CACINA

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish June 19, 2016, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Already Forgiven!!

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on June 10, 2016

11th Sunday Homily, 6-12-16  year C, 2nd Samuel 12:1-13, Galatians 2: 16-21, Luke 7: 36-50

Our 1st reading is one of the few readings in the Sunday lectionary from King David’s life, and it’s sad that we read about one of his worst moments.  Adultery & murder are taboo in most cultures because they tear the very fabric of community life.  David knowingly and purposefully sinned.  Nathan told him a parable which made him face what he did. David used his wiles, his wealth, his power, and his position to sin.  How could God forgive him?

But there is a clear message of God’s grace and mercy. Psalm 51 is David’s confession. “A clean heart create for me, God; do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit. Restore my joy in your salvation.”  So, what is the message Nathan brings?  “The Lord has forgiven your sin.”   That is the message of the story.  That is the take-away.  That is the point.  No matter how far he had fallen – even the mighty King David – or the darkness of the sin, God had announced his forgiveness to Nathan before David had even been confronted.  There are, however, repercussions from David’s actions – not punishment from God, but natural consequences; that’s an important distinction.

Then we hear Paul’s take on how we move from sin to grace. “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me,” Paul writes to the Galatians.  Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We rejoice because of what God has done.” Let me paraphrase.  ”I live in the present”, he says.  ”But my sin, even before it happened, died with Jesus when he was crucified.  I have faith in and believe this in the very core of my being:  that Jesus loved me when I was at my worst, and that he was willing to die a shameful dead, a torturous death at the hands of people just like me, people who did the same sinful things I do.  All of this Jesus did before I ever came to believe.  Jesus’ actions and God’s forgiveness preceded my understanding of and my confession of my sins.”

But a picture is worth a thousand words, so Luke provides the picture. So often we find the original story in the Old Testament, like David and Nathan, and then Jesus comes along and takes that same story line, and lives it out, showing us God’s ways. See, without Jesus, we are inclined to think God is like us, and we want to create a god in our image.  We want revenge, we want others to stoop and gravel before us.  We want to hear, “Oh please, I beg you to forgive me!!”  So we assume, from our expectations, that we must cajole or coax or wheedle or shame God into forgiving us, you know, lean on him a little.  But is that really how God is??

To answer that question, Jesus, like Nathan, presents a compelling parable about forgiveness – in this case the forgiveness of debt, a concrete subject that wealthy Simon the Pharisee can relate to…just as David, once a shepherd, understood sheep story.

Here it is: Two men are in serious debt. One owes 50 days wages, which would take years to repay.  The other owes 500 days wages –hopeless, impossible to repay.   The vineyards that have been in his family for 100’s of years will be sold off, the wife and kids will be sold into slavery. But the creditor forgives both of them.  Which man will be really delighted, but which one will be ecstatic, jumping, screaming with joy, sobbing with love and thanksgiving?  Obvious.  Simon’s response sounds hesitant to me, and I suspect he hears a rebuke coming, for Simon the Pharisee is well aware that he has not extended the appropriate hospitality to Jesus.  Simon would have seen to it that anyone of his own social status would have been greeted with water to wash his feet, would have been given a firm kiss, and his hair would have been anointed with soothing perfumed oil.  But Simon had done none of these things for Jesus.  Jesus has been treated like the entertainment, and quite possible the amusement, for the other guests.

Meanwhile, Jesus had allowed this woman’s administrations, which are far beyond social norms. She sobbed over him, to the point of washing his feet with her copious tears, wiping them with her hair, which no proper woman would loosen and display in public, kissing and anointing his feet with ointment.  The boldness of this woman was undoubtedly caused by her understanding of who Jesus was, and the undeniable need to seize this chance to express her overwhelming gratitude.  Simon judges Jesus as ignorant of what he thinks is the impropriety of her behavior; Simon judges her to be of low morals and sinful.

But suddenly Jesus turns the tables. Simon is called out on his rude behavior, and the woman is praised: “Her many sins have been forgiven; therefore she has shown great love.”  The Greek structure of that sentence becomes ambiguous when translated to English.  Some might find it confusing and think her show of love has lead to her forgiveness.  Not so; think back to Jesus’ parable.  Did the debtors display any great virtue or faith?  No!  It was the creditor who forgave the debt, and the love and joy were a reaction to the forgiveness of the debt. And Jesus, to seal the deal so to speak, announces, “Your sins are forgiven”, and causes the other guests to stop and reconsider the whole situation.

