Archive for the ‘5th Sunday’ Category

God Loves Me? 2-10-2019

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

What I find helps me understand the Scriptures better is to get on the inside of some of the characters. These characters are human beings-just like us. I try to feel what they are feeling – I try to walk in their shoes.
In our first reading and Gospel we have two characters – human beings, Isaiah and Simon-Peter. They are both suffering from what we call today an “Inferiority Complex,” when it comes to God. Like these two characters, I believe many of us who come here Sunday after Sunday, also are suffering from an inferiority complex when it comes to God – How do I know? What do I hear?
1. We are not good enough.
2. We are not wise enough in God’s ways to consider ourselves religious.
Like Isaiah and Simon-Peter – we shy away because we cannot imagine God loving sinful people like us.
A perfect example – This week I had four appointments in a row – There was a basic theme that ran through all these people’s stories. “I feel unworthy” to be in a relationship with God. How could I be part of the church with all my sins, failures, and frustrations? How can I share in the ministry of Jesus Christ like he wants me – us to do?
These people’s reactions sound pretty similar to Isaiah and Simon-Peter’s reaction. We hear God say, “Listen – I have a special job for you to do.” We hear them say, “Leave me alone Lord – I am a sinful person – I am unable and unworthy to be used by you”.
Isaiah and Simon-Peter, all of us here we need to be reminded over and over again – of three very important points:
1. The Mystery of God – is that God loves us despite ourselves – Thomas Merton wrote that the root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved by God irrespective of one’s worth. I heard someone define a disciple of Jesus as a “loved sinner.”
2. We don’t have to be Perfect First to be used by God. God wants our yes – God will take care of the rest. There is a prayer card that reads: “Nothing would be done at all if a person waited until they could do it so well – that no one could find fault with it.” 3. The “Break Thru” point – in being in a healthy relationship with God in truly being a disciple of Jesus Christ is this: Trusting enough to give our faults – failures – sins to God and allowing the healing power of God to work through us and with us – When Isaiah and Simon-Peter finally trusted enough to do this, it changed their lives- they were both able to say and believe it,
Here I am Lord – Send Me – Send Me.
4. Let me close with a very few words from the wonderful spiritual writer and speaker Maya Angelou. I hope and pray these words – touch the hearts of those of us with the inferiority complex when it comes to God. Listen carefully:
“In my twenties in San Francisco, I began acting agnostic. It wasn’t that I stopped believing in God; it’s just that God didn’t seem to be around the neighborhoods I frequented. One day my voice teacher asked me to read a passage from a book. A section which ended with these words: God loves me. I read it again and closed the book, and my teacher said, ‘Read it again.’ I pointedly opened the book, and I sarcastically read, God loves me. He said, ‘Read it again.’
“After about the seventh repetition, I began to sense that there might be truth in the statement, that there was a possibility that God really did love me – me, Maya Angelou. I suddenly began to cry at the grandness of it all. I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me and God?” Maya Angelou went on to say,
“…That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums. And it also liberates me.” “God loves me.” “Believe it”.

You Come Back Now 4-29-2018

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

Sam is a great kid, but Sam is the only kid he knows that goes to church. But Mom insists.
Mom is a writer. In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Mom explains why she wants her poor little Presbyterian church to be part of her son’s life:
“I want to give him what I found in the world, a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want—which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith…They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle.”
“When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me to hold on. The church became my home. They let me in. They even said: You come back now.”
Sam was welcomed and prayed for at St. Andrew’s seven months before he was born. When I announced during worship that I was pregnant, people cheered. All these old people, raised in Bible-thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped. Even the women whose grown-up boys had been or were doing time in jails or prisons rejoiced for me…Women [who] live pretty close to the bone financially on small Social Security checks…routinely came up to me and stuffed bills in my pockets—tens and twenties…And then, almost immediately they set about providing for us. They bought clothes. They brought me casseroles to keep in the freezer. They brought me assurance that this baby was going to be part of the family.
“I was usually filled with a sense of something like shame, until I’d remember that wonderful line of Blake’s—that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love—and I would take a long breath and force these words out of my strangled throat: Thank you.”
Today’s Gospel calls us to realize the connections between Christ and us and between us and one another. On the night before he died (the setting of today’s Gospel) Jesus reminds his disciples of every time and place that, in his love, we are “grafted” to one another in ways we do not completely realize or understand. As branches of Christ the vine, we are part of something greater than ourselves, something which transforms and transcends the fragileness of our lives. May our families, communities and parishes become extended branches for all of us who struggle to realize our own harvests of joy and discovery, of grace and faithfulness.
I close – “When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St. Andrew/the people of Resurrection tied a knot in it for me and helped me to hold on. The church became my home. They let me in. They even said: You come back now.”

The Raising of Lazarus 3-18-2018

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Let’s allow our imaginations to create a Hollywood version of the raising of Lazarus.
Picture it: Lazarus comes out of his tomb-bound up, mummy-like, wrapped tightly in burial garments.
See those tight wrappings around his body? Even as he comes forth to Jesus, they restrict his sight, speech and freedom of movement.
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus. “Untie him and let him go free.”
I believe Lazarus coming out of the tomb represents every person!
What is it in our lives that binds us up? At times ties us up, immobilizes us, limits our perception, and gets in the way of us reaching out to others and to God?
Is it an attitude or possibly our own fears that restrict us? Maybe it is a prejudice toward a particular group of people? Perhaps it is something that worries us? Something we did in the past that we are ashamed of? Could it be financial problems or a medical concern? Is it a broken relationship in our family, a habit of lying, trying to cover our tracks? Are we being squeezed to death by bitterness, resentment, anger, grief, guilt or a poor self image?
Remember these words. “Untie him and her and let them go free.”
As we reflect on what has us all wrapped up. What is preventing us from moving freely and experiencing real life?
I think it is important to also ask ourselves: Are there situations or relationships going on right now, where we are binding or tying up other people? How would we do this?
Does our sour, negative attitudes and biting criticism destroy the spirit of those around us? Are we quick to see the bad, and blind to the good and positive in the people close to us?
How about back stabbing rumors, parking lot gossip and unfair stereotypes?
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”
During this Lent as we take some time to look inward, as we think about what binds us and how to remove the tight wrappings. I think our Gospel reminds us of 3 significant realities that need to be clearly stated.
As Martha mentioned, regarding her brother, it is going to be a smelly procedure. Taking off these bindings will be a slow and painful process. It will be very messy. No real conversion happens without pain. We may be tempted to short circuit the process. We may want to fantasize that everything will be fine in the morning. But it will not go away by itself!
Jesus tells others to help unbind Lazarus. We will need help also. A good friend to listen and to challenge. A teacher, a minister, a trained counselor and a support group. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can do it alone!
The final point may be the most important. Right in the middle of this smelly, messy process of unbinding that we are challenged to enter into, we too, just like Lazarus, have the presence and reassurance of Jesus. “I am with you!” “You are not alone, even when it is the darkest.” “Don’t give up!” “Keep trying!”
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”