Monday, January 6, 2014

The most depressing day of the year!

The news this morning announced that the Guardian, a London newspaper, has labeled this day the most depressing day of the year - the day when more divorces are filed, than any other, and the day when all of us face the (I guess) depressing realities of our lives.  Perhaps, some speculate, that this is the first day back to work and school and our daily routines after the Christmas holidays.  Perhaps it is the reality of the weather - winter is most decidedly here, for those of us in the northeast.  It's grey, and cold, and snowy and icy.  Perhaps its the fact that all those Christmas bills are now coming due and payable.  And of course, with the holidays over, the decorations put away, our homes no longer sparkle in the candlelight and the glow from the Christmas tree.  And perhaps we're facing the reality of what happens when we have an extra piece of pie, or one more drink.

But Holy Scripture says, this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!  (Psalm 118:24)  All days belong to God; our lives are bound to the One who transcends days and time and whose birth among us we celebrated 12 days ago.  This is God's day, for you - to be the new creation in Christ that we are called to be by virtue of our baptisms.

May this day, and all the ones that follow, be ones of blessing and peace and joy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

November 10, 2013
Season of the Saints
Soli Deo Gloria!

Have you ever found yourself in this situation?  You have something difficult to discuss with someone, and you beat all around the bush before you get to your point.

Or how about this?  Someone has a beef with you, and instead of getting to the point, they first feel the need to wear you down, to bring up the past, to try to trip you up, everything but get to the point so perhaps the disagreement can be solved.

In our home, we call it ‘and another thing’.  Instead of saying, “I wish you’d do more around the house,” the conversation would start with,  “Why do you take so long in the bathroom?” , “And another thing – I hate your friends.” or “And another thing – (our all time favorite) – you smell!”  Everything but what was really bothering the person.

The ‘another things’ quickly became hilarious, and the opportunity for a lot of silly ‘ranking’ on each other, with each one trying to out do the other in ‘and another things’.  We knew we were being silly, and we saw it as an opportunity to disperse anger.

We weren’t at all like the Sadducees.  Most of the time, we weren’t out to get each other, to trap each other in saying something that we could then point to and say ‘aha!’ or, in the case of trying to trap Jesus, “Don’t listen to him!  He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”

This 20th Chapter in Luke is all about the Sadducees trying to trap Jesus in saying something that would incontrovertibly prove to the dumb, gullible Pharisees, peasant, poor folk, unwashed, foreigners, that this Jesus they were all pinning their hopes on was nothing more than a two bit country preacher, making claims that he couldn’t prove and promises he couldn’t keep.

The Sadducees were the legalistic ones among the Jerusalem priests.  They followed only what was written in the Law, rejecting oral tradition.  They would have loved the bumper sticker that proclaims, God said it, I believe it, that settles it.  If it wasn’t written in the Torah, the sacred writings, there was no need to give any credence to some upstart’s interpretation of the Law, daring to breathe life into the Law, daring to turn Law into Gospel, into Good News, into grace.  Just who did this Jesus think he was?

So the Sadducees ask Jesus one more question that is the focus of our reading this morning, an ‘ and another thing’ after trying and failing to trap Jesus in an answer that might reveal that he was not the prophet and the hope the people thought him to be. Sadducees told stories like this one to ridicule the belief in resurrection and life after death. How can the dead be raised, if they can't tell who is married to whom? Jesus settles the argument answering that the book of Exodus teaches the resurrection, describing Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as "alive to God." And as if to confirm the point, our Lord goes to the cross and is raised from the dead, in a surprising reversal of all those arguments that would seek to challenge God's power to make all things new.

Jesus in a few words, preaches an Easter sermon.  He doesn’t dwell on the legal rubrics, but rather on a God who is alive and loving, who will come to us, when our resurrection happens, in ways that are surprising and unexpected.  This is the God who takes what is dead and makes alive.

We too have to be careful with Jesus’ words, because they are full and have been used to denounce priest’s marrying, or the belief that when we die we become angels.  The point isn’t to find ‘and another thing’, but to remember that we are children of the light, born again into a loving relationship with God and with each other, and that fact makes all the difference in how we relate to God and to each other.

That love dares us to be generous, dares us to take a chance, just as God takes a chance with each one of us.  We are reminded – while we were still in our sins, Jesus came to die for us.

God didn’t wait for us to be perfect.  He doesn’t wait for us to believe in Jesus.  God comes to us, in story, in water, in bread and wine, and challenges us to look at ourselves, look at each other, in a new light.

Jesus, like Job, surrounded by hostility, unbelief, despair, lost hope, still dares to proclaim life, still dares to speak of a God whose love will remain with each one of us, even as we are called through death into life everlasting.

I know that my redeemer lives, Job wants to write, with an iron pen (the most durable substance known at the time) engraving into a rock – I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES.

And that’s what makes all the difference – in this life and the next.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria!
All Saints

This first Sunday in November, whatever the date, is the one designated to remember the saints:  the saints the church commemorates, and the ones in our own lives .

What makes a saint?  A saint always points towards God and away from themselves.  I want you to keep that definition of a saint in your mind as I speak about two saints today.

The saints we commemorate today are Martin de Porres, renewer of society, and Andrew Carnegie.  Have you heard of them?  Either of them?

Martin de Porres was the son of a Spanish knight and Ana Velazquez, a freed black slave from Panama.  Martin apprenticed himself to a barber surgeon in Lima, Peru, and was known for his work as a healer.  Martin was a lay brother (meaning he wasn’t ordained) in the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and engaged in many charitable works.  He was a gardener as well as a counselor to those who sought him out.  He was noted for his care of all the poor, regardless of race.  His own religious community described him as the “father of charity”.  His work included the foundling of an orphanage, a hospital, and a clinic for dogs and cats.  He is recognized as an advocate for Christian charity and interracial justice.  He died in 1639. (Sundays & Seasons 2013)

Sounds pretty saint like doesn’t it?  In his work he always pointed away from himself, and pointed whoever would follow in his footsteps, towards God.

