CACINA

What are you preaching? Peace or Profit?

Posted in christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on October 8, 2016

28th Sunday ordinary time 10-9-16 yr C 2 Kings 5:14-17, Psalm: 98:1-4,  2 Timothy 2:8-13, Luke 17:11-19 

Today our Old Testament reading is about Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, and Elisha, the prophet of God. The story is 27 verses, the entire 5th chapter of the 2nd Book of Kings.  But, we only get 3 verses in the Lectionary.  I would guess that most people are not familiar with the “rest of the story”, and it is a fascinating story.  Some of these ideas came from Walter Brueggemann, a well known author & scholar of the Old Testament, and I thought they were worth sharing.

 

Naaman was highly respected by the King of Syria, for he was a skilled leader and very successful in battle.   BUT, he was “a leper”, with repulsive sores and flakey, scaly skin.  It would cost him his military/political career and his social position if he didn’t find a cure.

 

In an ironic twist, Naaman’s wife had a slave girl from Israel, captured in a raid, and this slave knew of the miracles done by the prophet Elisha.  So the King of Syrian gave Naaman a letter of introduction to the King of Israel, and Naaman set off, loaded with 10 silver coins, 6,000 gold pieces and 10 expensive sets of clothing, a fortune really, to buy his healing.

 

Well, the King of Israel tore his clothing in despair, thinking this must be an excuse for the Syrians to invade and destroy Israel, because clearly, no one could cure leprosy.  But Elisha heard about the ruckus, and suggested that the king send Naaman to him.

 

When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door, Elisha didn’t even bother to come out. He just sent someone else to tell Naaman to wash 7 times in the muddy old river Jordon.  Naaman was infuriated.  He was certain Elisha would at least wave his hands over him, say prayers, and invoke the Israelite God to cure him.  So Naaman was in a rage, “We have better, cleaner rivers in Damascus, I could have stayed home and washed in a river!”  He turned to leave, but his servants reasoned with him.  “It’s a simple thing to do.   You would have done something difficult if he told you to, why not at least try?”  He did, and he was not only healed, but his skin was as smooth and clean as a child’s.

 

Now, no story is complete until you place it in the culture of the time, and in the Middle East then, you always had to reciprocate for any favor.  So Naaman returns to pay Elisha.  And Naaman even adds a confession of faith, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  Elisha refuses any payment.  No co-pay, no professional fees, no deductable, no monthly premium, no bill to be sent in the mail.  And then, Naaman has a curious request – could he please take 2 mule loads of dirt, so he can worship no other god except the Lord, on Israeli soil, at home, in Syria.   People equated worship with a physical and geographical place, and Naaman wanted some of that “place” to take home.

 

He also added one little caveat to the deal. He would still have to enter the Damascus temple of the idol Rimmon with the King, and he wanted forgiveness in advance for bowing down to that idol for social and political reasons, with the understanding that he believed the Lord was the one true God.  Now, what do you suppose Elisha’s reply to that was?

 

Elisha said, “Go in peace.” “Go in Peace”?? That was not what I expected.  I was waiting for a fiery, “If the Lord is God, bow to HIM!!  Why would Elisha be so calm about pre-planned idolatry from this man whose life has just been saved by God?  I find it amazing.

 

Elisha was not in the business of selling health care, after all. He was in the business of peace.  He brought peace to Naaman, who came knowing only fear and death.

Elisha brought peace to many people by healing a dreaded disease; he contributed to the common good by overcoming suffering.

Elisha brought peace because now a powerful and well known leader has confessed that the Lord is the only source of power and healing.

Elisha contributed to a step toward peace between Israel and Syria.  If more people did that, our world would be a different place today.

 

Elisha gave us all a reminder of the abundance of God’s love and healing, which is freely, abundantly given to all. Elisha, like God, did not hire a staff that counts our failures or the times we feel we must bow to some idol.  God does not barter for peace.  The peace of God, like rain, falls on the just and the rest of us.

