Be A Stand In For God 9-15-2019

September 14th, 2019

If an alien was to walk in to our church today and say, “Ok you
Church people, describe God to me.”
I wonder what our answer would be. I believe one of the most
powerful descriptions of God is contained in the 2 stories we just
heard in Luke’s Gospel.
A. These images of God, too many people, don’t make any sense.
When the sinner is found. Mercy, love and forgiveness are
freely offered. No charge; no strings attached; no, “I told you
so;” no finger pointing. Just, “Welcome Home.”
B. No matter how far we wander or stray from God, and we all do
it at times, no matter how terrible our sins might be, God’s arms
are always open to us. Jesus never approves of the sin, but he
always embraces the sinner.
C. I could just hear a few of the people, when Jesus was telling his
stories, making a few side comments like:
i. These stories are crazy!
ii. This God is ridiculous!
iii. Leave 99 good sheep to go after one stupid stray?
iv. That’s not very good business sense.
v. If I were the father I would stick it to that son.
vi. I would make him crawl back.
vii. This God doesn’t make any sense.
These people were right; our God doesn’t make any sense when it
comes to loving us.
D. A final point, very important, comes from a quote by the
director of Covenant House, a shelter for runaway kids in many
large cities in the U.S. She says, “The kids we work with have a
lot of questions…
‘Can I have something to eat? I haven’t had a good thing
to eat in days,’ a 17-year-old boy asked me last night. ‘Can I
sleep here? Where can I sleep?’ another kid asked an hour later.
I think she may have been twelve. These questions come easy
to them. They are the questions that a street kid asks every day,
minute to minute. But what gets to me is the question they
don’t ask. The one that hides deep in the eyes they turn away
from you, the one that shows in nervous fingers. This is the
question that comes from living a lifetime of days when you
can’t seem to do anything right. It is, ‘Does God still love me?
– Will God forgive me?’ The kids would never say that out
loud. Very few of them ever talk about God. They don’t know
enough yet, and their minds and mouths are too preoccupied
with the other questions: ‘Is it safe here?’ ‘Can I have
something to eat?’ ‘Where can I sleep?’ But their hearts have
only one question: ‘Does God still love me? – Will God forgive
me?’ And their hearts look to me and to other adults at
Covenant House for the answer to that question. I don’t think
the kids think much about the theological idea that God lives in
every one of us. With them it’s more instinctive. All I know is
that when they look at me and I see that question, I feel the
incredible burden of standing in for our Lord. And I know our
Lord is counting on me to say, ‘Yes! Heavens, yes! I love
you!’ to those scraggly, hungry, angry children of the streets.”
I Close:
God is counting on all of us to be “Stand In’s” for the Lord, with
each other. To make real Isaiah 55:7, “Turn to the Lord for mercy; to
our God, who is generous in forgiving.”