Now to the other saint I mentioned, Andrew Carnegie.  You’ve heard of him, haven’t you?  Perhaps you didn’t realize he had been beautified, canonized, which are the steps taken by the Vatican when a new saint is introduced to the faithful.  Do you feel like you missed something?

I’ll wager you know his story:
Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and emigrated to the United States with his very poor parents in 1848. Carnegie started as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He built further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe. He built Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million (the equivalent of approximately $13.5 billion in 2012), creating the U.S. Steel Corporation. Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries, world peace, education and scientific research. With the fortune he made from business, he built Carnegie Hall, and founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, among others. His life has often been referred to as a true "rags to riches" story.  (Wikipedia)

But I guess you had missed the part about Andrew becoming a saint.

Him, and his story, however, is much more known than the story of Martin de Porres.  He is the type of person we seek to emulate:
 make sure you have yours first
one only survives by the natural law of ‘tooth and fang’ – do what you have to do to make it in this world
justify the discrepancy between the wealthy and the poor by saying the poor deserve their lot, or, if they worked harder they would have more
don’t give away any of your hard earned money until you’re sure you have enough to get by, and then, make sure you don’t give it all away

Andrew exemplifies the American dream! It's why we admire him!  That's why people strive to emulate him!  He may not have formally achieved sainthood, but you would never know if from the way we treat him and people like him. It’s why we play the lotto, gamble in casinos, play bingo, invest everything in Twitter or Microsoft or Google.  It’s why we work hard, and feel ashamed if we can’t make it working a 40 hour week, why you will even hear poor people say they don’t want food stamps or Obama care – we’re supposed to make it on our own!

We look with suspicion on ethnicities that band together, that help each other, who loan money only to family – don’t you know that family will only bring you down?  Not repay the loan?

Andrew, St. Andrew of Carnegie, that’s who we want to be like.  Martin de Porres sounds a little too goody goody, to wishy-washy.  We want muscle in our lives.  We want muscle in our churches.  Why follow behind some do-gooder when we have a dollar and a dream?

Why indeed?

If you are to be my disciples, Jesus said, you will continue in my word.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

What is truth?

Truth is that you don’t gain the kingdom by force.  You don’t gain the kingdom through arrogance, through injustice, through being unloving, unkind, through not only caring about the poor and the sick and the voiceless among you, but by doing something about it.

Loving your enemies, doing good to those that hate you, blessing those who curse you are not the marks of a wishy washy person.  It takes courage to stand on Jesus’ words and Jesus’ promises.  It takes faith to believe that what Jesus promises – a full life now and in the world to come – is possible even if great riches don’t happen, and you never escape the 40 hour work week.

It takes believing that Jesus’ system of justice – that one gives not because one has to but because one wants to is what brings peace to ourselves, our families and eventually our communities.

It means that giving in love, giving generously, giving sometimes without your left hand knowing what your right hand is doing – will always be rewarded, sometimes in surprising ways.

We have been blinded to the truth; we have been tempted by the attractive, yet unattainable goal that Andrew and the other robber barons from the 18th century to this present age have told us is important.

Jesus calls you to another story, another way of living and being in this world.  Jesus reminds you that in your baptism you have been made free, and that freedom can never be more important than the next new car, or a big bump in your stock portfolio, as important and as gratifying as those things may be.

Jesus calls you and tells you there are still some who don’t know Him.  There are still some who don’t know they have been set free.  There are still some suffering and in pain.  Jesus says you do something about it.  You fix this.

You might not be liked for your stance.  Perhaps no one will ever call you the latest manifestation or incarnation of Andrew Carnegie.  But perhaps, just perhaps, someone might say to you in the midst of your work for Jesus’ sake, ‘thank you!  You’re a saint’!

Amen +


Monday, February 25, 2013

Love

I loved her so dearly; I'm still realizing just how much.  Every time I walk now, I remember our walks.  Every time I hear a dog bark, I remember how I am no longer afraid.  I think of how she loved.  She didn't hold it against me when she had to go to a shelter because we had no home. She would only wag her tail and jump up and down whenever we took her out.  And when we finally had a home for her, here in Port Jervis, she took a victory lap around the house, around the garden, and voila!  She was home.
Belle loved everyone.
What a model for Christian love!  To love dearly, and deeply, without reservation, the way we are loved by Christ.
It is what we focus on during this season of Lent; how we take the radical love Christ has for us, into our lives, and our world.
Thank you, Belle.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fasting for Lent

Is not this the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break eery yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hunry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  Isaiah 58:  6,7

This is what God requires - that we treat each human being and all creation with the dignity given them by God; that we do not judge and point fingers, and deem some worthy and others not, that we understand that we are all one family, and all of us are loved by God.

When we keep God's fast, we will have truly turned our hearts and minds to what is important - love of God and love of neighbor.

May our Lenten fast be a hunger for justice, a work towards alleviating prejudice and discrimination, and a humble walk knowing that God loved us so much that God was willing to die for us.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome!

Memento mori - Latin for remember your mortality.  Remember you are human.  It is a humbling thought, and one that will guide this post.  Remember, Patt, that you are human.  And to those who will read this blog, it is my plea to you also - remember that you are human, caught up in this marvelous world that God has intersected in Jesus Christ.  In our humanity, we will make mistakes.  In our humanity, we will be cruel and unloving.  However, on this blog, you must be kind.  You must be loving or you will be blocked.
Here, you are welcome to ask questions and work out the understanding of what it means to be human and in Christ.  We will walk together.  Memento mori.