Archive for January, 2017

Blessed Are You 1-29-2017

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Picture This. Jesus pulls up a metal folding chair in the parish hall or takes a seat on the couch in the living room and begins to teach:
“If you’re struggling to pay the bills, but insist on making time to be with your children whenever they need you, blessed are you – you may never own the big vacation home and the Lexus, but heaven will be yours.
“If you are overwhelmed by the care of a dying spouse, a sick child or an elderly parent but you are determined to make a loving home for them, blessed are you – one day your sorrow will be transformed into joy.
“If you willingly give your time to cook at a soup kitchen, vacuum the church, help in a classroom; if you befriend the uncool, the unpopular, the perpetually lost, blessed are you – count God among your friends and biggest boosters.
“If you refuse to take shortcuts when it comes to doing what is right, if you refuse to compromise your integrity and ethics, if you refuse to take refuge in the rationalization that ‘everybody does it,’ blessed are you – you will triumph.
“If you try to understand things from the perspective of the other person and always manage to find a way to make things work for the good; if you’re feeling discouraged and frustrated because you are always worrying, always waiting, always bending over backwards, always paying the price for loving the unlovable and forgiving the undeserving, blessed are you – God will welcome, forgive and love you.
“If you struggle to discover what God asks of you in all things; if you seek God’s presence in every facet of your life and every decision you make; if your constant prayer is not ‘give me’ but ‘help me,’ blessed are you – God will always be there for you.
“If you readily spend time listening and consoling anyone who looks to you for support, for guidance, for compassion; if you manage to heal wounds and build bridges; if others see in you graciousness, joy and serenity; if you can see the good in everyone and seek the good for everyone, blessed are you – you are nothing less than God’s own.
“If you are rejected or demeaned because of the color of your skin or the sound of your name; if your faith automatically puts you at odds with some people; if you refuse to compromise to ‘get along’ or ‘not make waves,’ blessed are you – one day you will live with God.
“Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus tells those who have gathered, “you are the blessed of God. In the end, heaven is yours.” Remember this.

The First Disciples of Jesus 1-22-2017

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

The time was now. Jesus decided he was ready to choose his twelve apostles. Just advertising in the newspapers didn’t seem thorough enough. So Jesus decided to hold an Olympics from which the twelve would be chosen. The people came from all over. The competition was fierce. Jesus had to judge all the events.
First came the prayer event. People had practiced and it showed in the speed with which they could recite the words. Some articulated the words with utmost precision. Some used big impressive words. Still others expressed lofty ideas. But when it came time for a winner to be selected, Jesus chose none. There didn’t see to be any heart in their prayers. They were just words.
Second came the worship event. These contestants, too, had done their homework. Some wore beautiful garments. Some used lots of incense. Some emphasized music. Others incorporated gestures. But again, when it was selection time, there was no winner. There didn’t seem to be any heart in worship. It was too showy.
Third came the teaching event. This was a prepared group. Some came with elaborate posters. Some came with long, well ordered talks. Some came with DVD players. Others came with their small groups to demonstrate process. Again, no winners. There was no heart in teaching. The methods seemed more important.
So, the Olympics ended. No winners, no apostles. Exhausted after his long exasperating ordeal, Jesus went down to the lake to cool off and relax. Then the miracle happened. He saw people fishing. Now there were some people who put their hearts into what they were about. So he chose them!
Remember… the first disciples of Jesus were ordinary people. They weren’t great public speakers, scholars, kings or saints. They weren’t presidents, theologians or ordained ministers. They were fishermen. A tax collector. Common field workers. Who, by God’s power, and their openness, made great things happen! What about us – Could great things happen through us? Yes — By God’s Power and Our Openness!

Behold God is in Our Midst 1-15-2017

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

The character of John the Baptist is someone we usually meet around Christmas but over the last two weeks he has played a major role in launching Jesus on his three-year mission. Some scholars say John the Baptist’s role was to point people to Jesus… “Look! There’s the Lamb of God…Look! God is in our midst.” Pointing people to Jesus and then getting out of the way and letting Jesus work in people’s lives.
I believe that this Sunday reminds us that as baptized Christians it is our role to point people to Jesus and to get out of the way like John the Baptist. We may do this in very different ways than John the Baptist, but we need to do it each in our own way.
An eight-year old boy is facing surgery. He asks his doctor, “What’s it like to die?” Neither the doctor nor anyone else on the medical staff can answer this question directly – but one hospital employee can. She isn’t a doctor or nurse or child psychologist. She cleans the floors. One night the boy asks her, “Are you afraid of dying?” She puts down her mop, looks up from the floor and replies, “Yes, I am, but I do something about it.” She talks to the boy as an equal, not as a superior. She tells him that she believes in God and finds comfort in the words of Jesus. The two talk for a long time. She has put the boy at peace simply by listening to him. Behold, the Lamb of God…
A high school student is struggling with his algebra homework. The frustration builds and the teenager slams the book shut. His father comes into the kitchen and asks if he can help, but the teenager says, “They didn’t even have algebra in your day.” Defeated and angry, the boy goes off to bed. At 4:00 A.M., his dad shakes his son awake and sits him back down at the kitchen table. The father, who works two jobs as a janitor and a chauffeur, sat up all night to read the algebra book from cover to cover. He worked the problems through until he understood them enough to be able to explain them to his son. With his dad tutoring him, the student finally grasps the equations and completes his homework. That night, a father taught his son much more than algebra. Behold, the Lamb of God…
Within a month, she had lost both her father and her mother. It was something neither she nor her husband knew how to deal with. She was devastated; getting through the days was often more than she could handle. He thought he might be able to lessen the blow by being a more attentive spouse or more romantic husband. He felt more and more inadequate at not being able to do something to alleviate her grief. Then the night came for them to see the musical Wicked. The tickets had been bought months before. The two lead sang a song that always reminded her of her mother. That’s when he realized his role: to be there to hold her hand, to have Kleenex at the ready, to let her know he would be there when the music ended and the lights came back on. Behold, the Lamb of God…
I close…
In every act of selfless generosity and humble compassion, the Lamb of God walks in our midst. Everyone of us – of every profession and age group, possessing every talent, skill and ability – has been called, as the Baptizer was called, to point to the Christ, the Lamb of God, dwelling among us and walking with us in our doubts, our hurts, our fears. John declared his witness in preaching and baptizing at the Jordan; our witness can be declared in less vocal but no less effective vehicles: in our compassion for others, in our uncompromising moral and ethical convictions, in our everyday sense of joy and peace.
Behold, God is in our midst! Amen.