. With God, there’s no need for precautions to safeguard ourselves. We do not have to arrange a time and place to meet; we don’t have to struggle to make ourselves more attractive than we think we are. We don’t have to find a dating service to test us and find someone “compatible”. God is never darkness, always pure love, and finds us beautiful from the moment our first cells are created. God is available 24/7/365, never on vacation, never holds a grudge and always forgives us. We can argue with God, because God is always right and patient with us. God will never stomp away, disgusted with us, wanting to leave us for someone else. How do we know this? By the way God self-reveals to us – in our experience and in the experiences written down in scripture. We share the miracles we experience and our revelations of God with others, and we discover that God is forever finding the perfect way to reveal who the “Great I AM” is at any moment.
That is exactly what our scriptures tell us today. Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman, with God from before the creation of the earth, who was God’s craftsman (participating in the act of creation). Wisdom is God’s delight, and who delighted in being with God, and who found delight in the people that God made. Meditate on that one!! This is not your old stogy idea of Trinity, but draws an image of a God full to the brim of joy and creativity, of delight and companionship, who gives us the best and the most in our world. If you read the rest of that chapter in Proverbs, you find the Wisdom of God calling to us. She reaches out, ready and able to teach us, to give us understanding, and to fill us with her treasures. That may not be what you’ve heard in some Trinity Sunday homilies, but I beg you – read it again and take in the deep, deep love and longing that God has for us.
The Psalm is a reflection on the works of God we see around us and how God self-reveals in our world. Who are we that God should be aware of us? Yet God made us little less than gods, and allows us to rule over his creation. We are not puppets or toys; we are “of” God.
John speaks of how God guides us and gives us direction and understanding. In today’s language, we will get the memos, we are in the loop, we get the word straight from the top. There are no barriers between us and administration, we are valued, we are part of the family, and we will receive an inheritance.
In Romans, Paul says this in a more tradition way. He reminds us that God has chosen to free us from sin and guilt, that we are in peace, not contention, with God, and faith brings us grace and hope. Like Paul, we can experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God proved this love through Christ’s death on the cross even while we were not yet willing to trust in God’s love. Now, forever changed by this Love, we boast of God, whatever our circumstances, because the hope God gives never disappoints.
All of these writings reveal God in different ways, and your experience of God may be different still. But the love and goodness of God are consistent through all the ways God is revealed. The more we open our eyes, the more we see of God in our world, despite the evil that God allows for the time being. So if we experience the revelation of God in our world, the next logical question is, “Does the world see God revealed through us?” That, my friends is where the celebration of the Holy Trinity ultimately leads us.
Inclusive Lectionary Texts
Readings- Revelation – Chapter 11 verses 19 – Chapter 12 verses 1-6, 10 / Psalm 45 /
1 Corinthians – Chapter 15 verses 20-26 / Luke – Chapter 1 verses 39-56
Sisters and Brothers, in my opinion, you know that we will all evidently die. We probably won’t be assumed into heaven both body and soul as Mary was assumed to be. Unlike Mary, we will face death. However, when we come to the end of our physical existence, we know that our concept of death whatever it may be will disappear and that we truly will be transformed into something new. Mary was transformed by something new as she stood at the foot of the cross in deep pain witnessing the death of her son. Yet Jesus tells her that John who was standing next to her is now her son. What did he mean? I believe Jesus was telling her and the world that new life was a daily encounter. In the middle of pain and suffering we are prompted by the Spirit to see resurrection. How many times do we miss the opportunity to be renewed in God’s love each day? How many resurrections have we let die? How do we change our mind set? I know one way to change is to replace an old habit with a new one. Let us replace our concept of pain and suffering with the thought that pain and suffering lead to resurrection. Not an easy job but well worth practicing.
rev. Michael Theogene
18th Sunday Ordinary Time 8-2-15, Exodus 16: 2-15, Ps 78¸ Ephesians 4: 17-24, John 6: 24-35
Let’s start today by diving right into our second reading. Behind Paul’s scholarly-sounding language is a deep understanding of real life. Paul walked thousands of miles, and probably taught the Gospel to more people than anyone else in the ancient world. He preached in streets, in homes, in cities, in synagogues – anywhere that you could image. From this came real knowledge of what needs to happen to make faith functional in our lives.
Paul says we can “no longer live… in the futility of our minds.” He’s saying that we like to cling to what we’ve decided to think, and work very hard to make everything around us match up with what we have decided to be truth. We say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts”. There’s a lot of that in today’s Gospel as the people say to Jesus, “What miracle can you do, that we may see and believe in you?” They wanted “Jesus’ Drive-thru Quick Bread & Fish”, with no cashier. “Get a side order of salvation.” They wanted “Easy Street” to be reality.