 

Finally, Elisha chose to remain free to move on in peace himself, not bound by any missteps by others. He had God’s work to do; he would focus on the good & not concern himself with judgments.  He would stay free to let God’s spirit move as and when it would.

 

My grandchildren tell me they don’t like Christians because they’re in your face and pushy about their religion, but yet don’t seem to know much about their faith. It sounds like the Christians they meet aren’t in the peace business.  Are they looking for some kind of paybacks, such as increasing church attendance and donations?  Are they unfamiliar with the work of God’s Spirit?

 

Even if we were the only ones in town in the peace business, the only ones who seem interested in freely handing out the sacraments without barriers, feeding the hungry, distributing laundry baskets, and caring for the elderly, that’s all right. We can be the only ones who end every encounter with peace, who move on to the next encounter without noting the failures of our brothers and sisters.  We can affirm each other, complete with those idols we each cling to.  We can spend less time and effort worrying about our scales and our flakey-ness, and focus instead on something constructive.

 

Peace is the gift that heals us all, but peace spreads by our contact with each other, one at a time. Then we are ready to praise and worship the God of love and healing and peace.

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Homily for September 18, 2016 the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, ethics, Faith, forgiveness, homily, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on September 16, 2016

25-sunToday, the readings talk about wealth and power. I think many believers feel that Jesus was opposed to wealth and the wealthy and to those who rule and have power. I think the first thing we must realize is Jesus did not condemn the wealthy or the rulers who had power, but was most concerned about how the wealth and power was used. The prophet Amos today tells us how much the Lord abhors those who take advantage of the poor, or even cheats them. The Lord will never forget them or their lack of love and abuse of fellow creatures. Every person is valuable to him.
25-sun1In the gospel, many become confused that the owner praises the servant who takes measures to insure his future by granting discounts in his master’s name. Like a two edge sword, the servant curries favor and some security while at the same time presenting his master as generous and giving and caring. What seeming praise he gets, is that yes he somehow solves the immediate problem, but, and there always is a but, what of the future and his relationship to God. Can a truly dishonest person have a loving relationship with God. It is interesting that Luke uses the word Mammon. Mammon is an Aramaic word which means trust or believe. A word we use frequently comes from the same root and also means trust or believe. That word is “Amen” which we use to affirm “I believe” or trust. So ultimately, we see that Jesus is 25-sun-3asking us where we place our trust, our belief. Are we children of the present time or place, looking out for ourselves or are we Children of God looking to the future? That choice certainly defines us in how we look at ourselves, at authority, at wealth and how we use them and act.
Yes, Amen is a powerful word, and an ever-present way to affirm our love and relationship with God and all of his creation. It at the same time is a powerful prayer as God all ready know all our thoughts and desires and asks only that we be honest with ourself and with Him.

Peace and Service- What Do You Choose?

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.

Homily August 28, 2016 the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 23, 2016

22 sunToday’s gospel talks of places of honor and of humility. In Jesus’ time people and especially the priests, pharisees and higher-ups of the society were very concerned with their places of honor and position. In that time, being invited and sharing meals was a big thing. Everyone was very much concerned with their place, and of course sought out the prominent position. Jesus, as we know was being watched carefully to see how he would react and what He would do. His reaction was to tell a parable and stress that those who were prominent should in effect practice humility and not just take the prominent seat lest they be 22 sun 2embarrassed and forced to move to a different spot. In effect, he was telling them that self enhancement and importance were really irrelevant in the way that God looked at things. God wasn’t looking at how you took care of yourself and retained self-importance, but in how you learned to look out for everybody, especially those who were less capable of taking care of themselves. God notices all people from the poorest to the richest, from the most prominent to the most outcast of society. God created everyone, the whole universe in fact, and he is aware of each of us and of all that we do. He is aware of motivation and of concerns. He knows intentions, aspirations, and isn’t concerned with positions of honor(a human concern), but more in how we relate with one another. In Jesus time, an invitation meant an invitation to return the favor. Jesus said what was the good of that when the 22 sun 3poor and hungry were not served. It is interesting also that Jesus did not put down position or power, but pointed out how it could and was abused. At times, there is reason to honor position and power, but at the same time those in such positions must learn to look out and honor all that their positions call them to serve. Each of us is responsible to look out and care for those that we meet and can do something for. Few of us will ever be in a position to reach out to large or vast numbers, but look around, no matter where you go, there is a call for action that sometimes we can respond and others not, but are we aware that these moments exist, or do we simply keep going and pass them by? True humility is knowing who we are, what we are, and what we can and can not do.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish August 14, 2016 the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish August 7, 2016 the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, saints, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 7, 2016