So what are we left with here? Can it be that God initiates forgiveness?  Can it be that God has already forgiven us our sins, even before we acknowledge them?  Is it possible that we waste enormous parts of our lives avoiding facing our darkness and shutting our eyes and ears to reconciliation with God and neighbors?  Do we miss the chance to feel and express our joy; do we shut down and remain static instead?  Maybe the part of the darkness in this world that is ours just seems too large to fix or beyond our control, so we rationalize it as too big for God to fix.  How would our lives change if we forgave everyone of everything right away instead waited for them to confess guilt?  What if Christians really were known for their love and forgiveness?  Perhaps in the answers to these questions is the hope our churches and community and nations seek.

 

Homily for June 5th, 2016 The 10th Sunday in ordinary Time

10 sunIn today’s readings, we meet two widows who have lost their sons. In biblical times among the Jews, it was very much a male dominated society. A widow would have very little standing in that society except for perhaps having a son to represent her household and give her a place in that society. If not, generally, the widow was expected to return to the house of her parents so she would be looked after. The prophet Elijah and Jesus act similarly and differently in the two accounts. 10 sun1First to notice is that each of them acted on their own initiative. Each seeing the distress and sorrow of the widow acted to help the widow. Elijah took the boy to his guest room and laid on him and prayed. When the child revived he returned him to his mother. Jesus, however, simply stopped the funeral procession and issued the 10 sun 2command for the young man to arise. The obvious point in the gospel was to point to the difference of authority that Jesus had over Elijah. Jesus also returned the Son to his Mother. Jesus was the more powerful prophet, he was the one who they were all waiting for. Certainly, the two stories today points to God’s love and the compassion he feels for all of us. His care of the two widows points out that he is aware and is always there for all of us at all times. Not only is he there at extreme times of sorrow and distress, but at all times.
But today as we think of the two sons, we have reason to celebrate on of our own sons, euch1Jordan, who today will receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time. Jordan, today is a special day for you, a day to remember for all your life to receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the first time. It is the next step in a journey you began with your Baptism and now you begin a new and stronger lifetime relationship with the Lord as you partake and share the Eucharist with all your family and the Holy Trinity parishioners. We all congratulate and celebrate with you and your family today.

May 22, 2016 Holy Trinity Parish Homily for Holy Trinity Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 22, 2016

May 15, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for Pentecost Sunday

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish, April 24, 2016, the 5th Sunday of Easter

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter April 17, 2016

4easterThe readings today are interesting and kind of mixed in themes. They deal with life after death, the Jews and their relationship to God and the beginning of the Apostles’ ministry in the persons of Paul and Barnabas to the Greeks and Gentile world. For centuries, the Jews considered themselves unique as the worshiped only one God, Yahweh, and were the chosen people following the prophets sent to guide them. But even in their tradition, we see that the messiah was not only to be there for the Jews, but also as Isaiah said he would be a light for the Gentiles. When Jesus came, he was rejected by the rulers and leaders of the Jewish people, and as such was subsequently seen as a scandal to them. So when Paul and Barnabas were rejected by the Jews in Antioch, they turned their ministry to the Greeks and so began the opening up of the faith to all humanity.4easter1
The second reading from Revelations, is a picture of judgment where not only the 12 tribes of Israel will be, but also “a great multitude”. After all the time and turmoil of the beginning of the church through the first century until the writings of Revelations made it clear that Christ had come for all humanity and intended his words to reach to all the ends of the earth.
Finally today, is the simple passage of the Good Shepherd. It is not the long version but the reminder that Jesus is the good shepherd who puts his life on the line for his sheep. In our world today, it is hard to understand the ways of life in the Mediterranean country in the time of Jesus. Fishermen, shepherds, village life, and in many ways tribal life. Sheep were a valued commodity and important to the ebb and flow of life itself. Caring for them was primary and the shepherd would take great lengths to 4easter4protect and care for his flock. His knowledge of them and their response to him would be very clear. Thus Jesus as the Good Shepherd means he stands as protector and provider of his flock. Jesus spoke in stories and language and values familiar to his listeners. His sayings and meanings were meant to be seen and heard and understood in light of the here and now, what we see and hear. God was a mystery, yes, but his love and understanding and forgiveness was able to be seen and grasped if only we open our hearts and minds to it. The scandal of the cross was in actuality his giving his life so that all might live. It is a simple but clear message, his resurrection and subsequent presence in his church through out the centuries leaves open the way for us. He calls us and leads us by name.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish Easter Sunday March 27, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, Resurrection, scripture by Fr Joe R on March 27, 2016

