God the Cheerleader 5-26-2019

May 24th, 2019

Most people like to get gifts. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that
he’ll ask the Father and the Father will give us a gift, something called a
paraclete. You are now the proud owner of a paraclete. However,
sometimes you get a gift from a friend and you’re not sure of what it is,
even after you open it, one might rightly wonder (what this paraclete is).
Breaking the word down into its parts helps. “Paraclete” is a
Greek word and the “clete” part of it means to call out or yell. The
“para” means vigorously. So “paraclete” means to call out vigorously.
Now in some Bibles the word paraclete is translated into advocate or
consoler. Those words are good, but somewhat churchy and really not
earthy, the way that paraclete is in the original language. I think the
closest English word we have for paraclete is “cheerleader.”
If you’ve ever played on a basketball or football team, you
know that there’s such a thing as home field or court advantage – when
you are on your home turf and when the stands are full of your fans
cheering and screaming for you, you’re much more likely to play your
best game and give it your best shot.
Today’s Gospel presents a stunning and delicious picture of God –
God the cheerleader. Your biggest fan, according to scripture, is God.
God shouting for you; God standing up and cheering when you do
something well; God going into agony when you fall into the mud or get
beaten; God calling and pushing onward; God telling you – you can do it
– God the cheerleader.
There’s an important difference between God the cheerleader and
human cheerleaders. When you and I are cheering for people form the
stands, we might get so caught up in the excitement of the game we wish
we could go right down there on the field and do something concrete to
help. When I’m at a 49’er game and the 49’ers are behind I sometimes
get carried away and would love a chance to stand next to whatever
quarterback they have and help him throw the football. Well, you and I
can’t do that, but God can. God does not remain an impassive observer
in the stands while you and I make our way through the game of life.
God gets so carried away that in a fit of enthusiasm he leaves the stands
and becomes a member of the team. That’s the mystery of Jesus – Jesus
our brother, Jesus a member of the human race, Jesus walking with us
toward eternal life.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says that he’s going to ask the
Father and we’ll be given still another paraclete, still another cheerleader
–the Holy Spirit, a little energy, something inside us that urges us on.
Imagine it! Three cheerleaders totally full of love and concern for you,
cheering you onward—God the Creator, cheering you from the distance,
calling you forward; God the Son, cheering you as your brother; walking
next to you; and God the Holy Spirit, cheering you from inside, kicking
you in the rear when you need it, pulling you, pushing you, tugging you,
congratulating you, forgiving you, telling you to keep on going and you
can do it.
And if we believe in this cheerleading God, there’s only one thing
for us to do – and that is to become cheerleaders ourselves. The vision
of Jesus is for husbands to cheer wives and wives to cheer husbands; for
old people to cheer young people and young people to cheer old people;
for single people to cheer their friends and friends to cheer single
people; for parishioners to sometimes cheer their Pastor, for all of us to
cheer each other and forgive each other and lift each other up into new
life.
I close. Today the scripture invites you to consider the delicious
picture of God the cheerleader, God who is your best fan, God who is
the one urging you onward. There are already enough boo s in this
world – that’s the voice of the world telling you, you can’t be any better,
you’re just you. You’re stuck in that rut and that’s it. The world telling
you to lie down and die. But stronger than the voice of the world, strong
enough to bounce from one side of the galaxy to the other, is the strong
and silent word of God coming to you from the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. The voice of the cheerleader that says “You’re Terrific. I know
you can do it. Get up – you’ll make it. HALLELUJHA!!”

