HERE I AM LORD

It is good that things are looking a bit different in the sanctuary today…..I believe it fits nicely with our readings today, because each of the readings, I think, is inviting us to change…our thoughts, our perspectives, and how we approach the spiritual life. 

Isaiah definitely puts King Ahaz to task.  Though Ahaz is trying to honor the law of not testing God by asking for a messiah, Isaiah is telling him what are you so afraid of?  You’re making the people around you weary as well as God.   God’s gonna deliver the savior whether you ask or not….and this is how it’s gonna happen. 

In Paul’s letter, Paul is letting the Jews know that all nations are being called to Christ….not just them….he’s asking them to stretch their definition of neighbor. 

And then we come to Joseph, poor Joseph.  Can you imagine what was running through his head when his betrothed came to him and said she was with child?  Being human, I find it hard to believe that he readily accepted the fact the child she was carrying was put their spiritually.   And all the while he was feeling all of those painful emotions….confusion, betrayal, hurt, anger, love for Mary, he had to make a decision about what to do.  The Gospel tells us he was an upright person who didn’t want to bring disgrace to her, so he intended to divorce her quietly. 

As a side note….. engagement/being betrothed, had a different connotation in Joseph’s time than it does now.  To be engaged wasn’t a promise of a future contractual event, but rather a completed contract, with the wedding the final joining.  Also, the word the translators use for “divorce” is apoleo….which is literally translated to set free.  So, in thinking about what the “right” thing to do about this horrible situation, he used the law to it’s most compassionate end.   

 Very honorable, indeed, but God had another plan and shared it with him in a dream.  It was in this unconscious state that God was able to communicate God’s will to Joseph.

I think many of us grew up in churches that focused more on what we needed to do to earn the graces of God and being a good Christian than on building a relationship with our Creator.  We have become a people, just like Joseph, who when challenged with situations that cause worry and anxiety we struggle to find what God would want us to do.  Now I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, these readings today just make me wonder if our history and our thoughts are causing us to ask the wrong questions.

 In trying to live the spiritual life, I wonder what would happen if we stopped asking “How do I find God” and asked “How do I let God find Me?” or instead of asking “How am I to know God” ask “How can I let God know me?”  and finally instead of asking “How am I to love God” we ask “How do I let God love me?” 

A dear friend reminded me last night that when our thoughts are in the past or in the future, we are missing out on the present moment and all the grace God has for us right this minute.  For as many of our wise ancestors have told us….only the present moment is real.  Now this premise, admittedly, is one with which I struggle immensely.  My brain and what it thinks it knows is quite loud and my ego encourages me to stay in the past or future, for that’s where it is fed. 

But what if, what if this week, we changed our questions, changed our thoughts, and practiced living only in the present.  What would our week be like if instead of trying to figure everything out, we just stopped and said “here I am Lord, find me, know me, love me”.  I wonder if we just might not experience Emmanuel – God with us – in a new and profound way.

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Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always!

Homily 3rd Sunday Advent Year A 2013

 

The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”), the first word of the introit of this day’s Mass:[1]

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. 

This may be translated as

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 

I don’t know if I have ever taken an opportunity like this to simply say thank you to each and every one of you?  Your faith, your joy, your doubts, your fears, your hopes and your dreams, they lift me to heights I never in my life ever thought was possible!

So on this Gaudate sunday….I can truly say I do rejoice…I rejoice in you and in our God and in the abundant grace that fills this space every time we gather around this table.

For far too long and in far too many ways, I think many of us have approached faith and church and God from a position of fear, trepidation, and deprivation.  We can’t help it, it was how we were raised or how we were taught.

Most of us or at least many of us did not grow up with an image of a God who rejoiced in who we are….a God who as the Gospel says….who even the least in the Kingdom is greater than John the Baptist!

Unfortunately my friends, and for many complicated reasons, we were raised on the Gospel of Fear not the Gospel of Grace!  Somehow the Church forgot that the Good News is not that we are sinners and God is out to get us or God is just waiting for us to fail….some how the Church forgot that first and foremost, beyond everything…we are loved, treasured, adored and embraced by a God who wants nothing more than to be loved in return.

Unfortunately, for years the Church focused on how we fail in our return to love, but forgot to teach us the first part…..that we are Children of God

For the past several weeks we have been talking about the razor wire fences we put between ourselves and God….Corein so beautifully reflected last week that one of the most powerful images was Eucharist being shared right through the razor wire….breaking the bonds/dismantling the barriers….

Our task my friends is to be conscious and careful not to forget the first part of the Good News….not to erect more barriers to the grace that God just wants to pour out on and in us every day.

