The Toast 2-17-2019

February 17th, 2019

It was at your wedding, and you and the guests were standing around at the reception, having a good time. And the best man signaled for everyone to be quiet for the toast. Everyone raised their glasses. The best man smiled at you and began:
To you. He said. I hope you are always wealthy, wanting for nothing. I hope you are always full, feeling no emptiness inside. I hope you will laugh and laugh and never know tears. I hope that always people will speak well of you.
Hear, hear. Everyone shouted, and clinked their glasses.
And then someone else went to the microphone there at the head table. Someone who perhaps had not been invited. Dressed in the simple plain homespun robe of the lower class, he looked out of place among all the suits and ties and Sunday dresses.
Clearing his voice, motioning for silence, he raised a glass and began his toast. Looking deep into your eyes, he began: And I have a toast to make. I can say with certainty, that I love you more than anyone here. In fact, I love you more than everyone here put together. And here are my hopes.
I hope you are poor at times. Your poverty might lead you to search me out, and in me you have a form of wealth greater than any king.
I hope you feel empty inside sometimes. People always full get complacent, lazy, closed.
I hope that you cry sometimes. Nothing is more superficial than a person who won’t let the sorrow of others and his or her own pain come close enough to reach their heart.
Lastly, I hope you live your life so honestly and so sincerely and so close to me that people are mystified by you and speak ill of you. An easy conformity to the world does no one any good, especially you.
And then this guest, still smiling intently at you, drank his glass, emptied it with so much gusto you’d have thought he was drinking in the Kingdom of God.
Very strange good wishes – from a very special friend.

God Loves Me? 2-10-2019

February 9th, 2019

What I find helps me understand the Scriptures better is to get on the inside of some of the characters. These characters are human beings-just like us. I try to feel what they are feeling – I try to walk in their shoes.
In our first reading and Gospel we have two characters – human beings, Isaiah and Simon-Peter. They are both suffering from what we call today an “Inferiority Complex,” when it comes to God. Like these two characters, I believe many of us who come here Sunday after Sunday, also are suffering from an inferiority complex when it comes to God – How do I know? What do I hear?
1. We are not good enough.
2. We are not wise enough in God’s ways to consider ourselves religious.
Like Isaiah and Simon-Peter – we shy away because we cannot imagine God loving sinful people like us.
A perfect example – This week I had four appointments in a row – There was a basic theme that ran through all these people’s stories. “I feel unworthy” to be in a relationship with God. How could I be part of the church with all my sins, failures, and frustrations? How can I share in the ministry of Jesus Christ like he wants me – us to do?
These people’s reactions sound pretty similar to Isaiah and Simon-Peter’s reaction. We hear God say, “Listen – I have a special job for you to do.” We hear them say, “Leave me alone Lord – I am a sinful person – I am unable and unworthy to be used by you”.
Isaiah and Simon-Peter, all of us here we need to be reminded over and over again – of three very important points:
1. The Mystery of God – is that God loves us despite ourselves – Thomas Merton wrote that the root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved by God irrespective of one’s worth. I heard someone define a disciple of Jesus as a “loved sinner.”
2. We don’t have to be Perfect First to be used by God. God wants our yes – God will take care of the rest. There is a prayer card that reads: “Nothing would be done at all if a person waited until they could do it so well – that no one could find fault with it.” 3. The “Break Thru” point – in being in a healthy relationship with God in truly being a disciple of Jesus Christ is this: Trusting enough to give our faults – failures – sins to God and allowing the healing power of God to work through us and with us – When Isaiah and Simon-Peter finally trusted enough to do this, it changed their lives- they were both able to say and believe it,
Here I am Lord – Send Me – Send Me.
4. Let me close with a very few words from the wonderful spiritual writer and speaker Maya Angelou. I hope and pray these words – touch the hearts of those of us with the inferiority complex when it comes to God. Listen carefully:
“In my twenties in San Francisco, I began acting agnostic. It wasn’t that I stopped believing in God; it’s just that God didn’t seem to be around the neighborhoods I frequented. One day my voice teacher asked me to read a passage from a book. A section which ended with these words: God loves me. I read it again and closed the book, and my teacher said, ‘Read it again.’ I pointedly opened the book, and I sarcastically read, God loves me. He said, ‘Read it again.’
“After about the seventh repetition, I began to sense that there might be truth in the statement, that there was a possibility that God really did love me – me, Maya Angelou. I suddenly began to cry at the grandness of it all. I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me and God?” Maya Angelou went on to say,
“…That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums. And it also liberates me.” “God loves me.” “Believe it”.

Love Never Passes Away 2-3-2019

February 1st, 2019

The story goes that one time a very prominent person in California died. He stood before the beautiful gates of heaven, hoping to get in, but a large angel stood at the gate and would not let him pass. “To get in,” said the angel, “you must show that you accomplished something significant, something really important in your life on earth.”
The man breathed a sigh of relief, because he had accomplished many things. “Well,” he said, “I feel I accomplished a lot. For one thing, I went to school and got excellent grades. After high school I went to the university on a scholarship, and all the teachers admired my work. I ended up graduating with highest honors, and writing a book.”
“That’s nice,” said the angel, “but I’m talking about a significant accomplishment. One that doesn’t pass away with time.”
The man was a little shaken, but not really frightened. He had done many other things. “Well, while I was in college, I played soccer. I was probably the best player that school ever had. I got to play in the Olympics and our team all won gold medals.”
“That’s nice,” said the angel, “but I need to know if you accomplished anything significant in you life – something that doesn’t pass away with time.”
The man began to perspire a little bit. “Well, holy angel,” he said, “I was blessed with good looks. I was very handsome, and had my pick of all the women in the world. Finally I ended up marrying a movie star. All the magazines and newspapers reported how beautiful our wedding ceremony was.
The angel tried to hide a little yawn. “How nice,” the angel said, “but did you do anything in life that was really important – something that wouldn’t pass?”
The man was now getting frightened. “Well,” he said, “after I was done with school, I started my own engineering and construction company. We built great bridges. We built mighty freeways. We built tall sky-scrapers. I made millions of dollars and lived in a palace. They even named a town after me.”
The angel shrugged. “I’m very sorry,” the angel replied. “All those things you’ve mentioned are nice, and perhaps even interesting…but they’re not important. They’re not what you need to get into heaven. They all pass away.”
And then the man remembered the reading form St. Paul, that we had today. Faith, hope and especially love, never pass away. And he looked back at his life, and it all seemed so different now. All those accomplishments he had thought were so important now seemed not so important. He felt confused and ashamed. “Well,” he said, “once, a long time ago, I gave an apple to a young girl who had nothing to eat.”
“At last!” The angel smiled, “something really significant. You wasted most of your life, but thank God you didn’t waste all of it! You did accomplished one important thing. Enter the kingdom of God!
Brothers and sisters, let’s not waste our time and energy on earth, but let’s devote ourselves to doing things that last.
Remember, love never passes away!