Archive for May, 2022

I’m Counting on You! 5-29-2022

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

There is an ancient legend about the ascension of Jesus into
heaven. According to the legend, when Jesus reached heaven, his body
still showed the wounds of his crucifixion. His hands and feet still bore
the prints from the nails. His side bore the mark from the spear. His back
bore the stripes from the whip, and his head bore the wounds from the
thorns. When the people in heaven saw these marks, they were
astounded to see how much he had suffered. Then the angel Gabriel rose
up and said to Jesus: “Lord, how greatly you suffered on earth!” “Do all
the people on earth know and appreciate how much you went through
for them and how much you love them?” Jesus replied: “Oh, no!” “Only
a handful of people in Palestine know that, the rest haven’t even heard of
me.” “They don’t know how much I suffered, and how much I love
them.” Gabriel was shocked to hear this. Then he said to Jesus: “How
will the rest of the people on earth ever learn about your suffering and
your love?” Jesus said: “Just before I left, I told Peter, James and John,
and a few of their friends, to tell the rest of the world for me.” “They’ll tell as many people as they can.” “Those people in turn, will tell other
people.” “In that way, the whole world will eventually learn about my
love for them.” Gabriel looked even more confused now. He knew how
fickle people are. He knew how forgetful they are. He knew how prone
to doubt they are. So he turned to Jesus and said: “But Lord, what if
Peter, James, and John grow tired and frustrated?” “What if they forget
about you?” “What if they begin to have doubts about you?” “Didn’t you
take these things into account?” “Don’t you have a back-up plan, just in
case?” Jesus answered: “I did take all these things into account, but I
decided against a back-up plan.” “This is the only plan I have.” “I’m
counting on Peter, James, and John not to let me down.” “I’m counting
on the people they tell not to let me down.” Many centuries later, Jesus
still has no other plan. He counted on Peter, James, and John, and they
didn’t let him down. He counted on the people they told, and they didn’t
let him down, and now Jesus counts on us. In his book “The Song of the
Bird”, Anthony de Mello tells this story. He puts it in the first person to
give it added impact. He says. On the street I saw a small girl cold and
shivering in a dress, with little hope for a decent meal. I became angry
and said to God, “Why did you permit this?” For a while God said
nothing. That night he replied quite suddenly, “I certainly did something
about it.” “I made you, I made you.” Let’s close with a prayer: Lord
Jesus, on this feast of your ascension into heaven, give us new eyes to
see your face in the faces of those who are in need. Give us new ears to
hear your voice in the voices of those who cry out in pain. Give us new
tongues to tell your story to those who have never heard it. Give us new
hearts to share your love with those who have not yet experienced it.
And Lord thank you for counting on us. We will try our best!

God the Cheerleader 5-22-2022

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Most people like to get gifts. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that
he’ll ask the Father and the Father will give us a gift, something called a
paraclete. You are now the proud owner of a paraclete. However,
sometimes you get a gift from a friend and you’re not sure of what it is,
even after you open it, one might rightly wonder (what this paraclete is).
Breaking the word down into its parts helps. “Paraclete” is a
Greek word and the “clete” part of it means to call out or yell. The
“para” means vigorously. So “paraclete” means to call out vigorously.
Now in some Bibles the word paraclete is translated into advocate or
consoler. Those words are good, but somewhat churchy and really not
earthy, the way that paraclete is in the original language. I think the
closest English word we have for paraclete is “cheerleader.”
If you’ve ever played on a basketball or football team, you
know that there’s such a thing as home field or court advantage – when
you are on your home turf and when the stands are full of your fans
cheering and screaming for you, you’re much more likely to play your
best game and give it your best shot.
Today’s Gospel presents a stunning and delicious picture of God –
God the cheerleader. Your biggest fan, according to scripture, is God.
God shouting for you; God standing up and cheering when you do
something well; God going into agony when you fall into the mud or get
beaten; God calling and pushing onward; God telling you – you can do it
– God the cheerleader.
There’s an important difference between God the cheerleader and
human cheerleaders. When you and I are cheering for people form the
stands, we might get so caught up in the excitement of the game we wish
we could go right down there on the field and do something concrete to
help. When I’m at a 49’er game and the 49’ers are behind I sometimes
get carried away and would love a chance to stand next to whatever
quarterback they have and help him throw the football. Well, you and I
can’t do that, but God can. God does not remain an impassive observer
in the stands while you and I make our way through the game of life.
God gets so carried away that in a fit of enthusiasm he leaves the stands
and becomes a member of the team. That’s the mystery of Jesus – Jesus
our brother, Jesus a member of the human race, Jesus walking with us
toward eternal life.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says that he’s going to ask the
Father and we’ll be given still another paraclete, still another cheerleader
–the Holy Spirit, a little energy, something inside us that urges us on.
Imagine it! Three cheerleaders totally full of love and concern for you,
cheering you onward—God the Creator, cheering you from the distance,
calling you forward; God the Son, cheering you as your brother; walking
next to you; and God the Holy Spirit, cheering you from inside, kicking
you in the rear when you need it, pulling you, pushing you, tugging you,
congratulating you, forgiving you, telling you to keep on going and you
can do it.
And if we believe in this cheerleading God, there’s only one thing
for us to do – and that is to become cheerleaders ourselves. The vision
of Jesus is for husbands to cheer wives and wives to cheer husbands; for
old people to cheer young people and young people to cheer old people;
for single people to cheer their friends and friends to cheer single
people; for parishioners to sometimes cheer their Pastor, for all of us to
cheer each other and forgive each other and lift each other up into new
I close. Today the scripture invites you to consider the delicious
picture of God the cheerleader, God who is your best fan, God who is
the one urging you onward. There are already enough boo s in this
world – that’s the voice of the world telling you, you can’t be any better,
you’re just you. You’re stuck in that rut and that’s it. The world telling
you to lie down and die. But stronger than the voice of the world, strong
enough to bounce from one side of the galaxy to the other, is the strong
and silent word of God coming to you from the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. The voice of the cheerleader that says “You’re Terrific. I know
you can do it. Get up – you’ll make it. HALLELUJHA!!”

A ‘Lap’ of Refuge 5-15-2022

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

A highly-skilled physician who treats patients with AIDS keeps a picture of her grandmother in her home. Every morning, before leaving for the hospital, she sits quietly before the picture. Her grandmother was an Italian-born woman who held her family close. Her wisdom was of the earth.
Once when Louisa was small, her kitten was killed in an accident. It was her first experience of death and she was devastated. Her Mom and Dad assured her not to be sad, that her kitten was now in heaven with God. But little Louisa found little comfort in that. She prayed, asking God to give her kitten back. But God did not answer.
In her anguish, she turned to her grandmother. “Why?” she asked. Her grandmother lifted her up and held her close. She did not tell her that her kitten was with God. Instead, she reminded her of the time when Grandpa died. She didn’t know why either. She prayed, but God did not bring Grandpa back. Louisa turned into the soft warmth of her grandmother’s shoulder and sobbed. At one point, she turned to see her grandmother crying, too.
Although her grandmother could not answer her question, a great loneliness was lifted and Louisa felt able to move on.
“My grandmother was a lap….a place of refuge” Louisa remembers. “I know a great deal about AIDS but what I really want to be for my patients is a lap, a place from which they can face what they have to face and not be alone.”
Our identity as disciples of Christ is centered in the compassion we extend to others – in our willingness to be a “lap”, a place of refuge, a source of peace for others. Our faithfulness in imitating the love of the Risen Jesus is not in having the right answers or in our dogmatic judgments but in our openness of heart and spirit to love selflessly, completely, unconditionally, as God has loved us in Christ.