I was thinking deeply about it this week and this is the conclusion I reached:

One can not stop freedom, liberation and grace….we can only enjoy their blessings or deny that they are there!

Once we have tasted Gods love, forgiveness and redemption we can never be the same!

I grew up on a farm….once you cut barbed wire you can’t get it back together….you can only go to the closest post, and string new wire!

 

One can’t stop freedom, liberation and grace….we can only enjoy their blessings or deny that they are there!

 

Someone once said to me…this is not a table of radical hospitality…to which I replied…oh but it is indeed…to this table we say all are welcome, rich, poor, young, old, spiritually advanced and those who are just coming to grasp the concept of God…we place no barriers, no razor wire in the way of God’s grace…

 

We contribute to the Reign of God every time we gather….big crowds or small, with music or with our voice…so thank you for your presence here…thank you for your faith.

 

When the reign of God comes, at least we can say…tell Christ what we did…those who came were fed, those who asked received, those who had fallen are lifted up, those who needed prayer were surrounded with it, healing, compassion, grace and forgiveness were shared without limits and without barriers….

This season of Advent my hope and my prayer is that we continue to cut the razor wire that stands as an obstruction to God’s compassionate love and abundant grace. 

When fear, frustration, anger, resentment, or any other negative emotion or experience enters our thought, I hope that we can find the grace to acknowledge it and let it go…lets not give power to something which is truly powerless.

In the end, make no mistake…Gods love will rule…we can only deny its truth or lend a hand in it happening.

I hope and pray we lend a hand!

My friend, Nelson Mandella once said:

  • I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

 

 

1st Sunday Advent 2013 Where is our Focus?

1st Sunday Advent 2013 Year A

Matt 24: 37-44

 

We have a problem my friends….

This Gospel was written somewhere around 75-90AD

Many if not all of the original disciples of Jesus had died…

The temple had been destroyed in a fierce battle….

The early Christians were being taunted by many other faiths

Where is your Jesus?  I thought he was coming? 

It was also a culture that did not think much beyond a week or two

It was a culture that was nomadic survival….

It didn’t have a future imagination….

but it had a belief in a God who promised to return…

When?

 

To that culture in that time the Gospel writer had to speak of hope….of hope for and in the future…of hope for and in the return of God…to a people who were teetering on the cliffs edge of doubt, despair and disillusionment.  Castigated by fear, by threats, by taunting.

 

Into that doubt, fear and disillusionment Matthew speaks:

You must be prepared…the Promised One is coming when you least expect it!

 

I have to believe that some, probably like some of us had to respond with:  Yeah right…when?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to wait isn’t it! 

We live in a world that is instant!

We have instant everything,

Instant potatoes, Instant soup,

Instant coffee, Instant oatmeal,

Instant access, and Instant messaging,

As well as Instant Macaroni & Cheese…which is just wrong!

 

We don’t want too and we don’t accept hardly anything that involves waiting…

 

We can’t even wait for black Friday….we have to shop on Thanksgiving day!

 

If our processors don’t work fast…at least dual core if not quad core or System 7 in case you are an Apple freak…then we don’t want it…because its not fast enough…

 

Patience…its not a hallmark of our world

 

Consequently…Advent…it can be a hard season to live in…its a season of waiting…a season of mindful awareness…of who we are and how we are being in the world.

 

To our culture, our doubt, our fear the Gospel speaks a very clear message: 

You must be prepared for the Promised One is coming at the time you least expect it!

We do have a future imagination….we plan for retirement….we plan for college…we are often focused on tomorrow…..often too focused on tomorrow that we miss today!

 

I was leaving Prison the other night and I have gotten in the habit of looking for the beauty in the various sunsets that I see….I have taken several shots with my cell phone….but as I walked from one of the prison, I saw the sunset….same one, same beauty, same magnificence….but it was obstructed just a little by rows and rows of razor wire and fences so high I could only see the sunset through it not over it.

 

I thought to myself about this Gospel and these words:  You must be prepared….

 

You see my friends its still the same sunset, its still just as beautiful, its just as magnificent, but I allowed my focus to be on the razor wire and fence….it was my focus that marred the beauty and grace of those few moments…the beauty and grace were still there….still as plentiful…

 

I am not sure what it will take for us to focus on the abundant grace of the present moments of our lives?  I do know it will be different for each of us.  We have different fears, different doubts, different struggles with life, love, relationships and living….

 

but I firmly believe the call of Advent is just like the revelation of the sunset….it depends on what we focus….on the obstructions of razor and fence….or on the beauty of the grace? 

 

As this season unfolds I wonder where our energy will be…on our fears, doubts and resentments or on God’s grace, love and mercy?