Archive for November, 2016

The Best I Could With What I Have 11-27-2016

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

I saw a movie once where there was a man being pulled in 2 different directions. One arm being pulled by an angel in a white outfit with wings. The other arm pulled by a devil all equipped with a red outfit and horns. “Do this,” one would say. “No do not, do that,” the other would shout. The guys head was spinning and spinning.
I feel like this guy when I start thinking about Advent and Christmas. Bring up 3 people to help demonstrate being pulled apart.
A. On one side the Church is pulling, reminding me it is Advent again. Blue vestments, Advent wreaths, four candles, and special environment. A time of patient waiting. Special preparations for the Re-birth of Jesus in our life. All good stuff.
B. On the other side, Christmas carols 2 days after Thanksgiving, advertisements everywhere, “buy this, buy now, pay later”, Christmas decorations and parties and Santa Clauses everywhere. It is like we skipped from Thanksgiving to Christmas in one day. Being pulled apart.
I know for me I want to use the next 3 or 4 weeks, we call Advent, to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to be more aware of where Christ is present in my everyday life.
I also know I will get caught up in the Christmas frenzy. That will be ok and a lot of fun. With that being said, I want Christmas to be different this year.
I remember one Christmas a few years back that was very different for me. My perspective was changed by an automobile accident. 5 innocent and unsuspecting people were killed in a head-on collision. (Snap fingers) It shook me and many others. I thought to myself, “that could have been me”. “That is the same road I travel to go see my mom.” It could have been me. This experience caused me to ask myself some significant questions. Maybe I need to ask them again during Advent 2016? Perhaps you could ask them to yourself?
1. Has my life on the earth made a difference for the better?
2. Am I doing the best I can to develop and share the gifts and talents God has given me?
3. What are my priorities? Are God and my family in the top 3?
4. Are there relationships or some area of my life that needs healing? Needs to change for the better?
5. The final question. Do I need to forgive someone? Do I need to forgive myself? Do I believe God could never forgive me?
Pick one or two of these questions and spend a few minutes thinking about your answers. Be honest. Ask God to help you make the changes you need to make now! Those few minutes might be the best way to make Christmas different this year. Pray for me as I try to do this and I will pray for you.

Long Live the King 11-20-2016

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

I mentioned before today is the feast of Christ the King, what does this feast mean? What can we do to appreciate Jesus as King?
I have an idea I’d like you to think about. Bear with me because you’ll think I’m a little crazy as I develop it, but eventually I think you’ll see the point I want to make. Let’s spend a little time thinking about how we use the word “king” in our conversations. We speak of the lion as the king of the beasts and we have all heard of King Kong, a powerful but much maligned oversized gorilla. And the Schlitz people boast that theirs is the king of beer. If you want a great burger you go to Burger King. A few years ago a Nike commercial declared Michael Jordan the king of the court. Then there’s that old cowboy, Roy Rogers, king of the cowboys, and there’s a lesser known king, the polka king, Frankie Yankovitch. But enough is enough! What is the point in rattling off a list of kings as varied as the hamburger king and the polka king?
As we listen to the list, we realize that however diverse, all these kings share something in common – they excel at what they do. They all have some crowning achievement. For example, the lion has a roar that would frighten anyone, and King Kong made the earth tremble when he beat his hairy chest. Schlitz claimed it had the best beer and Burger King the best burgers in the land. Nike declared that Michael Jordan could sky higher than anyone else.
Today we celebrate Christ as a king. What does he excel at? What’s his crowning achievement? Well, we know what he wasn’t the best at. He wasn’t the best liked, certainly not by the Scribes or Pharisees; the best dressed (a one-piece tunic and that was it); the best looking (nowhere do we read he looked like Charleton Heston); the best likely to succeed (the cross did not hold the sweet smell of success); the best behaved (sweet, simple Jesus he was not).
Well, then how did he excel? What was he best at? He excelled at being human. If you want to know what it is to be a powerful gorilla, you look to King Kong; if you want to know what it is to be the king of the court, you look to Michael Jordan; if you want to know what it is like to be human, you look to Jesus.
But what does Jesus excelling at being human mean? I’d say it means three things:
You count!
I’m for you!
Come to the party!
“You count!” We know what it means not to count. It means to be: looked through, overlooked, under looked, nobody, a no account, nothing.
“You count!” This means: all the runny noses matter, all the overweight’s matter, all the underweight’s matter, all the just-so’s matter, all the wallflowers, confused, questioning, dropouts matter.
Jesus made everybody feel they counted. He made little Zacchaeus feel ten feet tall. He named Simple Simon “the rock.” He turned the prostitute into Dulcinea.
Secondly, Jesus let everybody know, “I’m for you!” Period! Not, “I’m for you…”
…if you pass a test,
…if you get your hair cut and your nails cleaned,
…if you get smart and well-mannered,
…if you get the earring removed,
…if you’re tops in everything.
No, “I’m for you” as you are, warts and all, neuroses and all. You can rely on me, lean on me, trust me. I’m no fair-weather friend. I believe in you!
Thirdly, Jesus invited everybody to the party. No one was to be: excluded, rejected, turned back, cast out, sent on their way, refused admittance.
His parties were not: mutual admiration societies, elitist gatherings, old boy’s club meetings.
“Come to the party”: whites, blacks, browns, polka dots, men women, poor, rich, tall, short, old, young, suburbanites, city folk, country dwellers! You are all welcome!
Christ’s message was and is: “You count, I’m for you, and come to the party.” But what about his crowning achievement? The touch of glory? His crowning achievement was and is the cross. No big roar. No polka. No razzle-dazzle on the basketball court. Just the cross.
Certainly the cross represents others’ attempts to cut short and put an end to Jesus’ message. But it is also Jesus’ way of saying you can’t stop a winner, a king. He went all the way to put himself on the line for us, and he made his point most eloquently on the cross. Because on that cross he said to another reject: “You count; I’m for you; this day you will be with me at the party in everlasting life!
Long live the king!