Homily for August 7, 2016, the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Communion, Faith, forgiveness, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 4, 2016

19 sunToday’s first 2 readings talk of faith and the realization of thing hoped for and evidence of things not seen. I think most of us have received our faith from our families and growing up maybe even took it for granted. In all our lives, I think there has been a moment or time when we faced the reality of belief and Jesus head on. All have met the challenge of the unseen, the darkness of the unknown, the lack of clarity of what the future is to bring, relying on the words of Jesus and the promise of loving God and neighbor and what it will bring. 19 sun 2Abraham certainly had no clear picture or even an understanding that Sarah could have a child. Yet he went out, he did what he was called to do. And so it is with our own faith, that we are called, to believe to meet each day, to accept the challenge to love. Most of all faith means to trust. Trust is for some a hard word because it asks that we place our judgment, ourselves in the hands of another. Hebrews points out the combination and the remarkableness of it. Throughout the centuries, we see the faith of many proclaimed in the church. Yet, I would point out today a woman of our own time, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. We have heard of her extraordinary work, yet unknown in her lifetime, was the feeling of separation or loneliness or darkness, have experienced a call to an explicit mission, yet never feeling any further contact. Yet, she 19 sun 4lived out a life of hard work, never losing her trust. If perhaps you might be interested, while it is a Hollywood movie, The movie “The Letters” available on many of the different services does convey a remarkable life of this woman who was contemporary to us. It shows Faith and love is a journey, and for each it is different, god loves us and relates as best and how he wants to. But his love never leaves us.

July 31, 2016 Holy Trinity Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 31, 2016

July 24, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Parable of the Midnight Bread Run

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit by Rev. Martha on July 24, 2016

17th Sunday ordinary time, 7-24-16, Genesis 18:20-32,Ps 138, Col. 2:12-14, Luke 11:1-13

Did you think at first this week’s Gospel and Old Testament readings didn’t seem related? Me too.  However, 3 questions emerged from the similarities I did find.  Let me tell you what they are and how I found them.

Abraham was sitting in the shade of a tree at the opening of his tent. To his surprise, 3 men appeared to be walked out of the shimmer of the burning hot desert toward his tent.  He jumped up and ran to them, offering food and drink.  His behavior was not bizarre – it was the “ordinary” and expected gift of hospitality.  In the desert, travelers could not just go down the street to the next hotel.  Hospitality was life and death in the desert, and every nomad like Abraham knew all too well that the next man to depend on this desert hospitality could be him.  People were dependent on each other, and they knew it.

But one of the men blessed Abraham and Sarah with the prophecy that within a year, they would have the son they had longed for all their lives.  This was not “ordinary.” Then the men prepared to leave for the city of Sodom, and we are told one of them is God. God and Abraham are “tight” – they have a covenant and a relationship.  God sends the other 2 ahead and lingers to confide in Abraham about the Sodom and Gomorrah problem.  God is on his way to find out if the complaints he hears about the evil in those cities is as bad as people say.   This is a much earlier understanding of God than we read in the New Testament, yet God is, even then, listening- and responding- to prayers. Hold on to that thought for a moment.

Abraham is determined to find out if God values life. This is the first question I found -we would phrase it, “Do all lives matter to God?” The culture of that day concerned communities.  A community of at least 12 men was the focal point; that’s what mattered.  Abraham means to know if God cares about individuals. The answer is clearly yes, God does number each of us, for God will save the entire city for not 12, but even 10 innocent people.  In the end, God finds just 4 innocent people- who are given safety.

