Archive for June, 2017

Self-Inflicted 6-25-2017

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

There is an old folk tale that in late summer a rattlesnake sheds his old skin and a new one takes its place. It is believed that, during this time, the snake remains immobile and blind. At the slightest movement near it, the snake strikes out in its blindness, directing its attack by the sense of sound. If some object touches its body, the snake, in its panic, strikes the spot that has been touched, releasing into its own body the deadly poison carried in its fangs. The result is death. In its fear and panic, in its not knowing in its inability to see, the snake destroys itself.
This old folk tale is an apt metaphor for our own fears of change, our own struggles to make sense of a constantly evolving world. Too often we allow our fears to slowly kill our hope, our enthusiasm, our spirit. We desperately fear and strike out at whatever we don’t understand, at whatever seems to overturn the life we have grown comfortable with, at whatever threatens the vision of the world we have concocted that enables us to make some sense of life. We become the servants of our fears rather than the masters of our lives: the threat of disaster always manages to push aside the possibility for goodness, joy, justice and reconciliation. Three times in today’s Gospel, however, Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid, that we have nothing to fear before God who has proven his love for us reservedly. Christ calls us to embrace a vision of hope that is the opposite of fear—hope that overcomes our uncertainty of the unknown with the certainty of God’s love, hope that transforms the Good Fridays of our lives into Easter resurrection.

Become What You Receive 6-18-2017

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

In the November 1998 issue of Food & Wine magazine, writer Gerri Hirshey tells the story of her grandmother’s “special ministry” to her family:
“As a child, I often watched my tiny Italian grandmother, Geraldine, board a city bus cradling a mason jar of hot minestrone. This meant that someone – Uncle Carmine, Aunt Antoinette – was down. It didn’t matter whether they were felled by the flu, a feisty gallbladder or the evil eye. Having heard the alarm, Nonnie (our name for grandma) tied on an apron and started banging soup pots.
“For nearly half a century, Nonnie was the Designated Soup Carrier (DSC) for a sprawling Neapolitan network of family and friends in Stamford, CT. Somewhere between a field medic and a shrink, a DSC is found in many cultures and is usually female. In the midst of crisis, her prescriptives are basic and sustaining: Stop a minute. Taste this. Life is good.”
Nonnie’s daughter Rose – Gerri’s mother – eventually became the DSC for her brothers and sisters and their families; now, granddaughter Gerri has assumed the duties of DSC for her generation. The Designated Soup Carrier’s in Gerri Hirshey’s family model Jesus’ vision for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Nourished and sustained by the food we have received, we become nourishment and sustenance for others. Out of love, Christ gives us himself in bread and asks us to become, in our love, bread for others – Designated Christ Carriers (DCC).
Here are several examples:
A. He was old, tired, and sweaty, pushing his homemade cart; stopping now and then to poke around somebody’s garbage. I wanted to tell him about Eucharist, but the look in his eyes, the despair in his face, told me to forget it, so, I smiled and I said “Hi” and I gave him Eucharist.
B. She lived alone, her husband dead, her family gone, as she talked at you – not to you, words, endless words. So I listened and gave her Eucharist.
C. He sat across my desk – very nervous. He finally said it, “I have AIDS” – by God’s grace, I did not say, how did you get AIDS?” – I said “How can I help?” I gave him Eucharist.

I close:
As you, as we – say our Amen today at communion time – let us remember and take to heart these words – “We receive Eucharist – to become Eucharist for others. Let us remember and take to heart this challenge – the work of proclaiming God’s reconciling love belongs to every one of us, whether we collect taxes, teach math, manage a Fortune 500 company or shine shoes for a living – may we possess the greatness of spirit and generosity of heart to be ministers of the Gospel – Designated Christ Carriers, in whatever place we are in, whatever time God has given us. Amen. “We receive Eucharist – to become Eucharist for others.”

Trinity Sunday 6-11-2017

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

The people who ask the most questions about God are children and theologians – and their questions are surprisingly similar. Does God exist? Where does He live? What does He look like? Where did He come from and how does He spend His “time”? The search never stops. When one inquiry is answered, it usually triggers others.
Actually, the deep mysteries of religion are not answered but only commented on. Even Jesus didn’t give direct responses most of the time. He replied with a story, a parable, or a comment. “What is the Kingdom?” they asked, and He responded, “It’s a net full of fish.” “How about the Church, what is it?” “A mustard seed.” “How can you tell if a person is wise or foolish?” “One builds a house on rock, the other on sand.” These are not compete answers but enlightening comments designed to make people think.
Trinity Sunday presents us with some real puzzlers. Can you explain the Holy Trinity? No! But we can make a comment: it’s like a triangle, a shamrock or something that is three and yet one.
Religion is well supplied with a multitude of unfolding mysteries of which the Trinity is only one – a major one. It’s no real accomplishment to ask a question which perplexes the experts, for we have millions more good questions than good answers. People often think that the priest, bishop or pope, is the “answer man.” Not so. These persons are expected to have some penetrating insights, but basically they cannot answer religious mysteries. Their best response is to make an intelligent comment in the form of a symbol, story or perhaps a simple act of faith.
The mysteries of religion are not the kind which are waiting to be solved. Rather, they are to continue as mysteries and be acknowledged and appreciated. The Trinity is saying something to us about God’s inmost nature. Although it is beyond human explanation, we will have our own “answers” but they will all be incomplete. God is too big and complicated for our little minds to grasp completely. But even though He cannot be fully explained, we can always admire and believe God.
On a more down to earth level.
A high school teacher was talking to her students about the Trinity. After her presentation she gave her class a writing assignment on this question: “Which person of the Trinity do you relate to best at this time in your life?”
I’d like to share with you three student answers to that question.
One boy wrote:
“My father and I have a zero relationship. I need a father right now, and since I can’t turn to my own dad, I turn to my Father in heaven. I sometimes talk to him about my problems, the way I would like to talk to my dad about them.”
One girl wrote:
“My brother lives with my father, and I live with my mother. Ever since my parents’ divorce two years ago, we hardly ever see each other anymore. I never thought I’d miss my brother, but I do. So now I’ve kind of adopted Jesus as a brother.”
Finally another boy wrote:
“Just recently I began praying to the Holy Spirit. I’m going to college in a year, and I have no idea what I want to take up. I hope the Holy Spirit will enlighten me. Anyway, I’m praying to him for guidance.”
I find those comments refreshingly honest. I also find that they make me ask myself, “Which person of the Trinity do I relate to best?”
I close.
God, you are profound in your mystery, and you never cease to amaze me; I sometimes come to think that I have you figured out, and then you zap me, and remind me that you are beyond the limitations of my insight.
As I search for the words, titles, songs and images that attempt to corner you, help me to know that you are beyond my words, deeper than any effort to be “inclusive,” because what really matters, is that you exist and that I see you present in your creation.
Amen.