Count On It 11-13-2016

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

One night in 1983, over 100 million television viewers saw the movie The Day After. Filmed in Lawrence, Kansas, it portrayed what that city would be like after a nuclear attack.
Just before the film began, a warning flashed on the screen, saying, “Because of graphic portrayal of nuclear war, this film may be unsuitable for children. Parental discretion is advised.”
The warning was well given. For during the next 128 minutes, the movie showed shocking scenes of death and destruction. The script, too, was shocking and disturbing. It made us realize that the possibility of a nuclear attack was greater than we had ever imagined.
The words and images of today’s gospel are reminiscent of the words and images of that film.
Jesus portrays for us, graphically, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. For Jews, the destruction of these two things was equivalent to the end of the world.
Precisely for this reason, the Church uses this gospel passage as one of its readings for the end of the liturgical year. It wants us to reflect on the end of the world.
It wants us to reflect on that moment when the world, as we know it, will pass away.
It wants us to ask ourselves, “How prepared will we be for that moment when it comes?”
A few stories to help us reflect…
John was a building contractor for a construction company. His specialty was large luxury homes.
To increase his income, John routinely cheated on the materials that went into the homes. He was so clever at concealing these shortcuts that he joked to a close friend that even he couldn’t detect his own shortcuts.
Sometimes his cheating reached such a proportion that the homeowners were in fairly serious danger because of the under constructed electrical systems and the like.
The building contractor’s shortcuts were especially dangerous in the final home he built. Even he worried about some of the things he did in that home.
You can imagine his utter consternation, therefore, when the company gave the contractor this home as a retirement gift. It would be the home in which he and his wife would spend the rest of their years.
How is this story a parable of life? What corners are we cutting in our life, figuring nobody will be the wiser for it? Speak to God about the shortcuts in our life.
In April 1987, Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was returning by plane to his home in Dallas. Suddenly he began to sweat and have difficulty breathing. The thought flashed into his mind: “I’m having a heart attack!” He summoned a flight attendant and was given oxygen. When the plane landed, he was rushed to a hospital.
Later, Mantle told an Associated Press correspondent about a dream he had while he was in the hospital.
“I dreamed I died and went to heaven. Saint Peter greeted me. I said, ‘I’m Mickey Mantle.’ He said, ‘Really? Come in, God wants to see you.’
“I went to see God, and he said, ‘We can’t keep you here because of the way you acted. But do me a favor and sign six dozen baseballs.’”
When the humor of Mantle’s dream subsides, truth emerges: No one will escape God’s judgment, and no one will get VIP treatment in that judgment.
What frightens us most about standing before God in judgment? Speak to God about this fear, and ask God how we can overcome it.
I would like to close with these few words, think of them when you start worrying too much about anything. Especially about when the end of the world might happen.
If God were to drop us a postcard today, I think he might write, “My dear sons and daughters I love you in Jesus more than you can ever know. Through the human nature of my son I share all of your life with you – even the sickness and failure and pain, even the final cross and the knowledge of death. Not all, or even many, of the crosses you will put up with in life are of my making. Believe me, I grieve over them just as much as you do. But in the midst of it all, I will be there. I will be there with you. I will be there for you. And a relationship will be forged between us that earth and time and heaven and hell will never be able to break. I love you. True, bad things are bound to happen – but never the worst. I will always have you, and you will always have me. Count on it!”