The Good Shepherd 5-12-2019

May 12th, 2019

For most of us I think it is safe to say this image of the Shepherd is not
something we see very much everyday. It was a very common scene in
the early Church: – it is a common scene in the Middle East. People in
the early Church could really understand what was involved in being a
shepherd. It was very real and earthy to them. The Biblical figure of the
Shepherd – has been romanticized a lot in paintings, pictures, Holy
Cards, “rosy cheeked young men – among pure white fluffy sheep on
beautiful green hillsides – very serene and peaceful.”
I did a little research into what Shepherds were like in the Time of
Jesus. It was a very lonely, dirty, dangerous job – that could not be
managed from a distance. Shepherds lived among the sheep in the filth
and stench – the lives of the sheep were their primary concern. A sheep
sometimes wandered far off from the others – when it got lost and could
not find it’s way back, it would simply lie down where it was and refuse to budge – the shepherd would search out for the lost sheep – carefully
pick it up and carry it home. There was a personal relationship between
the Shepherd and each individual sheep. They were not just numbers.
I believe this image of the Shepherd points us to God. God is
not squeamish; God will not run away when things get messy in our
lives; – God’s hands are dirty (not lily white); God’s clothes are stained
with waste, mud and blood – the waste, mud and blood of our roller
coaster lives. This God gets in the middle of the mess with us.
Does the mess magically disappear? Not most of the time; but
there is a sense we are not alone and that helps us get through it. A key
question for us; Are we afraid to share our messes with God?
How does this shepherding image of God come alive? Become real to
people – Today –
I believe most of the time thru people – we are called to be shepherds
for each other. We are responsible to pick each other up when we are
down.
“I thought just priests and ministers were shepherds – no we all are if
we call ourselves Christian and mean it.”
“Don’t we need special skill and talents – training to do this? No! We
need a caring heart, a little common sense and a few less excuses.
“What about when you don’t have the answers or solutions to people’s
problems? You don’t know what to say or do. Just listen and just be
there for them.
I close with a story I am sure we all have heard;
A man dreamed he died and went to heaven and there was met
by Jesus. The man had lived a long Christian life, but it had not been
without some time of great trial and tribulation as well as those times
of joy and victory. As he met with Christ, the man was given a
panoramic review of his life – all the highlights and low periods. In
the review of his life one of the things that continued throughout were
his footsteps along the sands of time.
The man noticed that at those times in his life when it had really
been rough there was only one set of footprints – not two as in the
good times. The man turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, I don’t
understand. You promised to be with me always. But when I look
back now, I see that in those really rough times there was only one set
of footprints. Lord, why did you leave me then?”
The Lord looked at him, smiled and said, ‘Leave you? I didn’t
leave you at all. Dear friend, if you look at the one set of footprints
carefully, you’ll notice they are a little deeper than the others. Those
were the time I was carrying you.”

Do You Love Me? 5-5-2019

May 7th, 2019

Our Gospel this Sunday reminds us again of some powerful good
news. It’s what I call the episode of the second chance. Now it is
important that you remember who was there in those boats. Jesus’
disciples. You know, the ones who fled when he was arrested. The
ones who, when he needed a bit of comfort, fell asleep on him. The ones
who, when the going got tough, abandoned him. And there, too, was
Peter, the leader, who figures so prominently in this story. He was there.
Remember, he denied even knowing Jesus.
It is to these that Jesus appears. And he has a question. And it is
urgently important that we realize what the question is not. His question
is not “What have you done?” His question is not “Who were you in the
past?” His question is not “Have you reformed?” His question is not
“Do you remember your sins?” His question has nothing to do with the
past and everything to do with the present. His question is simply “Here
and now, do you love me?”
“Do you love me?” That’s all Jesus is interested in. Let bygones
be bygones. Let sins be forgotten. Let mistakes be put aside. Let 2
stupidities be buried. Let hurts be unrecorded. Let betrayals be
unmentioned. All that matters is, “Right here, right now, do you love
me?”
Can you sense the drama of this very personal gospel, the absolute
forgiveness implied in the question, the total love of the Questioner?
Can’t you sense that this gospel lives? That on this Sunday morning, at
this liturgy, here and now, Someone is asking the only question that
matters in your life and mine. He is asking, “Do you love me?” It’s the
gift of the second chance. Never mind the past. “Today , do you love
me?” This is why this gospel was saved by the faith community. It was
saved for people like ourselves who also needed to know the Stranger is
on the shore of our lives as we toil with empty nets and that, above all,
the Stranger comes with a question and a challenge.
“Do you love me?” If you do, go forth from this church and love
others. Start with your family first. Give someone a second chance. Is
there someone you know who needs to be reminded that our God does
not say – Why did you? How could you? Our God says here – start
over. Try again. Try again.