Archive for May, 2023

Happy Birthday Church 5-28-2023

Friday, May 26th, 2023

At a testimonial dinner that I attended many people said some wonderful things about this special human being. This human being that we were talking about definitely has a dark side and a lot of rough edges. But for one night those things were put aside and we focused on what was right and good about him. For a few minutes today, on the birthday of the Church, Pentecost Sunday, I would like to focus on what is right and good about our Church. One of those right things is its ability to endure. Many of our Scripture lessons carry us back to the beginning of Church. The people who wrote and originally read those documents were first-generation Christians. They stood on the ground floor of a brand new institution. Like all newborn things, the Church was small and seemed so fragile. There was serious doubt among the membership whether the Church would survive. Its key leadership cowered behind closed door, thinking their cause was surely lost. However, many cultures and civilizations have come and gone, but the Church lives on. There is something reassuring about that. Personally, I find it comforting to belong to something that has stood the test of time. The Church is so
solid that, for nearly two thousand years, it has outlasted the hostility of
its foes and the stupidity at times of his friends and leadership. The
church was here when we arrived on the scene and will remain long after
we are gone no matter what ABC and CNN have to say. Another thing
right with the Church is its record of ministry to human need. Without
that, the ability to endure would be meaningless. Jesus measured the
worth of all institutions not by their age, not by their size, but by their
usefulness to people. He must surely apply the same test to his own
Church. And though its score has been far from perfect, it does have an
impressive record of service. You and I are so familiar with this that we
often take it for granted. We seldom pause to appreciate what the church
has accomplished throughout the centuries. It has provided the
inspiration, the leadership, and in some cases, the money for much of the
world’s charitable endeavor. For all its faults and failures, the Church has
stood by the conviction that every person is sacred in the sight of God.
That conviction has proven to be a revolutionary incentive. It has
produced, and continues to produce, pressure for change, both in the
world and in the Church. A final thought about what is right with the
Church and I believe, most important of all. In the world, the Church
stands as a constant reminder of God. It points the way to Christ, it calls
us to be a community of faith, it offers forgiveness and healing. This is
not one of the businesses of the Church, it is the main business of the
Church. The Church’s primary purpose is bringing people into a
redeeming relationship with God. On Pentecost 2023 we need to be
reminded that the early Church was not a group of men and women
naturally equipped to turn the world upside down. Most of them had
little education, very little money and no political power. They were
plain people in partnership with God, but that relationship changed their
lives and enabled them to change their world. The Church is made up of
people. That means it always has been and continues to be imperfect.
But there is a life here that is more than mortal and a spirit that is more
than human. God does not belong to the Church – the Church belongs to
God. And when joined in partnership with God, powerful and
unbelievable things can happen. I close: We have all criticized the
Church and we will criticize it again. To love the Church is to have that
responsibility, but today let us make a commitment to do our part, to be
part of the solutions instead of just pointing a critical finger of judgment
at the problems. Today, let us remember and celebrate what is good and
right with the Church. Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday Church.

Feast of the Ascension 5-21-2023

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Jesus spent a good part of the night wrapping the packages. Each
had a carefully tied bow and a name tag attached. When his last earthly
task was completed, he packaged his bags and went to sleep for what
little time was left of the night.
The next morning he gathered his disciples around him in one of
his favorite garden spots. He surprised them by telling them he as
leaving them for good. They were shocked! There was no time to say
all they wanted to express. Even more, there was no time to figure out
what they would do without him. He resolved the latter by handing out
the gift packages, each with the instruction, “Do not open until after my
When the last gift was handed over, Jesus bade farewell and
disappeared into the clouds. When he arrived in heaven, God gave him
a welcoming hug and led Jesus to his room.
“Looks like you left them kind of bewildered down there”, God
said, glancing down at the outstretched necks.
“They’re a bit scared, but I had to leave sometime. The longer I
stayed, the longer I delayed them getting into action.”
“Do they know the meaning of your leaving? What they’re
supposed to be doing?”
“Sure, I gave them each a gift that would give them the clue.”
“Tell me what you gave them”, God urged.
“A mirror on a chain to be hung around their necks”.
“That’s supposed to be a clued to getting over you?”
“Absolutely”, Jesus insisted.
“How do you figure that?” God asked.
“Each time they ask one another, who’s going to feed the hungry,
visit the sick or help the lonely, they won’t see me, but the reflection of
themselves! Then they can get right to work!”

A Martyr of our time 5-14-2023

Friday, May 12th, 2023

Sadly, the age of martyrs is not over. In our own time, men and
women of faith give their lives for the cause of justice and mercy.
A few years ago the world witnessed just such martyrdom two
days before Valentine’s Day. Sister Dorothy Stang was a Sister of Notre
Dame de Namur from Dayton, Ohio. The 74-year-old nun had spend 35
years in Brazil, the last 22 living and working among 400 poor farmers
and their families in Anapu, Para, a section of Brazil’s Amazon rain
forest. A slight, unassuming woman of boundless energy and
irrepressible joy, Sister Dorothy had become an effective advocate not
only for the poor but for the rain forest itself, one of the world’s most
important environments that is being destroyed by powerful economic
But the nun’s work with the landless and her efforts to preserve the
rain forest proved too much for the wealthy logging and ranching
interests. On February 12, Sister Dorothy was ambushed by two men
contracted by a local rancher. Witnesses said Sister Dorothy, when
confronted by the gunmen, took her Bible from her bag and began
reading aloud. The two listened for a moment, then stepped back and
fired. She died instantly from six gunshot wounds.
Sister Dorothy knew that her work was dangerous but refused
police protection for herself.
“I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these
farmers who live without any protection of the forest. They have the
sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can work
with dignity while respecting the environment.”
Our scriptures today remind us that the Spirit of God speaks in all
that is just and right, in every word of compassion spoken, in the
simplest acts of reconciliation. The Spirit spoke clearly and eloquently
in the courageous voice of a slight 74-year-old woman who dared to call
powerful interests accountable for their immoral treatment of the poor
and their abuse of God’s creation.
The Risen Christ’s promise of the Paraclete/Advocate is a
bittersweet blessing: God’s Spirit is often difficult to accept,
challenging our lives and lifestyles, confronting us at times with our
irresponsibility and culpability. May we possess the integrity and
courage to hear the Spirit of God in the many voices in which God
speaks and to allow that Spirit to transform our skepticism, self –
centeredness and blindness to the things of God, things like justice,
forgiveness and the peace of the Easter promise.
I leave you with this: “I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to
abandon the battle, these people have the right to aspire to a better life.”
The words and the actions of a modern martyr living among us. Thanks
be to God.