But St. Paul says, “That’s not how you learned Christ…you were taught that you should put away the old self, corrupted through deceitful desires.” We decide we Need more stuff, God doesn’t do enough for us. Paul knows that we lie to ourselves and need to change! What is the remedy? “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self,” Paul writes.
Paul writes from experience. He was working to wipe out Christianity when Jesus came to him; he was directly responsible for the stoning deaths of Christians. He was “breathing murderous threats” when Jesus appeared to him. He was convinced he was right – and righteous. But, if you recall Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, you know that meeting with real “righteousness, holiness, and truth ” stunned Paul into changing his life, putting on a “new self”, and as a result he truly changed the world. Remember, Jesus loves us, despite anything we’ve done.
With that background, we come to the Gospel. Jesus has to tell the crowd, “You were looking for me not because you saw miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which I WILL GIVE you.”
“Ok”, the people say, “What do we have to do?” But they had only listened up to the part about the food; that was their “reality”. What Paul called “the futility of their minds” had trapped them. Jesus was talking about eternity; they were thinking about lunch.
It’s easy to understand why the people reacted like they did. Theirs was a culture of constant near starvation. A full day’s work paid for nothing but a day’s food. Hunger was very real to them, and I get why their minds were on manna – free food that appeared each day, bread from heaven. “Sir”, they say, “Give us this bread always.” I can imagine their confusion when Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
So here is the centerpiece of the entire passage. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus knows full well about hunger and thirst. God created us to be more than animals who stand in the field, eating grass. Life is more than white, rye or pumpernickel. Life is love, community, family, worship, eternity. Drive-thrus sell food, not give life. Jesus sustains the soul in a way that far exceeds bread filling the stomach. “I am the way, the truth and the life” is not a statement about which religion is the best, but an open door to life beyond our imagining. Jesus is the bread of love, community, family, the very substance of the spirit of God, the essence of life.
The early church understood. James 2:15-17 “ If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” On page 12, at the bottom, in the Saturday Baltimore Sun, is this one-paragraph article: “The World Food Program announced new cuts…in food aid for Syrian refugees in Jordan…” There are 629,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and their monthly food allotment is as low as $7.00. More than half of these are children. There is no money after August for over 3 million children. The early church may have understood Jesus, but today’s world – not so much.
Jesus tells the people, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the one he sent.” He is teaching priority #1. First, we believe and love God. If we do that, then loving each other is a given. It is a part of loving God. It is belief itself; the two cannot be separated. Loving God is believing that God is the source of life. God brings life to not only our body, but also our soul. This is not different from loving each other and caring for each other, body and soul, stomach and spirit. Our love of God is based on a risen Christ, and Christ’s love for us was God’s love. This is all one idea, one belief, one faith. If the love is real, then the bread comes with it.
Lord, renew the spirit of our minds, and help us to live in your truth.
As we look at the resurrection from our time and perspective, we find it based on the faith and love we have. No where is there an actual account of the event as there were no witnesses to it. In fact, what we get is the presentation of an empty tomb. First Mary and then Peter and “the beloved disciple”. This account draws on the love Jesus had for them and the faith developed over their time with him.. Still, we are told the Beloved disciple sees and believes.
Both men experienced and saw the empty tomb and it was from there that their faith in the resurrection developed. Jesus’ resurrection was like his birth, a moment in time that was special, yet as a product of God’s love, disseminated only in a way that fit his inscrutable plan. Neither event was a big flash of news, what we would call the big Internet moment. It was an event capturing the hearts in his love of his faithful followers. His subsequent appearances all came after the empty tomb encounter. He talked with them was touched and ate. Yes he was real.
What it means is that God has worked his plan. All of us have the ability to raise ourselves up by the love of God and our faith in him. If we have given ourselves to die with him, we too will rise and share life with him. He has made it possible to reverse the effects of sin and evil. Now we can say no to them and remain faithful.
But once again, we know this only from the The love of God and the faith we have in him. Like the Beloved Disciple, we believe because of this and the profound experience of the empty tomb and the passing on of it from then to now. Christ is truly risen and present in our life and the church even today. Surely there is a constant to that love and belief, even with all the human faults and failures of the centuries since, Christ’s presence and love continues to be here in the world and among us here and now. Faith calls us to respond and listen, to see and believe, to hear and to act. Yes, Christ is Risen!