Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Scars 5-6-2018

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Some years ago, on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went.
He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.
His father, working in the yard, saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard his screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father’s fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
The newspaper reporter, who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The little boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Dad wouldn’t let go.”
You and I can identify with that little boy. We all have scars too. No, not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of our struggles, God’s been there holding on to us.
The scripture teaches that God loves us. We are children of God. God wants to protect us and provide for us in every way. But sometimes, we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril—and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That’s when the tug-of-war begins—and if we have the scars of God’s love on our arms, be very, very grateful. God did not and will not ever let us go.
Please pass this story on to those you love. God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. You just never know where a person is in his/her life and what they are going through.
I close, never judge another persons scars, because you don’t know how they got them.

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 Good Shepherd 4-22-2018

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

For most of us I think it is safe to say this image of the Shepherd is not something we see very much everyday. It was a very common scene in the early Church: – it is a common scene in the Middle East. People in the early Church could really understand what was involved in being a shepherd. It was very real and earthy to them. The Biblical figure of the Shepherd – has been romanticized a lot in paintings, pictures, Holy Cards, “rosy cheeked young men – among pure white fluffy sheep on beautiful green hillsides – very serene and peaceful.”

I did a little research into what Shepherds were like in the Time of Jesus. It was a very lonely, dirty, dangerous job – that could not be managed from a distance. Shepherds lived among the sheep in the filth and stench – the lives of the sheep were their primary concern. A sheep sometimes wandered far off from the others – when it got lost and could not find it’s way back, it would simply lie down where it was and refuse to budge – the shepherd would search out for the lost sheep – carefully pick it up and carry it home. There was a personal relationship between the Shepherd and each individual sheep. They were not just numbers.

I believe this image of the Shepherd points us to God. God is not squeamish; God will not run away when things get messy in our lives; – God’s hands are dirty (not lily white); God’s clothes are stained with waste, mud and blood – the waste, mud and blood of our roller coaster lives. This God gets in the middle of the mess with us.
Does the mess magically disappear? Not most of the time; but there is a sense we are not alone and that helps us get through it. A key question for us; Are we afraid to share our messes with God?

How does this shepherding image of God come alive? Become real to people – Today –
I believe most of the time thru people – we are called to be shepherds for each other. We are responsible to pick each other up when we are down.
“I thought just priests and ministers were shepherds – no we all are if we call ourselves Christian and mean it.”

“Don’t we need special skill and talents – training to do this? No! We need a caring heart, a little common sense and a few less excuses.

“What about when you don’t have the answers or solutions to people’s problems? You don’t know what to say or do. Just listen and just be there for them.

I close with a story I am sure we all have heard;
A man dreamed he died and went to heaven and there was met by Jesus. The man had lived a long Christian life, but it had not been without some time of great trial and tribulation as well as those times of joy and victory. As he met with Christ, the man was given a panoramic review of his life – all the highlights and low periods. In the review of his life one of the things that continued throughout were his footsteps along the sands of time.
The man noticed that at those times in his life when it had really been rough there was only one set of footprints – not two as in the good times. The man turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, I don’t understand. You promised to be with me always. But when I look back now, I see that in those really rough times there was only one set of footprints. Lord, why did you leave me then?”

The Lord looked at him, smiled and said, ‘Leave you? I didn’t leave you at all. Dear friend, if you look at the one set of footprints carefully, you’ll notice they are a little deeper than the others. Those were the time I was carrying you.”