Homily March 27, 2015 Easter

Posted in Called, christian, church events, Faith, homily, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on March 25, 2016

risenchristThis Easter night, to truly appreciate the Resurrection of Christ, we must remember the experience of Good Friday. In one way or another, all of us have experienced dying and death. The stark reality of it being so final, being cut off from someone we knew and loved, being left to go on and be alone so to speak. Jesus had been a man with disciples and had forged a new teaching and relationship with his followers. His teaching on love and the need for it and the love and care for one another all in a few days had seemed to be obliterated and led to his disciples fleeing and hiding themselves. They were truly at a loss for what to do and how to carry on. The swiftness, the brutality, the finality all had them huddled in fear. What they had seen and heard, they did not understand. They felt lost, abandoned, purposeless.
The news of the empty tomb was implausible. In their fear, they did not understand. Like all of us they were afraid of the worst. What was the impending new disaster? Was there more to fear? Were they in peril? Seeing the tomb they began to believe, but like we ourselves know, believing is like a seed that needs to see and hear and be assured. Gradually they came see and believe that Jesus was alive. What he was, what he taught was real. God truly was love and this spirit came on them and was present in a new and different way. His son had come and died and rose and now lives to carry on that message to all and extend his forgiveness if we have enough faith and love to ask for it. Few men and few entities enter history and are remembered for centuries. The constant presence of Christians from the time of Christ in itself shows the belief that his resurrection and spirit continued in the world. As he taught and instructed his message continues today. We see him and know him in our sacraments, most notably in the Eucharist, His very body and blood, poured out for us, yet given in a unique way that he can be a part of us and we of him.
easter 4Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Easter is truly a new beginning for how the love of God was poured out to the whole world. True life is now measured in the love of God and how we carry out that love by loving as we are loved. It was and is a new beginning. Humanity unfortunately still needs to learn much to erase the evils of the world, but Easter and the resurrection gives hope that all the dark days and good Fridays of this world can be put aside and life restored in the way God intends. Working together the world could do so much. In some ways this has happened, yet selfishness and all the other foibles inflicting us, interfere with the message of Christ. Remember Christ said to go out to all the world, preach and baptize. The more we do, the more his gift of faith and love will come to this broken world of ours.

March 20, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for Palm Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 20, 2016

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish March 6, 2016 the 4th Sunday of lent

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 6, 2016

No Need to Choose Sides!

Posted in christian, Christianity, homily, scripture by Rev. Martha on March 4, 2016

4th Sunday of Lent yr C, 3-6-16 Joshua 5: 9-12, Ps 34, 2 Cor 5: 17-21,  Luke 15: 1-32

 

I was talking with a friend about preaching on “The Prodigal Son.” Her response was, “Ooh, that’s a hard one. Good luck!”  I understood exactly what she was saying.  Then I began to wonder why Jesus even the story.  Every generation and every culture has stories about wayward sons. Every society has rules about inheritances.  But reading this as a wayward son story or inheritance law story just doesn’t give us an adequate interpretation or reveal the purpose of the parable. We need to look closer.

The 15th chapter of Luke consists of three parables, which all lead in the same direction. They are: (1) The Lost Sheep, (2) The Lost Coin, and (3) The Lost (or prodigal) Son.  The Lost Sheep (the guy who leaves the 99 sheep to search for one) ends with this: “I am so happy I found my lost sheep.  Let us celebrate!  I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 people who do not need to repent.”   Now, how did that happen? How did we go from sheep, to repentance and heaven?

The Lost Coin (you know, the woman who loses her coin, sweeps & searches until she finds it) ends almost exactly the same: “I am so happy I found the coin I lost. Let us celebrate!  In the same way, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.”  Jesus is definitively not discussing inheritance distribution here.

Both of these first two parables focus instead on searching & the joy of finding. Then they compare that joy of finding with the joy that comes with repentance. The Lost Son focuses on those same themes, but in addition, it contrasts of the attitude of the father with the elder son’s attitude; contrasting compassion toward repentant sinners and refusal to celebrate repentance.

Now, the original audience listening to these parables included both the “sinners” that Jesus associated with – and ate with – as well as religious leaders who objected – strongly – to the presence of those “sinners.  In fact, this may have been the “Hot Button” issue that ignited the plot to crucify Jesus.

But to find the birthplace of this parable, we must return to Luke 4: 18-22, which we read on Jan 31st.   Remember Jesus reading from Isaiah in the synagogue: “(The Lord) has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty…recovery of sight…freedom for the oppressed and announce the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” It’s Jesus’ mission statement.   It’s the announcement of the coming of the Messiah.  It was widely believed then that the Messiah, or Christ, would bring a time of forgiveness, restoration, and insistence on joyous celebration.