Pedal 9-8-2019

September 8th, 2019

When we start talking about being disciples of Jesus we usually
hear stories about super stars. Some time ago the Christopher News
Notes carried three stories of three regular people, each answering the
call of discipleship.
The first story concerned a youth minister in California. He built
an extra hour or two into his weekly shopping schedule to talk with his
young flock at the town’s mall. When asked about his “mall ministry,”
the youth minister said:
“Jesus went where the people were, and that’s where I must go,
too. The kids are at the mall, so that’s where I must go.”
The second story concerned a woman in Minneapolis. She ran a
downtown shelter for the city’s homeless and abandoned. When asked
about her “shelter ministry,” she said:
“I’m simply trying to do what Jesus said to do. He said we should
love everyone, especially those most in need.”
The third and final story concerned a group of Harvard law
students who were getting ready to graduate. To court them a group of
the nation’s most prestigious law firms invited the students to a lavish
banquet in a plush downtown hotel.
After receiving the invitation, the students made this request to the
law firms: “Could you hold the banquet in a more modest hotel and
serve a more modest meal?”
When asked about this unusual request, the students simply said,
“We’d like the money saved to be given to the poor.”
These three stories illustrate the first point that Jesus makes in
today’s gospel. He says:
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be
my disciple.”
These words are not to be taken literally yet these words of Jesus
are a provocative way of saying three things:
1. That our priority in life must be to Jesus and to his work of
completing God’s kingdom on earth.
2. That as followers of Jesus, our responsibility extends beyond
our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family.
3. That if we want to follow Jesus, we must follow him not only
into church on Sunday morning but also into the marketplace of
our lives on Monday morning.
They are people who realize that they are going to make only a
microscopic dent in the problems of our world. But they are also
people who realize that the worse evil is to do nothing because they
can only do little. They are people who have committed themselves
to Jesus and to his work, and are living it out.
They are people whose commitment makes us ask ourselves,
1. What are the top three priorities in my life right now and are
they in the right order?
2. What am I doing for Jesus right now?
Let’s close with a poem. Perhaps you are familiar with it. It sums
up the message and the invitation of today’s liturgy. It compares our
commitment to Jesus and to his work to two people riding on a
tandem bicycle. The poem goes something like this “At first, I sat in front; Jesus in the rear. I couldn’t see him, but I
knew he was there. I could feel his help when the road got steep.
“Then, one day, Jesus changed seats with me. Suddenly
everything went topsy-turvy. When I was in control, the ride was
predictable – even boring. But when Jesus took over, it got wild! I
could hardly hold on. ‘This is madness!’ I cried out. But Jesus just
smiled – and said, ‘Pedal!’
“And so I learned to shut up and pedal – and trust my bike
companion. Oh, there are still times when I get scared and I’m ready
to give up. But then Jesus turns around, touches my hand, smiles, and
says, ‘Pedal!’”
I’m so blessed that over these past 40 years I have done some
pedaling with so many of you.

God You Are the Source 9-1-2019

September 1st, 2019

I think Jesus was a first class people watcher. One day he was
invited to be a guest in the home of a Pharisee. When it came time for
dinner, he began watching closely the other guests’ behavior. He
watched all the jockeying for position to be number 1. When all were
seated, Jesus gave them a piece of his mind. What he had to say was
much more than a lesson about table manners. In essence Jesus said,
“It’s a foolish thing to waste your time and energy trying to look
important.”
In thinking about this statement, I believe there are a couple of
important considerations to keep in mind:
A. Jesus never discouraged the desire for greatness . . . He
encouraged it. It was never human littleness that Jesus stressed,
but human grandeur. “You are the light of the world; you are
the salt of the earth.”
B. His philosophy was: try hard to achieve. Do something
significant with your gifts; be the best person that you can
possibly become.
Where then do we get out of focus in this area? Let me suggest this:
1. Most of us don’t make a big fuss about the seating arrangements at
banquets, but we are still masters in the gentle art of self promotion. We
have these neat tricks that we use to elbow our way up to the head table
of life.
(a.) One of them is criticism of others; fault finding in others is
almost always an attempt to cover up some weaknesses in ourselves. If
we can’t climb to the top, we can accomplish something of the same
result by pulling others down. We need to remember that we can never
promote ourselves by putting down other people. Invariably the
opposite happens. Life just moves us down to a lower seat and we gain
the reputation of a small minded, critical, jealous person.
2. Another common means of self-promotion is boastfulness. What a
waste of time. No person is as boring and unconvincing as the one who
continually talks about his or her achievements. There is something
about arrogance that just doesn’t make sense, and we all know it.
Whatever we are and whatever we’ve accomplished, it has required the
love and help of God and a lot of people. Our best posture should be
gratitude. (Sports personality, thank you God)
Let me close with this statement: If you really want to be
important, stop worrying about where you are seated at the Banquet of
Life and just get up and start waiting on tables. God, you are the source
of all we have . . . thank you!
Now, that’s where true humility starts!