What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that they should be destroyed?  This has been discussed for centuries.   Ezekiel 16 said it was their disregard for the poor, pride in their prosperity, and their complacency.  Isaiah 1 says their faith was empty, and their hands were bloody from injustices.  Jeremiah 23 lists adultery, living in lies, siding with the wicked, and provoking others to evil. Genesis 19 lists:  random, uncontrolled violence and lack of that important hospitality.  When the two messengers God sent entered the city, Lot offered them food, lodging, and safety for the night.  Then a violent mob gathered & Lot was so appalled that the city residents would attack them that he offered his daughters to the rioters in place of the two men.   Imagine putting your own children in danger to protect two strangers- but the point the enormous responsibility of protecting travelers– and how seriously out of control the cities were. The city people call Lot “an immigrant”, using the word like an ethnic slur, and threaten him with violence, too.  My 2nd question is then: “What attitude should we have toward travelers, strangers, refugees, and immigrants?”   2 weeks ago we touched on this question with the Good Samaritan story.  But generosity and compassion for immigrants and refugees has always been the expectation of God’s people.

There can be little doubt that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had totally severed any relationship to God, and had lost any sense of justice, hospitality or respect. And here is the place we can move to the Gospel reading, even though the contrast with Sodom and Gomorrah is so deliberately striking that the two seem incongruent.  But Jesus tells this remarkable and often misunderstood parable of the man who needs bread to feed a traveler who has arrived from his journey late at night.

So we know about the hospitality thing. But something else is going on here.  First, Jesus asks literally, “Who from You” (which of you) has a friend to whom you go at midnight and say to him, ‘lend me 3 loaves’…and the answer would be,  ‘Don’t bother me, I am not able to get up and give you anything.’” Do you have a friend who would say that?  11 times a question is posed in the Gospels starting with “Who from you” and every time the answer is “No!” The whole point is that no one would refuse to get up and give his friend what he needs.  It is unthinkable, unimaginable, an easy conclusion based on everyday life.   For sure, the poor sleeping man will hand over the bread.  Now look at this parable again.  Does it mention any knocking at the door or repetition of the request?  No.  There is nothing to suggest this is a lesson in persistence.  Not that persistence is bad, it’s just not in this parable.  We have a problem. The Greek word here translated in some recent Bibles as “persistence” is “anaideia” is correctly translated “shamelessness or bad manners, rudeness”.  There are no recorded uses historically of this word in any other meaning.  Jesus is using the contrast to make a point about prayer and our relationship to our Abba/ Father.  God is not like the sleeping man, who needs rudeness and social convention to produce what you want.

This is a “how much more” parable. In other words, if a man will get up in the middle of the night to answer a request that is rude, how much more will God answer your requests?  Matthew in 6: 27 (which starts with “who from you”)has the same thing when he says if God cares about the birds and flowers, how much more will God care about you?  This is the same God who listened and responded to Abraham’s prayer for a son and the outcry over the evil in Sodom & Gomorrah.  God has a long & impressive resume in handling prayers. In this parable, Jesus is giving us assurance – certainty!- that God hears our prayers and responds… to the point of giving his own Spirit, the Holy Spirit to help us.  This parable and the verses which follow affirm the importance of prayer and is an invitation to pray.  Come to God with your worries, cares, needs – it’s not a waste of time.

So here is my 3rd question:  Can you tell the difference between people with a prayerful, dependent relationship with God, and people who have severed all relationship with God and depend on their own power?  I think our readings answer that pretty clearly. To put it another way, what is the defining difference between a violent, out of control mob with no concern for those in need; and people who share their dependence and needs with each other, and who embrace the hungry and the outsider?  It would seem that a prayerful relationship with God is the difference here.  It would seem that kind of dependence on God completes us as beings made in God’s image.