To grumble in the face of his coming is to not understand what is happening. Jesus puts these parables in the context of why he is there, his purpose. It is a picture of the impact of his ministry, the coming of God’s kingdom….and the attitudes of those who find the Kingdom – those who repent, forgive, and who are forgiven.

“The Coming of the Kingdom” is a phrase we read in the Gospels, but it’s hard to be really sure what to do with it. The conflict which brought about this parable was the claim from Jesus that the kingdom of God was present and that God was at work.  That’s fine and dandy when you sit in a church and feel safe among those of like mind.  But it was met with great suspicion as long as those around Jesus were tax collectors who worked for and collaborated with the Romans (those oppressive invaders, those multi-god-worshiping heathens); AND those ceremonially unclean shepherds and lepers and disabled people that were so feared and despised; AND others who were absolutely disreputable and debase, like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet.

So, here is a contrast between the acceptance of the repentant by God and the suspicion and rejection of them by some religious leaders. But, Surprise!  The parable ends without rejecting either side.  How can it be that the father would desire a household that would offer love to the son who put every cent of  his effort & time into the estate, alongside the son who is an obvious drain on the bank account and the emotions of everyone?  Yet, the father of the sons rejects no one; both sons are chosen.  The father loves and offers everything he has to the grumbling son with a disrespectful attitude as well as the son who has broken every rule in the book and come home at best only hoping not to die of starvation.  Could I be so open and loving and generous on the very best day of my life??  In my own self, it would be impossible.  Only if I was fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit of God could that happen.

You see, the kingdom does not divide but unifies; the kingdom is universal. This parable is without an ending, and so becomes an invitation to everyone who hears it to change their attitude and join in the celebration.   The Messiah has come, forgiveness, restoration, liberty- all our inheritance.  Our heavenly Father has given us all he has, and He is always with us.  We are no longer slaves of darkness or ourselves.  If we had a sliver of a clue what was happening, if we saw a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, it would be enough to make us rejoice until tears of unrestrained happiness streamed down our cheeks.  What is now “ours” could be shared with the hungry, the dirty, the homeless, the refugee, the foreigner, the addict, the derelict.  The hard years, the labor which seemed to be without reward could be remembered with gladness. Perhaps that is why we were given the Holy Spirit and Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish February 28, 2016 the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 28, 2016

Second Chances

Posted in Called, christian, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Word by Rev. Martha on February 27, 2016

Homily 2-28-16 3rd Sunday Lent year C Ex 3:1-15, Ps 103,1Cor 10:1-12, Luke 13 1-9

The action generally starts on Sunday with the Gospel, but today we have a sort of “pre-game show” in Exodus. All too often Moses gets billed as the “Giver of the Law”, a title which seriously underestimates him as a major player.  We have to go back to his amateur days for some background.

Moses was the Hebrew baby set afloat in a basket in the reeds on the edge of the Nile River.  Pharaoh had decreed that all Hebrew boy babies must be killed, fearing that the Hebrews (the Israelites) would join with an enemy to attack Egypt.  We would say, “This Pharaoh was a wall-guy, not a bridge builder.”

Baby Moses was indeed saved, and adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Fast forward about 30-40 years.  One day he was visiting the Hebrews and saw an Egyptian “striking”, or depending on how you translate it, “killing” a Hebrew man.  His motives are not entirely clear, but Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.  But Pharaoh got word of it, and Moses had to flee to the land of Midian, west of Egypt, across the Red Sea.   There he married the daughter of Jethro, and settled down, tending the flocks of his father-in law.  He led the flock to Mount Sinai.  There he saw that “burning bush” and the world changed.

You know the story. God pulled no punches with him.  God said,” I know of the suffering of my people in Egypt.  I have come to rescue them. I will give them a spacious land, fertile and rich in resources.  I will send you to Pharaoh to lead them out of Egypt.”

Don’t think for a minute that Moses said, “Oh goody!!” For a guy who described himself as slow of speech, he was quick to point out 4 reasons why he wasn’t the man for the job. “Who am I that I should go?” he modestly asks, meaning he just isn’t qualified for leadership.  God simply responds, “I will be with you”.

Then Moses insists that the people don’t know God, and will not believe it. He says, “They will ask, ‘What is the name of this God of our fathers’; what shall I tell them?”  He’s trying to say, “Uh, God, it’s not like you and I are on a first name basis.  I’m not so sure I believe this either.”   But God responds,   “I am who I am.   Tell the Israelites, ‘I AM sent you.’”  I’m not sure that satisfied Moses, but it’s given theologians something to struggle with for hundreds of years.  Perhaps the cleverness of it is that it is un-translatable.

But even that doesn’t stop Moses; he continues to object. “Suppose the elders won’t listen to me.  Even if I convince the people, the leaders won’t buy it.”  Now God gives Moses the power to turn his staff into a snake, make his hand appear white with leprosy, and turn river water into blood.  God is pressing him hard to take on this job.

Finally, Moses says, “I am not eloquent; I am slow of speech.” God has heard enough excuses; it’s time to act.  He reminds Moses that he gives the power of speech.   So Moses went to Egypt, the Israelites believed him, and the people of God were freed from slavery.

Do you find it amazing that God would use a murderer and fugitive, a doubter, someone who stinks of sheep, a man who makes excuses to God, and one who lacks the verbal skills and charisma to lead people? I was an employment counselor for 13 years; I took great care to match people well to jobs.  But God?  God sees things in people we don’t see, and God provides all that is lacking.  God is a God who takes us, with all our faults, our failures, our lacking, our negativity, our hesitancy, our violence and our ignorance – and loves us and offers us forgiveness and 2nd chances.  In this season of Lent, we are called to the Great I Am, as the old time preachers would sing, “Just as I am.”

So now to the Gospel, where Jesus is talking about the news of the day with the people. They want Jesus to tell them that people have been killed by Pilate because they were sinful, and workers were killed when a tower fell because they were guilty.  The people feel safer if guilt is assigned to “them”.  But Jesus says those who are dead are NOT guiltier than anyone else and then he turns it back to those pointing the finger of blame, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”  Then he tells them a parable about a fig tree which produces no figs.  The owner says, “Cut it down; it’s a waste of time and dirt!”  But the gardener begs for one short year to make it productive.

We don’t have to look too far to see this is another instance of 2nd chances, and God is again urgently pressing us to act.  Jesus’ message of repentance is directed to all, not just a select few, and Luke is clear that fruit – aka visible change of behavior – is expected.  We must develop a sense that our actions really are significant and we are responsible for feeding others in both a concrete and symbolic sense.  We, as individuals and as The Church, should be the very symbol of divine plenty, and not be fruitless in our faith.

St. Paul in our 2nd reading reminds us of the history of Israel, and the tragedies of God’s people who desired evil things, who grumbled, who became self-righteous, and who serve as a warning for us. Jesus’ call to us, in all generations, is on the edge between mercy and judgment; and judgment is never canceled but merely postponed.  This short delay is the time for repentance, reorganization of our thought processes, new awareness, new behavior, change, and action – life lived out loud in obedience to the will of God.

Homily February 28, 2016 The 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on February 24, 2016

lent 3One of the marvels of our time is the instant sharing of news and events throughout the world. It almost seems simultaneous and even live and in our living rooms. When I was younger I remember the marvel of seeing Queen Elizabeth of England crowned with only a five hour delay as the film was flown to Canada and transmitted. Today with satellites we can see things live as they happen. In Jesus’ time, news traveled by word of mouth and was slow but people paid no less notice to it. So, in the gospel, when Jesus asked about the Galileans who were slaughtered in Jerusalem and had their blood mixed with the sacrifices in Jerusalem, the people were familiar with it. Also the falling of the tower and killing of eighteen people at Siloam was also known to them. lent 3bHowever, remember in the view of the times, bad things happened to people who did bad or evil things. Jesus, as we heard, immediately rejected the notion that bad things happening were a punishment from God. Asking why does God allow this is the wrong question. The question is how we relate to God and how we adapt to things when they do not necessarily go our way. God doesn’t choose people who are sinners or who are worse off than other sand then punishes them with something bad. He asks if the 18 under the tower were worse than everyone else. He said, of course not, prosperity, wealth, happiness and the good things in life are not rewards for doing the right thing. Those things have nothing to do with virtue. What we are and our humanness come from God and prepares and leaves us to do the right things in life. In all our live, we have the time and chances to do and be right in relationship to God’s world and his call to be with him. How we live and love and relate and give of our time and selves to others determines what will be for us when our life ends.

Christ continues the discussion with the parable of the fig tree. The point of the parable is what good is a fruit tree if it gives no fruit? Jesus is the loving, carilent 3ang gardener who asks for more time for the tree to develop and grow fruit. Surely, Jesus himself is in His death and Resurrection extending to us the time to grow and to produce fruit in the lives we live. Each day is a gift and an extension to love and share and relate as Jesus called us to do. If we are to truly live, we need to put aside what is wrong and sinful and turns our backs to God. Lent is the perfect time to begin or continue and to renew ourselves to love and relating. The fig tree becomes for us a sign that we have a little time to make our selves better and healthier Christians.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish the 2nd Sunday of Lent February 21, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on February 21, 2016